Newswire: January 31, 2012

Vol. 14, No. 5

TRIGGER HAPPY. Many advocates of the status quo in California wish they could close their eyes and the state’s innovative parent trigger law would simply disappear. Unfortunately for them, the trigger is spreading, not only to another elementary school, Desert Trails, in California, but it has in its sights Florida, Indiana and Arizona, as well. Desert Trails’ parents, like their counterparts in Compton, faced a school that failed for years to educate their children. One principal who left, said “protective teacher union contracts” tied his hands “from being able to hold personnel accountable.” He added that “no one wants to go against the teacher core…and be ostracized.” Parents garnered 70% of their fellow parents to insist on a trigger, well above the 51% required. Now, they are negotiating with the district. Definitely worth watching.

MEANWHILE, IN FLORIDA… legislative committees in both the House and Senate gave bipartisan support to a parent trigger bill. Many of the status quo, including the PTA, are threatened by parents revolting against these abysmal schools and vociferously oppose the movement. Yet, the parent trigger has won fans from both sides of the aisle, which Parent Revolution says is the “first major step in making parent trigger legislation a law.”

HEARD IT FROM A LITTLE BIRD… thanks Parent Revolution for today’s tweet that Arizona becomes the third state this year to introduce Parent Trigger legislation.

DIGITAL LEARNING DAY. Tomorrow marks the nationwide celebration of digital learning, which is sweeping the country from cyber schools to blended learning – all with the goal of giving families more choice and flexibility. Listen to what digital guru and CEO of OpenEd Solutions has to say about blended learning on CER’s Lunchtime Lessons. Then, join those from the 37 states participating in the digital celebration by tuning in to the National Town Hall with Education Secretary Arne Duncan and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

FALLOUT FROM SOTU. President Obama in his 2012 State of the Union Address called for extending the school age to 18. Clearly, he and his advisors have not thought through the implications of this policy – mainly that young adults who, for whatever reason, didn’t get much out of the traditional school system. Some pundits responded with the logical call to do more for these kids BEFORE they drop out of high school. Engage them in the earlier grades. And, we say, if the traditional public schools can’t meet their needs, support charter and choice options designed to nurture students who are challenged for various reasons and prepare them for school and beyond. School choice…now that’s a good use of the bully pulpit.

SUBURBS AND CHARTERS… this time in Fairfax County, Virginia, known for its top-flight public schools. Right? Well, kids from disadvantaged families continue to fall through the cracks in Fairfax and the Fairfax Leadership Academy charter school wants to do something about it. Eric Welch, executive director of the Academy, told CER that our suburbs aren’t what they used to be in terms of wealth and well-being and the need for educational options that work for students from economically struggling families is dire. Virginia also would serve all children and families well by facing up to this demographic change and strengthen its charter school law. For more insights into the struggle for suburban charters see Tom Neumark, president of Frederick Classic Charter School, on CER’s National School Choice Week webinar.

Daily Headlines: January 31, 2012

NATIONAL

Education: States Should Do More To Reach Students
Associated Press, January 31, 2012

In its initial review of No Child Left Behind waiver requests, the U.S. Education Department highlighted a similar weakness in nearly every application: States did not do enough to ensure schools would be held accountable for the performance of all students.

STATE COVERAGE

What Happens to the Kids When Charter Schools Fail?
TIME, January 31, 2012

Most of Lighthouse’s 66 students will be thrust back into the same public schools their parents tried to flee. Nearby public schools only perform slightly better than Lighthouse on standardized tests, and some do just as poorly.

Los Altos School Board Approves Split-Campus Offer for Bullis
Palo Alto Daily News, CA, January 31, 2012

Pointing to a space crunch, the Los Altos School District Board of Education approved a preliminary facilities offer Monday night that would split Bullis Charter School between two sites next school year.

California Assembly Approves Mendoza Bill Making It Easier For School Districts To Deny Charter Schools
Whittier Daily News, CA, January 30, 2012

The state Assembly Monday on a 45-28 vote approved Assemblyman Tony Mendoza’s bill that would make to make it easier for school districts to turn down charter schools.

New Teacher Tenure Rules Closer to Approval in Colorado
Denver Post, CO, January 30, 2012

Statewide teacher tenure rules are closer to becoming law after the state House voted Monday to OK a four-tier rating system for teachers and principals. The tenure standards now head to the Senate. Statewide tenure evaluations were approved by lawmakers two years ago, but the specifics had to come back to the Legislature for final approval.

Parents Now Have More Options When Sending Their Kids Off To School
Lodi News-Sentinel, CA, January 31, 2012

Believe it or not, the time to plan for kindergarten enrollment next fall is now. But the choices might be overwhelming.

Charter Schools Touted As Educational Option
The Day, CT, January 31, 2012

Charter schools are not necessarily the solution to the state’s education woes but they do offer students a choice, and when it comes to education the more options the better, a charter school official said Monday at a community breakfast held at the ISAAC school.

Del. Limits Link of Test Scores to Teacher Pay
News Journal, DE, January 31, 2012

The state Department of Education has again changed how it will calculate public school teacher ratings for the 2011-12 school year.

DCPS Schools To Become Charters? Union Sounds Off
Washington Examiner Blog, DC, January 30, 2012

Last week, D.C.’s deputy mayor for education released a report recommending that three dozen D.C. Public Schools campuses be closed or turned around, likely reinvented as charter schools. Unsurprisingly, that’s not sitting too well with Nathan Saunders, the president of the Washington Teachers’ Union.

Parent Trigger Bad Policy
Sun Sentinel, FL, January 31, 2012

It’s understandable that parents who have seen little improvement in their children’s poor-performing Florida schools would have itchy trigger fingers.

Martin County Charter School No. 7 Among State’s High Schools
TC Palms, FL, January 30, 2012

Clark Advanced Learning Center ranked No. 7 among the state’s high schools, according to the first-ever ranking of 3,078 public and charter schools released Monday by the Florida Department of Education.

Checking Out the New Oglethorpe Charter School
Savannah Morning News, GA, January 31, 2012

Savannah-Chatham Public School parents, administrators and district officials gathered at the new Oglethorpe Charter School construction site Monday for a tour.

2 Education Voucher Bills Could Be Headed For Floor Votes
Atlanta Journal Constitution, GA, January 30, 2012

Senate Bill 87 and House Bill 181 passed out of the Senate Education Committee late last week and are before the Senate Rules Committee for possible placement on the full Senate’s calendar. Both are opposed by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, the state’s largest teacher organization.

Charter Schools: Local Control Is A Key Principle
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, GA, January 31, 2012

This newspaper’s editorial board has long been on record as supporting charter schools, in concept and in reality. Creativity, innovation and the willingness to meet ambitious performance standards ought to earn educators and administrators some reasonable flexibility with regard to bureaucratic strictures. That’s no threat to public education; done well, it could be its salvation.

How To Get More Hispanics In Charters
Idaho Press, ID, January 31, 2012

Race-neutral policies in their admissions and student assignment processes, including comprehensive review, socioeconomic preferences, class-rank plans and lottery procedures will empower more Hispanics to benefit from charter schools.

Emanuel’s Appearance in Pro-Charter School Video Irks Teachers Union
Chicago News Cooperative, IL, January 31, 2012

As Chicago Public Schools begins what are certain to be contentious contract talks with the Chicago Teachers Union, Mayor Rahm Emanuel emerged as the star of a new online video promoting charter schools and ripping the union.

Yes, Classrooms First
Chicago Tribune, IL, January 31, 2012

About a year ago, in his budget address, Gov. Pat Quinn took a political risk and said Illinois should greatly reduce the number of school districts in the state. Illinois has 868 school districts, more than almost any other state. That creates a lot of unnecessary expense through duplication of services. We’re long overdue for a downsizing.

Jindal’s Education Moon Shot
Wall Street Journal, January 31, 2012

Newt Gingrich wants the U.S. to return to the moon, but as challenges go he has nothing on Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s school reform plans.

Mary Landrieu Walks Tightrope On Bobby Jindal’s Education Plans
Times Picayune, LA, January 30, 2012

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu sought to pour some cold water on one of the central proposals in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education reform agenda Monday, using state data to show a huge gap between the number of students who would technically qualify for the governor’s proposed private school voucher program and the number of seats that may actually exist in the state’s private schools.

Jindal’s Plan Not Extreme As Some
Monroe News Star, LA, January 30, 2012

Indiana Superintendent of Education Tony Bennett said his state is enjoying big successes with his pro-choice education plan, which includes testing private schools that receive vouchers.

Maryland Schools Test Evaluating Teachers On Student Performance
Baltimore Sun, MD, January 30, 2012

Maryland schools are moving closer to overhauling the way that they evaluate teachers, putting more emphasis on student performance and test scores.

Teacher Seniority, NCLB Top Education Issues In Low-Key Legislative Session
Minnesota Public Radio, MN, January 30, 2012

A state House committee will hear a proposal Tuesday that would change several rules regarding teacher seniority and layoffs.

Charter Schools: Move Cautiously
Clarion Ledger, MS, January 31, 2012

The current state law allowing charter schools is so restrictive that it has made legitimate efforts to create innovative charter schools almost impossible.

Senator’s Bill Would Bring an End to KC School District
Kansas City Star, MO, January 30, 2012

One of many proposals, it faces a difficult path, beginning with hearing today in Jefferson City.

City Shifts on Teacher Evaluations
Wall Street Journal, January 31, 2012

After months of talks with the teachers union, the Bloomberg administration is asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to help put an end to the labor dispute by scrapping the state’s teacher evaluation law.

New Study Gives New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg An “A” On Small-School Movement
New York Daily News, NY, January 31, 2012

Critics blasted findings from a new study that gives Mayor Bloomberg an “A” on his small-school movement and finds that thousands of students — the majority in the Bronx — are more likely to graduate than their peers at larger high schools.

Next Time, Listen To The Teachers
Albany Times Union, NY, January 30, 2012

New York’s plans to implement its new teacher evaluation law have been met with outcries from principals, wariness from teachers and legal objections by the New York State United Teachers. All of that might have been averted if state leaders had more fully considered the perspective of educators before developing their implementation plans.

State May Delay Decision On Charter School
Outer Banks Voice, NC, January 30, 2012

Efforts to open a charter school on the Currituck Outer Banks may be delayed an additional month.

New Measures In Place For Teachers
Star News, NC, January 30, 2012

A new batch of data from the four-year-old statewide teacher evaluation system is showing the effectiveness of some teachers in the Cape Fear region.

Class Sizes Swell As State Aid Declines, Enrollment Rises
Tulsa World, OK, January 31, 2012

Class size remains a critical issue in some Tulsa-area school districts as they struggle to recover from successive state budget cuts over the past few years.

Leaders Say ‘Choice’ Is Key For Education
The Edmond Sun, OK, January 30, 2012

More than 350 people filled Constitution Hall last Tuesday evening on the campus of the University of Central Oklahoma to see just what school choice was all about.

Chester Community Charter School Funding In Jeopardy, Too
Philadelphia Inquirer, PA, January 31, 2012

A federal court order earlier this month sending money to the Chester Upland School District to keep it solvent threatens to put the Chester Community Charter School, home to about 2,750 Chester Upland students, in jeopardy, charter officials say.

School Choice? Practice What You Preach, Chaput
Philadelphia Daily News, PA, January 31, 2012

CATHOLIC Schools Week began yesterday with a plea from Philly Archbishop Charles Chaput for Catholics to push for passage of a school-voucher bill that would let parents choose where to spend education dollars.

Riverview Argues School District Changed ‘The Rules Of The Game’ In Enrollment Dispute
Beaufort Gazette, SC, January 30, 2012

The enrollment dispute between Riverview Charter School and the Beaufort County School District is a case of “David and Goliath,” Riverview’s attorney Alice Paylor told a jury Monday.

Innovation, Funds Needed To Reach Lofty Schools Goal
Knoxville News Sentinel, TN, January 31, 2012

A joint retreat involving members of the Knox County Commission and the Knox County Board of Education last weekend resulted in an ambitious goal — to make Knox County Schools the best public school system in the Southeast.

The False Promise of Charter Schools
Seattle Times, WA, January 30, 2012

Charter schools do not work as promised, writes Wayne Au, a University of Washington, Bothell education professor. One study indicates charters are two times as likely to widen achievement gaps as close them, he says.

Students Achieving the Best Results Should Be Everyone’s Goal
Journal Times, WI, January 30, 2012

In Milwaukee, 6,400 students attended independent charter schools, 23,198 attended Milwaukee Parental Choice Program schools, and there was an increase in applications to the open enrollment program.

Misstep Returns Voucher Debate To Forefront
Green Bay Gazette, WI, January 31, 2012

Ellis and Rep. Robin Vos, R-Burlington, were discussing the status of the school voucher bill at the Inn on the Park on Wednesday. Ellis talked about possible new legislation that would permit a segment of a school district to qualify for the voucher program if the total school district didn’t meet the criteria.

VIRTUAL EDUCATION

Expect Clash Over Virtual School To Intensify At NC BOE
WFAE 90.7FM, NC, January 30, 2012

What could be North Carolina’s first online charter school has passed its first round of approval. Now it’s up to the state board of education to give the final okay. From there, you can count on it getting a lot of attention in Raleigh both from public school officials and the team of lobbyists employed by the for-profit company that would run the school.

Web 2.0: Indiana Challenges Teachers To Instruct Digitally
Indianapolis Star, IN, January 31, 2012

The Indiana Department of Education is challenging teachers to instruct their students digitally.

Idaho Senate Passes Bill To Revise Online Education Law
Idaho Statesman, ID, January 30, 2012

State senators voted in favor of deleting a portion of Idaho’s new education laws that defines an online course and says the instructor cannot be physically located in the same school in which the student is receiving the virtual instruction.

Georgia Charter Amendment Heats Up

“Charter amendment could see first vote Thursday; lobbying intensifies”
by Nancy Badertscher
Atlanta Journal Constitution
January 31, 2012

The lobbying intensified Tuesday over a proposed constitutional amendment that could re-establish the state’s power to approve and fund charter schools over the objections of local school systems.

If approved, the amendment, which local school boards and superintendents vehemently oppose, would override a state Supreme Court ruling from last May. The ruling declared unconstitutional the State Charter School Commission and sent a handful of commission-approved charter schools scrambling to find money to stay open.

The amendment, House Resolution 1162, was introduced last week to coincide with National School Choice Week and could be brought before the House Education Committee as early as Thursday for a vote. It requires legislative and voter approval to become law, and it includes a provision that spells out that public education is a joint local and state effort.

House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, R-Milton, the amendment’s chief sponsor, and supporters have said the ruling has broader implications for the state’s role in public school funding and policy making, something others deny.

On Tuesday, House Majority Whip Ed Lindsey, R-Atlanta, a co-sponsor, released a copy of a letter he requested from deputy legislative counsel Betsy Howerton, assessing the potential impact of the Supreme Court ruling on other state education funding and programs.

Also Tuesday, officials with the Georgia Charter Schools Association released recent survey results, showing 62 percent of voters would support the proposed constitutional amendment.

In her letter, Howerton said the Supreme Court decision “clearly does not expressly or directly address the validity” of Title 20, the main state law on education funding. She went on to say the majority opinion of the court “introduces an uncertainty” into the state’s role in public education, though she adds that it’s doubtful the court intended its decision to be that far-reaching.

“Until further clarification by the Georgia Supreme Court or by constitutional amendment, this question may subsist in uncertainty,” Howerton said.

Herb Garrett, executive director of the Georgia School Superintendents Association, said Tuesday afternoon that the court’s ruling dealt only with one issue — the authority of the state to “create a competing and duplicative set of schools not under the control and management of local boards of education.”

“We don’t read anything that disagrees with that,” Garrett said of Howerton’s letter.

Angela Palm, lobbyist for the Georgia School Boards Association, said proponents of the constitutional amendment “are looking for supporting evidence” with the letter.

“I don’t think that makes any stronger case for the constitutional amendment,” Palm said.

Lindsey said late Tuesday that parents who want to start a charter school, as well as school systems, “want to know the road map, what’s legal.”

“The worst thing you want to do in education is to have uncertainty,” he said.

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, through a spokeswoman, declined comment.

In a motion filed with the Supreme Court, the attorney general’s office has previously argued that the ruling “calls into question the billions of state dollars spent every year on education and the significant role the state has in policy and supervision over systems and teachers.”

What Happens to the Kids When Charter Schools Fail?

by Sarah Butrymowicz, The Hechinger Report
TIME
January 31, 2012

Terri Griffin made herself a promise when her youngest daughter was ready for kindergarten: the little girl would never set foot in an Akron public school. Griffin, a jewelry-store clerk and graduate of the Ohio city’s school system, had sent eight children — two of her own and six others she raised as her own — to traditional public schools.

She felt they were pushed through to a diploma and didn’t learn enough. Teachers were eager to recommend special education, but Griffin couldn’t get them to provide other, basic help. So for her youngest daughter, she sought out a charter school, Lighthouse Academy, and hoped for a better outcome.(See “New Grades on Charter Schools.”)

Griffin didn’t know about Lighthouse Academy’s low test scores or that it had been identified by the state as being in an academic emergency on and off since opening in 2000. Instead, when she visited the west Akron school, Griffin saw caring teachers working with small classes in a school that was well established in the community. She hasn’t once regretted her decision.

Now, under Ohio’s charter school closure law, considered the toughest in the nation, Lighthouse Academy is slated to be shuttered at the end of the year. The 2006 law mandates that any charter school that has received the state’s Academic Emergency rating or been placed on academic watch for two out of three years will be shut down. (The ratings are based on state test scores.)

Most of Lighthouse’s 66 students will be thrust back into the same public schools their parents tried to flee. Nearby public schools perform only slightly better than Lighthouse on standardized tests, and some do just as poorly.

The closure is another blow for the children of this fading industrial city, where a third of all kids live in poverty and about a quarter of high schoolers fail to graduate. It’s a scenario becoming familiar to thousands of families in the nation’s poorest neighborhoods as more and more districts start cracking down on low-performing charter schools, which get public funds but operate without the usual bureaucratic constraints.(See pictures of a Mandarin school in Minneapolis.)

The dismantling of so many charters has some experts worrying that when students are forced to leave educational environments where they have friends and feel comfortable, the disruption is destabilizing and upsetting to some of the system’s most vulnerable populations. Robert Slavin, director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, believes closure should be a last resort, after giving schools support and experimenting with possible solutions. Otherwise, well-meaning educational programs could wind up hurting the very kids they are trying to help. “Letting alone or closing are not the only two options,” Slavin says. “[Closing] is very damaging to kids.”

Nonetheless, the crackdown on ineffective charter schools has the backing of charter supporters as well as critics. In an effort to save the charter movement, which has come under increasing scrutiny, advocates have asked for more accountability, supporting forced closures of low-performing schools. Florida has already adopted a law similar to Ohio’s. During the current legislative session, charter advocates in Missouri are pushing a bill that would require charter schools to set up specific benchmarks, giving sponsors an easy way to hold schools accountable. The California Charter Schools Association has said it will start urging school boards to not allow faltering schools to stay open.(See “Why It’s Time to Replace No Child Left Behind.”)

Bill Sims, president of the Ohio Alliance of Public Charter Schools, says he regularly gets calls from his counterparts in other states asking for more information on Ohio’s law so they can use it as a model for their own legislation.

“The good news is, Ohio doesn’t keep underperforming schools open. The bad news is, it hit Lighthouse,” says Marianne Cooper, director of the Richland Academy of the Arts, the nonprofit community arts center in Mansfield, Ohio, that sponsors Lighthouse. While the organization has closed the four other charters it operated, it saw potential in Lighthouse because of some of the same things that attracted and impressed Griffin.

“I love the way the classes are structured,” Griffin says of her now second-grader’s experience. “The teachers that she has had take those children in as their own.”

The personal attention has not translated into convincing data, however. Lighthouse has struggled on state tests since it opened, falling well below state and district averages. Over the past six years, only about 31% of its students annually have reached proficiency across all grades and subjects. In some cases, only one student per class passed the exam.

Last year, every student demonstrated at least one year’s worth of growth, according to state standardized tests, although many remained below grade level in their performance.

Using that growth as a key argument, Principal Fannie Brown plans to appeal the closure decision. However, the Ohio Department of Education says the decision will not be overturned.

“While the school made some academic gains in the last report-card period, it was simply not enough to surmount the consequences of the closure law,” says Ohio Education Department spokesman Patrick Gallaway.

See “New Grades on Charter Schools.”

If Lighthouse closes, as expected, it could represent the beginning of a major change in the way charter schools operate. Nationally, charter schools with low scores are only slightly more likely to close than traditional schools with low scores, according to a recent study by the Fordham Institute that examined charters in 10 states. New data released by the Center for Education Reform (CER), a pro-charter group, indicates that 15% of charter schools have been shut down over the course of the charter movement, which began two decades ago. But fewer than 200 of the 6,700 charters that have opened since 1992 were closed down for academic reasons; the majority were shuttered due to financial or mismanagement problems.

Jeanne Allen, CER’s president, says administrative problems indicate that a school isn’t working long before test scores come out; the center’s data, she says, shows that failing schools do get shut down even without the new regulations. “The vast majority succeed [and] stay open,” she says. “Those that don’t are closed within a few short years before they can ever have any negative impact on students.”

Many others within the charter movement, though, are not convinced that closures are always so timely.

The California Charter Schools Association, for instance, is poised to start holding charters to task with or without a new law, and is urging school boards to not allow faltering schools to stay open. Doing so might encourage more school boards to take the politically unpopular step of closing down schools, the group says. Myrna Castrejón, a senior vice president of the association, says her group couldn’t keep making the case for charter schools if it was seen as soft on failing charters.

More than almost any other state, Ohio shows that change is possible. The state originally took the “let a thousand flowers bloom” approach, encouraging rapid expansion of charter schools with minimal oversight. Ohio educators expected that parents would stay away from bad charters, which would then be forced to close down, says Todd Ziebarth, vice president of state advocacy and support for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.(See “Grading the GOP Candidates on Education.”)

Instead, the state became something of a national embarrassment in the charter movement, with headlines about gross mismanagement and financial scandals. In 2006, when the automatic closure law was written, more than half of Ohio’s charter schools were given a D or F under the state grading system.

The new regulation is a big step forward, but it hasn’t fixed everything. Only 17 charters have been shut down in the past five years as a result of the new law, in part because of a loophole that allows high schools with “dropout-prevention programs” to stay open regardless of performance. And more charters have opened to replace those that have been shut down.

Ziebarth thinks closing schools like Lighthouse should be an easy decision. If a school fails to live up to expectations in five years, it should be shut down, he says, adding, “What we can’t do is perpetuate mediocrity and failure.”

Nonetheless, Lighthouse’s Brown and her faculty members think they should have more time to improve before putting their students through the disruption of being sent back to regular public schools, some of which might be worse or only slightly better than Lighthouse. They admit that the school has had a rocky history but say they’ve replaced the staff in an ongoing effort to improve. “I only wish that Dr. Brown had taken this school on two or three years ago,” Cooper says.(See “7 Things You Need to Know About a School Before Enrolling Your Kid.”)

For now, it’s business as usual for Lighthouse students. On a cold November afternoon, first- and second-graders practiced how to take out books and put them back with the spine facing the right way in the school’s brand-new library, then danced to a YouTube video of “Five Little Reindeer Jumping in the Snow.”

But the adults in the building can’t escape the sadness of impending closure.

Over microwaved pizza and other reheated leftovers in the staff lounge, teachers say they’re just trying to get through the school year before thinking about looking for a new job. They worry about what will happen to their children next year in “bigger, rougher” public schools. “The best schools in Akron,” says teacher Jessica Satterlee, “are not where our kids live.”

Griffin is still hoping that the closing can be averted, but if not, she’s sticking to her vow. If Lighthouse shuts down, her daughter still won’t be going to an Akron public school. Instead, she will be in private school, which Griffin’s extended family will help pay for. “It’s hard to explain — as a mother who really, really has a passion for their child’s education — I felt so bad. I didn’t know what to do,” Griffin says. “This school is the only thing she knows.”

See “A Separate Peace: Portraits from a Gay-Friendly School.”

— With reporting by Emily Alpert / California

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education-news outlet affiliated with Teachers College, Columbia University.

Daily Headlines for January 30, 2012

NATIONAL

Is College Not For Poor Kids?
Washington Post, DC, January 29, 2012

A few weeks ago, my colleague Paul Schwartzman introduced readers to a group of Prince George’s County residents known as “the Seat Pleasant 59.” They were promised in 1988, when they were in elementary school, that their tuition would be paid if they worked hard and got into college.

Time to Expand School Choice
Washington Examiner, DC, January 28, 2012

This week has marked the second annual National School Choice Week. Parents, students and advocates across the country are celebrating effective education options for all children.

Using Student Test Scores To Evaluate Teachers Unfair
Lexington Herald Leader, KY, January 30, 2012

There are two ways to persuade people to do dumb things: Fill them with fear or dangle money in front of them. The Obama administration is engaged in the latter. In the face of significant scientific evidence to the contrary, the U.S. Department of Education is pushing the states to evaluate teachers on the basis of student test scores by offering one-time dollars for doing so.

STATE COVERAGE

Alabama Considers Adding Charter Schools To Its Education Mix
Birmingham News, AL, January 28, 2012

The quality of education offered to children in Alabama depends largely on geography and ability to pay. Lawmakers say it is time to change that by offering parents in failing school systems a choice of where they send their children. And it is likely to come in the form of charter schools.

Just Saying: Charter Schools Have Records of Success
Montgomery Advertiser, AL, January 29, 2012

Charter schools are the an¬swer to our education prob¬lems. I’m serious about this. Our state leaders announced this week that among the changes to education that they would like to implement this year, introducing charter schools is high on their list.

The Governor And Schools: Improvement of Children’s Education Must Drive Any Alterations
Anniston Star, AL, January 30, 2012

When Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley announced the education initiatives he will submit to the state Legislature, he acknowledged the opposition he and his Republican colleagues would face.

Make Private School Tax Credits More Accountable
Arizona Sun, AZ, January 29, 2012

As for paying for K-12 schools, the first side sees tax dollars as ultimately belonging to individuals to be respent according to a family’s values. The second sees those dollars as community assets that can be leveraged on behalf of all children.

Charter School Proposed in Somerton
Yuma Sun, AZ, January 29, 2012

City officials here are considering a proposal by a Phoenix-area social service organization to open a charter high school to serve up to 400 students.

An L.A. Teacher Reviews Her Review
Los Angeles Times, CA, January 29, 2012

Evaluations don’t take into account the real world of today’s Los Angeles Unified School District classrooms.

Pushing Past Mediocrity in the Classroom
Los Angeles Times, CA, January 29, 2012

Interactions between children and teachers are at the heart of learning. We should evaluate that.

How to Grade a Teacher
Los Angeles Times, CA, January 29, 2012

United Teachers Los Angeles and the school district should get behind a teacher-led evaluation system.

A Sputtering Stop for School Buses?
San Diego Union Tribune, CA, January 30, 2012

Julian Charter School District won’t lose a penny. It’s a K-12 district formed 12 years ago with eight physical locations in San Diego and Riverside counties. But the district has no transportation and many of its 2,200 students learn at home through online instruction. Others, said Executive Director Jennifer Cauzza, may carpool four days a week, say from Fallbrook to Temecula.

Board of Ed Chief Schaffer Backs Embattled Neenan, Cites Past Dealings
Denver Post, CO, January 28, 2012

Faced with a series of damaging disclosures about its school-construction projects, the Neenan Co. is getting support from a successful Fort Collins charter school and its high-profile principal — State Board of Education chairman Bob Schaffer.

Kevin Chavous on His Tireless Efforts for School Choice
The Foundry Blog, Heritage Foundation, January 28, 2012

Few legislators have done more to advance school choice than Kevin Chavous. As a city councilmember in Washington D.C. from 1992 to 2004, and a chairman of the council’s Education Committee, Chavous was instrumental in implementing the city’s landmark Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Extremes Show Disparity Between Schools
Washington Examiner, DC, January 29, 2012

D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown, who has introduced legislation to incentivize more top teachers into low-income, underperforming schools, said these extremes in ratios of effective teachers emphasize the gulf between affluent and poor schools.

Good Teachers Spread Throughout District
Washington Examiner, DC, January 29, 2012

Good teachers are spread fairly evenly throughout the District, according to an analysis of teacher evaluations by The Washington Examiner, despite the enormous achievement gap between classrooms in affluent Northwest areas and poor Southeast communities.

Parents Scramble for Magnet Schools
Miami Herald, FL, January 28, 2012

To land their children a spot in a Broward magnet school, some parents have lobbied for attendance-zone changes.

More Charter Schools Means More Cost to Pinellas County in Time and Money
Tampa Bay Times, FL, January 29, 2012

Like most of Florida, Pinellas County is welcoming more charter schools to its school district.

Lawmakers Want Charter Schools To Grow
Miami Herald, FL, January 28, 2012

While education isn’t likely to take center stage in Tallahassee this year, one message is clear: Florida lawmakers want to continue growing charter schools.

District Helped Charter Group Get $50K Grant
Marietta Daily Journal, GA, January 30, 2012

Although the Cobb school district has never sought any of the $400 million from the federal Race to the Top program for its own use, district staff did help a potential charter school land a $50,000 planning grant through the program

BOE Opposes New Charter School Proposal
Covington News, GA, January 29, 2012

The Newton County Board of Education announced its opposition to charter schools created by the state that use local funds without the blessing of the local board of education.

Legislature Needs To Clarify Law Enabling Charter Schools
Honolulu Star-Advertiser , HI, January 29, 2012

Even someone accustomed to the twists and turns of government surely would be tied up in knots following the battle over the conversion of Laupahoehoe High and Elementary School to a public charter school, a roller-coaster ride now in its third year.

Why Public Charter Schools Are Important
Louisville Courier-Journal, KY, January 30, 2012
The public conversation about what charter schools are and what they might bring to public education in Kentucky is well underway, and it has been a long time coming. Over the last several years education reform advocates have worked tirelessly in Louisville and across the commonwealth just to get to this point.

Louisiana Vouchers Would Need To Provide Good Options
Times Picayune, LA, January 28, 2012

As a staunch public school advocate, it pains me to say, vouchers can work. But are Gov. Bobby Jindal and state Superintendent John White prepared to give parents the information and transparency required for high levels of parental choice?

How Will School Vouchers Affect You?
Daily Comet, LA, January 28, 2012

Thousands of students could qualify for vouchers that would allow them to leave failing public schools in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes under a proposal Gov. Bobby Jindal has included in a sweeping education-reform plan.

Innovation Schools Should Be Part of the Big Picture
South Coast Today, MA, January 29, 2012

United Interfaith Action will be before the School Committee on Feb. 13 hoping to move the process forward on creating small, autonomous schools, which the group sees as a vital tool for giving New Bedford’s school system a better chance at success.

Educators Seeking Parents to Partner on Evaluations
Battle Creek Enquirer, MI, January 30, 2012

Union City’s Bill Schaeffer said he’s worried about how people might react to letters some local parents are likely to receive telling them their children’s teacher isn’t good at their job.

The Urgency of School Reform in Minnesota
Pioneer Press, MN, January 28, 2012

After listening this past week to important ideas for improving education in Minnesota, we hope the efforts of a reform-minded Republican-controlled Legislature – and an open-minded Democratic governor – will add up to a win for students.

Charter Schools Are Not The Priority
Clarion Ledger, MS, January 27, 2012

They’re the latest panacea, the latest fix. Charter schools will allow Mississippi ‘s education system to burst with new success once they free up students and teachers from the rules of the evil education bureaucracy.

Teacher Compensation, Performance Legislation Introduced in House
Missouri Net, MO, January 30, 2012

The legislative strategy for House Republicans in the new legislative session makes a priority a bill addressing teacher compensation and performance, calling it the “Missouri Teacher Quality Act.” That has now been introduced by Elementary and Secondary Education Committee Chairman Scott Dieckhaus (R-Washington).

Schools Struggle With Dwindling Interest Income
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, MO, January 30, 2012

Money in the bank used to generate a nice little piece of revenue for a school district — but that was before the recession.

Voucher Legislation Threatens N.H.’S Public Schools
Portsmouth Herald, NH, January 29, 2012

Last week, Seacoast Sunday featured a story, “Private school scholarship bills rebuked,” on the education tax credit (school voucher) program proposed in the Legislature.

Bracing for $40,000 at New York City Private Schools
New York Times, NY, January 29, 2012

THERE are certain mathematical realities associated with New York City private schools: There are more students than seats at the top-tier schools, at least three sets of twins will be vying head to head for spots in any class, and already-expensive tuition can only go up. Way up.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan Backs Mayor Bloomberg on Teacher Bonuses
New York Daily News, NY, January 28, 2012

Mayor Bloomberg’s bold plan to pay the best teachers much more — via $20,000 salary hikes doled out to top performers — is winning friends in high places.

Charter School Releases an Ad Supporting Cuomo
New York Times Blog, NY, January 27, 2012

As he girds for confrontation with what he calls the state’s educational bureaucracy, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has found an unexpected ally singing his praises on cable television: a group of high school students in East Harlem .

West Side Might Get K-8 Charter School This Fall
Columbus Dispatch, OH, January 29, 2012

The state’s largest charter-school operator is eyeing Columbus ’ West Side as the perfect spot to open its first K-8 building in the city.

TPS Fears Partial State Seizure of Schools
Tulsa World, OK, January 28, 2012

The possibility of a state takeover of Tulsa school sites was among a list of hot topics that came up during a special meeting Friday that the Tulsa school board hosted for legislators.

Choice: It’s Good for Children
Edmond Sun, OK, January 28, 2012

When my twin sons were in elementary school, both were identified as requiring special needs attention. Unfortunately, I knew their needs were not being met. We could have moved at the time, but I knew there were parents who couldn’t make these choices because of their income level.

Oklahoma Tax Dollars at Center of School Voucher Debate
The Oklahoman, OK, January 29, 2012

Vouchers that use public school funding for private school tuition (proponents prefer the term scholarships) are at the center of a growing conflict in Oklahoma between parents, the state and schools.

Legislature to Consider Bills That Will Tie School Funding to Key Goals
Statesman Journal, OR, January 30, 2012

Next month, lawmakers will consider bills that would tie that spending to specific, measurable goals and intervene in educational institutions that fail to meet expectations.

Public Schools Facing Crisis
Philadelphia Inquirer, PA, January 29, 2012

But rural and suburban districts across the state are in similarly dire straits. Despite making drastic budget cuts, some districts, like Erie, may run out of money before the end of the school year and be unable to pay vendors or creditors.

State Needs Sound Course for Charters
Scranton Times-Tribune, PA, January 28, 2012

The fundamental concept behind school choice is that multiple options will help to improve all education, including in public schools that lose students to charter schools, or through tuition vouchers and similar devices. Competition, the concept holds, will force public schools to improve in order to retain students who once were captive but have been endowed with mobility. There are examples of the concept working but it hardly is universal.

Easton Area School District Considers Charging Charter, Cyber Schools a Fee for Sports Participation
Allentown Morning Call, PA, January 29, 2012

Many a young Eastonian has aspired to one day be part of Easton Area School District’s storied football and wrestling programs — bright spots in a school system battling economic and academic shortfalls.

S.D. Teachers Learning New Method for Evaluations
Aberdeen News, SD, January 29, 2012

The Aberdeen and Webster Area school districts are already preparing for their next endeavor — a new teacher evaluation model that will be implemented next school year.

TN Taps New Pipeline for Top Teachers
The Tennessean, TN, January 29, 2012

Instead, Tennessee education leaders plan to invest $10 million on two national programs that recruit the brightest graduates in other fields, put them through intensive training and send them into classrooms — where they typically outperform peers who took the traditional route

Charters Could Be On The Way
Commercial Appeal, TN, January 30, 2012

Changing education: Diminishing resistance to charter schools in Mississippi could result in another weapon to help students succeed.

The Time is Right for a Fairfax Charter School
Washington Post, DC, January 27, 2012

Public hearings before the Fairfax County School Board often last into the wee hours. In a county chock-full of smart and involved citizens, it’s not unusual for 80 people to volunteer their thoughts on the best choice for a third-grade spelling textbook.

Education: Investment Options
Richmond Times-Dispatch, VA, January 30, 2012

“Invest in Kids,” read the signs held by educators at a recent rally at the state Capitol. The rally, organized by the Virginia Education Association and the Virginia PTA, called for more school funding. We wonder if it’s really kids that the teachers want the state to invest in.

Con: Statistics Show No Significant Advantage Over Regular Public Education
Spokesman Review, WA, January 29, 2012

Advocates assert that charter schools are a key reform for raising the achievement of African-American, Latino and low-income students in Washington state. The problem is that the research evidence does not support this assertion.

Pro: Challenging Curriculum, Personal Attention Inspire High Achievement
Spokesman Review, WA, January 29, 2012

If I close my eyes, I can still see the college pennants hanging in the classrooms, and hear the echoes of voices asking who’s staying after school for Advanced Placement tutoring. I can still feel the texture of the well-used SAT prep books that were glued to everyone’s hands and served as reminders of our college goals.

Make Sure Charter Schools Meet Goals
The Sheboygan Press, WI, January 28, 2012

The Sheboygan Area School District has 10 charter schools under its wing — the third most among districts around the state. It trails only Milwaukee and Appleton.
Now, the district is poised to add two more.

Bill to Halt Voucher Expansion Appears Dead
Green Bay Press Gazette, WI, January 28, 2012

A bill that would guarantee Wisconsin ‘s divisive school voucher program doesn’t expand without legislative approval looks all but dead after Republican leaders said Friday they don’t know if their caucus supports the measure.

VIRTUAL EDUCATION

Virtual Schools On The Rise, But Are They Right For K-12 Students?
CNN Blog, January 30, 2012

It’s a Tuesday morning in January, and seventh-grader Katerina Christhilf is learning algebra. But it’s no ordinary class. This one takes place entirely online, led by a teacher a few miles away.

Hybrid’ Charters Will Meld Online Lessons With Conventional Instruction
New Jersey Spotlight, NJ, January 30, 2012

But the urban ones that were approved are interesting in themselves, including two in Trenton and Newark that are trying a new model of education, mixing online learning with face-to-face instruction in a setting unlike any other in the state.

Charter Schools Are Struggling To Meet Standards, But Keep Growing
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, PA, January 30, 2012

When Ron and Tina Gamble’s twin daughters, Jessica and Lauren, considered leaving public school for cyber school after sophomore year, several factors influenced their decision. The family from Murrysville liked the flexible cyber school schedule and lack of “busy work.”

Erie School District To Open Online Charter School
Erie Times-News, PA, January 28, 2012

Erie school officials are tired of paying millions of dollars each year and losing hundreds of students to online charter schools.

Online Education For K-12 Students Is Growing
Kentucky Post, KY, January 28, 2012

Computers have long had a place in many classrooms, but what about learning online completely? The number of full time online K-12 students is growing.

Data May Give Students Edge
Appleton Post Crescent, WI, January 28, 2012

The Appleton eSchool could be part of a study that tracks student behaviors in online coursework to predict student success.

Parent Empowerment In FL

“Proponents say bill would empower parent”
by Valerie Boey
FOX 35 News
January 26, 2012

It’s a bill created to empower parents when it comes their child’s education, according to its proponents.

The Parent Empowerment Act allows parents to decide if they need to get rid of current teachers or administrators and use something like a charter or virtual school instead.

“It has a really catchy name, good marketing, but was not driven by parents, nor does it empower parents.” Dawn Stewart is vice president of Florida’s PTA and is against the bill.

“It’s not parental involvement, it’s corporate involvement. We are concerned about corporate America opening up charter schools that could be about money, everything is about money unfortunately.”

Creator of the bill,Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto of SW Florida didn’t return our half dozen calls, but the bill’s co-sponsor did. We talked to Senator Mike Fasano of Pasco County over the phone.

“It’s not a charter school bill, it’s not a voucher bill, it’s a parents bill of rights. It only happens in a case where the school has not been able to turn themselves around after receiving poor grades.”

Senator Fasano says the bill gives a school three years to turn around. If it can’t the majority of parents can petition for a change. Stewart tells us, it takes away power from the school board members that the public votes into office, “I can take a petition and walk around here and get 51 percent of the people in this building to sign anything that I put under their nose because they like me. Just vote no.”

But parents like Michael Taylor say it’s something to consider, “Ultimately as long as they’re giving us options and not bogging us down with politics and red tape that’s fine.”

On Tuesday, an education committee in Tallahassee approved the bill. Now a budget committee is considering it.

Banner Year For Teacher Policy Reform

The National Council on Teacher Quality releases it’s annual State Teacher Policy Yearbook, noting that 2011 “was no ordinary year for teacher policy”. While the fifth edition of this report saw more changes in states’ teacher policies than any years prior, Florida, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Tennessee lead the nation on teacher quality policy.

One policy that is being targeted nationwide is teacher tenure. States are tossing aside historic protections in an era that demands high-performing teachers to produce higher achievement among students.

Check out CER’s map to see how your state stacks up when it comes to teacher quality.

NAEP Math Scores 2009

Download or print your PDF copy of NAEP Math Scores 2009

SAT Breakdown 2011

Download or print your PDF copy of SAT Breakdown 2011
Read the Center for Education Reform’s press release on these 2011 SAT scores: U.S. Students Continue to Stall on SATs

CER Summary Hoxby New York Charters 2009

Download or print your PDF copy of CER Summary Hoxby New York Charters 2009