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Newswire: December 11, 2012

Vol. 14, No. 34

“YOU DON’T SAY!” US Students Still Lag Globally, bellowed the New York Times this morning. While that may not be huge news, the real findings in the two new reports out today are that while we may not lag substantially (though we still lag folks!), others have far greater numbers of kids scoring in the top tiers. It’s not because we are so egalitarian, either. The data suggests that our most advanced students are still behind advanced students in other countries.

SEE FOR YOURSELF. The Global Report Card, a project of the George W. Bush Institute gives you a chance to compare your district to another district, to a state, our nation or other nations. Take the plunge. You’ll be surprised what you learn.

WHY SO MANY REJECTIONS THEN? It’s not like we’re winning the brain race, or even the fight for global competitiveness. Condoleezza Rice says it’s a national security issue; so does the president. So why in a state known for reform-minded leadership and in desperate need of good schooling options, does a board reject dozens of charter applications, many from proven providers? Yes, folks, that’s right. Down in the Bayou, the Louisiana reform community is cutting off its nose to spite its face. Out of 51 applications to open schools in the Bayou, only 11 will move ahead. A national group hired to do the reviews, NACSA, recommended adoption of just 7, the State Ed Dept (BESE) declined 1 of these 7, and thankfully added another 5 schools that hadn’t been recommended. At issue is how these schools are being reviewed and whether the evaluations actually hold water. That’s under investigation by many groups whose applications were rejected – in many different states – oftentimes after they’d been praised by the same evaluator in other applications. One would think with the unions having taken the voucher program to court, and legal action to find all state reform efforts at odds with district desegregation orders, there’d be an effort to create more learning opportunities for kids, at a faster pace. Hiding behind fear of not being able to guarantee quality, some advocates would prefer to control parent choice than give parents the power and learn to decide.

BROCKTON REDUX. Check out this priceless communication from the Superintendent, who peppers his board and community regularly with anti-charter missives, on company time, mind you!

LIBERALS v. CONSERVATIVES? Apparently you’re a liberal if you don’t think the Common Core’s quality will be robust enough to serve so many different needs, and you’re a conservative if you think it’s about local control. The ongoing debate, somewhat adequately given voice to in yet another New York Times piece today, is a bit deeper than that, of course. The real distinction should be GOVERNMENT CYNICS v. GOVERNMENT TRUSTERS. Those who believe that government can take any good idea and distort it, even at the state level, are trending anti-Common Core. They believe that standardization breeds, well, common, or under-whelming products, and that trying to maintain standards and assessments often falls to people who had nothing to do with their creation. The “Trusters” rarely look at the fall out until it’s too late. They assume that good programs will retain their health and quality, no doubt because they were or believe themselves or their elected officials to be vigilant in their governing. Time will tell.

NAUGHTY OR NICE. How will you spend your holidays? Looking for things to talk about? How about a great conversation starter or two to make sure your next gathering is fun AND substantive? Plant a seed for education reform this holiday season and spread the word about what’s critical to our future. CER’s Holiday Gift to you starts here.