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Panel Reaction: Expanding Opportunity Through Innovation

It’s currently my first day here at CER and I have already attended a book launch event/panel discussion that honed in on the current struggles with education and markets, and peeked into the future of a more productive system. Upon arriving at the panel at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), we were given copies of Research Fellow Michael McShane’s Education and Opportunity mini-book (emphasis on the mini), which serves as a basic introduction of the education system to a new college audience joining the education conversation. The book addresses reforms such as smaller class sizes, indirect choice, accountability, increase in staff, and universal preschool, which all put concepts into practice.

His overarching theme throughout the piece revolves around the idea that decentralizing a system that leverages society leads to a more holistic understanding of education. He breaks down education opportunity at a basic level in an attempt to reach a younger age group. He starts off with generalities: Education is important. Academic success is crucial because it leads to monetary prosperity. McShane addresses the gap between the salaries of college graduates and those of high school graduates. The Brookings Institute released a study noting that while 45% of those in the bottom tier of the income bracket without a college degree remained in poverty, those who were born into poverty but pursued college education actually have a higher probability of ending up in the wealthiest tier, as opposed to ending up in the lowest. Another one of his points revolves around the troubling statistic that only 26% of students who took the ACT scored “college ready” in all four subjects. As a student who took the ACT’s only a few years ago, the concept of an education system not properly setting students up for economic prosperity comes as no surprise.

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Core Challenges to Talking About U.S. Education

Over the past couple of years, the Common Core debate has taken up much of the space devoted to education both in the media and public life. In contributing to the far-reaching conversation, a host of policymakers, elected officials, and concerned citizens have voiced their opinions on what Common Core is, what it isn’t, and whether or not it’s a good idea.

Despite Common Core being such a high profile issue, the Common Core debate has actually distracted the American public from an honest examination into setting rigorous expectations for students.

To remedy this, the Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli and CATO’s Neal McCluskey, a Common Core supporter and opponent respectively, lay out the facts as well as the origins and evolution behind the federal government’s role in education.

Similar to the Fordham-hosted discussion on legal challenges against harmful teacher employment policies, this commentary takes care to lay out background and context as a precursor to actual debate.

One facet of this discussion that has received CER’s attention is the ongoing attempts by the federal government to measure the right amount of carrot and stick in the disbursement of funds to state and local sources. The arrival of No Child Left Behind in 2002 not only demanded a quantifiable return on investment but also established the federal government as a repository of student achievement data, creating never-before-seen snapshots of how kids are doing on a national level. Needless to say, the stagnant proficiency rates on NAEP continue to be eye opening and serve as a catalyst for change.

If the NCLB waiver saga and pushes by members of Congress to facilitate choice and charter schools are any judge, the federal government is still grappling with what its proper role is in improving schools.

In response, here we are in 2014,

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Closing Time

During my orientation at CER, Outreach Coordinator Tyler Losey informed me that I would be doing real work that mattered for the organization. Of course, I did end up taking on some of the administrative tasks such as stuffing envelopes, labeling, and scanning documents; however, I hardly ever felt like such work was meaningless. CER’s mission is to bridge the gap between policy and practice, and everything that I have done, including intense research and effective event planning, speaks to that very mission.

I am astonished at how much I have learned from my internship—so much more than I ever expected to. I will leave this organization with the ability to research so efficiently that I could find my next employer the names of all charter schools in the New England area that have received approval to open up for the coming school year in the span of just one hour. I know where to look for certain information, what sources to trust, and how to organize my information in a presentable way.

I was taught how to write briefly and matter-of-factly, but also informatively. Using the Media Bullpen as my medium for practice, I have written summaries and critiques for articles in just about three sentences total. Getting a message across in a manner like this makes it much easier for my audience to not only remember tidbits from my analysis, but to also gain my perspective regarding a certain topic much quicker than going through a long article trying to find what may be the most important point.

I have stepped out of my comfort zone and have even dabbled a little bit in designing an info-graphic for CER’s Instagram. Through this experience, I learned that it is okay to try new things and make mistakes while experimenting. All I

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