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The Importance of School Choice

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I am proud to say that my intern friends—Adiya Taylor, Mandy Leiter, Matt Beienburg, Tigran Avakyan—and I hosted a very successful event: “CER Interns Present: The Next Generation in Education Reform.” I would like to extend a thank-you to the Thomas B. Fordham Institute for letting us use their space as well as to the staff at CER for their encouragement and support throughout this entire process—which, I’m sad to say, is now over.

Our speakers were also instrumental in transforming our event from a small idea that started in a conference room to a reality that ended up in about 40 attendees, eagerly asking questions and inclined to network.

Kara Kerwin, Daniel Lautzenheiser, Jack McCarthy, Michael Musante, and Amber Northern are experts in their fields regarding education policy and certainly had a lot to bring to the table. Our moderator, Tigran Avakyan, engaged them in discussions regarding teacher tenure, technology use in the classroom, and the return on investment. Charter schools were also a prominent topic that came up.

I’ve been thinking a lot about charter schools, actually. I first heard the term “charter school” in a class at college, and I never thought about it later after that semester. I am close to completing my first internship here at CER and only now can I truly tell you what it means. Charter schools are innovative, public schools that are free from regulations set forth by the government. They serve some of the most disadvantaged students and are kept accountable for their results. New charter schools are always opening up as well. For instance, 11 charter schools are expected to open up in the DC area alone this coming fall. Many charter schools—new or having already existed for a while—may also face closure in the future due to a lack of

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Policy and Professionalism: Lessons Learned From Education Reform Advocates

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On Tuesday, interns from various public policy organizations piled onto a 7th floor conference room where CER’s interns organized a panel discussion titled, CER Interns Present: The Next Generation in Education Reform. Preceding the panel, interns from The Center for Education Reform, the U.S. Department of Education, The Fund for America Studies, The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, The Brookings institution, and many other organizations mingled and shared stories of their experiences within their respective organizations.

Panelists sat before the future reformers to discuss current policy issues along with providing any insights that they may have concerning working in education. There was a full house of reformers featuring Kara Kerwin, President of The Center for Education Reform, Daniel Lautzenheiser, Education Policy Program Manager for the American Enterprise Institute, Jack McCarthy, President and CEO of AppleTree Institute of Education Innovation, Michael Musante, Senior Director of Government Relations for FOCUS DC, and Amber Northern, Vice president of Research for The Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The event covered a multitude of topics ranging from common criticisms of charter schools to the return on investment in education spending. The panelists also engaged in a fruitful discussion on the use of technology in the classroom and opinions on teacher tenure and union involvement in reform.

After the panel, the audience members posed challenging questions on political philosophy and bipartisan efforts, career trajectories, and classroom strategies.

Here are some of the important messages that I took away from the event

  • When discussing the achievement gap, Michael Musante mentioned that a “classroom can feel like a prison” for a ninth grader who reads at a third-grade level. This really spoke to the importance of standards and expected outcomes for all students.
  • Amber Northern commented that, “Technology is at its best when it questions the assumptions of what we’ve been doing in classrooms,

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Cheating Cloud Comes Over Sunshine State

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Allegations of cheating on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) have surfaced at a St. Petersburg area elementary school, marking the first time in state history a school grade has been withheld to allow for an investigation.

The state Department of Education ordered an internal probe into the matter after an unusual amount of students were providing the same wrong answers on the same questions. According to a state analysis, the likelihood of this being coincidental is less than one in one trillion.

If the investigation does reveal cheating had occurred, district officials say it would not have been enough to alter the school grade. Those at the state level insist there is no automatic assumption of foul play.

Cheating scandals are nothing new, and Kara Kerwin, president of The Center for Education Reform notes that cheating “is a much more widespread problem than Atlanta or Philadelphia,” two municipal districts notoriously plagued by a culture of educator-driven cheating.

Regarding cheating scandals, Kerwin says, “it’s important that we set high expectations. The problem is with low quality educators or administrators who aren’t up to par. There are these tenure policies that keep poor performers in the classroom for a long time.”

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