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Day One: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going

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My impetus for pursuing an internship at CER grew from a personal love of education, both learning and teaching, and a zeal for pursuing excellence in the field. Over the years I have worked at elementary schools, researched subjects ranging from charter school development to the efficacy of Teach for America, and sought out classes that reflected my interest.

Still, though on paper I seem prepared for this internship, I am acutely aware of my lack of wisdom that can only be gained through experience. Fortunately for me, from my desk in the CER office, I can see half a dozen offices that house some truly key players in the education reform movement. Built on twenty years of wisdom and experience, a dynamic energy courses through this office that buoys the creative ability and industry of those inside. I am humbled and excited to have the chance to learn from them.

That, of course, is my main objective: to learn. I am hungry for knowledge and understanding, and I am committed to serving CER valuably for the next six weeks. In addition to informing my future career goals, I hope this experience fosters relationships that broaden my worldview and further my development as an individual thinker and doer.

For years I have been immersed in the theoretical and pedagogical exercise of education reform. At home I have heard my father talk about his experience representing Students First in Tennessee and working with Governor Haslam on his education reform efforts. In class, my Education professors presented me with a very pro-public, pro-teacher, pro-union take on the history of education and the future of reform.

My experience at CER will add a new flavor to the mix, one that I hope will savor more of concrete experiences and practical implications as I develop my perspective.

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Speak Up Release of National Findings

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As technology continues to constantly change and grow at an incredible rate, it can be difficult to keep track of the impact that it has on the education system in America today. While technology is often characterized as detrimental to the social skills and attention span of young people, it’s important to also look at the variety of benefits that it can provide.

Project Tomorrow, a California-based national education nonprofit, released the findings of their 2013 Speak Up National Research Project on April 8th in Washington, D.C. This project reports on the views of K-12 students on the role of technology in education. Last year, over 400,000 students, parents and educators answered polls on their opinions regarding the use of technology in the classroom and how they hope it will be used in the future.

The 2013 report is titled “The New Digital Learning Playbook: Understanding the Spectrum of Students’ Activities and Aspirations,” and it aims to move beyond the “mythology” that exists regarding the role of technology within the education community in the U.S. today. Julie Evans, the CEO of Project Tomorrow, gave the presentation of the project’s findings and how they demonstrated the positive impact that technology can have on students’ learning. The findings highlighted the many ways that technology can benefit students both within the classroom and at home.

Many schools and districts sign themselves up to take the survey because they recognize the need to counteract the idea that technology is harmful to education. Adults assume that children use technology in the same way that adults use technology (as entertainment or to keep in touch with friends), but this survey demonstrates the many innovative ways that children and young adults are benefitting from the use of technology in their classrooms. Computers and tablets are

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The Real Threats to Charter Autonomy

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In recent remarks, Robert Cane, executive director of Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS), issued a powerful warning to the charter school movement in the District of Columbia.

Cane spoke of the momentous progress that has been made over the years in making charter schools promising educational options for DC students, but also of the threats to derail the engine driving much-needed reform in the District.

There’s no denying the strides made in DC’s efforts to create a robust charter school environment and the increased student proficiency as a result, but even the most Parent Power friendly areas still face challenges.

Of all the attacks on the charter movement, Cane says, “the most insidious is the continuous assault on what truly defines charter schools: individual-school control over operations and freedom from burdensome oversight.”

This assault comes through in a number of ways, from the ‘controlled choice movement’ to the burdensome regulations charter schools increasingly endure.

Said Cane, “Over the years legislation and regulations have been proposed that, for example, sought to require every charter school to use the same reading program; to impose uniform truancy and disciplinary policies and procedures on charters; to require every charter regardless of its mission, to adopt  “universal values,” “financial literacy,” and “environmental literacy” curricula.

He continued, “Now getting serious traction nationally, the controlled choice movement would limit choice by empowering the government to centrally engineer school admissions in order to achieve increased racial and socioeconomic diversity or other goals.”

“The idea that central planning of any kind should be applied to the charter schools is more frightening than any moratorium on chartering,” he said.

In Cane’s view, charter autonomy is crucial to improving student achievement:

“The success of the charter schools also shows what all of us already

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