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Yanking Schools Into 21st Century”: President Obama’s ConnectED to the Future Initiative

On Wednesday, President Obama spoke to an audience of 110 superintendents from across the nation to address closing the technology gap. In “ConnectED to the Future,” Obama reiterated the five-year plan to have 99% of students connected to high-speed Internet. In the President’s remarks, he called upon the teachers and administrators to get on board with the focus on the future. Students are already more technology savvy than most adults, so it is time to reach them at a level that ensures that they are learning in circumstances in which they are comfortable and excel the most.

The President addressed many different ways to approach achieving the initiative of technology heavy education. For one, the FCC has doubled its investment in broadband for schools in an effort to connect more than 15,000 schools and 20 million students to high-speed Internet. The government is also releasing an infrastructure guide to help districts make the best decisions, according to resources, and a checklist to encourage turning tools into practice for students. This initiative is exciting because it transcends the idea of government-oriented education and instead requires cross programming across the board to get the job done. It requires more than just policymakers in Washington; technology companies are chipping in to ensure that classroom software is up to date, parents are signing up to learn to use the technology that their students will have access to, and superintendents are signing pledges to move their districts towards this time of change.

Another inspiring prospect of education reform that the President addressed was that of free advanced placements assessments. Obama noted that the districts that offered those classes for free saw improving results and better college-readiness. As someone who has benefited from this notion first-hand, I could not agree more. My high school was unique in

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The Sisulu-Walker Charter School of Harlem

“Would you like to give your child a chance to achieve greatness? If you want that, then this is the place for your child,” says Sisulu-Walker public charter school teacher Shawn Lane when asked how he would recommend the school he teaches at to prospective parents.

Sisulu-Walker Crest

The Sisulu-Walker Charter School of Harlem focuses on educating tomorrow’s future leaders so they can make a difference in their community and the global community at large. An appropriate focus as the school’s namesakes, Walter Sisulu and Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, were each instrumental in helping civil rights leaders Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. respectively.

“I am responsible” is printed on the back of each scholar’s shirt, reminding students that if they want to be successful, they must choose to do the right thing, and “part of that is making sure you’re responsible for yourself and your actions,” says principal Michelle K. Haynes.

But don’t take our word for it – watch this video to see just how this public charter school is personally impacting the lives and futures of its students, and why The Center for Education Reform fights so hard every day to create conditions that allow schools like this to thrive.

To learn more about this school, the first-ever charter school to open in New York, check out the book A Light Shines in Harlem, available for purchase here.

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Myth Busters: Voucher Edition

In a free country where the American dream revolves around dictating the direction of your own life, parents and students are still unable to detach from failing schools. With an overwhelming amount of support for school choice flooding the country, where is the implementation of programs to match desires? What can families do to free themselves of a system that constantly seems to be working against them? Which system could provide economic assistance that supports school choice? Vouchers.

With the recent release of The Friedman Foundation’s 2014 report on school vouchers, the fiscal impact of school choice is undoubtedly making its way into education reform conversation. “The School Voucher Audit,” which concludes that school choice methods save money, takes readers on a field trip back to math class with easy-to-digest equations that break down fiscal impact. “Net savings per student x number of voucher recipients = total net savings”, “Per-student cost burden – public school > cost of voucher = net savings per student”, etc. For those of us less mathematically inclined, what does all of it mean?

As evidenced in “School Choice Today: Voucher Laws Across the States Ranking & Scorecard”, a report by the Center for Education Reform (CER), it is clear to see that vouchers are directly helping students. But there is an urgent need for more; more vouchers, more options, more accessibility, more school choice. When analyzing individual states, the report found that voucher programs available to all students, instead of just for specific circumstances (low-income or special needs for example), were able to reach more people and were therefore more beneficial. The CER report shows that out of 14 states and the District of Columbia, only six states earned an “A” or “B” ranking, evidence that voucher programs can work, there just needs to

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