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Thurgood Marshall Academy First Friday’s Visit

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My week began with a talk given by Jack Jennings at GW, my alma mater (how weird to say after only a month out of school!), about presidential politics and federal education policy history.  Mr. Jennings, founder of the Center for Education Policy, is certainly not a fan of school choice and is hailed as a champion of traditional public schools.  However, even he admitted that we need more choice and accountability in schools.  He admitted that even he had learned something from the education reform movement.

Perhaps he had heard about the amazing work that is happening at many of the district’s charter schools.  My week ended with a visit to one of these schools of choice, one of the best in the nation’s capital, in fact:  Thurgood Marshall Academy (TMA, as it is affectionately called).  This school embodies the basic idea behind charter schools:  give a school the opportunity and autonomy to be great, and make sure they follow up and meet high standards.  The potential and promise of the charter school movement is most certainly being delivered at TMA.

First, the data.  100% of TMA’s seniors are accepted into college, and 85% of them are still enrolled in college a year out of high school.  It’s not just the actual numbers that are impressive, but it’s the school’s focus on the numbers.  On the bulletin boards throughout the school’s halls, there are postings of graphs of the  student’s aggregate achievement on the DC CAS, assorted AP tests, the SATs, and the ACTs.  It only makes sense:  the staff knows if they don’t educate their students well, and if the students themselves don’t put in the effort to achieve, the school will close.

The school holds high standards for their teachers, but also gives them autonomy to come up with

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Equity Plus Reform

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As is expected but not always evident of highly regarded newspapers, the Washington Post brought to light a serious issue that not only pertains to the District of Columbia charter schools but charter schools across the country.

Late last week, the DC Mayor’s Office released a report that revealed DC charter schools are receiving significantly less per-pupil funding than traditional public schools. The report found that in spite of the spirit of current laws that call for funding equity, traditional schools still receive significantly more money for both educational and administrative purposes.

Although this particular report could not adequately assess facilities funding, it has been well documented that charter schools nationwide face facility-funding shortfalls, often due to restrictive state laws.

Overall, funding disadvantages present an unnecessary distraction for charter administrators whose main goal is to improve the educational landscape in their communities.

To be sure, the report’s recommendations indicate a good-faith effort to rectify the funding gap by restructuring how public schools receive education dollars. The Post Editorial Board views the report’s Friday evening release as a way to lessen expectations, but it remains to be seen whether these recommendations translate into action.

Ensuring funding equity is important, but it’s equally critical to focus on the type of systemic reform that incentivizes more and better opportunities for students. The DC charter school law is no doubt comparably strong, but as this report indicates, there’s always more work to be done.

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My Introduction to CER

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My first day interning at the Center for Education Reform, I was introduced to the manner by which CER increases awareness regarding education policy. I learned of all the day-to-day tasks that every member at CER engages in to formulate the important message that they send out. As a sophomore at The George Washington University double majoring in Philosophy and Mathematics, one may be wondering how I ended up at CER.

I have spent semesters working with students in both public and charter schools in D.C and Philadelphia, and as such found myself drawn to the educational realm. However, as a student studying at a university located in the nation’s capital, public policy seemed to be a main theme across campus, and so I slowly became more interested in the policy and reform aspect of education as opposed to the classroom. After searching for internships that would best represent my passions, I was drawn to CER.

In the office, I aid the other members of CER by assisting with research, and thereby increasing my own knowledge regarding education policy. Working at CER enables me to use the extensive knowledge I learn in the office and relate that back to my past experiences. I have seen first hand how charter schools run, and how they differ from public schools, but now I am able to understand the requirements put in place for charter schools and public schools, the importance of school choice, and other relevant factors tied to education policy.

Interning at CER has proved to be a rewarding experience just from the few days I have been here so far, and I look forward to learning more regarding education policy so that I can then apply my knowledge to creating better opportunities in education.

Maha Hasen, CER Intern

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