Vol. 16, No. 27
DITHERING IN DENVER. Another year, another NEA Annual Meeting full of incendiary rhetoric urging progress and recommitment within a broken system that union officials helped create. The big news was a resounding call for Arne Duncan to resign, which of course has about as good a chance of happening as NEA reversing the quarter million membership decline it’s experienced in the last five years. Delegates also want less testing in schools, an important step in masking from the American public just how far behind U.S. students are today. Amid these distractors, delegates did manage to find time to approve a pseudo boycott of Staples in protest of automated mail service, because of the students (or something). It would be a refreshing change of pace to see an honest discussion about policies that promote choice and accountability, based on the inherent belief that every child can learn when given the best opportunity. Parental demand for new educational options to deliver on the promise that every child is capable of achieving continues to expand, and remaining entrenched against this trend won’t change that.
READY FOR LIFTOFF. Charter school leaders and parents fully appreciate the trials and tribulations of opening a charter school, and how it’s so much more than just filling out an application. In his new book On the Rocketship: How Top Charter Schools Are Pushing the Envelope, veteran reporter Richard Whitmire makes this abundantly clear in this must-read case study of the Rocketship charter network. Whether it’s a student who can now learn due to their new charter school environment, or the parent who became galvanized to be more involved, On the Rocketship is filled with stories characteristic of the positive cultural shift that occurs in charter schools nationwide. Of course, with successes come challenges, par for the course when attempting to buck the status quo. But on the whole, On the Rocketship provides useful commentary on the charter movement writ large, and what must be done to expand opportunity. On the Rocketship: How Top Charter Schools Are Pushing the Envelope is available here.
NEWARK PARENTS PREFER CHARTERS. Over half of kindergarten public school applications in Newark listed a charter school as a first preference, an extraordinary indication of charter school popularity among choice-seeking parents. The proliferation of charter schools in Newark has also brought increased achievement, with 47.5 percent of third graders across charter and traditional schools now proficient in reading, a nearly nine percent increase over three years. These gains, combined with more parents trying to find the best opportunity for their child, underscores the need to bolster what could potentially amount to short-lived reforms at the municipal level. Creating charter-friendly environments must also be a state-level endeavor if there are to be quality schools that persist for more than one generation in the Garden State.
#NCSC14 TAKES TWITTER BY STORM. Education Week provided a useful summary of #NCSC14 tweets that best captured what’s on the minds of charter school supporters, as conference participants, CER included, did their best to encapsulate key themes in 140 characters or less. One of the most important themes to emerge is that creating quality schools is contingent upon proper engagement with community members, the media, and policymakers. This means highlighting why a school that’s accountable to parents and students before anyone else is a positive force in a community, and informing elected officials of the legislation necessary to guarantee equitable resources so that all schools have a chance to thrive. A lot of great ideas came out of #NCSC14, now it’s time to put them into action.
DON’T MISS what promises to be a useful new report from Andy Smarick, in conjunction with the Friedman Foundation, on what private school choice supporters can learn from the charter sector. Out tomorrow!