NEWSWIRE: August 19, 2014

Vol. 16, No. 32

Students across the country are heading back to school, and Newswire is highlighting stories that show what to build on from last year, what educators are doing to make this new year a success, and what everyone can do to support a year full of choices, accountability, and most importantly, student success.

STRIPPING PARENTS OF POWER RIGHT AS SCHOOL YEAR GETS UNDERWAY…
Parents in Los Angeles, CA, just recently found out about the outrageous suspension by the district of the state’s parent trigger law. Then, right as a new school year is gearing up, we find out that the problem is not just limited to Los Angeles, as Gloria Romero, author of the California parent trigger law, points out in the Orange County Register. The suddenness of the change blindsided parents, especially those who may have been seeking to effect meaningful change for their child’s education this year. Enacted in 2010, the parent trigger law is designed to give parents a voice and bolster the positive relationship between parent and educator. The suspension not only undercuts this special relationship, but completely violates the spirit of the law’s intent. Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and several other districts are establishing new school accountability guidelines under a federal waiver, but this does not excuse outright circumvention of state law.   

PDK/GALLUP POLL ISN’T ALL IT’S CRACKED UP TO BE… 
What appears to be a comprehensive look at attitudes on public education at the start of a new school year must be taken with a grain of salt. For years now, the phraseology found within this poll has led to an inflation of support for status quo conditions, while undercutting favorability towards school choice. For instance, a 2012 question on school choice inserted the qualifier, ‘at public expense,’ creating an either-or proposition as if parents who use opportunity scholarships aren’t part of the ‘public’ and aren’t already using publicly designated funding for their child’s education. Meanwhile, separate polls on America’s Attitudes Towards Public Education that properly define terms for respondents reveal that charter school support is as high as the test scores of a Success Academy student. Maybe PDK/Gallup will revise their approach when the new poll is released tomorrow, but after 46 years, we’re not holding our breath.

ARE WE REALLY SPENDING MONEY EFFECTIVELY IN PUBLIC EDUCATION TODAY?
That’s the question President Andrew Broy of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) poses within the context of charter schools, recently found to be more cost-effective in delivering learning gains on national assessments. Of the states examined, the Illinois charter sector has the highest percentage of low-income students and students with special needs compared to charters in other states. And despite the fact that Illinois charter students are funded at only 75 percent of what students attending district-run schools are funded, Prairie State charter schools help students gain more math and reading knowledge for every $1,000 invested compared to traditional public schools. Of course there are many dimensions to the debate surrounding a successful educational system, but it’s time that cost-efficiency and equitable resources be part of that conversation, so funding for another school year is put to good use.

IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY TO START FOCUSING ON COLLEGE READINESS… 
And that’s certainly the motto of a K-5 charter school in Denver, CO, called University Prep, where third grade students perform higher than their traditional school district peers on reading and math state assessments. The average scores of University Prep third-graders are 14 percent higher in math and six percent higher in reading. Scholars in grades K-2 took the national Terra Nova assessment, averaging leaps and bounds ahead of the national median, a performance about as dominant as Little League World Series pitcher Mo’ne Davis. These scholars still have a ways to go before college, and as they look forward to the start of a new year, it’s exciting to look forward to all the progress they’ll make.

HOW THE OTHER SIDE WORKS…
A useful new study from the Fordham Institute finds that non-teaching personnel increased by an astounding 130 percent between 1970 and 2010, far outpacing the 54 percent growth in teachers and 8.6 percent growth in students over that same period. There’s no disputing the need for schools to be operationally sound, but this like any other facet of education requires scrutiny, especially as administrators shake off the summer cobwebs and strive to make their schools prepared and well oiled. The lack of research on this topic is evidenced by sparse data that doesn’t compartmentalize what roles exactly comprise non-teachers. This calls into question not only data transparency for parents and community members, but also what kind of autonomy is available for educators to make personnel decisions so students are in functional, cost-effective environments. If only there was a public category of schools accountable for results and resources, with the autonomy to innovate at the classroom level. Now those schools might help move this process along.

STRONG LAWS ARE IMPORTANT ALL YEAR LONG…
But their importance is especially highlighted as parents are making or have already made final decisions about where their child will be attending school this year. The Cristo Rey Network of Catholic high schools makes a point of seeking out opportunities to expand its reach in states with strong tax credit scholarship programs, which are highlighted in CER’s most recent report. A maximum amount of available tax credit scholarships means Cristo Rey educators can provide a successful educational experience that’s both student-centered and financially sustainable. Students at the new Atlanta campus are benefitting from these scholarships, contributing to record enrollment numbers for the inaugural freshman class. Recruiting a new class is a huge undertaking, and it’s critical that tax credit scholarships are available to bolster successful programs like Cristo Rey.

HEY, LOOK! A COOL VIDEO…
Highlighting the latest in education innovation as discussed at the 2014 GSV Advisors Summit at Arizona State University, an important conference that CER makes certain to attend every year. Registration is now open for 2015; don’t miss your chance to register today!