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Spotting the Real Reformers

Wherever there are elections, there will most assuredly be candidates paying lip service to their own interpretations of “education reform.” Naturally, many politicians favor the abstract concepts of “building better schools,” “accountability,” and an old favorite, “doing what’s best for our kids.”

However, do these lofty statements on education make these candidates, reformers? What does it actually take for a candidate to be taken seriously by voters as someone who can effect meaningful change when it comes to the educational systems of their future constituents?

Luckily, there are a few surefire ways for spotting the real reformers, as opposed to those whose words have never and probably won’t translate into action.

To name a few, a reformer candidate properly defines educational terms when using them, advocates for independent, multiple charter school authorizers and displays a healthy skepticism about the usefulness of teachers’ unions.

When speaking of school choice, the reformer reinforces the need for Parent Power, and quality educational options rather than ambiguous concerns over the effectiveness of choice and parent empowerment.

If all of this and more come through, then you just might have a real reformer on your hands!

Conversely, if a candidate uses evasive language that doesn’t apply reforms to how they might work for their constituents, then it’s likely nothing would get done under that administration. That veneer of support comes crashing down when the candidate lists a set of reforms such as introducing choice and charter schools, but insists their communities are doing just fine without them.

The other telltale sign of a wolf in sheep’s clothing is using educational terms without actually defining them. Of course no one is “for” an achievement gap, but does the candidate you’re considering define that gap in real terms and prescribe how to close it? This candidate will also make excuses for failing

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The Center for Education Reform’s 20th Anniversary Celebration Sets New Agenda

Highlights National Education Poll, and Honors The Nation’s Leaders in Innovation

CER Press Release
Washington, DC
October 11, 2013

The Center for Education Reform (CER) announced Wednesday the results of its recent poll on The State of Education in America at its 20th Anniversary Conference and Gala (CERat20) in Washington, DC, where pioneers were honored for their exemplary leadership and extraordinary achievement in advancing education reform.

The conference included a series of panel discussions with some of the nation’s leading experts on topics concerning the contentious relationship between schools and teacher unions, gaining allies in the legislative process, best practices in innovation and the challenges facing the movement in minority communities.

“What we learned at Wednesday’s conference really puts a rubber stamp on the poll results that we released this week,” said CER Founder and President, Jeanne Allen. “Throughout the day, from various panelists we heard a reoccuring that parents today are no different than they were 20 years ago when we started this journey. They want quality educational options in their communities, and they want them now.”

Panelists also reflected on their own experiences in developing quality educational options for students, and what needs to happen at the grassroots level to create the next generation of reformers.

Following the announcement of the poll results at the conference was a black-tie awards gala, where William J. Bennett, Yvonne Chan, Barbara Dreyer, The Gleason Family Foundation, Deborah McGriff and Michael Moe were awarded the distinguished “EdReformies” for their ongoing work on behalf of students and parents.

CER Founder and President Jeanne Allen was also honored for her years of service, advocacy and achievement in advancing innovative reform. Earlier this year, Allen announced that she was stepping aside as president effective Nov. 1.

“Since Jeanne Allen started CER in 1993, the organization has brought a unique sensibility,

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CER RELEASES NATIONWIDE POLL ON STATE OF EDUCATION IN AMERICA

Survey Captures the Heartbeat of American Families on Education

CER Press Release
Washington, DC
October 8, 2013

Celebrating twenty years as the pioneer and leading advocate for substantive reform in education, The Center for Education Reform (CER) in collaboration with Education Nation, released a nationwide poll at NBC News’ Education Nation Summit yesterday. Full results to be announced Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at CER’s 20th Anniversary Conference at the Washington Hilton. Overall, the survey demonstrates that Americans increasingly support more accountability for students and schools, and more power for parents in the process.

“As when I founded CER, those who work to change the status quo and replace mediocrity with excellence are often met by resistance or calls for acquiescence by members of their own “flock” who want us to appeal to the reason of our opponents, or government officials who have a vested interest in the status quo,” said CER President, Jeanne Allen. “We took this poll to hear what Americans really think about education. We want their voice to be heard loud and clear,” she continued.

Former Governor of Florida and respected education thought leader, Jeb Bush has said that “Jeanne Allen and, the Center for Education Reform both have been incredible resources both on a personal and a policy level. Jeanne and CER was involved in the education reform movement in our country before it was cool…”

Said Joel Klein, CEO of Amplify and former NYC Chancellor about Allen and CER – “You don’t do what’s easy, you don’t do what’s comfortable. You simply do what is right.”

The Pollster who conducted the survey for CER, Kellyanne Conway, of the polling company inc./ WomanTrend, said “Americans continue to place high value on choice, accountability and innovation in education. They believe new technologies should complement traditional learning, and support alternatives to conventional schooling. Even those

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An Abbreviated Story of Labor: What Once Was but Is No More

Once upon a time, in this country, early in the last century hoards of Italians, (like me!), Irish, German, Jewish peoples and more descended on this land in search of something better. From the schools to the sweatshops, they took jobs that paid little and demanded much. Haste, greed and neglect soon became the norm in the American workforce. Labor unions stepped, to collectively support and advance the rights of people to work and be given adequate wages, benefits and a quality environment. It was great, when it was needed.

Today those same unions — in this case in education — no longer protect people who are being abused, neglected, forced to work 15-hour days with no break for food or bathroom. Because of enlightened leaders, workers and yes, labor’s past contributions, today we and our institutions are protected. Those protections however, may have swung too far past the original intentions. For when it comes to teachers unions, protections now are all about labor not product.

Consider this program is overwhelmingly popular ongoing legal attack by the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and their allies in successfully impeding the Louisiana scholarship program. This program is overwhelmingly popular with parents and allows income-eligible students educational opportunities they would not have had otherwise.

Or how about just hours after North Carolina passes an opportunity scholarship program of their own this past July, the NC Association of Educators begins to mount a legal challenge.

The national unions have been fighting efforts to allow parents to turnaround failing schools. They oppose California’s parent trigger law and have well-documented tools for members who succeeded in squashing a similar proposal in Connecticut. The unions not only oppose real performance evaluations and parent choice but even standards and testing, funding teachers to rally in Washington over efforts

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Intriguing At Best, Rarely Accurate – Annual PDK Poll

The PDK annual poll on “The Public’s Attitudes Towards the Public Schools” is always intriguing but rarely an accurate assessment of what people think. Since I founded the Center for Education Reform, the poll has consistently defied commonly accepted polling practices that expect questions to be defined before they are asked. Thus year after year, while parents are clamoring for options and new innovations, and are frustrated with the status quo, the PDK-Gallup Poll reports support for convention and opposition to Parent Power. This is the first in many years the media has covered it!

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DC Vouchers: Success on All Fronts

The numbers are in from the 2012-13 school year, and parents with students in the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program are overwhelmingly satisfied with schools their children attend, as well as their children’s academic progress.

It’s not hard to see why parents are happy, with 97% of DC OSP students graduating from high school and 91% enrolling at a 2-or-4 year college.

Please see here for the complete Parental Satisfaction & Program Summary for the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program 2012-2013.

For more information on school choice, check out Facts on School Choice and the Parent Power Index.

School Choice Indiana to hold voucher info meeting at library

by Amanda Browning
Greensburg Daily News
June 17, 2013

School Choice Indiana will hold an informational meeting for Decatur County parents interested in learning more about the tuition voucher program.

Supporters of the voucher program argue that all schools are not created equal. Whether it be due to the class quality, funding, or some other reason, every school is not the perfect fit for every child, they argue. Private schools are usually smaller institutions that can offer more individual attention to each child, compared to larger public schools that must accommodate many more students. According to the Center for Education Reform, the average tuition for a private elementary school is $6,733 and private secondary school tuition averages $10,549 per year. For many families in Decatur County, that tuition would be so expensive as to prevent low income families from sending children there and perhaps denying children the level of education and attention they require.

One Hoosier organization seeks to change that by informing parents of the educational options available. School Choice Indiana is a non-partisan, statewide non-for-profit organization dedicated to expanding quality education options for Hoosier families. They have several programs Indiana families can use to send their child to a school that best meets the child’s individual educational needs.

The voucher program information meeting will be held at the Greensburg Public Library in the conference room on June 18. The meeting is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. Local parents that are interested in exploring the available educational options for their children may want to attend. The state’s school voucher program, tax credit scholarships, tax deductions and other forms of school choice will be discussed during the meeting.

For the 2012-2013 school year, more than 9,000 students participated in the program statewide, allowing those children to experience an educational environment that is best suited

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Why I Chose a Charter School

Hello, I’m Briana McManus.

I am in the eleventh grade at the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School – Parkside Campus and interning at CER for three weeks as a part of my fellowship to obtain job experience and to prepare me for life after high school.

While reviewing different articles, statistics, and facts at my internship, I wondered what influences help parents decide what school is right for their child? I came up with two factors parents consider to see if it is a good school for their child. Does an extra-curricular activity influence their decision? Or is the school widely known in the area or recognized worldwide?

In reviewing articles, the idea of extra-curricular activities made me think if this is why parents choose a certain school for their child. Are parents sending their children to schools because they will receive scholarships in sports? Is this because they are focused on creating the next big sports icon instead of the next person to win the Nobel peace prize? Or is this school mentioned in mainstream media? Is it well-talked about or well-known in their community? Are the good or bad stories in the media influencing a parent’s decision?

I know some people want to know why I chose a charter school and I want to say it is not because of sports, or being recognized nationally. My family and I chose this school because of the mission and vision that they wanted to achieve. In the process of researching schools, we found that Cesar Chavez had a 100 percent college acceptance rate, a 90.2 percent graduation rate, and was going to give me the opportunity to work with public policy issues, to gain job experience through my Fellowship, and take a year long thesis class to prep me for

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What makes a person who benefitted from choice repel it?

“Do you have a card?”

She had a huge smile, coming up to me right after I spoke to the NC House Education Committee —the largest, it would seem, in the free world with 53 members (!)– about the need for opportunity scholarships to provide poor children access to quality schools.

“Um, I’ll get you one,” I answered. Then I noticed her sticker on her lapel, which was a circle, with the word vouchers in the middle, and a SLASH through the word.

“Why do you want my card, you clearly don’t agree with me,” I responded.

The inquirer responded – “I just want to know who is paying you; where you get your money.”

Wow. So belief is all about who pays you? I was stunned.

Her name was Elizabeth Haddix, and it turns out Elizabeth works for the UNC School of Law Office of Civil Rights.

During the whole hearing, this man stood behind her, near the door, and cued her with motions and non-verbal hand signals as people were talking. (See minute 44:16 in the video of the hearing below.) He actually looked like the union boss in “Won’t Back Down.” But upon further research, it turns out, he’s the manager of said Office of Civil Rights, and, it would seem, her coach.

It was a quick hearing, and only an hour was allocated for pro- and con-, and the basic introdution of the bill by members, but clearly Elizabeth waited with anticipation to deliver a zinger of remarks… which never came because they had to stop the hearing due to time. Thankfully, the voucher hearing

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Passions High Around School Voucher Bill

by Mark Binker
WRAL
May 21, 2013

In a packed room, the House Education Committee heard Tuesday from supporters and opponents of a plan to give taxpayer-funded scholarships for low income students that attend private schools.

The crowd precluded any committee debate or a vote on the bill, as legislators used the limited time to hear from the public – those in favor and against the Opportunity Scholarship Act

The committee did roll out a new version of the bill and an accompanying summary that explains the bill.

“The bill before you, in reality, will not help the students it is intended to help,” Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson told the committee. She focused her comments on the fact that private schools do not have to report student test results and performance in the same way public schools do.

“If a grading scale of A-through-F is good for public schools, then it should be good for private schools,” she said. How else, she asked, would parents know if the private school they are choosing actually offers a better education than their current public school.

Proponents of the bill said that voucher programs in other states have helped improve student test scores.

“I’m struck by the amount of opposition to something some people have never seen working in progress,” said Jeanne Allen is the Founder and President of The Center for Education Reform.

The committee is expected to debate and vote on the bill next week.

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