Federal Intervention Over Transgender Issues Affects Schools

May 13, 2016

Obama transgender edict causes stir over the proper use of government in an educational venue, reports Caitlin Emma of Politico:

But critics say the administration has issued a directive that’s going to use up tons of school resources and take time away from teaching students.

“Saying that students are allowed to use the locker room that aligns with their gender identity changes the way schools do business,” said Jeanne Allen, founder of the Center for Education Reform. “Schools have to spend time, money, resources and people working on something that has absolutely nothing to do with the purpose of school.”

Allen said she expects more lawsuits to come out of school districts across the country. “Is this a proper use of government in an educational venue?” she said of the Obama administration’s guidance. “Parents will rebel.”

Allen and Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute, who are both proponents of school choice, said the issue might spur parents to push for more schooling options independent of the public systems and micromanagement by the federal government. Patrick also made that argument.

Read more at Politico

Newswire: May 10, 2016


Vol. 18, No. 18

CRISIS OF ACCOUNTABILITY. The Connecticut Senate narrScreen Shot 2016-05-10 at 5.11.54 PMowly averted passing a law that would disconnect any part of teacher evaluations from the performance of their students. It’s hard to believe in this day and age that anyone would say that teachers have nothing to do with how students perform, but that’s precisely what the teachers union said in pushing this bill – and they plan to come back again next year! Asked for guidance and research on the subject by state lawmakers, CER produced this policy perspective to validate that teacher effectiveness has more impact on student achievement than any other factor controlled by schools. To ignore teaching as if it has no correlation with learning outcomes, and to abolish effective evaluations that make a path for improvement clear, is to shirk responsibility.

CHARTER RESEARCH MISSES VITAL DISTINCTIONS. A Grad Nation report released yesterday reveals 44 percent of charter schools in the US are graduating students at a rate higher than the national average, while 30 percent of charter schools have a graduation rate of 67 percent or below. Once again, data crunchers are mixing apples and oranges. The Grad Nation report fails to identify that many of the schools they are ridiculing were set up specifically to serve special populations of students, such as dropouts or adults, and that these are schools which often cannot satisfy a four-year proficiency requirement for their students, who are often coming back into a school environment after many years or were woefully underserved by their previous school. As the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools argued this week, a charter school in San Fran that is located inside a county jail serving a population of students who previously failed to earn a high school diploma is incorrectly classified as a regular charter school. The data collectors and analyzers in the education business need to sharpen their skills if they want to provide any service to students in need.

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 6.03.09 PMEVEN AFFLUENT KIDS NEED HELP. It’s long been the case that parents of students in “good” or seemingly “great” schools don’t think they have any issues, and as a result, cannot really relate to those whose schools are demonstrably worse. The problem is — and always has been — that even our better schools are underperforming. According to a recent report from Education Reform Now, of the more than half a million rising college freshman who enroll in remedial courses, 45 percent are from middle, upper-middle, and high-income families. Despite the U.S. graduation rate at an all-time high of 81 percent, the latest results on the Nation’s Report Card reveal the majority of US 12th graders lack proficiency in reading and math. All signs point to the need to improve and expand access to innovative learning opportunities for ALL kids.

REVERSING NOLA TAKEOVER. The anti-charter school Governor of Louisiana is poised to sign a bill that would restore some of the old kind of power that New Orleans once had over schools. In the name of “local control,” all charters currently under the Recovery District will fall under the purview of a newly elected school board, the same kind of board that had the city in educational shambles before the storm. Would this hurt progress made in NOLA post-Katrina? Nearly two-thirds of New Orleans students attended a failing school before Katrina. Today, just 7 percent do. The reason charter schools were able to respond so quickly and serve NOLA students post-Katrina is because of their flexibility and autonomy. With that in danger, there’s a scary possibility that progress could halt. And, as the New York Times wisely notes, “an even bigger question is whether the elected board will have the nerve to close failing schools and resist the city’s tradition of crony politics and malfeasance.”

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 5.28.05 PMICYMI. Whether you joined us in person, online, or were anxiously awaiting the recording, now’s your chance to recap insights from Gov. McCrory, Congressman Messer, and more about what it takes to expand innovation and opportunity for our children. Takeaways, full recordings, and video highlights here!

EFFORT TO BANKRUPT ST. LOUIS CHARTERS. The St. Louis, MHammer-about-to-smash-piggy-bank-by-seniorplanning.org-cc.-772x579O school district filed a lawsuit claiming that the state has overpaid charter schools via desegregation tax revenue. The districts’ greed posits that the money belongs to them, rather than the students –  in both traditional public and public charter schools – potentially causing devastating effects for kids in charter schools, as the dollar amounts charter schools could be forced to pay are massive.

DO CHARTER SCHOOLS WORK? You bet they do, despite this Deseret News headline.

EDTECH GOES TO ISRAEL. Innovation is spreading and not just in the US!  More than 40 international speakers and delegates from around the world, representing thought leaders, industry experts, leading EdTech companies and EdTech investors from the US, China, and Japan will be attending IES2016 – Israel EdTech Summit June 8-9. It’s not too late to attend – register here.

Charters – a valuable public school option

by Joe Nathan
May 4, 2016

Something unusual and important is happening in many Minnesota suburbs and small towns: the significant increase in the number of students attending charter public schools – an idea that started here in Minnesota, 25 years ago this month. These are free, public, non-sectarian schools open to all, with no admissions tests.

Minnesota charter K-12 enrollment grew in the past 10 years from 17,544 in 2004-05 to 47,747 in 2014-15. Meanwhile K-12 enrollment in non-charter public schools decreased from 809,787 in 2004-05 to 795,185 in 2014-15.

Nationally, the number of students enrolled in charters has grown from less than 100 in 1992 to an estimated 2.6 million in 2014-15, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, which offers information here: http://bit.ly/1NVy2BE.

National Gallup polls consistently find more than 60 percent of Americans support the charter idea. Although charters are controversial for some, the majority of Americans would agree with what Nekima Levy-Pounds, Minneapolis NAACP president and St. Thomas law professor, recently wrote to me, in part, via email: “It’s important for parents to have a choice in identifying schools that will be the best fit for their children.”

May 1-7 is National Charter School Week. Both President Barack Obama and a bipartisan group of U.S. senators have issued proclamations explaining that, as the president explained, charters “play an important role in our country’s education system.” The full proclamation is here: http://1.usa.gov/1WFY79c.

While thousands of charter public schools have opened since 1991 in 42 states and the District of Columbia, nationally, most are found in cities. In Minnesota, many suburban and small town families have access to the free public education offered in charters as well as traditional district schools.

I don’t think either district or charter option is inherently better. We should be learning from the most effective schools, whether district or charter.

Charters are found in suburbs such as Blaine, Bloomington, Brooklyn Center, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka and Stillwater. They’re found in small and medium-size cities like Cologne, Isanti, Maple Lake, Monticello and Otsego. More information about all 164 Minnesota charters is available from the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools website, http://bit.ly/1SYe9sz.

Eugene Piccolo, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools, told me: “There’s no single reason why families select charters. For some, it’s a particular feature, like smaller class size and overall smaller school size. Others like the Montessori, Classical or International Baccalaureate curriculum. Some families want their children in a language immersion school that offers another language along with English.” One or more Minnesota charters offer instruction in Arabic, Chinese, Dakota, German, Hmong, Korean, Ojibwe, Spanish or Russian. “Some families like the idea of an ‘online’ school. Other families like the idea that some charters are K-12, so that all the children can attend school together, if that’s the parents’ desire.”

That diversity of reasons Piccolo mentions is supported by parent surveys.

Tom Kearney, superintendent and principal of New Heights School in Stillwater, sent me a recent parent survey citing small class sizes, more individualized attention and flexible academic program as among the most frequently cited reasons for selecting the charter school.

Amy Erendu, curriculum and accountability coordinator at PACT Charter School in Ramsey, reported that in the school’s most recent (2015) annual parent survey, the most frequently cited reasons for keeping their students at the school included small class size, emphasis on character, teaching staff, culture of parent involvement in the classroom and non-school Fridays.

There are few things as American as the ability to choose among various options – whether it’s where to live, who we’ll elect to office or what job we have. We rightly value freedom. Fortunately, Minnesota has decided to provide families with a variety of public school options, including both district and charter public schools.

Minnesota wisely gives educators the chance to create the kinds of schools they think make sense for students. This gives more educators the power to use their professional insights and, most important, helps more students succeed.

Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president, is a former director and now senior fellow at the Center for School Change. Reactions are welcome at joe@centerforschoolchange.org.

Malpractice or Just Bad Policy?

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Malpractice or Just Bad Policy? The Connecticut Legislature’s Abandon of Sound Educational Practice

Policy Perspective
May 2016

This week the General Assembly is poised to enact a bill that would disconnect all objective assessments from teacher evaluations, and by extension would remove the transparency that otherwise allows schools, leaders and the public to understand whether and how students are learning.  In the state with the largest achievement gap between more affluent and poor students, and in a nation that has more than 60 percent of all students failing to meet proficiency—including the affluent—it’s hard to believe that any state would entertain such a law. We can all agree that teachers believe their jobs are to reach and teach their students, and removing any accountability to this is malpractice.

Connecticut fourth graders’ performance declined in the national math assessment in 2015 and just 41 percent of its students—fewer than half! —are proficient in math while eighth graders remained at a measly 36 percent proficient. These results are only marginally better than 2 decades ago, when the teachers union challenged evaluating teachers. And yet, this wrongheaded thinking is seeing the light of day again in Connecticut, this time as a bill simply titled:


Further analysis here.


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Click here to download or print PDF.

Why Limit Success?

Despite opponents who are shouting from the rooftops that charter schools are not succeeding amid a debate to #LiftTheCap on charter schools in Massachusetts, the reality is quite the opposite.

Charles Chieppo, a senior fellow at Pioneer Institute, points out that critics are quick to allege that charter schools are educating fewer special education students (SPED) and English Language Learners (ELL).

Guess what? Charter schools in Massachusetts are actually increasing achievement of ELL & SPED students, and they’re doing it faster than their traditional public school counterparts:

“MIT researcher Elizabeth Setren finds that ELL and SPED students, who like everyone in oversubscribed charters were selected by lottery, score better on MCAS and are more likely to meet high school graduation requirements and earn state merit scholarships than their peers who entered charter lotteries but weren’t lucky enough to be chosen.

Statewide, charter ELL students achieve better English proficiency than their peers, and Boston charter schools have closed nearly 90 percent of the achievement gap that exists between ELLs and native English speakers in the Boston Public Schools (BPS). Basing these conclusions on comparisons between charter students and those who entered lotteries but weren’t selected isolates the impact of charter schools.”

Continue reading “Charters are succeeding: Why we should expand, not limit them”

Get more facts on Massachusetts charter schools and take action to lift the cap.

Special Charter Schools Week Newswire

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Vol. 18, No. 17
May 3, 2016

This National Charter Schools Week (May 1-7), the Center for Education Reform is dedicated to growing public awareness of the original vision of charter schools and those that still embody that vision, making education better for the hundreds of thousands of parents, teachers, students, community leaders, policymakers, and entrepreneurs that work in and around those schools daily. 

Check out @EDREFORM’s NCSW16 HUB daily for notices of events, and stories of successes, challenges and opportunities.

TEACHER APPRECIATION. We’re joining our colleagues at the National Alliance and celebrating teachers. But since it’s national #CharterSchoolsWeek, we’re especially celebrating teachers who’ve made the choice to educate students in an environment that gives them the freedom and flexibility to teach children to the highest of their ability. Be sure you #ThankATeacher today!

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MAY 5 EVENT- SURPRISE GUEST.  If you’re in or near the Research Triangle NC area on Thursday, May 5, don’t miss the Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity at 3pm in Chapel Hill (or watch live from your desk!). Congressman Luke Messer, state representatives, local leaders and a SURPRISE state executive will convene to solve for limited opportunity and lagging achievement in US education. Keep your eyes peeled tomorrow to learn more! Sign up now so you don’t miss your chance to attend.af32d662-f7dc-422f-8629-31856d66ccec(4)



CHARTER CHALLENGES. While accountability is critical to ensure students are getting the outcomes they deserve, getting accountability right is even more important. If charter school advocates aren’t conscientious, schools like Rainshadow in Nevada that are dedicated to giving students a second chance will no longer exist, writes Max Eden for The 74. Eden of the Manhattan Institute will join David Hardy, CER Board Member and Founder of the Philadelphia-based Boys Latin Charter School, to discuss regulatory challenges to charter schools at CER’s The New Education Opportunity Agenda lunch on May 6 in Pittsburgh, PA. More events and stories of challenges, successes, and opportunities at @EDREFORM’s NCSW16 HUB.

Charter School Accountability: A Double-Edged Sword

Students, families and educators in many cities and states are prohibited from experiencing the power of a charter school education or face regularly assaults on the efforts to expand choice and innovation in education. The story here is one example being highlighted during National Charter Schools Week 2016.

While accountability is critical to ensure students are getting the outcomes they deserve, getting accountability right is even more important. If charter school advocates aren’t conscientious, schools like Rainshadow in Nevada that are dedicated to giving students a second chance will no longer exist.

Nevada law requires that the state shut down any charter school that earns the lowest possible ranking on the state system for three years in a row. This law, and laws like it in other states, would all but doom charter high schools like Rainshadow, where 75% of students enter as credit-deficient, that serve and prioritize the most at-risk students.

“A charter school that looks awful on paper might be exceeding all expectations with the students it serves, and therefore charter school accountability can be a double-edged sword that makes it harder for those schools to exist.”

The story from Max Eden, a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, specializing in education policy, at The 74.

Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity: State and national policymakers, education and business leaders to lead discussion

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A Partnership of The Center for Education Reform, The Jack Kemp Foundation and Opportunity Lives
Convenes at UNC, Chapel Hill
May 5, 2016

Governor, state and national policymakers, education and business leaders to lead discussion

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On May 5, 2016, the Jack Kemp Foundation, The Center for Education Reform, the nation’s leader in advancing education opportunity, and Opportunity Lives will welcome Governor McCrory, Congressman Luke Messer, state and national policymakers, education and business leaders to the Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity, focusing on addressing upward mobility through education opportunity.


  • May 5, 2016
  • 3:00p.m. – 6:00p.m.
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – Rizzo Conference Center, Magnolia Ballroom, 150 DuBose Home Lane, Chapel Hill, NC 27517
  • This event will be streamed live on edreform.com.


  • The Honorable Pat McCrory, Governor of North Carolina
  • The Honorable Luke MesserCongressman (IN-6) & Member, US House Education and Workforce Committee
  • The Honorable Rob BryanState Representative (NC-88, Charlotte)
  • The Honorable Edward Hanes, Jr.State Representative (NC-72, Winston-Salem)
  • Mr. Travis MitchellPresident and Exec. Dir, Communities in Schools – Wake County
  • Dr. Tim Hall Director of Academics, Thales Academy
  • Mr. Jonathan Hage, Founder and CEO, Charter Schools USA, Inc
  • Ms. Jeanne AllenFounder and CEO, The Center for Education Reform (CER)
  • Mr. Jimmy Kemp, President, The Jack Kemp Foundation


RSVP required.

Register here.

Media Contact:  Emma Watkins, ewatkins@jackkempfoundation.org
Event Contact:  Brenda Hafera, brenda@edreform.com, (202) 750-0016

The mission of The Center for Education Reform (CER) is to expand educational opportunities that lead to improved economic outcomes for all Americans, particularly our youth, ensuring that the conditions are ripe for innovation, freedom and flexibility throughout U.S. education.

The mission of The Jack Kemp Foundation is to develop, engage and recognize exceptional leaders who champion the American Idea.

Opportunity Lives is a news platform dedicated to discovering and highlighting real-life success stories and solutions across America.


INNOVATION AND OPPORTUNITY: The Contribution of Charter Schools to Public Education

Press Advisory
May 2, 2016

WASHINGTON DC- In 1991, at a time when many yearned for transformation in education, states responded with an innovation of the traditional public school model – charter schools. The idea was that teachers would coalesce to create diverse schooling options for parents to ensure that their children would be able to attend the school that best fit their needs. Twenty-five years later, such choices are continuing to fuel widespread discoveries in teaching and learning and creating greater educational opportunities for all students.

Charters were intended – explains their intellectual Godfather Ted Kolderie – to “differ in fundamental ways from the district sector” with four important elements: Innovation from the standard model, Accountability, operating as outcome based not process driven; Autonomy to avoid bureaucracy, and Choice, “on the theory that we do not assign people to innovations.”

While millions are participating in this critical and transformative reform effort, many millions more remain unaware of what is working in chartering and how best to ensure that great public policies governing charter schools are accessible to more families in every state. This National Charter Schools Week (May 1-7), the Center for Education Reform is dedicated to growing public awareness of the original vision of charter schools and those that still embody that vision, making education better for the hundreds of thousands of parents, teachers, students, community leaders, policymakers, and entrepreneurs that work in and around those schools daily.

Please join us in elevating the importance of charter schools this week by logging on daily to www.edreform.com and showcasing promising practices and discussions, while addressing the very real challenges that prevent more students from having the education they need and deserve.


MON, MAY 2 – Check out @EDREFORM’s NCSW16 HUB daily for notices of events, stories of success, challenges and opportunities. Then download your charter school logo, messages and get the facts on charter schools from our colleagues at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

TUES, MAY 3 – Teacher Appreciation Day. Join the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools in a salute to teachers.

WED, MAY 4 – Boston, MA: Best Practices from Urban Charter Public Schools

8:00 – 10:00 AM The Pioneer Institute continues its work on improving urban schools through chartering with this forum, which includes CER Founder Jeanne Allen, Deborah McGriff, Managing Partner of New Schools Venture Fund, and more.

THURS, MAY 5 – UNC, Chapel Hill: Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity

3:00–6:00 PM Streamed Live. The Center for Education Reform, in partnership with The Jack Kemp Foundation and Opportunity Lives will welcome Congressman Luke Messer, state and national policymakers for a critical look at upward mobility through education opportunity.

FRIDAY, MAY 6 – Pittsburgh, PA: The New Education Opportunity Agenda

12:00 –1:00 PM American Legislative Exchange Council. This CER-sponsored lunch features David Hardy, CER Board Member and Founder of the Philadelphia-based Boys Latin Charter School and Max Eden of the Manhattan Institute to discuss how increasing regulatory fervor is closing the door on opportunities for students.

For more information about events and programs, contact Michelle Tigani, Communications Director, 301-802-6119 or michelle@edreform.com.

Communicate Your Concern To State Officials

Students, families and educators in many cities and states are prohibited from experiencing the power of a charter school education or face regularly assaults on the efforts to expand choice and innovation in education.

Check out these cities and states and join in communicating your concern to state officials in these areas through our National Charter Week action center (More coming soon!)