Setting the record straight on Betsy DeVos and charter schools in Michigan

by Jeanne Allen
Washington Examiner
December 5, 2016

With Betsy DeVos likely the next Secretary of Education, the sharks of the status quo are circling. There is all sorts of misinformation about her home state of Michigan’s vibrant charter school movement and whether such schools in Detroit have succeeded or failed in a city that is failing its people on just about everything else.

It’s time to set the record straight about one of the pioneers and most successful charter school movements in the nation.

Let’s start with student achievement. According to a highly regarded study, in just one year Michigan charter school students earn an additional two months of learning gains over their traditional public school counterparts. For Detroit, charter students get an additional three months of learning in math and reading when compared to their traditional school peers.

When it comes to accountability, there is no comparison: Charter school authorizers in Michigan (mostly universities) have closed 67 schools statewide since charter schools came into existence in the Great Lakes state. In Detroit, 22 charter schools have been closed for academic or financial reasons. To put this data in perspective, Michigan’s charter school closure rate is about 22 percent, whereas the national charter school closure rate is 15 percent. Michigan charter school authorizers take accountability seriously, and close schools when they know they can no longer effectively serve students. Meanwhile, Michigan spends billions on traditional K-12 education, yet not a single traditional public school has been closed for academic reasons.

The concept of charter schools is to provide educators and school leaders with the flexibility to do their job, while being firm in expecting them to meet the goals they set forth in their charter. That’s why the vast majority of charters serve more poor and at-risk students than traditional public schools, and do so with success. They’re able to do so because they are judged rigorously on what they do, not the process by which they do it. It’s about results, not paperwork or bureaucracy, the very kind that stifles innovation and discourages great educators.

That’s why, even above what is legally required, authorizers such as Central Michigan University and Grand Valley State University provide annual reports to charter board members on charter school academic, operational and financial performance. Michigan authorizers are national leaders in their effort to use community data including blight, population density, crime and public transportation in their review of proposed school sites. The Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers even launched a web-based system to make these data more accessible and public.

Authorizers must take into account many parameters to approve a new school. From 2004 to 2014, Central Michigan received 259 charter school applications, 22 of which actually became operational. From 2010 to 2014, 117 new charter schools have opened in Michigan while 26 were closed, a net gain of 23 schools.

These data are available to the public, but many observers simply repeat critiques as if they’ve studied the numbers. While there are many people responsible for the benefits of charter schools in Michigan, DeVos’ contribution is considerable. She ensured legislators had access to credible information, were supported in their efforts to create new opportunities for kids, and that families had access to the choices that wealthy Americans take for granted. That’s a fact.

Jeanne Allen is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. She is CEO and founder of the Center for Education Reform. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.

Leading Education Reformer Jeanne Allen Calls for DeVos Confirmation

“It is time to break through political barriers to opportunity for all learners”

January 6, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC — Declaring that “parents everywhere, especially those who despair at finding their children locked into failing schools and robbed of hope for their futures, will find that they have a true friend in Betsy DeVos,” the Founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform today urged the U.S. Senate to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.

In a letter to Senator Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Jeanne Allen wrote,”Betsy DeVos has devoted much of her adult life to the cause of finding and supporting efforts to eradicate illiteracy, to equalize education options for children, and to ensure that those who do not have what she has been fortunate to have in life have just as many opportunities.”

Allen, who founded the Center for Education Reform nearly three decades ago, noted that she has “had the pleasure of working with Betsy in many places where we’ve shared the ramparts in a common battle for education reform, choice and innovation.”

“It is time to break through political barriers to opportunity for all learners, at all levels,” Allen continued. “I urge you and all of your colleagues to look past the political posturing and understand that a fresh, worldly, bold thinker is precisely what we need today as the helm of the U.S. Department of Education,” Allen concluded.


Related resource:  CER CEO Jeanne Allen’s letter to Senator Lamar Alexander.

Newswire: January 3, 2017 — 115th Congress In Session — Kentucky To Tackle Education Opportunity — What Bill Gates and Donald Trump Have In Common

#OPENINGDAY. Congress is back in session today, and CER CEO Jeanne Allen joined the bipartisan celebration for the 115th Congress. This is the 12th Congress CER has worked with to advance opportunity and innovation in education. And while much was accomplished in 2016, there’s still much to be done in 2017 to advance kinds of opportunities and innovations that will transform education and put learners of all ages on a surer path to success. Our list of ways the new administration can advance education opportunity coming soon…

OPPORTUNITY IN KY. The Bluegrass State is back in action and ready to tackle education opportunity in 2017 – and we’re excited to be working with leaders like Hal Heiner and others to make that happen. However, one charter school bill filed is severely limiting, and won’t create the kind of opportunities needed to ensure all children – from Louisville to more rural parts of the state – can achieve the American Dream.

DONALD TRUMP & BILL GATES. It turns out that Donald Trump and Bill Gates have an important shared interest, opines Jeanne Allen in the Washington Times.

CHRISTMAS ISN’T OVER. Lucky for you, we’re committed to bringing gifts to edreformers until the official end of the Christmas season. Ring in 2017 by sharing the series on social media – and stay tuned for the last 3 days coming to your inbox this week!

Donald Trump and Bill Gates find common ground

With interest in education innovation aligned, the nation’s schools get a boost

by Jeanne Allen
Washington Times
December 29, 2016

It turns out that Donald Trump and Bill Gates have an important shared interest. And it bodes very well for the prospects for success in the new administration.

After their hour-long meeting at Trump Tower last week, Mr. Gates told reporters gathered in the lobby that the two “had a good conversation about innovation, how it can help in health, education …”

Media stories have focused mostly on the atmospherics: a couple of billionaires who’d never met before, getting to know each other for the first time just a few short blocks from 30 Rock in Manhattan. Well, that may be the story line of interest on Entertainment Tonight or in People magazine. But it’s not the most significant story line, not by a country mile.

It’s that the most important interest they have in common isn’t money, it’s innovation and all that it produces.

Improving education in America has been my passion and my avocation for the better part of three decades, and with each passing year it has become more and more obvious to me that what Bill Gates described as the “wide ranging conversation about the power of innovation” that he’d shared with the president-elect is the most important conversation we must all have about our nation’s schools.

Let’s be clear: innovation is not the same thing as the latest fad to hit the classroom. “Inventive spelling” was one such fad some 20 years ago, and it produced a cohort of children whose basic literacy was in certain important respects worse than for children of the 19th century. It was a fad born of the notion that memorizing spelling and grammar were old-fashioned and inhibited creativity, rather than the process of mastering the building blocks of intelligent discourse and the ability to communicate effectively.

No, innovation in education is something very different. Often, it builds on things we’ve only recently discovered about how children learn. It also frequently makes use of technologies that didn’t exist when today’s eight year-olds were born (the first iPad took the world by storm only seven years ago). Educational innovation is at its very best when it combines new knowledge about how we learn (and how different individuals learn) with new technology that takes advantage of that new understanding.

Examples abound: augmented reality (AR) approaches to learning are being pursued by a number of firms, marrying sophisticated digital technology with innovative methods of engaging a child’s interest and excitement. Such approaches are proving especially effective in targeting children who would otherwise fall through the cracks in a traditional learning environment.

An amazing variety of other innovations were on display just this week at the annual New York EdTech conference.

Such innovative work is more likely to find a warm welcome in charter schools and private schools, where fresh approaches to education are already an integral feature of the environment. But receptiveness to innovation is essential in every school if they’re going to provide children with the best possible education, tailored as much as possible to the individual student’s talents and unique abilities.

Naturally enough, non-traditional schools are leading the way. Their entrepreneurial spirit is melding with that of scores of private sector companies working to transform new knowledge and new technology into a new paradigm for education.

As they prepare to disrupt conventional methods of governing in all sectors, President-elect Trump and his team will give new and vital impetus to the movement for educational choice. But what’s important to realize is that choice is less an end in itself, but a powerful means to the most important end: a vibrant and innovative system of schooling that maximizes every child’s opportunity to learn and succeed. The fact that Donald Trump and Bill Gates understand and appreciate that fact means that Betsy DeVos will have the support she needs to transform American education.

Jeanne Allen is the founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform and a director of NY Ed Tech Week, a global education innovation festival held at New York University.

Now That’s What CER Calls Innovation and Opportunity 2016

Throughout 2016, The Center for Education Reform reenvisioned its focus and mission and began the important work of reframing the debate about education in America. No longer content just to reform education, CER is now dedicated to expanding educational opportunities that lead to improved economic outcomes for all Americans.

Thus we are melding the power of innovation not present when we
first helped start the modern EdReform movement, with the importance of opportunity as the lever by which all may participate in the American Dream.

Now That’s What CER Calls Innovation and Opportunity 2016 offers just a few highlights of our impactful year. But we cannot – and will not – stop here. Just as the “Now That’s What I Call Music!” album series is never-ending, the education landscape needs our never-ending and relentless dedication and focus on innovation and opportunity.

Access PDF version of Now That’s What CER Calls Innovation And Opportunity 2016


Newswire: December 21, 2016 — Highlights from NY EdTech Week — Urban Prep in Chicago Continues to Send 100% of Seniors To College — CER’s 12-ish Days of Christmas

NY EDTECH WEEK.  CER’s mission and work is to expand education opportunity and innovation so that all may achieve the American Dream. EdTech — and the promise it holds to transform the way we think about teaching and learning — is a vital component to this equation. After day one of NY EdTech Week, we’re energized by the brilliant educators, innovators, entrepreneurs, business leaders, investors, policymakers and more gathered at this global festival. The festival kicked off with CER’s own Jeanne Allen leading a discussion with “rowdy K-12 innovators and thought leaders.” Stay tuned for the video up on soon, and in the meantime check out this twitter moment of highlights we put together!

COLLEGE BOUND.  One hundred percent of Urban Prep seniors are headed to college. This is the seventh consecutive year this has happened for this independent inner-city Chicago school serving all African-American males, mostly from low-income families. THIS is the kind of impact choice can have on communities if we have policies that let ed opportunity thrive.

TIS THE SEASON. CER’s 12-ish days of Christmas is underway, intended to spread edreform cheer and bring gifts to all!  We’ll be surprising your inbox with these gifts through January. Stay tuned, and don’t forget to share the edreform holiday cheer on social media!

GIFT & GIVE!  Don’t forget you can use Amazon Smile for those last-minute gift purchases to advance education opportunity & innovation! You can also support the Center directly by donating via Will you help us raise $25,000 by the end of 2016 to lay the foundation for true innovation and opportunity in 2017? We thank you for dedication to expanding educational opportunity!

Newswire: December 13, 2016 — All We Want for Christmas… Is Expansion of the DCOSP! – Education Opportunity in Kentucky – Strong Charter School Laws Matter – 5 Days Until NY Ed Tech Week


ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS… Funds for DC’s life-saving opportunity scholarship program were released by Congress late Friday night, but Opportunity DC — a project of CER and Democracy Builders to build a movement of parents who are dedicated to expanding educational opportunity for all students in the District of Columbia — continues to push on Capitol Hill for expansion of this important program. “Congress should consider expanding the program next session, if not now,” writes Washington Examiner’s Jason Russell.  All we want for Christmas is expansion of the DCOSP….

CHARTER LAWS MATTER. The association of charter school authorizers is claiming that a weak law is actually among the nation’s best. Washington State’s embattled charter law, which rests control in the state bureaucracy and underfunds and limits the number of schools available, is considered a model, while DC’s leading law is in the middle of the pack. Policy differences can undermine real opportunities for families. Does your state have a great charter law? Help NACSA understand how real laws should work. Write them at

OPPORTUNITY IN KY. Speaking of strong laws to advance opportunity, kudos to KY for its commitment to advancing meaningful opportunities for students, and particularly Governor Bevin and his Secretary of Education, Hal Heiner, with whom CER has worked extensively to build and nurture support for comprehensive education reforms in the Bluegrass State. Momentum is building for new opportunities for students in the Bluegrass State with a new governor, a choice-friendly House, and KY lawmakers visiting DC charter schools earlier this year.

5 DAYS UNTIL NY EDTECH WEEK! Where can you find the biggest names in education and edtech, rising stars, and musical surprises all in one place? NY EdTech Week of course! Join us as CER CEO Jeanne Allen moderates a star-studded panel including Larry Berger (Amplify), Deborah Kenny (Harlem Village Academies), Gerard Robinson (AEI), and Jim Shelton (Chan Zuckerberg Initiative). Get your tickets for this event being held Dec. 19-21 before it’s too late!

‘TIS BETTER TO GIVE… Did you know you can help bring greater education opportunity to kids when you shop for holiday gifts? Here’s how. You can also contribute to expanding educational opportunity by supporting the Center directly by going to


VP of Policy & Communications

POSITION TITLE:                   VP of Policy & Communications
POSITION STATUS:               Full Time
REPORTS TO:                        Chief Executive Officer



The VP of Policy and Communications will be part of the senior leadership team and will oversee all policy, communications, and public relation functions and activities for the Center for Education Reform, a leading national reform group with over 23 years of success.  The VP of Policy and Communications will be a trusted team leader who will play an important role in the operation excellence and growth of our organization.


  • Strategic planning and execution of organizational branding, positioning, and promotion
  • Ownership and oversight over the identification, planning, execution, and post-evaluation of national and state policy strategies
  • Planning, development, execution, and evaluation of all organization-related marketing, communications, and public relations activities
  • Planning, development, execution, and evaluation of all policy-related marketing, communications, and public relations activities
  • Ownership and oversight over the identification, planning, execution, and post-evaluation of national and state events
  • Develop and implement strategic communication plans and efforts (ongoing and special)
  • Act as the ambassador for the organization for media and policy partners
  • Ensure news and events are tracked, and reacted to in accordance with strategic plans
  • Provide assistance to the development functions and individuals
  • Supervise and manage:
    • Director of Communication
    • State Director(s)
    • Various Interns
  • Strengthen organization’s voice and distribution (media contact)
  • Fortify organization’s assets, especially with respect to depth, volume, accuracy, and timeliness of data and knowledge
  • Serve as a resource to the CEO for key presentations, keynote speeches, and special communications


  • Highly articulate and powerful communicator (written, spoken)
  • Strategic and Proactive
  • Ability to effectively manage and excite team
  • Commitment to accuracy and excellence
  • Hard-working & production oriented
  • Ability to multi-task
  • Deadline oriented
  • Innovative and presses the envelope of what is possible


  • Results driven self-starting leader
  • Proven track record of success in communications / PR / media relations
  • Background in education policy
  • Deep understanding and knowledge of all media channels, including social
  • Commitment to school choice
  • Excellent interpersonal skills.
  • Strong knowledge of MS Office, particularly Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.


  • Must be able to deal with a wide variety of challenges, deadlines, and diverse array of contacts.
  • May work at a desk and computer for extended periods of time.
  • Must be able to occasionally lift up to 30 lbs.
  • Must be able to work primarily in a traditional climate-controlled office environment.
  • Must be able to work evenings and weekends as needed.


Interested candidates, please e-mail a cover letter, resume, and contact information for three references to  In the subject line, please put “Application: VP of Policy & Communications: YOUR NAME”.  Before any text, please put your full name and contact number.





New Ranking of Charter School Laws Fails Principles of Sound Policy Research

NACSA Says Washington State Is The Best

December 7, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC — A group claiming to represent the interests of charter school authorizers released a report yesterday rating Washington State among the top three charter school laws for authorizing, despite serious deficiencies in that state’s law. The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) also gave low marks to Washington DC’s vibrant charter policy.

The inadequacy of NACSA’s charter school policy is best seen through a comparison of the two Washingtons. Among the key differences:

  • Schools:  In comparison to other states with charter laws, Washington state currently has among the fewest charter schools. The new charter law ensures it will continue to remain near the bottom in this regard, limiting the number of new charter schools to 40 across the entire state for the next five years, with no more than eight per year. The DC charter law permits more charter schools per year in a single district and has resulted in close to half of its public school students
    being educated in charter schools, including many in high quality charter schools.
  • Serving the poor:  Washington state charter law discourages charter schools focused on serving disadvantaged students and other special populations by requiring default non-renewal for charters in the bottom quartile of the state’s achievement index (other than in “exceptional circumstances”). The DC charter law allows contains no such provision, enabling the charter authorizer to consider a broader range of factors.
  • Authorizers:  The only non-district charter authorizer permitted by the Washington state charter law is a state commission that, while technically independent, is administered within the office of the state superintendent. The DC charter law established a separate charter board that is administered separately from the existing education bureaucracy.

(See: Charter School Authorizers: The Truth About State Commissions)  

  • Autonomy:  The Washington state charter law directs the state charter authorizing commission to administer charter schools “in the same manner” as local districts manage regular public schools, encouraging similarly high levels of regulation and control. The DC charter law includes no such requirement and encourages operational autonomy for charter schools.
  • Flexibility: The Washington state charter law requires that charter authorizers implement “nationally recognized” standards (i.e., those by NACSA), perhaps one reason why NACSA regards this law so positively. The DC charter law allows charter authorizers flexibility in managing their procedures.

“If only this were an ‘oops’ moment for NACSA and they had mixed up Washington State and Washington DC,” said CER Founder and CEO Jeanne Allen.

NACSA’s report also undervalues other strong laws, such as New York and Arizona, both of which show the importance of freedom and flexibility from government intrusion when providing new opportunities for students.

To learn more about CER’s charter school law rankings and recommendations for what constitutes a strong charter school law, please visit 

About the Center for Education Reform

Founded in 1993, the Center for Education Reform aims 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.

Newswire: December 6, 2016 — 2015 PISA Indicates A Nation Still At Risk — Michigan Charter Schools Succeed — WNYC’s “On The Media” Show Lets False Claims Go Unchallenged — NY EdTech Week

A NATION STILL AT RISK. Yet another sobering report addressing the crisis in US education was issued today. American 15 year olds did worse in math, and remained stagnant at astonishingly low rates of proficiency on the 2015 worldwide PISA assessment. The US ranks 35th in math, 14th in reading, and 18th in Science. Administered by the Organization for Economic Development (OECD), the PISA is given every three years to 15-year-olds across the globe. Without a doubt, these results are a “rallying cry” for innovation and opportunity to be infused into all education policy initiatives


MI CHARTERS SUCCEED. Far too many news outlets are using the occasion of Education Secretary Designate Betsy DeVos’ appointment to discredit Michigan charter schools and the state’s record of success. CER’s Jeanne Allen sets the record straight in the Washington Examiner.

Washington Examiner

“ON THE MEDIA” OFF-KILTER. “The NPR reporter simply reported what they were told without mentioning that most charter schools are failing,” said George Lakoff during a guest appearance on WNYC’s “On The Media.”It’s hard to believe such blatantly false statement would go unchallenged, particularly on a show whose sole objective is to investigate how the media shapes our worldview. This NPR-affiliated show allowed a guest to spout off hearsay without any challenge. Like others in the media (John Oliver are you listening?), making claims that have no foundation is irresponsible.


COOPER CLAIMS NC. Incumbent Pat McCrory conceded to challenger Roy Cooper yesterday after a drawn-out battle for North Carolina governor. What this could mean for education in the Tar Heel State here.


NY EDTECH WEEK. The who’s who of ed tech, education, foundation and investors will gather for NY Ed Tech Week, the global education festival that brings together people throughout the nation and globe for three days Dec. 19-21. Day 1 alone will see people from the Chancellor of the NY Department of Education to the Founding CLO of jetBlue. CER’s own Jeanne Allen will be moderating a stellar panel including Larry Berger (Amplify), Deborah Kenny (Harlem Village Academies), Gerard Robinson (AEI), and Jim Shelton (ChanZuckerberg). Tickets available – with discounts for students and educators! – here.