Putting the EdTech in EdReform at ASU+GSV 2016!



Fellow Innovators! Look for the CER booth on the floor and our room on the 4th floor Regatta C as the official hub for Education Innovation for the length of your stay at the 2016 ASU+GSV Summit!


Get your (CER-recommended) dose of ed-talk o2016asugsvsummit_badge_presenting_900x755n the present and future of ed-tech and innovation via action-packed panels we’ll be holding every day!


Passing The Captcha Test: Humanizing Private Ventures For Public Good
Monday, April 18,  3-4pm

For-profit companies in education have a bad rep, but is it deserved? This panel will discuss the nature of entrepreneurship and for-profit companies in education and evaluate their impact on education innovation. How can those companies be a positive source for change?

· George Saad, VP of US Operations, SABIS
· Jonathan Hage, President & CEO, Charter Schools USA
· Mary Gifford, Sr. VP, Education Policy & External Relations, K12
· Chip Hurlburt, President & CEO, National Heritage Academies

The Innovation Games – How To Incentivize Innovation In Learning
Monday, April 18,  4-5pm

The thrill of the challenge drives us all. Innovators in education are no different. We will explore how competitions in education can spark interest and lead to innovative learning. And we will evaluate the full impact of these competitions. Do they deliver?

· Liza McFadden, CEO, Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy
· Stuart Udell, CEO, K12
· Jose Afonso, Director, US Business Development, SABIS
· Jonathan Harber, CEO, Harber Advisors

Ground Control To Major Tom – Ed Innovation & Millennials
Tuesday, April 19,  10-11am

We’ve all heard that millennials hold the key to the future. Now if only we knew how to speak emoji. This panel will be a discussion on the role of millennials in securing the future of digital learning. Where is it going? What is its potential?

· Meg Palisoc, CEO, Synergy Academies
· Mark Greenberg, Chief Innovation Officer, Center for Education Reform
· Anthony Pienta, Director, K-12 Ed Programs, Philanthropy Roundtable
· Alison Pendergast, Chief Marketing Officer, Acrobatiq

Putting The ‘I’ In Ed Reform – A Reset Toward Innovation
Tuesday, April 19,  2-3pm

As we look back on the past 25 years of education reform, how far have we strayed from our goals? Have we kept our focus? Leaders of education innovation and reform will discuss the progress we have made and where we are going.

· Jonathan Hage, President & CEO, Charter Schools USA
· Susan Wolford, Sector Head & Managing Director, BMO Capital Markets
· Jeanne Allen, Founder & CEO, Center for Education Reform
· Edward Fields, CEO & Chairman, HotChalk
· Jim Goenner, President & CEO, National Charter Schools Institute

Election ’16 – Does Education Innovation Stand A Chance?
Wednesday, April 20,  10-11am

Experts in the policy and political arena debate the potential for innovation post November, and what we can do about it now.

· Tom VanderArk, CEO, Getting Smart
· Jeanne Allen, Founder & CEO, Center for Education Reform
· Bill Hansen, President & CEO, USA Funds
· Christina Culver, President, EdNexus Advisors
· Richard Culatta, Chief Innovation Officer, State of Rhode Island




Make sure you cast a ballot in the presidential straw poll and take the opportunity to tell it to the candidates straight. We’re conducting open-call video interviews all day to get the best and brightest thoughts (yours!) on how ed tech and innovation should look under the next administration.


School choice in elementary, secondary schools isn’t radical

John Hood
Salisbury Post
April 13, 2016

When I first advocated the idea of parental choice in elementary and secondary education, it was considered by many to be a radical notion.

It shouldn’t have been. For decades, American students and their families have been free to choose among public and private colleges. For decades, families have been able to spend government subsidies for child care and preschool at providers of their choice. Similarly, the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965 didn’t compel retirees, the disabled, and poor Americans to get their health care only from government employees or hospitals. Patients remained free to choose.

What was truly odd, actually, was that so many policymakers in North Carolina and other states thought K-12 education ought to be entirely different, that it ought to consist overwhelming of district-run public schools delivering services to students assigned to them by central authorities.

Fortunately, this odd idea is rapidly disappearing from the public discourse. Nearly all states now have policies that encourage choice and competition in K-12 education. Some of these choice programs consist entirely of public school options, be they magnet schools, charter schools, or some kind of open-enrollment program that allows parents to rank nearby public schools in order of preference.

Increasingly, however, state legislatures are also enacting choice programs that encompass private alternatives. In fact, most states now have at least one of these: school vouchers, tuition tax credits or deductions, educational savings accounts, and tax credits that fund privately administered voucher programs. We’re not just talking about deep-red states here. Minnesota, Illinois, Maine, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and most recently Maryland are among those that have enacted private-school choice.

Here in North Carolina, a Democratic governor, Jim Hunt, and a split-control General Assembly authorized the creation of charter schools 20 years ago. Within the past three years, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and a GOP-led legislature (with some Democratic votes) have dramatically expanded the state’s choice offerings by removing artificial caps on charter-school expansion and creating two new voucher programs providing private-school scholarships for disabled and low-income students.

Roughly speaking, about a quarter of North Carolina’s K-12 students attend a school of choice. That includes private schools, home schools, charter schools, and open-enrollment public schools. As new charter schools come online and the state’s scholarship programs enroll growing numbers of disabled and low-income students, the share accounted for by schools of choice will continue to expand.

Does that mean district-run public schools are going to disappear? Hardly. They will educate the majority of North Carolina students for the foreseeable future. Choice and competition are indispensable tools for improving education in our state, but they aren’t the only tools required to do the job. State policymakers need to build on their past K-12 initiatives by setting high academic standards, administering valid and independent assessments, giving local districts more budgetary and managerial flexibility, training teachers and principals more effectively, and reforming teacher compensation so that we attract and retain excellent talent.

School choice has been a contentious issue for a long time. I’ve heard just about every argument one could make against the idea, and I’ve employed just about every argument one could make in favor of it. Over time, I would submit, the “ayes” have prevailed. The chances are now extremely remote that some future governor or legislature will shut down North Carolina’s charter schools or defund its scholarship programs and march all their students back into an assigned-school monopoly model for delivering education. It would be wrong. And it would be highly unpopular.

The notion of parents choosing the schools that best meet the needs of their children, from among a wide range of options, is no longer a radical one. Of course, it was always the privilege of wealthy families who could afford either to pay private-school tuition or to relocate to a desirable school-assignment zone. Now the mainstream view is that all deserve a choice.

John Hood is chairman of the John Locke Foundation and an author.

Newswire: April 12, 2016


PUTTING THE EDTECH IN EDREFORM, the team of the nation’s premier education opportunity organization, CER, will be joining ASU+GSV Summit attendees April 18-20. The standout conference with its unique focus on technology, innovation, and education will be ground zero for major advances in the effort to improve economic outcomes for all Americans, particularly our youth. We’ll be taking a straw poll on innovation for the Presidential election, conducting presentations, and reporting to our followers via email and social media updates, as well as live-streaming all of our sessions! Look for an update from us early next week!

dont-break-lawL.A. CHARTER BUCKS. The Los Angeles Unified School District must pay Ivy Academia Entrepreneurial Charter School $7.1 million dollars for breaking the law. California’s B-rated charter school law says districts must provide equivalent facilities to charter schools, however districts aren’t fond of following the requirement, making it unfairly tougher for charter schools to do their job. In the case of Ivy, the arbitrator noted that “the district’s failure to comply with the law harmed children attending the charter during those years because it forced the school to use some money intended for educational programs to lease a building.”

MILE HIGH ACHIEVEMENT. In Denver, CO, school choice is lifting student achievement. In a ten-year time frame, students scoring at or above grade level in reading, math, and writing increased 15 percentage points. During that span of time, Denver added about 38 more charter schools, bringing the total to 39 percent of Mile High City students enrolled in either a charter school or an innovation school, which is a district-run school granted slightly more autonomy than a traditional public school. When districts employ a portfolio strategy, giving parents multiple excellent education options, it creates a ripple effect, putting pressure on other schools to do more and do it better.

MDcharterInfographicMARYLAND CHARTERS. Evidence that Maryland’s F-rated charter school law needs fixing abounds. Frederick Charter Classical Academy has been in a legal battle  trying to obtain transportation funding it feels it’s owed, since Maryland law requires charter students be funded in a “commensurate” manner and at the same level as traditional public schools. Meanwhile, there are arguments in Frederick to make teacher salaries more competitive. But what’s missing from this conversation is the realization that if Maryland’s charter law were improved to allow schools to take hold of their own operations and staffing, charter schools could be part of the solution and allow teachers more access to funds, not less.

PHANTOM CAP LIFT. Last week, the Massachusetts State Senate passed legislation masquerading as a solution to lifting the cap on public charter schools in Massachusetts. The reality is this legislation actually boils down to a moratorium on new charters and gives districts greater ability to veto their creation. As this bill masquerading as pro-charter school heads to the House for debate, it’s time to put the pressure on policymakers to put kids first. Learn more about the #LiftTheCap effort, an advocacy effort that is a national model, here.

ED TECH INNOVATION OF THE WEEK. Learn online the smarter way with Smartly, an interactive web and mobile app for the everyday learner from Pedago offering free online business courses and then helping you match with top employers worldwide. And, it’s completely free. Check it out here.

(Have an ed tech innovation that advances student, educator or parent power? Send it to Michelle@edreform.com)

Massachusetts’ Charter School Law Must Improve!

“It’s not an experiment anymore. It’s not a demonstration. It’s not a what-if. After 20 years, we have overwhelming evidence . . . of kids, parents, families who have found what they were looking for in the charter school movement here in the Commonwealth of Mass.” -Gov. Charlie Baker

Despite some of the best charter school networks coming from Massachusetts, the Bay State’s C-rated charter school law must be improved to allow current schools to grow and new schools to open.

Boston, and other traditionally low-performing districts, have reached the charter school cap, meaning that no new schools will be able to open in places that need choice the most until the law is amended. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education estimates there are 34,000 students on charter school wait lists.2015-11-18-Charter-Rally-01-1-780x439


Take Action

  1. 1. Add your name to stand with families who want fair access to public charter schools.
  2. 2. Fill out this form to volunteer in the fight to lift the cap on charter schools.
  3. 3. Were you or someone you know stuck on a wait list? Tell Great Schools MA your story here.


Facts, Resources, and Updates

Facts on Massachusetts Charter Schools

For a wealth of data and information on Massachusetts charter schools, visit www.charterfactsma.org

Massachusetts ranks 30th in the nation on CER’s Parent Power Index. Improving the charter school law is a critical component in improving the fundamental power parents have over their children’s education.

For more information on Massachusetts’ C-rated charter school law, click here.

Latest News & Updates:

Statement on Passage by the Massachusetts State Senate of Damaging Charter School Bill, 4.8.2016
Effort to Expand Educational Opportunity in Massachusetts is National Model, 4.8.2016
Charter School Supporters Bulk As Senate Passes Education Bill 22-13, 4.7.2016
Council President Chris Anderson’s Statement on Senate Charter School Legislation, 4.7.2016
Senate Approves Phantom Charter Cap Lift, 4.7.2016
List of Senate Amendments SB 2203, 4.7.2016
Those concerned about race and equity should champion charter schools, Boston Globe Letter to the Editor, 4.6.2016
More Than 80 Latino Leaders – Joined by Governor Charlie Baker -­‐ Call on State Legislature to Lift the Cap, 3.8.16
Public Information Campaign Launches To Set Record Straight About Public Charter Schools In Massachusetts, 2.12.16
A Leader’s Choice, 1.26.16

For more information on charter schools nationwide, see facts about charter schools and charter school achievement. More research on charter schools can be found here.


Education Next: School choice, charters propel student achievement in Denver

To better meet the needs of unique students, Denver Public Schools is expanding choice and offering school leaders increased autonomy. In a new article for Education Next, David Osborne, director of the project on Reinventing America’s Schools at the Progressive Policy Institute, finds that Denver’s strategy has produced impressive gains in student achievement.

In the spring of 2007, less than 39 percent of students graduated on time, but by the spring of 2015, 65 percent graduated on time. Between 2004 and 2014, the percentage of students scoring at or above grade level in reading, writing, and math increased from 33 to 48, far faster than the state average. DPS has more than doubled the number of students taking and passing Advanced Placement courses, and black students now take advanced math classes at the same rate as whites (Hispanic students lag by only 1 percentage point). In Denver 1 in 7 low-income students enrolled in college in 2014, compared to 1 in 20 in the rest of the state.

Osborne attributes increases in student achievement to expanding school choice and charters, as well as an equitable school choice system. Of Denver’s 223 schools, 55 are charter schools, up from 17 in 2005. In addition to charter schools, students can enroll at one of 38 innovation schools, district-operated schools pioneering new school models with more autonomy than traditional district schools. Together, DPS charter and innovation schools educate 39 percent of DPS students.

DPS’s new SchoolChoice enrollment system minimizes favoritism, fosters integration, and increases demand for high quality schools by using the same process to place students in most schools, including charters and district-operated schools. In the first three years using the system, 95 percent of students were placed in one of their top five choices.


Statement on Passage by the Massachusetts State Senate of Damaging Charter School Bill

April 8, 2016

Jeanne Allen, Founder and CEO of The Center for Education Reform, issued the following statement on the Massachusetts State Senate’s passage of a damaging charter school bill:

Massachusetts has produced some of the finest and most effective charter schools in the country that have been a lifeline to thousands of low-income and minority students. The state’s now 70 plus schools have provided critical options to all families whose children need more than a one-size-fits-all-education.

And yet, the State Senate continues to ignore charter success and put special interests first over the needs and demands of children and families. Last night, the Senate passed a bill that it packaged and sold as an expansion of charter school opportunities but in reality is a moratorium on more charters and gives districts more power to veto their creation.

As Marc Kenen, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Charter School Association said, the bill is “a carefully crafted moratorium on public charter schools that will prevent tens of thousands of children from having fair and equal access to high quality public schools. It also endangers existing charter schools by placing unrealistic impediments to their continued operation, and automatic trigger mechanisms to shut them down. The cap lift authorized by the bill is contingent on $1.4 billion in new education funding and would largely be erased in low-performing districts like Boston by a separate provision allowing districts to count some of their own schools against the charter cap. In addition, local school committees, which have historically opposed charter schools, would have new powers to block new charters… It is not a serious attempt to expand educational opportunities.”

As this bill masquerading as pro-charter school heads to the House for debate, it’s time that policymakers put kids first, and for citizens to hold policymakers to account.

How to fix our worst schools

Jeanne Allen
Fayetteville Observer
April 7, 2016

A North Carolina bill, sponsored by State Rep. Rob Bryan, a Charlotte Republican, is poised to bring an achievement district to the Tar Heel State, a pilot effort to address the problems plaguing long under-performing schools.

Bryan, a champion of educational equity for the poor, has modeled his plan on similar successful efforts. If enacted, the proposal would enable a new statewide Achievement School District made up of newly constituted schools to take the place of failing neighborhood schools. Serving families without the economic means to pick up and move to a school with a better track record, the achievement district gives hope to those most in need.

Research on effective schools shows that if you want real change, a school must be completely transformed. The late John Chubb, a renowned expert in the field, noted that only school restructuring that reorganizes a school from top to bottom can “ensure a new day for the school and its students.” Mike Feinberg, co-founder of the highly applauded KIPP charter network, which successfully operates six charter schools in North Carolina, says, “The best way we can look a child in the eye and say with confidence what kind of school and environment we will provide is by starting that school and environment from scratch.


The concept behind the achievement school districts reflect this perspective: Small changes yield small results. As failed turnaround efforts show, throwing money at a dysfunctional system isn’t likely to produce results that can completely transform and uplift student outcomes.

In 1993, the Annenberg Challenge was the largest and earliest public school turnaround effort. It doled out cash in exchange for an IOU from 10 school districts to demonstrate improvement. One billion taxpayer dollars later, there was little to no improvement for failing schools. The outcome is wrapped up nicely in the University of Chicago’s final report on the program: “The Challenge had little impact on school improvement and student outcomes, with no statistically significant differences between Annenberg and non-Annenberg schools in rates of achievement gain, classroom behavior, student self-efficacy and social competence.”

Fast forward to 2010, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to transform Newark, New Jersey schools also came up short. Because the turnaround effort left most existing laws in place, powerful seniority protections for teachers remained, along with many educators who had long lost their flair for teaching. Instead of allowing schools to attract and reward new talent, money went to tenured teachers regardless of their measurable impact. Or in the words of Vivian Cox Fraser, president of the Urban League of Essex County, “Everybody’s getting paid, but Raheem still can’t read.”

The record is clear. When traditional schools and districts fail, it’s time for radical change. At the heart of successful turnarounds is the ability for staff and educators to do whatever it takes to get students learning. While charter schools were not designed as turnaround entities, their experience is illustrative. They succeed because their autonomy gives them the power to do so.

To ensure that North Carolina families have the opportunity to see their schools succeed, it’s critical that those engaged understand the biggest challenge to the achievement school district. Teacher’s unions and their allies are working to stop this bill. They want more money and time diverted into the same kinds of turnaround programs we have routinely seen fail. This should come as no surprise, because the premise behind achievement districts – that students in failing public schools should be given an alternative – represents a direct challenge to union dominance of education. As a result, these defenders of the status quo are attacking proposals to bring achievement districts to North Carolina with typical scare tactics about waste, fraud, abuse and resource draining. And they’re doing so at the expense of better opportunities for our children.

The reality is that North Carolina’s achievement district is a real-time solution to give the state’s worst schools a shot at finally giving their students a great education. We must learn from the lessons of the past 50 years and give bold new opportunities like the Achievement District a chance. Our kids can’t wait.

Jeanne Allen is founder and CEO of The Center for Education Reform in Washington, D.C.

Effort to Expand Educational Opportunity in Massachusetts is National Model

Diverse coalition, compelling data and stories driving momentum

April 8, 2016

Washington, DC – A diverse array of parents, community leaders, pro-education opportunity legislators and Governor Charlie Baker have banded together to secure critical changes to the state’s charter school law that would ensure thousands more students have the opportunity for a better education. Their effort in Massachusetts is being seen nationwide as a model for other states facing similar challenges.

“Meaningful change can occur when strong leadership, substantive public policy reforms and sustained public support combine to achieve increased innovation and opportunity for children,” said Jeanne Allen, Founder & CEO of The Center for Education Reform. “Advocates on the ground in Massachusetts are doing exactly that. They recognize that despite some of the nation’s best charter school networks hailing from the Bay State, their C-rated charter school law must be improved in order for schools to expand and new ones to open to serve more students.”

Leading the effort to support pro-charter legislators and citizens, and working diligently to provide them with information and resources, is the Great Schools Massachusetts coalition, which includes the state’s successful charter school association. The coalition continues to grow, with more than 80 Latino leaders convening in East Boston last month to stress the overwhelming demand for more education options from Latino communities, as charter schools have proven they can close achievement gaps for English Language Learners and Latinos.

State leaders are also aggressively working to put an end to misinformation about charter schools and have launched an effort (www.charterfactsma.org) to educate the public more broadly about charter school demographics, outcomes, funding and results.

“Efforts to fix Massachusetts’ charter school law are powerful and being watched by other states trying to tackle similar issues,” continued Allen. “No longer can state leaders ignore the demands from tens of thousands of parents on waiting lists in almost every community where charters have whet  their appetite for a better education.”

Those concerned about race and equality should champion charters

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 9.47.22 AM

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 9.47.22 AMBoston Globe
April 6, 2016

RE “Racial aspects tinge charter debate” (Page A1, March 28): Massachusetts charter schools are not only among the highest performing in the nation, but they serve a student population that’s 58 percent black and Latino, while statewide that figure is 27 percent.

That should make people who are concerned about race and equality want to support charter school expansion, as a gateway to improved opportunity. Yet you report that the New England Area Council of the NAACP opposes permitting more charter schools, even while the African-American community votes with its feet in overwhelmingly choosing them for their kids.

It’s precisely because the traditional civil rights groups oppose structural change to traditional public schooling that new organizations such as the Black Alliance for Educational Options were born. Meanwhile, African-American lawmakers and celebrities have advocated for charters and started their own, from former NBA star Jalen Rose, who started one in Detroit, to singer John Legend supporting Harlem Village Academies and writing a song in honor of the school’s first graduating class. It was black Democratic representatives who brought expansive charter school laws to states including Florida, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania.

If there is to be any focus on race and charter schools in Massachusetts, it should be because charter schools are helping to serve children historically underserved by our nation’s education system, and putting power in the hands of parents who otherwise do not have access to a better education option for their children.

Jeanne Allen, founder and CEO
Center for Education Reform, Washington, D.C.

The Real Segregation in American Education

by Kevin P. Chavous
The 74
March 31, 2016

The Washington Post wrote about a new study from the Southern Education Foundation, which finds that private schools in America are overwhelmingly white. The study’s author makes the illogical and unsubstantiated argument that the private school choice movement of today is an extension of the racism that existed a half a century ago when white parents opted to use private schools to avoid desegregation.

There is no denying history and the motives of some parents and politicians 50 years ago, who feared desegregation and were racially motivated to send their children to private schools. However, the history of 50 years ago doesn’t align with the reality of today. Private school choice programs now exist in 25 states and Washington, D.C. Through vouchers, tax credit scholarships, and Education Savings Account programs, nearly 400,000 children are accessing a private school of their parents’ choice. Today’s system is color blind and largely benefits minority families. Despite the clear evidence of this, the author of the study still makes this inaccurate conclusion: “The fact is that, over the years, African American families and non-white families have come to understand that these private schools are not schools that are open to them, especially in light of their traditional role and history related to desegregation of public schools.”

That’s an actual quote from Steve Suitts, the senior fellow at the Southern Education Foundation who wrote the report. Not rooted in fact, but mere conjecture to support his bias against school choice and in support of an antiquated, one-size-fits all model of education.

Continue reading here.