Sad Day for Teachers’ Rights in California

Statement from CER Founder & CEO on California Supreme Court Denial to Hear Vergara v. California Case

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AUGUST 22, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC — The following statement was issued today by Jeanne Allen, founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform, on the California Supreme Court’s denial to hear the Vergara v. California case dealing with employment rules such as teacher tenure:

“At a time when innovation and opportunity are so desperately needed in education, it’s astounding to think that hiring and firing decisions are based on artificial parameters such as how many years an educator has been in the classroom. It’s a huge disservice to kids. Our schools need the freedom to staff their institutions appropriately to meet students’ ever-changing needs.

“The California Supreme Court has inserted legal rights that otherwise do not exist. In doing so, they relegate too many children badly in need of a great education to ineffective schools and ignore the science that a great teacher can make a difference in the life of a child.

“Tenure discourages great teachers by protecting those who might not be able to keep their job if they had to prove their success. This decision is bad for aspiring teachers and bad for kids.”

The campaign against charter schools

Letter to the Editor
Boston Globe
August 19, 2016

Liam Kerr’s call to action in “We need an Olympian focus on charter school facts” (Opinion, Aug. 17) could not be more important, as children’s futures are at stake.

But unfortunately, teachers unions are leading a deliberate, deceptive campaign designed to scare those who support families’ rights to choose the best education for their children.

In May, the Massachusetts Teachers Association approved more than $9 million to fight expanding charter school opportunities. Every year, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) encourage and support state legislation that rolls back charter schools, using war chests at their disposal to promote traditional public education structures. In 2005, the NEA committed $1.75 million of membership dues to push an agenda aimed at hurting innovative opportunities and charter schools. This year, the NEA plans to spend close to $36 million to “seek political and legislative outcomes that support great public schools and sustainable organizational power,” with $1.4 million specifically going towards anti-charter efforts in Massachusetts.

It’s disappointing that so much money is being devoted to maintaining the status quo, when there are more than 30,000 children waiting for access to schools that have a proven record of preparing children — including those most historically underserved by our traditional public schools — for academic success.

Jeanne Allen

Founder and CEO

Center for Education Reform

Washington, D.C.

Newswire: August 17, 2016 — Olympic Athlete’s Dreams Made Possible by Education Opportunity — Blended and Online Success Stories — New Charter Cap In North Carolina

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BACK TO SCHOOL CONTINUES. It’s week two of back-to-school highlights of great accomplishments of innovative opportunities in education, with a focus on blended and digital learning this edition. Have great news? Don’t be shy — submit it to michelle@edreform.com.

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BLENDED & ONLINE SCHOLARSHIP SUCCESS. Thirty-one high school graduates able to access unique learning opportunities thanks to the Foundation for Online and Blended Learning (FBOL) will embark on post-secondary endeavors with financial support. Watch FBOL Chairman & CER Board of Directors member Kevin P. Chavous explain why innovative options like blended and online learning are so important to US education.

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GOING FOR GOLD. Aniya Louissaint graduated from Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA) in May, and now she’s showing off her taekwondo skills in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Parents and students choose schools for a variety of reasons, and without the flexibility of GCA, Aniya “would never be able to do what she is doing,” says her father. Aniya’s story.

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MORE THAN 20 YEARS STRONG. As parents in Massachusetts and nationwide demand greater education opportunity, let’s not forget how charter schools started and why — and how they are still succeeding, and growing, after more than 20 years!

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NEW CAP IN TOWN. North Carolina may have eliminated its cap on charter schools years ago, but there’s a new kind of limitation in town as a result of too much power in the hands of the state education cartel versus multiple authorizers. The story.

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We need an Olympian focus on charter school facts

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by Liam Kerr
Boston Globe
August 17, 2016

Ah, the parallels.

Watching the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, one is reminded that not too long ago, a bid was launched to host the 2024 games right here in Boston. The proposal raised complex questions — and touched off a heated controversy.

Two years later, in between watching Michael Phelps and Simone Manuel make history, I saw television ads about another complex and controversial question: the proposed expansion of public charter schools in Massachusetts.

In the case of the Olympics, a ballot question on whether or not to host the games was forestalled when skeptical Beacon Hill leaders, attuned to public doubts about the plan, touched the brakes and insisted on a full factual vetting. With public skepticism growing, the US Olympic Committee decided to go elsewhere.

On the charter expansion issues, the experts who study the issue and the electorate also seem to agree. But on this one, public support for increasing access to these high-quality public schools did not persuade political leaders to do enough to avoid a ballot battle.

Back when plans to bring the 2024 Summer Olympics to Boston started gaining momentum, several colleagues and I began looking at economic studies of past Games. (We started what became “No Boston Olympics.”)

The results between rhetoric and reality could not have been more different.

Despite the boosterism that surrounded the effort, respected economists from Smith College, Harvard University, and Holy Cross had thoroughly examined past Olympics-hosting experiences, as had researchers at Oxford University. The clear conclusion of that research: No modern Olympics has stayed on budget.

The performance of public charter schools has undergone a similarly intensive review from leading experts. Researchers from Stanford University found that Boston’s charter schools are the best in the country, producing an extra year’s worth of learning every year. A study from economists at Harvard and MIT found that students selected to attend a Boston charter school in a random lottery greatly outperformed students who entered the lottery but didn’t win a spot.

However, that has not stopped dubious claims from public charter school opponents. Those claims deserve a similarly intensive review.

Take, for example, the assertion by charter opponents that charters cost the traditional public schools hundreds of millions in sorely needed funding. Earlier this year, then Globe opinion writer Farah Stockman dismantled that claim at least as pertains to Boston. Citing research from the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, she wrote: “The budget for Boston Public Schools has risen every year, from $737 million in 2011 to more than $1 billion today. That’s a 25 percent increase, greater than the growth in the budgets of police, fire, and the city itself.” Further, Census Bureau data show that Boston Public Schools spent more per student last year than any of the 100 largest school districts in the nation. And despite that high level of spending, BPS traditional schools have a shorter school day and a shorter year than almost all Boston charter schools.

Instead of engaging in a honest debate about charters, critics try to shift the conversation to other topics, such as quibbling over whether a charter school waiting list that runs well over 30,000 kids might overcount by a few thousand. Or whether or not a pro-charter event could be held inside the State House.

Focusing on the facts here is particularly important for Democrats. This is a bread and butter issue. Charter schools fulfill the Democratic promise of an effective, responsive government that can provide real educational benefits to change the lives of disadvantaged urban kids.

Public discourse will always be rife with misrepresentations and misleading talking points. But there are times to stand up and scream the facts — especially when it is the entire electorate that makes the decision, not a few in a backroom.

In the court of public opinion, facts do still matter.

Just ask Boston 2024.

Liam Kerr was the Co-Founder of No Boston Olympics and is the Massachusetts Director of Democrats for Education Reform.

Charter School Coverage In Last 10 Years Has Become More Negative

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Media coverage of charter schools has become more negative in the past decade

by American Enterprise Institute
August 2, 2016

In a new study, AEI’s director of education policy studies Rick Hess, and researchers Jenn Hatfield, and Kelsey Hamilton find that press coverage of charter schools has dramatically changed from 2005 to 2015.

Despite the fact that public opinion of charter schools has become more positive in the last 10 years, media coverage has not followed suit and has become much more negative — with opinion pieces playing a big role.

Hess concludes that while the media plays an important role in relaying education news to families, media bias or balance must be taken into consideration regarding the coverage of charter schools. The report’s findings include:

In 2005, 73 percent of articles were neutral and 12 percent were negative, whereas by 2015, 53 percent were neutral, and 28 percent were negative.

Opinion pieces made up a much larger share of charter school coverage in 2015 than in 2005. In addition, the topic of race became much more prominent in charter school coverage over time, with the share of articles that mentioned race rising from 7 percent in 2005 to 16 percent in 2015.

Read the full report here: How Media Coverage of Charter Schools Changed in the Past Decade.

 

Related Resources:
Press Perception on Charter Schools: Is the Fourth Estate’s Coverage of Charter Schools Biased? (May 2016)

 

TAKE ACTION

The Center for Education Reform is committed to educating the media and the public about what it takes to have excellence in education for all students. Thanks to these studies, charter school students, educators and advocates can clearly see that their role in advocating has never been more important.

Advocates must take responsibility to ensure the public’s understanding of all education opportunities, so that the policies created to foster educational excellence are not stifled by misinformation and bias. The need to improve media coverage calls for a New Opportunity Agenda in education — read this and get involved.

Newswire: August 9, 2016 — As kids head back to school, highlights from innovative learning opportunities, and how we can get more of them

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BACK TO SCHOOL. This back-to-school season, we’re highlighting great accomplishments of innovative opportunities in education over the next few weeks. Have great news? Submit it to michelle@edreform.com.

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ACHIEVEMENT FIRST.  3 high schools. 212 seniors. 935 college acceptances. “A lot of people call it Senior Signing Day, but I call it a Dream Come True Day,” says Richard, a senior at Achievement First Hartford High School in Connecticut. The inspiring video here.

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SABIS. SABIS International Charter School (SICS) in Springfield, MA is a shining example of why the Bay State must allow for more and greater education opportunity. The K-12 school, comprised of 71 percent minority students and 54 percent economically disadvantaged students, has a 98 percent proficiency rate in English and 92 percent in math. But don’t rely on the data alone — take it from this SICS parent who says she knows her son has the opportunity to experience a different way of learning and is being challenged daily.

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OPENING GREAT NEW SCHOOLS. 10,000 new schools have opened in the last twenty years, helping boost outcomes for kids, notes Getting Smart in their new toolkit. With an urgent need for more and better innovative education opportunities for our kids, 100 Tips & Insights for Opening Great New Schools – with advice from more than two dozen experts, including CER Chairman Jon Hage – could not come at a better time. (P.S. If you’re interested in starting a charter school, read this in conjunction with our evergreen “How To Start A Charter School” toolkit.)

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TAKE ACTION. It’s time to bring greater innovative education opportunities to parents and families in the Bay State. Help our friends in Massachusetts #LiftTheCap.

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Jeanne Allen in the Huffington Post: Time to Let Education Innovation and Opportunity Thrive

by Jeanne Allen
Huffington Post
August 1, 2016

Imagine a bi-partisan commission focused on one of America’s most pressing national issues. Imagine a consensus opinion on what needs to be done to save generations of American youth-at-risk.

Now imagine ignoring those recommendations.

Unthinkable to some, but the sad reality we see today.

Some 40 years ago, A Nation at Risk called the American public to arms, impressing on them the urgent need to refocus on a robust education for our nation’s youth. Nearly half a century later, we have forgotten this report’s impactful message. We forget it produced a generational commitment to education reform that endured.

Our commitment is shaken, and in danger of collapsing at the very moment a nationwide commitment to real, lasting education reform is so needed.

Education reforms enacted over the past few decades have been the driving force for better outcomes for millions of kids. Public, and private, school choice, as well as charter schools and other innovations created real opportunity, literally lifting children from poverty.

But scores on the Nation’s Report Card are a glaring reminder of how far we still need to go. Just 37 percent of all 12th graders are making the grade in reading and 25 percent in math. The achievement gaps are sadly growing among minority kids.

You might look around and see so many school choice and charter options and ask where’s the evidence of innovative education opportunities slowing down?

Consider Washington, DC, where education reform efforts are central to the District’s rebound, transforming its business, residential, and even tourist climate. Even there, charters are – illegally – underfunded compared to traditional schools and they have still met with such success.

Ohio, on the other hand, sees regulations – many of which have nothing to do with education at all – falsely imposed in the name of accountability that are creating obstacles for schools.

Charters should be required to demonstrate fiscal accountability and educational success. But so should traditional public schools, and private ones.

Charters were started under the notion of freedom from broken, bureaucratic rules in exchange for accountability to get to the end goal of radically improving children’s lives. Now, as states re-impose so many unrelated regulations on charter schools they are dangerously close to causing them to become the very thing they sought to change.

There’s a path forward.

We can use the lessons of today’s Innovation Economy, where a teenager with a bright idea can both change the world and become a business titan. In every field – from medicine to finance – advances are made today by trying new things, and disrupting old systems.

Everywhere, except education. There, it’s the same old excuse “it can’t be done.”

We can’t innovate because the decisions about our children’s learning are still largely regulated by outdated, inflexible laws.

We need to radically rethink everything education.

Our children are growing up in an increasingly global, digital world. They hail taxis on their smartphone. They interface & communicate on screen, all day.

And yet they’re in classrooms facing a blackboard.

The greatest need in education today is for learning opportunities built to fit our digital Innovative Age.

For real progress, we need an environment that welcomes rather than rejects innovation.

Innovators need to be players in the game, instead of working at the sidelines tossing their products into the court and hoping someone – likely someone raised on a one-size-fits-all textbook – catches them and chooses to use them.

Improved educational outcomes require innovation and opportunity throughout the education landscape.

It is time to offer freedom to those who want to engage in real innovation – freedom from burdensome regulations, yes, but also freedom to disrupt and engage new models and modalities.

Let’s reinvigorate the basic principles that started a generation of education reform and charter schools.

That means defining accountability as learning, and finding wholly new and meaningful ways to measure actual progress.

We must carve opportunities to match each student’s own needs with the institutions or learning environments that might best serve them. To do all of this, we must ensure that money is available to fund students wherever they are, and that education policy focuses on allowing innovation, creating opportunity, and yielding results.

The Center for Education Reform is proudly at the forefront of education innovation, working to create the policy environment that allows for unique solutions to take root in any school and every community. We welcome the involvement of anyone who, like the Commission behind A Nation at Risk, can set aside other disagreements and focus on where we agree: that our kids are our most important national treasure, and we must provide a new opportunity agenda in education so that their future – and in turn our nation’s – is secure.

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

Newswire: August 2, 2016 — 2016 Political Party Platforms and Education — Louisiana Governor Robs Kids of Vouchers — USA Funds Bolsters Minority Student College Success

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PARTY PLATFORMS. CER’s 2016 EDlection Center offers non-partisan analysis of how – and if – the positions of political parties in education would address challenges our nation faces in providing increased quality educational opportunities that secure our nation’s freedom and lead to improved economic outcomes for all Americans, particularly our youth. Check out the side-by-side comparison of education issues, with individual issue analysis coming soon!

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FED OVERREACH ON CHARTER SCHOOLS. In order to protect state laws governing charter schools and charter school freedom from undue interference from the federal government, CER has submitted comments in response to proposed rulemaking surrounding ESSA. The full letter here.

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500 KIDS ROBBED. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is robbing kids of opportunity a mere month before school starts, deciding budget cuts are a greater priority than school choice vouchers offering hope for children’s futures. According to the Archdiocese of New Orleans, more than 500 children have been affected. More in the National Review.

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ED CHOICE. The Friedman Foundation might have a new name, but its mission is the same – educational choice for all families. Congrats to our partners in education opportunity on the name change reflective of our collective goal of bringing better, bigger, and more innovative opportunities to US education.

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COLLEGE COMPLETION. USA Funds is living the New Opportunity Agenda of Innovation + Opportunity = Results, awarding nearly 2.3 million to bolster minority student success. With an end goal of enhancing college completion rates and career readiness for first-generation, low-income students, the initiative is designed to help minority-serving colleges measure the value of their programs, and develop and apply data tools and innovative practices. More here.

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TEACHERS OF TOMORROW. Florida now has another option available for preparing an excellent and diverse teaching workforce: Teachers of Tomorrow. The alternative education preparation program last year provided over 6,000 teachers to schools nationwide. The scoop.

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Platform Overview: CER’s Review of 2016 Party Positions

The Center for Education Reform’s Review of the 2016 Political Party Positions

Today, education reform has become an amorphous term, sounded out by many and used to apply to many things that may not really constitute what ed reform pioneers originally envisioned – a commitment to innovation and opportunity that makes it possible for revolutionary changes to occur that will truly drive results for kids and families. This makes it difficult for citizens to separate the reality from the rhetoric and to determine which candidates and positions actually would result in exceptional opportunities for kids to get the education that best meets their needs.

To that end, the following analysis of the Political Party Platforms of 2016 offers the Center for Education Reform’s non-partisan analysis of how – and if – the positions of political parties in education would address challenges our nation faces in providing increased quality educational opportunities that secure our nation’s freedom and lead to improved economic outcomes for all Americans, particularly our youth.

 

PLATFORM OVERVIEWS:

Democrats believe “good education is a basic right of all Americans, no matter what zip code” they reside. They pledge to end “school-to-prison” pipeline & replace with one from “cradle-to-college” helping each child reach their “God-given potential.” They also promise, as part of an economic renaissance, to focus on “entrepreneurship and innovation” as critical to future economic success. In addition, they tout the need for high-speed internet access as an education requirement.

Specifically the platform has a separate section for Indian Education and promises to fully fund the Bureau of Indian Education, and to recruit & retain high quality teachers to implement culturally appropriate learning for each tribe.

The GOP platform calls for increased partnership with tribal governments to “deliver top-flight education.” Republicans believe getting hard-working Americans back to work unites their entire platform, including their educational commitments.

 

BREAKING DOWN EDUCATION ISSUES:

Coming soon: Issue-by-issue analysis of whether party platform specifics enhance education opportunity and innovation.

Issue Democratic Party GOP Libertarians
Afterschool/ Summer Learning  

Democrats support increased funding for both.

 

n/a n/a
Common Core n/a (though see tests & assessments) The GOP rejects any national standards.

 

n/s
Career & Technical Education Democrats support free community college. The GOP includes CTE & early-college high schools as a form of choice. n/a
Charter Schools
Democrats support “high quality” public charter schools that operate as nonprofits.  However charters shouldn’t replace or destabilize traditional public schools, maintain proportionate numbers of ESL, minorities, and those with disabilities as the traditional public schools do.

 

Finally, they support increasing transparency & accountability for charters.

The GOP supports charters as a form of choice.

 

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Disabilities/IDEA Democrats support increasing resources to students with disabilities. The GOP supports focusing the bulk of Title I funding should follow the child. n/a
Early Childhood Democrats pledge to invest in early childhood.

 

n/a n/a
Federal Role Democrats see a federal role as a necessity. The GOP sees it as without any constitutional role.

Likewise, the GOP opposes unfunded mandates on local schools.

 

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Innovation & Opportunity Democrats pledge to work to “eliminate” opportunity gaps.

 

The GOP platform notes innovation is disruptive and innovators ought have freedom to create, and succeed or fail, on their own merit.

 

The GOP focuses in on innovation by administrators to hold everyone accountable.  In addition it notes a degree from a “bricks & mortar” institution isn’t the only way to a prosperous career, and looks to innovation to create those new opportunities.

 

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Mentoring Democrats believe group mentoring will be a low cost, yet high impact answer to a great need in helping children in poverty to enter the middle class.

 

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Parents n/a The GOP views parents as the primary educator and rejects any state, federal, or international (eg, UN) encroachment on that.

 

 

The Libertarian platform notes “Parents, or other guardians, have the right to raise their children according to their own standards and beliefs” and that “Recognizing that the education of children is a parental responsibility, we would restore authority to parents to determine the education of their children, without interference from government. Parents should have control of and responsibility for all funds expended for their children’s education.”
Testing, Assessments, & Evaluation Democrats believe testing should “inform” but not “drive” curriculum.  It shouldn’t be used to punish or close schools or to rate teachers or principals.

 

They believe parents should have opt-out option for standardized tests.

 

Standardized tests likewise shouldn’t unfairly “label students of color” as failing.

The GOP rejects any national standards and assessments and likewise rejects teaching “to the test but supports strong assessments that help teachers meet student needs.

 

n/a

Uncle Sam’s Overreach on Charter Schools

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CER Submits Comments to Proposed Rulemaking of ESSA to Correct Federal Interference in Charter Schools

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 2, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC — In order to protect state laws governing charter schools and charter school freedom from undue interference from the federal government, The Center for Education Reform (CER) has submitted comments in response to the Department of Education’s May 31, 2016, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) related to accountability and state plans under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

“As to be expected when there’s money involved, the US Department of Education is now involved in the over-regulation of charter schools, despite the intended flexibility of the Every Student Succeeds Act,” said Jeanne Allen, Founder and CEO of The Center for Education Reform.

As an organization dedicated to expanding educational opportunities that lead to improved economic outcomes for all Americans, and having contributed significantly to the development of the charter school movement in America, The Center for Education Reform urges the Secretary and his leadership to abandon the approach to over-regulating our nation’s charter schools and respect the intent of Congress in respecting the rights of states to govern their education portfolios as they see fit.

For details regarding the Department’s rulemaking on charter schools, see the Center’s full comment letter here.

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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.