New initiative vows to bring charter schools to Nebraska

By Kristyna Engdahl
January 3, 2016

An aggressive new initiative vows to bring charter schools to Nebraska. The only problem is that the state is one of seven where they’re not allowed.

Educate Nebraska, which launched Sunday, wants to change that. Officials said the competition created by charter schools increases performance by both teachers and students.

“This is all about freedom,” Educate Nebraska Executive Director Katie Linehan said. “No one’s forced to go to a charter school, no one’s forced to work at a charter school.”

Linehan said it does, though, give parents a choice.

A charter school is a public school without being part of the public school district. It’s monitored by a state-appointed group, but families get more say in performance.

“If a charter school is not performing, it closes, as it should,” Linehan said.

Under the charter model, state funding would follow the student, which Linehan said comes at no extra cost to taxpayers.

There are about 500 schools in Nebraska. According to data from the Nebraska Department of Education, some of the lowest-performing schools are within a 5-mile radius in Northeast Omaha.

“We have a school up the street, an OPS school, that has 12 percent proficiency in math,” Linehan said.

Read the full article here.

Cuomo’s Education Retreat

A case study in how unions undermine teacher accountability.

Wall Street Journal
December 27, 2015

The latest federal education reform sends more power back to states and local districts, but that poses risks to the extent they are captured by teachers unions. Witness New York, where Governor Andrew Cuomo is retreating on teacher accountability.

In a bid to snag Race to the Top funds in 2010, New York adopted Common Core standards and required that 20% of teacher evaluations be based on student scores on state tests and another 20% on local objective measures of student learning. Student scores on the tougher new tests plunged. Proficiency dropped to 31% in reading and math in 2013 from 69% and 82%, respectively, in 2009.

Yet even as student measures plunged, local school districts in cahoots with the unions rigged evaluations to ensure that nearly all teachers got good marks. One tactic: Unions collectively bargained for easier local tests to be part of their evaluations. Lo, 96% of teachers statewide were rated “effective” or “highly effective” last year while only about a third of students passed state reading and math tests.

Read the full article here.

Newswire: December 22, 2015 – Special Holiday Edition

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CER’s Annual Holiday & Christmas Convo Guide

‘Tis the season to be jolly, until Aunt Suzie walks in, sets her cookie tray down on the table, and starts railing on the latest political ad or poll she saw. You nod, smile and consider the best way to refocus the conversation. Whatever your holiday of choice, that’s where CER’s Annual Holiday & Christmas Convo tips come in.

Let’s face it. An edreformer’s job is never done. So after you’ve caught up on cousin Bill’s kids, downed some eggnog and have reached a lull in the conversation, it’s time to educate and cultivate some new advocates.

I learned about the most amazing school this year, you blurt out. It is located in one of the hardest hit areas of Washington D.C. (or NY, or Boston, or NOLA) and its kids are 75% more proficient than most other kids in the area.

“What?,” Uncle Frank, asks. “How is that possible?”Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 3.13.28 PM

Well it’s a successful charter school, and its leaders, educators and parents have the freedom and flexibility to operate – along with having to be accountable for performance – in real time.

“I thought Hillary Clinton said charter schools were bad,” your ‘enlightened’ Sister says.

Actually, Sis, she got her talking points wrong. Evidence shows charter school students in most of the nation’s most deprived areas actually score as much as 8 to 10 percentage points higher in reading and math.

“Now, now,” says Auntie Em. “I was a public school teacher for 40 years and we did a great job. Kids are just different these days.”

They are different, and they have more needs. But we also have more data today than you did, and standards against which students are judged. The reality is that we’re an increasingly global society, and with the U.S. ranking 27th in math and 17th in reading out of 34 countries, even our best-performing kids need better learning opportunities, public, private or charter.

“Well, that might be true, but what can we do about that?” says young cousin Tillie whose three kids are clearly showing signs of fatigue. “That’s not our job.”

Actually it is, you say, calmly. Whether you have 1, 5, 10 or 60 minutes a week to work on this, there is a role for you to play in helping to expand educational opportunity for all children. Educational innovation or reform as some still call it not only transcends most political divides but the reality is that over the past two decades the progress we’ve made in schools and for children is owing largely to the disruptive and challenging presence of charter schools and school choice laws.

The Center for Education Reform has been instrumental in creating and stimulating most of those laws and since most of us don’t have the time to get involved, we should write them a check to keep doing the heavy lifting of leading the charge and challenging the status quo!

D.C. School Vouchers Left Out of Federal Budget Deal

by Arianna Prothero
Education Week
December 18, 2015

Although education spending as a whole got a $1.2 billion boost in a federal budget deal announced Wednesday, one small but high-profile program has been left out: Washington D.C.’s school vouchers.

“Failure to reauthorize the SOAR Act jeopardizes the future of DC’s trajectory of expanding parent choice, which has undoubtedly contributed to the overall improvement of the quality of education in our nation’s capital,” said Jeanne Allen, Founder and President Emeritus of the Center for Education Reform, in a statement.

Read the full article on

A School Voucher Surrender

John Boehner would not have left the D.C. scholarships in limbo.

Wall Street Journal
Outlook & Review
December 17, 2015

Somebody owes John Boehner an apology. The former House Speaker was routinely attacked as a faux conservative who sold out the conservative agenda. Well, Mr. Boehner is gone and the agenda-setting has been left to Members and their committees. One embarrassing result is that the end-of-year omnibus spending bill puts a big question mark over a rare conservative education victory: the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

The omnibus funds the program for fiscal year 2016 but fails to reauthorize it. This means that 20 years after the program was first debated, 10 years after it started, four years after Mr. Boehner revived it after President Obama had killed it, and a few months after the House passed a bill to reauthorize it, we’ll have to fight the battle all over again.

Worse, no one will explain how Nancy Pelosi prevailed despite Republican majorities in both houses. Speaker Paul Ryan’s office says, “It’s pretty simple. Democrats refused to accept a popular program to help low-income kids get a better education.” A spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee chaired by Hal Rogers, which helped negotiate the omnibus, says only that “as this was a compromise agreement, not all priorities could be retained.”

Perhaps this reflects the imbalance of passion. Democrats try to kill vouchers every year because unions demand it. Never mind that Opportunity Scholarship recipients have higher graduation rates and more parental satisfaction than D.C. public school students. Or that the children who get these scholarships are from households with an average household income below $21,000 a year.

Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform puts it this way: “Democrats oppose this program not because it is failing but because it is succeeding. They fear that as these choice programs succeed, poor and minority moms and dads are going to figure out the Democrats are selling their kids out to the teachers unions.” Now that Mr. Boehner is gone, there appears to be no comparable champion in the House GOP conference willing to fight for poor, minority children.

Lifeline for Low-Income Students Left Out of Omnibus Bill

News Alert
December 17, 2015

The following statement was issued by Jeanne Allen, Founder and President Emeritus of The Center for Education Reform (CER), on the exclusion of the SOAR Act, which reauthorizes the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP), in the FY 2016 Omnibus Bill:

“It’s astounding that Congressional leaders did not include the DCOSP, a program that’s proven successful in providing critical choices for low-income children in our nation’s capital. How adults can deny a program where students graduate at a rate of 93 percent, a rate that’s at least 30 percent higher than DC’s graduation rate, is disheartening to say the least. Congress does not behave this way with any other proven program and yet nearly every year the program is called into doubt because of special interests only interested in preserving the status quo.

“Lawmakers in both the House and Senate worked together to pass a bill, the Scholarships for Results and Opportunity (SOAR) Act, in October that had bipartisan support. The SOAR Act would have reauthorized $60 million overall funding divided equally among three sectors of DC education: the DCOSP, public charter schools, which educate almost half of DC students, and traditional public schools. Failure to reauthorize the SOAR Act jeopardizes the future of DC’s trajectory of expanding parent choice, which has undoubtedly contributed to the overall improvement of the quality of education in our nation’s capital.

“The Center for Education Reform will fight to ensure this lifeboat for a few thousand low-income students in our own backyard is preserved. We look forward to working with Congress on ensuring federal funds are invested in ways that create and expand opportunities for our nation’s future, our students.”

Exciting Innovation in Teacher Education Launched at NYU

Education School to Create School-Embedded Masters

News Alert
December 16, 2015

A field marked by continual challenges in delivering rigorous programs to ensure quality teaching for every child is about to undergo a major transformation as the nation’s oldest university-based school of teaching, NYU Steinhardt, launches a path-breaking residency-based online teacher education program.

The yearlong graduate residency program aims to increase the number of teachers prepared for educating students in urban, high-needs public schools. Similar to residency programs in well-respected fields such as medicine, teacher residency programs combine a full-time immersive classroom experience with exhaustive coursework, with resident students gaining more responsibility as they build their expertise.

“We know that teachers, especially teachers going into high-needs schools, need better preparation,” said CER Founder and President Emeritus Jeanne Allen. “Harnessing the power of technology to not only create innovative ways of enhancing teacher development but to do so through such a prestigious institution is incredibly promising on so many fronts. The advent of blended learning programs to enhance both student learning and teacher preparation program is precisely where our nation’s leaders should be moving with policy and practice,” said Allen, who has worked on the program development.

“Now more than ever teachers matter,” said HotChalk CEO and CER board member Edward Fields, whose company has partnered with NYU to create the new school-embedded masters in education. “We are proud to support an outstanding institution with such a clear vision and commitment to educational outcomes.”

Partnering with HotChalk enables Steinhardt to conduct online video observations for teacher residents that provide invaluable real-time feedback, offering a continuous cycle of learning, measuring, and adjusting so that education outcomes are improved not just for teacher residents but their students as well.


NEWSWIRE: December 15, 2015

trenton parents rally

Vol. 17, No. 49

DE JA VU. The Chicago teachers union votes to strike if contract negotiations don’t go their way. We’re having flashbacks to 2012, when a Windy City strike had costly consequences and left kids out of school for a week. Meanwhile, the Chicago BOE is scheduled to hold a meeting tomorrow to discuss the future of Hawkins charter school, a place teachers and students don’t want to walk away from…

SHOW ME THE NUMBERS. Speaking of unions, the NC Association of Educators won’t reveal membership numbers to the state auditor. NC law requires membership of 40,000 for the union to be able to collect dues via paycheck deductions. These handy charts should help NC auditors do the math.

trenton parents rally #HANDSOFFOURFUTURE. A mother doing laundry says she’s lucky because she found hope and opportunity for her family all because she happened to see a poster for a charter school at the laundromat. Alongside parents from around NJ, this mother rallied in Trenton to let lawmakers know that having choices in education is critical for restoring hope and opportunity for children throughout The Garden State.

WHERE WE’VE BEEN. For 22 years, the Center has been aggressively pursuing laws that demand flexibility, freedom, and innovation in U.S. schools. Innovation in American education must be stimulated and pervasive if our students are to succeed. Check out our 2015 progress report, and how you can help us do more to make innovative education opportunities a reality for all kids.

MANDATE FOR CHANGE. This call to action on education remains true today for presidential candidates. Brush up on teacher quality, school choice, charter schools, transparency, and teacher accountability issues before tonight’s debate as you keep your fingers crossed for an education mention.

#EDSURGETANK. Last week we filled you in on education innovation’s very own version of ABC’s Shark Tank. Check out who won, see what viewers thought on Twitter under the hash tag #EdSurgeTank and add your thoughts, and click here to be sure you don’t miss out on the next sink or swim!

Nero rome burningWHAT DOES NERO HAVE TO DO WITH EDREFORM? Over the past few weeks, the nation has continued to witness a number of seemingly unrelated but very connected events that point to a real Nero problem, about which all but a few seem relatively unaware, or perhaps unwilling to do something about. In short, we are fiddling while Rome burns. Here’s why, and what you can do about it.

INNOVATIONS IN TEACHER ED. The nation’s oldest university-based school of teaching and learning, NYU Steinhardt, is partnering with Silicon Valley-based education technology startup HotChalk to deliver residency-based online teacher education. “Now more than ever, teachers matter,” said HotChalk CEO and CER board member Edward Fields, who is excited that the HotChalk platform can help teachers learn how to drive success in real-time as they complete their graduate coursework. Stay tuned for more…

NC Union Membership Math Madness

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The North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE)  is under scrutiny for whether or not it has the membership required by law to be able to deduct dues from teachers’ paychecks. State law requires NCAE to have 40,000 members in order to be able to do payroll deductions.

According to the News & Observer:

An auditor’s report on employee group memberships released Friday said NCAE would not tell how many members it has and that the association, which represents teachers and other school employees, denied repeated requests for the information.

“We do not have the authority to compel NCAE to turn over this information because, as a private entity, NCAE does not fall under the authority of the State Auditor,” said the report, signed by Auditor Beth Wood. “However, NCAE reported a total membership count of approximately 70,000 on their website as of October 27, 2015. We were not able to confirm this membership count.”

Additionally, the audit report said the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Federation of Teachers did not respond to requests for membership information.

NCAE would not say why it would not reveal the size of its membership.

This one’s a no-brainer. Having the ability to automatically deduct dues versus relying on individuals to send in payments inevitably increases an organization’s money-making potential. (How many times have you been reminded to send in your payments to an organization you belong to, or even been on the other side where you’re the one reminding people to please pay!)

Well, the brilliant Mike Antonucci has done some detective work to help out the State Auditor

This handout from the NJ Education Association from February 2015 shows the NCAE at 37,770…

NEA dues and membership numbers NCAE

And if that’s not convincing, then there’s always the IRS, which indicates NCAE’s dues income for 2012-13 was $6,853,344, and for the following year (2013-14), $5,899,139.

That’s nearly a 14 percent loss of dues revenue in a single year, and equates to the full dues of 4,000 teachers.

The math here isn’t complicated.

Click here for the full piece from Mike Antonucci, “Helping Out the North Carolina State Auditor”

Newark Mother Explains How School Choice Saved Her Kids — and Why She’s Sharing Their Story With NJ Lawmakers

by Rasheedah Dollar
The 74 Million
December 13, 2015

Monday, parents from across New Jersey will be converging on the state capitol in Trenton. Our mission: To support our state legislators, regarding the future of our education system.

Now that I am a parent, it is so hard to watch my own children addresses the exact same educational challenges I faced years ago. Unfortunately, very little has changed when in comes to the district education system in Newark and there is very little a parent can do about it. I remain committed to my city, the City of Newark, but the desire for greater hope and opportunity seems to be going unheard.

I am one of the lucky ones in Newark. I found hope and opportunity for my family eight years ago. I did it while folding laundry.

This may sound overly dramatic — but with clothes piled high on a Laundromat dryer, my eyes caught a poster that advertised Newark’s public charter schools and I learned that the city provided families, like mine, with meaningful choices when it comes public education. That day was the beginning of a much-needed generational shift for my family.

At that time I had a 13 year-old daughter in the Newark district schools who was having the same struggles I had to contend with years ago, and four much younger children all about to enter school as well. Charter schools were still somewhat new to Newark at the time and though I had heard of them, that poster inspired me to reach out and investigate. I learned that all charters in Newark are public schools, free of charge and available to everyone.

Even to this day, it is amazing to me to think as a single mom with five kids in Newark, this is how positive change can happen — by looking at a poster in a Laundromat at the right moment. I feel truly blessed.

Click here to read the full article.