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Answering the call…

The nation will never forget watching the levees break, the fear and pain on the faces of the people trapped, the destruction, countless lives lost too soon. Ten years ago to the date, a storm, an act of God, broke down almost every system and structure that was supposed to keep the great people of New Orleans safe.

There is no question that those systems and structures were severely flawed and broken before the storm. But one in particular – the traditional public schools – literally had tens of thousands of students falling through the cracks. Before the storm, every effort to bring substantive reform to education was fought and defeated by special interests. At the time, CER was intricately involved with the dozen or so folks locally trying to bring about substantive change.

When news of Hurricane Katrina hit, we were all glued to our televisions in horror, outraged that Americans were suffering because of it. There’s a lot of speculation as to the reasons why – flawed government, brutally failed efforts to evacuate – the list goes on.

On August 29, 2005 I made a phone call. What about the hundreds of families of the dozen or so charter schools we personally knew and worked with – were they safe? Dr. James (Jim) Geiser, the former director of Louisiana Charter School Association, now Senior Program Consultant at University of Georgia, answered the call!

Jim and several charter leaders and families made it to Baton Rouge. If my memory serves me right, a charter operator in Louisiana’s state capital gave them refuge.

I’ll never forget Jim’s words, “It’s all gone… You can’t even imagine the destruction. We’re desperately trying to find students and their families to make sure they are safe.”

I could hear the pain in his voice while he was multitasking to

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First Day at CER

As I approached the doors of suite 705, I was not exactly sure what to expect. This organization, CER, seemed so small in comparison to something so big – the gap between high-quality and low-quality schools, the gap between education policy and what is actually happening inside of the schools, and the endeavors to empower parents through choice of school for their children. There are so many issues and ideas that CER is working toward, that I couldn’t help but think that I would be quite overwhelmed.

Being from Buffalo, one must be quite naive if he or she isn’t appalled and saddened by the public schooling in the city. However, upon further research, I very soon realized that it is organizations such as The Center for Education Reform that intend to solve these issues (the differences between education quality throughout America, the gap between education policy and practice, etc …) as well as educate the general public on education policy and the reality of education among many cities. As soon as I entered the doors of CER, I quickly realized that although this organization is taking on such a large issue — education quality — there is nothing to be overwhelmed or worried about. The staff is friendly, warm, and extremely helpful, and they all seem to care very much about their work from what I can see. I am so happy to be a part of an organization such as this because although I am only one person and CER is only one organization, slowly but surely we can improve education equality and quality.

I hope to gain many skills at CER. I have never worked in such a small, formal (yet still very laid back and calm) office, but I hope to really thrive. Through doing research and

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EDlection Chatter Begins: Candidates Talk Prominent Education Issues at New Hampshire Education Summit

The New Hampshire Education Summit, hosted by The Seventy Four and the American Federation for Children, provided a rare opportunity to hear about six presidential candidates’ views about education reform in a more in-depth and focused way, as education is sadly not usually the headline topic during election cycles. Below are some thoughts on their interviews:

Jeb Bush

Since Jeb Bush has spent much of his hiatus from elected office in the education reform world, it was unsurprising that he gave a true wonk’s performance during yesterday’s summit. The former Florida governor talked about his record in Florida, touting his reforms such as A-F school grading, merit pay for teachers, the voucher program (stuck down by the Florida Supreme Court), and the largest tax credit scholarship program in the nation, which CER ranked near the best in the country last year. He pointed to the innovative Florida Virtual School, and the potential shift towards content-mastery rather than seat time as a measurement for educational attainment. The governor also pointed to the results of his reforms, including an increase in NAEP scores and narrowing of achievement gaps between racial and socioeconomic categories.

Gov. Bush said he was “tired” of hearing people blame poor academic achievement on “the circumstances of life” rather than on a failed system.

Florida ranks #2 on CER’s Parent Power Index.

Carly Fiorina

Because her private sector background differs from those of the other candidates at the summit (all current or former governors with concrete education records to point to), Carly Fiorina took the opportunity to introduce summit attendees to her education reform principles. She focused on the purpose and necessity of an excellent education system for the United States, both as a republic and in global competition.

Fiorina pointed to the importance of character and other non-academic factors. Interestingly, many charter

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