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And The Results Are In!

Schooling in America affects every person in this nation and yet everyone involved, whether it be on the policy and reform side of things or those actually in the schools, are not correctly informed about the other side. The policy makers and reformers are not in the classroom and those in the classroom don’t understand the topics and reforms in K-12 education. The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice attempts to bridge this gap of understanding by publishing an annual survey that measures public opinion, awareness, and knowledge of these topics. The Center for Education Reform (CER) interns had the pleasure of attending the presentation of the poll results at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and had the amazing opportunity to see our very own Kara Kerwin, president of CER, on the panel and see her in action.

The results of the survey revealed many interesting statistics, but what struck me as the most important was the public’s opinion of where the direction of K-12 education is going and the rating of the federal government’s performance in K-12. Both results showed that Americans have a negative view of the education system. Americans are almost twice as likely to say that our education system has gotten off on the “wrong track” and the majority of them give a negative rating to the federal government’s handling of K-12 matters. Just from these two questions it is easy to see that something must be done to improve K-12 education. The general public has different preferences for schooling than the actual schooling that occurs. If given the choice, many would change the type of school they attend, so why not find a definitive way to give the public this choice?

Everyone believes that something needs to change in education and that we all

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Transforming Decades of Failure

Erin Gruwell, the inspirational teacher behind Freedom Writers, continues to be one of the few educators fueling my desire to teach in a low-income area. Her experience as a transformative educator showed me the power of the teacher in a classroom. However, many teachers remain ineffective in the classroom. The Thomas B. Fordham institute hosted a panel discussion in which individuals talked about their experiences with turnaround school districts in Louisiana, Michigan, and Tennessee.

A turnaround school district is one in which previously failing schools are “turned around” into successful schools through various changes in school leadership. Schools are not being closed or recreated as Chris Barbic, the superintendent of the Achievement School District, and Veronica Conforme, the chancellor of Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority, have made evident. Conforme and Barbic made very clear that turnaround efforts are transforming the neighborhoods into areas of success, not recreating the neighborhoods. This is important to note because it shows that the integrity of the neighborhood is not lost under new school leadership, but rather efforts are made to equip students with the resources to enhance the community in which they live. Turnaround efforts enhance the practices and schools in place. This also helps to encourage community involvement without making it seem like external organizations are imposing themselves upon these communities labeled “failing” and “impoverished”.

Fordham Turnaround PictureIt was interesting to see how improving schools can have a transformative effect on the whole community. Patrick Dobard, the superintendent of the Louisiana Recovery School District, notes that these turnaround school districts often are in areas of generational poverty and work tirelessly to allow disadvantaged students to escape the cycle of poverty. Poverty places a great burden upon communities, but equipping them with the

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Class Segregation and Educational Opportunity

I recently attended a discussion at the American Enterprise Institute with Robert Putnam of Harvard University, Charles Murray, who is a W.H. Bradley Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and William Julius Wilson, a sociologist and Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard University. Each speaker presented their criticism of Putnam’s newest book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, and offered insight into the increasing opportunity gap among children.

Putnam spoke candidly about the segregation deeply embedded in our society—religious, ethnic, and racial disparities have improved, while classist assumptions have led to greater segregation between the lower, middle, and upper social strata. He briefly explored the implications of these treAEI Putnam Event - Demographicsnds by explaining the terms “summer camp gap” and “Goodnight Moon time” and also called for extensive policy changes to help fix these inconsistencies.

The “summer camp gap” refers to the amount of benefits parents are able to provide for their children, such as piano lessons, sports camps, or vacations, and “Goodnight Moon time” is the portion of the day dedicated to parent-child interaction. Children acquire valuable developmental skills during extracurricular activities and from stable, close contact and socialization with a parental figure. Putnam argues, however, that children in high school-educated homes versus college-educated homes possess fewer resources to hone these skills, which further stratifies social classes.

Murray strongly disagreed with Putnam’s approach to policy implementation, and Wilson believed Putnam’s book did not focus nearly enough on interracial differences.

I believe that the discussion centered largely on the social sphere, and the panelists did not integrate education into the conversation as much as they could have. A child’s social environment is inextricably linked to his or her educational access. This connection can either accelerate or

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