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Empowering Parents and Voters for K–12 Education Reform

On Thursday, February 26th, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) hosted a panel on Empowering Parents and Voters for K-12 Education Reform.

Watch CER president Kara Kerwin, Andrew P. Kelly and Jon Valant discuss two new pieces of research on parent empowerment and K–12 education reform. They will emphasize that families must be able to comprehend the choices they are presented with to understand and navigate the complex education landscape.


First Fridays: Achievement Prep Charter School

By Megan Morrissey

When I walked down the halls of Achievement Prep. Elementary School last Friday, it became immediately apparent that the standards at this school are extremely high for both faculty and scholars.

At Achievement Prep, the primary expectation is that scholars WILL go on to college. One of the first words that the kindergarteners learn when they arrive is “college.” College banners line the halls. Each classroom is named after the head teacher’s alma mater. I even walked by a bulletin board showcasing scholars’ pictures with the titles “Master’s degree” and “PhD” underneath to show they demonstrated proficiency in a particular academic area.

While observing three kindergarten and first grade classrooms on a guided tour, I was surprised, and very impressed, regarding the efficiency with which classrooms were run. There were at least two teachers present in each classroom, and the pace of instruction was fast and focused.

Scholars were split into small groups, and constantly switching activities to stay sharp during their long school day. Even during activity transitions, scholars had to get settled in a matter of seconds, all the while singing a song and cheering on their classmates to behave. Some groups were doing “Show What You Know” quizzes with their teachers while others were on computers playing interactive games. I walked over to one group and was astonished to overhear scholars learning about poetry and getting quizzed on the word “stanza.”

Shantelle Wright, Founder and CEO of Achievement Prep, explained that educators have to hold their scholars to very high standards so they can measure up academically with other students across the country. Educators know scholars can achieve, therefore, it is up to them to set a high bar. Ms. Wright also explained the sense of urgency in each classroom. Realizing scholars were too far behind

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Future of Education in America Depends On Acceleration of School Choice

During a discussion at the Brookings Institution on the future of school choice and No Child Left Behind reauthorization efforts, Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander had an interesting exchange with Claudio Sanchez of National Public Radio (NPR).

Sanchez asked Alexander since the Supreme Court has ruled school vouchers to be constitutional, (see: Zelman v. Simmons-Harris), then why hasn’t the creation of voucher programs accelerated at a faster pace?

Alexander responded that the school choice movement, “hasn’t had enough Polly Williamses” to truly move vouchers forward in an accelerated fashion.

To give a little background, the late Polly Williams was a state Democratic lawmaker from Wisconsin who worked tirelessly with the Governor at that time, Republican Tommy Thompson, to install the first modern-day voucher program for low-income students in Milwaukee.

Williams and the school choice advocates of that era ignited a spark that would lead to the creation of voucher programs in 14 states and the District of Columbia, serving over 100,000 students and counting.

This is definitely progress, but as the premise of Sanchez’s initial question suggests, the school choice movement hasn’t gone fast enough.

New research from Dr. Matthew Ladner shows an 8.4 million projected increase in the number of school-aged children between 2010 and 2030. And many of these state level education systems are simply not equipped to handle this influx.

This trend, combined with a growing number of Baby Boomers entering retirement, will make the current levels of K-12 spending completely unsustainable.

Ladner recommends a multitude of school choice avenues as opposed to any one particular policy in order to adapt to the growing student population. Increased parental choice and operational autonomy in education will yield more cost-effective solutions, in addition to a greater return on investment.

The clock is ticking. The time to accelerate is now.


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