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Newswire: August 23, 2011

Vol. 13, No. 33

BACK2SCHOOL.It’s that time again, when kids start packing their bags and getting back on a routine that makes families happy and, hopefully, makes student life productive for the future. This week all over the South schools are back in session. But despite an increase in charter school seats (estimated to be at nearly another 10 percent by CER number crunchers!) and increased availability of school choice passed this year in several states, most students have no choice. They have just their assigned or zoned public school or district to attend, and looking at the latest proficiency numbers, those schools are still producing students at every level that are barely 40% proficient in reading and math, to name just two. Parents need to be savvy and policymakers need to be aware. Whether you’re happy with what you have or want better, Parent Power fundamentals are essential. Parents and citizens – get informed, and engaged!

DON’T BELIEVE. In legislatures and in newspapers, people who want to be skeptical about the potential for charter school success often quote a report from early 2010 by a group called CREDO, whose work at the Stanford-based research institution is often sound and believable, except when they produced a report comparing error-riddled state data on charter schools to data on a virtual set of traditional public school students in 16 states and made conclusions that are not borne out by individual analysis state-by-state. Having heard it twice this week in state halls and reading it repeatedly as gospel in the news, it’s important to know the full story behind that one CREDO report that fails the standards of responsible research. Here’s our our take on it. And here’s a summary of what other prominent prominent researchers conclude.

SPEAKING OF BELIEVING. The much talked about Class Warfare by Steve Brill is in at the Newswire HQ and we’re waiting to read it from cover to cover. We’re still not sure how a history on fixing schools can fail to cover the point of view of this 18-year old institution or NAPCS, or CSF or BAEO or people like Lisa Keegan or Kevin Chavous or Nina Rees and dozens of others) but hey, we’re open minded and looking forward to reading it. You should, too.

THE BLOB STRIKES BACK. There’s an old saying in ed reform; when the NSBA and AASA want something, it must not be reform. That’s the case – again – with their call for blanket waivers from NCLB. Wow, it was just a matter of time till they could get away from the heat in the kitchen. Chiefs for Change — a group of 8 current and 2 former school chiefs who share a zeal for reform — took umbrage with this, this week. They “oppose suspending accountability provisions of the ESEA through blanket waivers or universal modifications, as the American Association of School Administrators and the National School Board Association recently petitioned.” Until a real reauthorization occurs, we cannot be lowering standards and weakening the quality of education. Kudos to these new leaders, who dare to step out of the box. Let’s hope they stay there a good long time and that others follow suit.

PRINCETON CHARTER v. DISTRICT? When the NJ Commissioner of Education approved the Princeton International Charter School (PIACS), he probably didn’t know that the district would fight so vigorously to thwart his – and the Governor’s authority by extension – so vehemently. But this small, Mandarin-English dual language immersion, inquiry-based framework with international math standards has given the district power brokers so much aggravation that they’ve convinced the municipality not to approve their ability to secure a facility for which they have not only the funds but students willing to attend starting next year. This is not a new blocking tactic. It happens nationwide. But many don’t have the bandwidth to fight. Not Princeton. Rather than sit down and take it, PIACS has filed suit, asking the Commissioner to block the district’s use of public monies to thwart the opening of a new public school. He’s bucked it to an administrative law judge, which may or may not play in the schools’ favor. But perhaps it’s time for the bold and talented Governor Chris Christie to vocalize in support of this schools’ right to exist, and their parents’ rights to make that choice. Because no amount of legal maneuvering will ever stop the Blob. It takes political muscle. To get more information about the Princeton Charter, go to www.piacs.org.

In other news…

THINK-FAB. A confab of state think tanks, national tanks and policy experts from across the nation convened today in Bellevue, Washington, coming together to reassert the power of states as laboratories of innovation. That’s clearly the case in education and many meeting this week are with the leaders of what has become the modern edreform movement. For more information about the State Policy Network or think tanks in your area, go to www.spn.org. Have fun out there, friends!