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Newswire: October 18, 2011

Vol. 13 No. 40

HEADLINES FOR YOU. Coming Thursday, you can get a heads up on what’s coming down around the country in education reform. It’s the good, the bad and the ugly. . . but it’s personalized for your particular interest in education issues. Want to know about what’s going on, or not, on NCLB, school choice, teacher evaluations and lots more? Well, save time searching yourself and let MediaBullPen do it for you. Stay tuned!

SENATORS AGREE ON NO CHILD. . . . and plans are fraught with peril. Asking Congress to dictate what makes for quality assessments, quality charters and quality school districts is about as good an idea as asking Congress to plan a party. Catered or potluck? Sushi or Italian? Dress code or casual? Exclusive or open to all? BYOB or full-service bar? These decisions would at least be far less dangerous than changing policies for kids to suit adult demands. Then there’s the implementation, which no matter how well written the law is, always ends up in regulators hands to determine as they see fit, not necessarily according to intention, how the feds will ensure compliance with all now put in law (hint — it has to do more with paperwork and formulas than results).

CT CHARTER SUCCEEDING AGAINST ALL ODDS. You’d never know this once troubled school, Jumoke, would come out on top with accolades from the community, lawmakers and the press. But that’s what it did after being founded by Thelma Dickerson, a former Hartford School board member that broke from the status quo before it was cool. Now Michael Sharp leads the school proudly as this article makes clear and a striking 100% of third-graders scored proficient in math. It took five years for achievement to blossom, though, and the school was on the brink of closure. Seems like this is one reason we should take care to give schools willing to tackle inner-city deficiencies a chance to show their success once they open, before rushing judgment to close, echoing Russ Whitehurst’s comment on vouchers that achievement growth “accrues over time.” More on this is in our forthcoming closures report, a review of charter school closures nationwide and the reasons for their closing. Our analysis finds that charters close first because of financial or operational deficiencies, followed by academic reasons. To know whether kids are learning takes nearly the full charter contract term. Check back at www.edreform.com for our report.

BONKED BY AN ACORN. The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now really aren’t for reform at all. As radical as they think they are, they really just stand up for the status quo. Take NYC’s Success Charter Network. ACORN was the gun-for-hire for the teacher unions. Unions paid ACORN to rally lots of folks to protest the charter’s expansion. Unfortunately for the conspirators, ACORN’s “protest for profits” model was filmed by Madeline Sackler in a documentary called The Lottery. Now, that’s just nutty. Check out more on ACORN’s tactics in the book Subversion Inc. by Mathew Vadum.

ALL SHOOK UP. That’s how EdReformies are feeling about this Thursday’s CER Rockin’ Reform Revue. Still time to join us. “I’m in love (with ed reform), I’m all shook up. Mm mm oh, oh, yeah, yeah!!!!

GAP CLOSER. To all the naysayers who think poverty is too high an obstacle for schools to overcome, take a good, long look at New Orleans’ Algiers Charter School Association. Led by CEO Dr. Andrea Thomas-Reynolds, they stepped in after Katrina devastated the area, rolled up their sleeves and went to work to improve educational opportunities for all students. Taking a page from research that says the single most critical factor necessary to increase student achievement is putting a high quality teacher in the classroom, Algiers built a strong teacher corps. Dr. Thomas-Reynolds told Newswire that Algiers tapped into a TAP (The System for Teacher and Student Advancement) grant to help boost teacher AND student achievement. Algiers welcomes the energy of newly graduated TFA teachers, but also tries to “grow talent from within” with resident teachers who understand the culture. Performance pay and meaningful professional development that treats teachers like professionals also are hallmarks of Algiers. Now, their students, 96% black and 87% qualifying for free or reduced lunch, score four points above the state average in math and 2.5 in language arts. Visit Algiers to get more detail on their charter school success. It can be done.