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CER Expresses Importance of Ed Reform With PA House Leaders

CER Press Release
Washington, D.C.
November 14, 2011

Pennsylvania is poised to be the next big battleground for serious, and potentially controversial, school reforms. Next to Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin, if the legislature adopts the Corbett education plan, the state will be the next big prominent player in national school reform and the leader on the East Coast.

President of The Center for Education Reform (CER) Jeanne Allen was on the ground visiting with Pennsylvania House Leadership and other House members on Monday, November 14, to express the importance of pending education reform proposals for Pennsylvania children.

“At the Center for Education Reform, we’re both watching and working in the field to ensure that sound policy advances are adopted for all children, in every state. In Pennsylvania, we’ve been actively engaged for years in developing charter schools,” said Allen. “Improvements to that original law, which have been tested over time, are now pending and we’re hopeful that the state will soon stand with others who permit universities and other independent entities to create charter schools.”

Public school reform is an important proposal to allow parents, who feel trapped in failing schools by virtue of their zip code, to access schools of their choice. While limited to children in the lowest 5% of performing school districts, SB 1 ensures that those children, who are currently forced to attend a failing school, do not have to stay there any longer. The state’s popular business tax credit program, which funds additional scholarships for middle- and low- income families, also grows.

The teacher evaluation proposal is what will hopefully be a first step in a long line of important teacher quality initiatives that follow recommendations of some of the leading education researchers in the nation.

It’s important that Pennsylvanians have context for the pending proposals:

Academic Performance: On the 2011 “Nation’s Report Card” fewer than half of all fourth graders are proficient in reading and math, and only 38% of 8th graders meet the standards.

Charter Schools: Pennsylvania currently has the 12th-strongest ranked charter school law, yet the deficiencies in the law have restricted quality growth and allowed other states to outpace Pennsylvania in charter growth.

Multiple Authorizers: If adopted, the proposed charter changes would make Pennsylvania the 17th charter law, out of 42, to allow for multiple authorizers. This promotes a checks and balances system in charter approval, oversight and renewal decisions. The goal is to give parents the most options, and having multiple sponsors helps reach that potential.

School Choice Programs: With passage, the opportunity scholarship program would make Pennsylvania the 3rd state to provide school choice statewide. In addition, it becomes the 21st program to provide some form of school choice.

Teacher Evaluations: A growing number of states require districts to tie student performance to their public school teachers’ evaluations ensuring that high quality teachers earn what they deserve. Pennsylvania can join a long list of states that have implemented measures to reform teacher tenure policies, as well, which is good for students, good for teachers.

“Policy makers throughout the U.S. are seeing growing numbers in student achievement in states that have adopted similar, bold reforms. Pennsylvania will experience the same success in its students with these initiatives,” said Allen.

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