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Newswire: February 7, 2012

GEORGIA ON MY MIND…particularly regarding a constitutional amendment making its way through the Legislature to counter damage done by the state Supreme Court over charter schools. Recall that about a year ago anti-charter folks filed a lawsuit and the Court declared that the state cannot approve and fund charter schools over local school board objections, which left hundreds of families in limbo because their charter had been approved by the Charter School Commission, not a local board, and was now subject for closure. Jeanne Allen, in a radio interview with WGAU’s Tim Bryant, talks in detail about the narrow interpretation of the state constitution by the judges and about how local boards, who feel the heat of competition from charters, turn down charter applications (in one year 26 out of 26 were rejected) without a reasonable review.

NOT ALL BLUE SKIES. Durham, North Carolina, school “leaders” are standing firm against the creation of a new charter high school in the Research Triangle area, saying they have enough (8) charters and they fear a “profound negative impact on our school system.” Charter folks say they want to draw on professionals from the Research Triangle Park to boost STEM teaching and learning. Something President Obama may want to consider – alternative paths to teaching to get the best and brightest, especially in STEM subjects…

RIGHT IDEA, WRONG PRESCRIPTION. Speaking of STEM, President Obama’s just-unveiled proposal for $100 million directed to colleges for teacher training to upgrade math and science instruction in K-12 schools is better directed toward those schools and non-traditional training organizations, like Teach for America, who recruit from among currently trained math and science professionals and bring them to teaching, without their having to stop at colleges of education where, in most cases, their expertise will be reduced to a sea of process requirements that do not help any teacher be on top of their content. Yes, STEM is key to global competitiveness and more American students must get on top of their game in math and science, but let’s recruit those trained as real mathematicians and scientists, and let their deep understanding of the subject matter catapult their young students to the highest international levels in STEM subjects. Alternatives to traditional education schools will get us to the moon much faster.

COLLEGE BOUND. What local school boards fear in Georgia and North Carolina (see above) comes to life in one Philadelphia charter. Boys Latin charter, founded in 2007 and located in Southwest Philly, outpaces its traditional public schools when it comes to enrolling students in college. 74% of its inaugural class (2011) enrolled in college, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. Nearly 70% are in four-year colleges. Only eight special-admission district high schools out-performed the open-enrollment Boys Latin in getting students into college. Students at Boys Latin enrolled in college at a higher rate than all sub-groups in the city, including white males, Asian students and more. Replication, not lawsuits from traditional public schools like in Georgia, should be on the table. Boys Latin boasts an extended school day (8:00am to 5:00pm, which also makes it easier for working parents and reduces the number of latchkey kids) and twice monthly Saturday school. Freshmen attend a four-week summer academic prep program, a good way to prevent remedial work while in high school. And, yes, these students from all areas of Philadelphia do study Latin.

JUST ANOTHER REASON WHY CHARTERS WORK. In Los Angeles, KIPP Empower Academy explains its precedent-setting blended learning model. Take a look at their video to see how and why blended learning works, which underscores the innovation that can flourish at a charter school.

OUTRAGEOUS. The IRS is considering a rule, to go into effect this June that would put public charter school teachers in danger of losing already earned pension benefits. Here’s the scoop: Right now every state that authorizes charters either requires or allows the charters to participate in the state’s retirement system. But the new rule would force states to prohibit charter school teachers from participating in state retirement plans. These charter teachers would have to decide to either leave their teaching job or lose their accrued pension wealth because the rule is retroactive. CALL TO ACTION. Please contact your representatives in Congress to fight against the proposed regulation, titled “Determination of Government Plan Status.” Do it now!

SENIORITY SQUEEZE. A trend underway nationwide is to supplant seniority in favor of the more rational and professional teacher evaluation to determine who is fit to serve in the classroom. Hotspots right now are Minnesota and Tennessee, although Colorado, Wisconsin, Georgia, Utah and Oklahoma also are addressing the concern. Just this month, the Minnesota education committee held hearings about the state’s plan to institute teacher evaluations and tie layoffs to performance results. A proposed bill would “level the playing field” for new teachers by eliminating the sacred cow of seniority in favor of a review of a teacher’s evaluation when the district is faced with layoffs. Governor Mark Dayton is a former teacher and a union supporter, so it is unclear if he would go against seniority, a fundamental of unions’ collective bargaining, to promote doing what it takes to keep only highly qualified teachers at the head of the class. However, a survey conducted by Minnesota Campaign for Achievement Now finds that nearly 80 percent of Minnesotans believe laying off teachers based solely on experience hurts the quality of education for students. Pay heed to your constituents Gov.