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Newswire: March 20, 2012

Vol. 14, No. 12

PROMISING AMERICA A BETTER GRADUATION RATE. Colin Powell’s America’s Promise Alliance targets the nation’s shameful dropout rate, documents it in a new report and issues a call to action at its Building a Grad Nation Summit, this week in Washington, D.C. While the report shows an increase of 4 percent between 2001 and 2009 in the nation’s graduation rate, still one in four U.S. public school students leaves high school before graduation. While this is an improvement, we know from NAEP and other data that just because a student graduates from high school, does not mean he or she is equipped educationally to succeed in higher education or in the world of work. The economic impact and personal travesty that emerges from the data is devastating. At the Summit, speakers called for more community engagement, more reforms like online learning and more options for kids, period. School administrator Paul Vallas, now in Bridgeport, Connecticut, also pointed to breaking down obstacles that prevent schools from improving, including tomes of teacher contracts and lack of flexibility at the school level.

THIS NUN SOARS. Forget about the Flying Nun of the 1960s. Sister Ellen from John Paul II High School in Florida is tapping into the 21st century’s social media to raise money to keep her school alive. While the Tallahassee, Florida, diocese has generously supported the school during its growing years, it opened in 2001, it is now time for John Paul II to become financially self-sufficient. As principal, Sister Ellen, along with her board, is exploring Crowdtilt, an online fundraising resource that allows a local fundraising goal to go nationwide to seek support. Sister Ellen: “This new model challenges all supporters of Catholic education to step forward with generous support.” If you have the means, check it out.

GOVERNOR JINDAL’S MORAL IMPERATIVE. The Louisiana Governor opened this year’s legislative session putting in perspective the battle to swiftly improve education. “The moral imperative to improve education is more than an economic one,” he told lawmakers. “The moral imperative to improve education goes to the heart of the American Dream.” His plan to change the way education does business includes curtailing teacher tenure; expanding charter schools; creating a statewide tuition voucher for students living in poverty; and, shifting hiring and firing from school boards to superintendents. “We have a chance to shape the kind of future we leave behind for our children and grandchildren. I believe like every generation before us, we have an obligation to leave this state better than we found it.” The moral imperative is what moves us, too, to champion quick and effective solutions for students languishing for decades in intellectually decaying schools.

A WIN IN GEORGIA. A constitutional amendment to allow the state to authorize charter schools passed the Senate yesterday, with four Democrats joining Republicans to challenge those who wage a fear-monger campaign against charter schools. This is just the next step in the charter school journey, after the Georgia Supreme Court ruled to outlaw the Georgia Charter Schools Commission. Voters need to understand that without this Commission, the ability to have new learning opportunities for kids is entirely restricted to school districts who have shown themselves, over and over again, to be hostile to the notion of charter schools. Governor Nathan Deal sums it up best: “The General Assembly has acted wisely and courageously to give Georgians the choice to implement true local control: parental choice… but we need a system that allows for this option.” We agree.

TEACHER JOB SATISFACTION…is down, according to the annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, which found that 44 percent of teachers surveyed are “very satisfied” with their jobs, down from nearly 60 percent in 2009. The researchers make the connection between the economic downturn and less satisfaction due to the looming threat of layoffs. Could be. But, teachers also could be feeling less satisfied because of the constraints placed on their jobs that make it less professional. Constant vigilance over work rules, professional development that is meaningless, and being forced to work alongside colleagues who, on a daily basis, demonstrate less-than professional behavior also can make a quality teacher feel less satisfied with their job. This is confirmed by the National Council on Teacher Quality’s State Teacher Policy Yearbook that grades each state on the quality of its teacher policies.

R.I.P. SENATOR RAGGIO. He was a man ahead of his time. This Nevada state senator was talking about education reform — and just common sense in general — before it was cool, back in the 1990s, when I first encountered him at an ALEC meeting. He was a stalwart in his fight to bring charter schools, new standards, and real accountability to his home state, but gentile and respectful in doing so, no matter what the challenges. He is a model for state lawmakers nationwide. We just learned recently he passed away. Requiem Pace, Senator. You will be missed.