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Newswire: May 1, 2012

Vol. 14, No. 18

THE BIG “E”. Yes, it’s all about the economy, but fueling any nation’s economic well-being is a robust education system, the real “Big E,” of the highest quality. Yet, nary a whisper about education during the grueling GOP campaign for president. In one of her columns during primary season, Jeanne Allen urged candidates – and reporters – to pay heed to the Big E. “In every state and community, education reform is the battle cry for those most afflicted by the nation’s 2,000 failing high schools, and for the approximately 70 percent of kids who are not learning at either national or international benchmarks,” she remarked. Allen queried why candidates don’t “seem to recognize, or discuss this. Where are the media pundits on the candidates’ positions on K-12 education? Is it fatigue? Apathy?” Almost as a follow up, Andy Rotherham recently penned his take on the lack of attention to education by the two nominees, President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov Mitt Romney. Party politics is Rotherham’s answer to Allen’s questioning of the brush-off of education. Both candidates have their own political “minefield to walk through,” an aversion to federally led solutions to national education challenges on one hand and the teacher unions on the other. Rotherham and Allen agree that the media “isn’t forcing the conversation,” as it should. For all of you who attend Presidential campaign town hall meetings or are inclined to write an op ed or letter to the editor, demand that both candidates state their goals and role in improving education for all children and that the media pepper each candidate with purposeful questions about this nation’s top issue.

POWER TO LEAD…is one of KIPP’s founding principles and the focus of an Atlantic piece by KIPP co-founder Mike Feinberg. Power comes from giving teachers the freedom to do their jobs, but joined at the hip is accountability and willingness to innovate when it comes to teaching children to high standards. As Feinberg explains, “when all these elements are combined — a clear goal and achievable standards, authority at the school level, and flexibility in the classroom — the results are powerful and transformative. A 2010 independent report by Mathematica found that the vast majority of KIPP schools produced academic gains in math and reading that are significant and substantial.” After Feinberg’s struggle in the mid 1990s to implement his idea within the Houston public school system, he must have been smiling brightly as he wrote how the district is “now in the process of infusing flexibility and accountability into their schools,” through Houston’s Apollo 20 program. Houston, we have a solution. Just look at KIPP.

LEFT OUT. That’s the fate of over 500 South Carolina students who would like to enroll in Greenville’s Tech Charter High School, but can’t. Why? School enrollment is strangled by student caps – 105 per grade and 420 for the entire school. These 500 or more kids are denied a top-notch education, as the school wins kudos for graduating all of its students, with all of its students earning entry into college. So, once again, this October a lottery will be held to determine who’s in an excellent school and who’s left out.

A TREND IN SOUTH CAROLINA? Greenville’s Tech Charter High School isn’t the only one in the state hammered down by enrollment caps. The Beaufort County School District and Riverview Charter also wrestled over numbers. A yearlong battle ended with the charter bringing a lawsuit against the district. A recent amendment to the charter is based on the court decision and was unanimously approved by Riverview’s board. The district board is expected to vote today. All the money ($50,000 for the charter and an undisclosed amount by the district) that could have been spent improving classroom education was derailed, most likely due to the school board’s jealousy of the charter’s popularity. Wasting money, and time for kids to learn, in South Carolina.

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