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Newswire: May 22, 2012

Vol. 14, No. 21

A PIONEER FOR CHARTERS…that’s former Michigan Governor John Engler, who recently was honored by Central Michigan University’s renaming of their charter school center after him. Engler has never sat on the sidelines of reform. It never bothered him to ruffle feathers to put students front and center in school improvement. And, he challenged anyone, including the state’s powerful unions at the time who built barricades to thwart reform. Engler did all this not today, when the political environment is more conducive to reform. He was in the vanguard in the 1990s and put charter schools and other reform measures that highlighted the needs of children above all else. CER’s Jeanne Allen spoke at the dedication ceremonies, stressing how Engler’s accomplishments in Michigan, which went beyond charters, spread nationwide. Says Allen: He “pioneered a movement for student-centered funding and transparency for results. His commitment to that idea paved the way for one of the most successful and respected university authorizers in the nation to blossom and has resulted not only in an environment rich in choice and accountability here, but replication of strong charter laws modeled on Michigan’s around the country. It is fitting that his name will be on this center, the gold standard in university authorizers of charter schools.”

LIKE THEIR THINKING. The Washington Post upped themselves in their support for charter schools in a recent editorial by Fred Hiatt. Stating the very rational conclusion that, yes, teachers can be evaluated despite “hard-to-quantify variables,” just like other professions, Hiatt offers an even better way to “sidestep” critics – simply bypass the bureaucracy and go charter. Giving the principal real power to hire and fire staff, as well as make other key decisions for the school, unties the hands of educators to do what they are supposed to do – guide every child to reach his or her potential. Along the way, Hiatt takes on those who cry poverty as a reason children fail. Growing up economically disadvantaged is no excuse for schools to wipe their hands of the responsibility to teach these kids. Hiatt also gets it right that collective bargaining agreements, some hundreds of pages long, handcuff teachers and school staff so they can’t do what’s right for kids. And, he busts the myth that charters cream the top students and perform poorly next to traditional public schools. His editorial highlights the key to charter school success – the balance between freedom and accountability, with decision-making at the school level. “The schools operate inside a clearly defined structure…,” pens Hiatt. “But within that structure, they have freedom — including to attract, evaluate, retain and dismiss teachers as they see fit.”

WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT. That golden ticket to college, for students who could be locked into a failing school and ending up with a diploma to nowhere, is a central vision of all charter schools. Many charters, including Boys Latin and Friendship, have developed partnerships with post-secondary institutions to help pave the path to university study. KIPP also is leading with its partnership program that most recently attracted the first Ivy to the fold – the University of Pennsylvania. “I have followed and admired KIPP’s work from its beginning in 1994,” Penn President Amy Gutmann said. “It aligns perfectly with my commitment to increase access to higher education at Penn and nationally.” Just another reason why other media outlets, like the Post just did, should examine, why and how charters can create an environment that leads to college success for children who otherwise would be left to languish in schools more interested in growing bureaucratic rules than great minds.

SHOUT OUT TO EWA…for an informative and highly useful conference, Learning from Leaders: What Works for Stories and Schools. Takeaway quote goes to Newark Mayor Corey Booker: “Oversight of the media makes everyone do their job better. We need more light, more substance!” And, that’s why we have Media Bullpen.

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