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State Policy Report Demonstrates Widely Varied Reform Perspectives

StudentsFirst report valuable on teacher quality issues, lacking on parent empowerment

CER Press Release
Washington, D.C.
January 8, 2013

While the StudentsFirst State Policy Report Card adds to the growing body of data and information available to parents, policymakers, teachers and the general public, there is clearly widespread disagreement in the field about what constitutes good education reform policy.

“It’s akin to the varying grades given to college students by professors that add up to a cumulative GPA,” said CER Founder and President Jeanne Allen. “As an experienced college parent myself, I’m often struck by how varied the requirements and grading for students can be in the same institution. That doesn’t make the institution itself any less valuable, but it does demonstrate that opinions and preferences for what constitutes a good student can vary widely. In this case, education reform is the student.”

The State Policy Report Card is a complement on many levels to an increasing body of knowledge available about how policy impacts schools. On teacher issues, for example, StudentsFirst’s report shines, providing depth and context for the most important issues governing how states permit schools to evaluate, retain and reward teachers. In contrast, the Center for Education Reform’s annual report cards, issued for more than a decade, place emphasis on “parent power”, which includes in-depth analyses on which state charter school laws yield a truly dynamic and accountable charter school environment in which high numbers of quality schools operate with autonomy. The Parent Power Index© ranks states by their cumulative progress on all reforms, using the Center’s charter school laws annual ranking, data from The Friedman Foundation on state school choice programs, the National Council on Teacher Quality’s State Policy Yearbook and Digital Learning Now’s 10 Elements of Quality Online Learning. In addition, CER considers the user friendliness of state data and accessibility of local school board elections.

When the Center releases 2.0 of the Parent Power Index, as well as the 14th Annual Essential Guide to Charter School Law: Ranking and Scorecard, lawmakers will have another insight into state reform laws and their implementation. It’s likely that DC will remain the leading charter school law in the nation, while Indiana remains the overall top-ranked state for Parent Power. Rhode Island will stay at 31st for its charter law and 22nd for Parent Power. Conversely, StudentsFirst rates DC 4th, Indiana 3rd and Rhode Island 5th. About the differences across the various ratings, Allen said: “It’s terrific to have the ‘cumulative GPA’ that different report cards provide, but interested parties should also understand the differences between how organizations are slicing and dicing information. These tools together can do much to advance our shared goals of empowering parents and informing policymakers and the media which cover them.”