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Newswire: May 14, 2013

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Vol. 15, No. 19

GOOD at ENCOURAGING DROPOUTS (GED). As states across the nation are called to increase high school graduation rates, there’s a growing concern about the value of the GED and state policies that encourage dropouts. As the Washington Post points out, educators and economists alike are calling for stricter access to the GED. Historically, the test was designed to give struggling students and dropouts a new lease on life and get them back on track to pursue higher education or secure a decent job. But in reality the test is encouraging dropouts, according to James Heckman, Nobel Prize winning economist at the University of Chicago, and very few GED test-takers are seeking out higher education. What’s more, employers have found no difference in workplace success between dropouts and those that have completed the GED. So why the increase in students pursuing the GED when there’s little evidence of future success? In some states, like in Maryland, students that complete the GED are granted a high school diploma and are encouraged to do so at age 16! So instead of creating better educational opportunities to keep students engaged in pursuit of success, they are pushing them out the door younger and inflating academic attainment. Lawmakers across the country need to wake up. Maryland may rank #1 according to some, but the reality is most states, including Maryland, are barely making the grade.

MOTHER KNOWS BEST. Vincent Peña is one high school senior that shows us the sky is the limit when given access to better educational opportunities. Over the weekend Vincent became the first person in his family to earn a college degree – an associate degree from Ivy Tech. He’ll receive his high school diploma later in June before going on to Perdue University in the fall. He was especially thankful for his mom this Mother’s Day. Vincent told the Gary Post Tribune, “Mother knows best,” for seeking out the 21st Century Charter School in eighth grade when she increasingly became dissatisfied with the traditional public schools. Kevin Teasley, founder and CEO of the GEO Foundation which operates 21st Century said, “We get our kids exposed to college, and if they put their minds to it they can earn their associate degree on our dime.” Teasley continued, “This kid is getting an honors diploma and an associate degree on the same amount we’d spend on others who are just getting a diploma. But the issue is much more than just stretching the taxpayer dollar, it’s breaking the cycle of poverty.” Not only does 21st Century have the top graduation rate in Gary at 95.2%, it beat the statewide average graduation rate of 88.38% in 2012. Moms really do know best and when lawmakers afford them true Parent Power, all students do better.

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES. The freedom and flexibility that led to the success of Vincent noted above might be at-risk. Over the weekend, Governor Pence signed legislation that has good intentions but will most likely result in unintended consequences. The new law empowers Indiana’s state department of education to become more involved in the day-to-day operations of charter schools. As we’ve pointed out time and time again, quality charter schools are directly correlated to quality authorizers. States with multiple, independent authorizers – independent legally and managerially from existing local and state education agencies – produce more and better opportunities for students. Be sure to check out our new paper on model charter authorizers and why some models, while well-intentioned, have unintended consequences.

MY CHILD MY CHOICE. From coast to coast there’s been a flurry of activity among parents – especially moms – demanding school choice. Families in the Big Apple stormed city hall this morning to announce 50,400 NYC students (enough to fill Yankee Stadium) are on charter school waiting lists. Parents and school leaders also gathered in Harrisburg, PA today to rally in support of more charter and cyber charter school options. Over 100,000 students across Texas were reported to have been on charter school waiting lists last year. So it comes as no surprise that a recent poll by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice found overwhelming support for school choice among moms of school-aged children. This recent study adds to two decades of data proving that the majority of Americans support better educational options for all our children.

CER AT 20. In case you missed it, today we announced a preliminary list of confirmed participants for CER’s 20th Anniversary Celebration – Conference, Gala and Rat Pack EdReformies – on October 9, 2013 in Washington, DC. Honorees, speakers, participants and the full day’s events can be found here.