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NEWSWIRE: July 1, 2014

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Vol. 16, No. 26

#NCSC14. The National Charter Schools Conference is underway, where school leaders, parents and activists of all stripes come together to discuss one of the most impactful education reforms of the last two decades. So far, there has been no shortage of inspiring speakers, from charter parents to veteran reformers like Kevin Chavous, and charter champion Steven Michael Quezada, better known as ‘Gomie’ from Breaking Bad. A major theme of panels and discussions is how to create more quality schools through proper engagement with lawmakers and community members, and the importance of lasting, student-centered policy whether in the legislative chamber or the principal’s office. The optimism surrounding choice and charters will no doubt be a far cry from the NEA Annual Meeting this week, where officials will be coming to terms with the Vergara aftermath, declining membership, and the latest poll-tested language to shield true agendas. Since last year, the number of charter schools nationwide has continued to grow at a steady linear pace, and more states have paved the way for charter school creation. Kara Kerwin reiterated throughout CER at 20 the need for activists to not only listen to the lessons learned from past efforts, but to then take those lessons and strategies back to their schools and communities. #NCSC15 will be the judge of whether or not that actually happens.

FOR THE LATEST CONFERENCE QUOTES, PICS and anything else that fits within 140 characters, follow @edreform@CERKaraKerwin and @JeanneAllen on Twitter, using the hashtag #NCSC14.

BOND, DIGITAL BOND. There is a special bond between charter schools and digital learning, writes Nate Davis, Board Chairman and CEO of K12 Inc. Online learning is a natural fit for charter schools, where innovativeness and experimentation is not only allowed but also encouraged. Not too long after blended learning programs in charter schools began to positively affect student outcomes, more charter and traditional schools began to take notice. Online options meant that students, regardless of socioeconomic background or zip code, suddenly had access to the same learning option. The advent of online and blended learning that hinges on mastery of learning content rather than technology alone has not only introduced a learning alternative but has also revolutionized the way Americans think about education in the 21st century. And as Davis notes, this is only the beginning.

CHOICE THROUGH DUAL CREDIT. A series of colorful and inspiring video testimonials highlighted by Minnesota’s Center for School Change shows students from all backgrounds who have taken it upon themselves to explore choices and set high expectations. Through the use of dual credit enrollment programs, students take courses to gauge their college readiness and find a path that may be right for them. Studies conducted in states such as New York, California, and Florida have shown dual enrollment programs leading to greater college matriculation and higher grade point averages. Not only that, but dual enrollment expands access to college credit, reflected in the number of low-income Minnesota students enrolled in AP and IB courses, which more than doubled between 2007 and 2012. Within these programs (and a recurring mindset throughout the #NCSC14 Charter Schools Conference!) is the premise that EVERY student can learn no matter what, and all types of learning options must deliver the promise of better educational opportunities.