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NEWSWIRE: July 15, 2014

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Vol. 16, No. 28

LEBRON MIGHT BE GONE, BUT SUCCESSFUL CHARTER PROVIDERS AREN’T…
Congratulations to Florida school leaders and students on a strong showing in the 2014 Schools Accountability Report that gives both charter and traditional schools letter grades based on state assessments. The number of schools to receive A grades this year increased by 7 percentage points, a sure sign of Florida’s increased level of accountability and the charter ripple effect that has gone from the panhandle all the way down to Miami. What Florida gets right that too many other states still lack is an acceptance of successful management organizations and providers with a dedication to high expectations and results. For example, providers like Charter Schools USA take considerable risk to deliver better student outcomes, and still manage to deliver on that promise, reflected in the 70 percent of CSUSA schools earning an “A” or “B”, and over 90 percent maintaining or improving letter grades from the previous year. Similar to LeBron James, charter school leaders and educators have taken their talents to Florida, the difference being they’ll be sticking around for the future.

WE’D BE IN TROUBLE IF HOUSES WERE BUILT IN THE SAME MANNER WE EDUCATE STUDENTS… 
Salman Khan of Khan Academy recently wondered what would happen if houses were built in the same way most students receive an education. Suffice to say, it would not go well. In the classroom, moving on to new learning content without having students master what’s already been covered is akin to building the first floor of a house without properly laying down the foundation. Eventually, the inadequacies catch up and the whole house collapses. This is especially true for many students who may not do their best in the traditional school model, and consequently have parents who seek out learning alternatives. Through online learning and other innovations that prioritize mastery of content, the proverbial house of American education will remain built for generations to come.

IT’S TIME TO STOP VIEWING CHARTER SCHOOLS AS A THREAT…
Kevin Chavous, CER Board Member and District of Columbia reform pioneer was on point when recommending that D.C. parents should welcome local charter schools as an opportunity rather than a threat. Whether it’s to be more provocative or to purposefully seek out conflict, too many unfortunately think that appreciating excellent charters and bolstering other areas of public education are at odds with one another, but they aren’t. The priority should always be identifying what learning models are helping kids learn, and collaborating so best practices can easily spread. From there, it’s ultimately up to the parents to decide the best educational option for their child.

THE TIRED TALKING POINT: MORE MONEY IS THE ANSWER…
If public schools received a dollar for every time a teacher union misleadingly lamented about education spending shortfalls, U.S. per-pupil funding would go through the roof. The latest is out of Michigan, where the Michigan Education Association is unsurprisingly sticking with a misplaced set of priorities, claiming nonexistent budget cuts during an election year. On the one hand, it takes a certain amount of dedication to trot out a multi-decade talking point year after year, insisting that more money is always the answer. The truth of the matter is budgets don’t make up for policies that expand the proven solutions of school choice coupled with accountability. Michigan has already made substantial progress with a relatively strong charter law that has facilitated measurable learning gains for students. It would be wise for lawmakers to expand that kind of success, and then worry about breaking out the government checkbook.