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NEWSWIRE: September 3, 2014

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Vol. 16, No. 34

A BEACON OF INSPIRATION. The world lost a stalwart leader and, relatively speaking, an unknown pioneer in the education reform movement yesterday. That millions of children and adults are now learning because of technology-driven, online solutions is owed largely to the path-breaking work Barbara Dreyer started nearly 20 years ago. Barbara knew that resiliently fighting for what is right – even if it makes people uncomfortable (friends included) – was worth it. As her longtime friends and colleagues at Connections Education wrote, she was “a beacon of inspiration.”

“UN”COMMON GROUND. Hats off to Mike Petrilli and Neal McCluskey, themselves on either side of the Common Core issue, for nobly transforming a misinformed debate into a thoughtful one. Separating fact from fiction on the Common Core is the first step in addressing the more important issues at stake. As proficiency rates on the Nation’s Report Card continue to be eye-opening and serve as a catalyst for change, we should be talking about how best to bring about that change. This editor of Newswire has maintained that the entire discourse around the Core has been a distraction, not because I’m against standards, but because I agree with my colleagues that we must dial down the rhetoric and allow cooler heads and proven reforms to prevail. Rigorous standards, whether Core or certified “college- and career-ready”, are a moot point without creating the conditions where good schools and great educators have the autonomy to flourish. We must start raising the bar on standards and start with the premise that ALL kids can learn given the right environment. Improving education in the U.S. includes setting high expectations, expanding educational choice, and ensuring accountability for parents and students.

LAWSUIT MADNESS. New Hampshire families won big when the state Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the state’s tax credit scholarship program. In addition to reinforcing the constitutionality of choice, the ruling gives credence to the upward popularity of tax credit scholarships, now second only to charter schools in terms of student enrollment in a school choice program. As if this is a game of whack-a-mole, legal challenges to tax credit scholarships (and other school choice programs like Opportunity Scholarships in North Carolina) are popping up across the nation, this time in Florida. The lawsuit mounted by the Florida School Boards Association makes no qualms about its true motive of stifling choice, contrary to the one back in July disingenuously based on protecting the integrity of the legislative process. True intentions aside, it’s a shame unions in places like Florida still feel compelled to obstruct programs designed for parents and students.

ELECT EDREFORM. The oncoming gubernatorial debate in California will no doubt cover a wide range of issues, during which time parents will hopefully have the chance to hear substantive positions and perhaps – with the help of CER’s forthcoming updated Ed50 resource – spot a real reformer that truly has student outcomes in mind. Parents deserve to hear what candidates have to say on education, and whether parental input and influence in education will be a priority in the next administration. As retired state Senator Gloria Romero points out, education makes up nearly half of the state’s budget, and with only 28 and 29 percent of CA eighth graders proficient in math and reading, respectively, there absolutely needs to be a focus on student outcomes and California’s lack of return on investment. Between the ongoing battle to secure an achievement-based system that respects educators and students, the outrageous parent trigger suspension in several California districts, and measurable charter school improvement, there is no shortage of items to talk about in the upcoming election.

A FIRST FOR WASHINGTON. The first day of school always brings a series of new beginnings, whether that means a new grade, a new teacher, and of course new knowledge. For Washington State, there will be another kind of first when First Place opens its doors today as a charter school. This will be the first test for Washington’s new and publicly approved charter school law. Once schools are opened, only then can the strength of the  state’s law truly be assessed as to whether or not it’s providing the best environment for allowing charter school options to flourish for children. Washington still has a lot of work towards incorporating best chartering practices and bolstering Parent Power, but this is nevertheless a start in building schools for kids in need of learning alternatives.

BACK TO SCHOOL BOOK REPORT. Two must-read books out this month, A Light Shines In Harlem by Mary C. Bounds and Howard Fuller’s No Struggle, No Progress, provide distinct, yet intertwining glimpses into the how the modern-day education reform movement came to be.

ARE YOU OUR NEXT INTERN? Are you ready to make a difference in the U.S. education system? Do you want to gain knowledge about education policy and put that into practice to create better education opportunities for all children? Do you have a knack for research and strong writing and communication skills? If so, you would be a great fit at CER, where our interns won’t be fetching coffee, but rather working in all aspects of education policy, such as research, advocacy, legislative affairs, and public relations. Apply today!