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NEWSWIRE: September 9, 2014

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Vol. 16, No. 35

UNDER THE HOOD? Readers of the Sunday paper in Baton Rouge, LA, were greeted by an editorial criticizing CER’s analysis of Louisiana’s ‘C’ graded voucher program in the 2014 Voucher Laws Across the States: Ranking & Scorecard. In this case, the editorial took issue with Louisiana losing points due to infringement on private school autonomy, but misrepresented the report’s sound methodology, suggesting lack of support for accountability for voucher programs. However, the 2014 Voucher Laws Across the States report notes that there are a number of appropriate regulations, including “requiring participating schools to be accredited.” To imply the report suggests support for “fly-by-night” schools is inaccurate. Accountability measures imposed at the gate can prevent excessive regulatory requirements that endanger school participation and innovation and autonomy at the classroom level. Louisiana’s program was found guilty of infringement on private school autonomy, but the state’s voucher program can be improved now that we have proven blueprints of best practices.

DUST-UP IN THE DUST BOWL. The U.S. Department of Education revoked Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver after deeming ineffective the state substitute for Common Core. It’s curious whether new standards would have made an impact in a state where eighth graders are 25 percent proficient in math and 29 percent proficient in reading, and whether other reforms might deserve more attention. Instead, Common Core has once again become a political football to distract state officials from looking at other ways to boost student achievement, and the federal government from the lack of structure in current efforts towards improving education. High standards are important, but there’s more that goes into lifting student outcomes in the Sooner State.

HISTORY… CONDEMNED TO REPEAT IT. CER’s Survey of America’s Charter Schools shows a downward trend in the percentage of charter schools that are unionized, which was at 12 percent in 2009 and dropped to 7 percent in 2012. EIA’s Mike Antonucci points out the obvious, which is that the number of non-union charter schools (read: educators who consciously opt for one employment structure over another) increases at a faster pace than charters that unionize. Nevertheless, union officials are getting back on that proverbial horse to try and lasso in more charter schools, this time in California. It remains to be seen whether organizers will succeed in reversing the trend, though the last two decades of steady, continuous charter school growth would suggest otherwise.

A TALE OF TWO AMERICAS. “This is really the fight for the soul of America,” says reformer and CER Board Member Kevin Chavous on the battle between status quo preservation and more educational options that help students succeed. Strong words to be sure, but strong words are what’s needed to urgently implement monumental changes to accommodate a growing K-12 student population, only about five percent of whom currently exercise choice, whether through charter schools, vouchers, or tax credit scholarships. “Parents are tired of the status quo offering promises of change that don’t take place,” Chavous says. Strong words come from strong leaders, and with 36 gubernatorial races this year, the importance of electing leaders who will push for education reforms that focus on student outcomes and student success cannot be understated. But how do you know which candidates are walking the walk versus talking the talk?

NO STRUGGLE NO PROGRESS. Will we see you today at the launch of Howard Fuller’s new book No Struggle No Progress at the National Press Club? In this gripping autobiography, Fuller details his climb as a leading reformer and likewise the climb of minority children to better educational opportunities. This is a must-attend event if you’re in the D.C. area today! RSVP here.

IT’S A BIRD, IT’S A PLANE, NO IT’S… SUPER SUPERS. While most Newswire subscribers can’t witness the ED Sessions 2.0 in person, there are plenty of ways to participate online. Be sure to tune in at 7:00pm MST and be sure to follow CER pres @CERKaraKerwin on the ground in Boise for the latest from the ED Sessions 2.0, where you’ll get first-hand insight from former state superintendents from some of the country’s highest performing state education systems.