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Newswire: May 19, 2015

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Vol. 17, No. 20

POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE. More students across the country are donning their caps and gowns this spring with U.S. graduation rates at an all-time high. However, the numbers aren’t telling the whole story. The Associated Press reported last week that “the record high graduation rate masks large gaps among low-income students and those with disabilities compared to their peers.” Not only are there major gaps, but overall achievement could certainly be better, with less than 50% of our nation’s 8th grade students able to do math and read proficiently. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan pointed out that gains in grad rates aren’t everything, and that we must ensure all students are prepared for life beyond K-12 education. And parents agree, as their demand for better schooling opportunities continues to outstrip the supply. It is time for state and local lawmakers to get serious about substantive and lasting change and work harder to bring about reform faster, bigger and better. Click here if you agree that it is truly time to put parents in the driver’s seat of their child’s education.

100 PERCENT. Meanwhile, we could all learn a thing or two in addressing the achievement gap from Gary, Indiana’s 21st Century Charter School. The school’s 2015 graduating class has a four-year graduation rate of 100%, and 100% of them have been accepted into college, with about 90% of the students being accepted to a four-year university. The Gary, Indiana charter school was founded in 2005 and has been extremely successful since it opened its doors. Remarkably, an overwhelming majority of the students come from poverty but they are beating the odds and inspiring the rest of the student body to aim high. It’s no wonder Indiana has remained the reformiest state in the nation by stimulating greater #ParentPower!

HOW WILL YOU BE REMEMBERED? With the achievement gap growing, and parent demand for choice at an all-time high, we may be the last generation to truly be in a position to save the next through education. But in order to bring about that change one must know how we got here. Make history, don’t repeat it! That’s the goal of EdReformU™, the nation’s first and only effort to inform, educate and arm the next generation of leaders to make real change happen in America’s schools. Building on the inaugural pilot course (video highlights here!), EdReformU™ is now seeking applicants for a new six-week course, History of Charter Schools (HistoryCS-201), beginning June 8, 2015. Prospective students can find details at university.edreform.com and should tweet @edreform saying why they want to apply by Tuesday, May 19, using the hashtag #ERU. Authors of the most compelling tweets will be invited to apply for a seat. You’ll go down in history. It’s up to you how. Make it; don’t repeat it. Hope to see you on campus!

OPPORTUNITY KEEPS KNOCKING. “When parents have better choices, their kids have a better chance,” said school choice champion Senator Tim Scott at last week’s D.C. Opportunity Scholarship (DC OSP) hearing at Archbishop Carroll high school. And indeed, the data, the student stories and parent testimonies all indicate that this school choice program is working across the board and raising the state of education in our nation’s capital. Not only does the DC OSP have an excellent return on investment, with a 93 percent graduation rate for 40 cents on the dollar, but students are saying that the chance to use a scholarship to choose the best educational environment for them allows them to build a strong foundation for their future. It’s a shame critics continue to dig up old rhetoric against the program and Congress has to fight annually to ensure it remains appropriated. Here’s to hoping student and parent voices stand out when this program is up for reauthorization again in 2016.

HIDDEN TREASURE. Montana Governor Steve Bullock allowed a tax credit program to become law without his signature, after earlier vetoing an education savings account program for students with special needs. While the Treasure State’s new school choice program could be stronger, it’s certainly a first step for the state that has continued to rank dead last in Parent Power and saw five of six total school choice bills killed in the Legislature this year. Thankfully, 2015 so far has seen a flurry of steps in the right direction when it comes to increasing Parent Power and choice in education across the U.S., but we must encourage states to push harder and stronger in order to accelerate the pace at which our children have access to learning options that deliver on the promise of an excellent education.