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Newswire: March 22, 2016

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Vol. 18, No. 12

NEW INDEX ON THE BLOCK. There’s a new education index on the block (of course Newswire readers know that CER’s Parent Power Index was one of the first) called the Education Equality Index, and it measures how well states, cities, and scScreen Shot 2016-03-22 at 5.07.08 PMhools are doing when it comes to closing the achievement gap for low-income children. Sadly, the statewide achievement gap is “massive” in three out of four states for which information is available. The bright spot is that nearly 30 percent of the 610 achievement gap-closing schools recognized in this study are charter schools, and yet such opportunities are still too few and rare to address the enormous challenges students face today from pre-school all the way through higher ed. We believe that fact calls for another index. How about an Parent Power Index that gauges not just how states are doing, like Parent Power does, but how many opportunities really exist to address that education gap? It would not be a pretty sight.

BLUEGRASS CHARTER UPDATE. A charter pilot, albeit weak compared to what we know after 20 years of studying what works when it comes to the nation’s best charter laws, passed the Kentucky Senate 28-9. Legislation moves to the House next, amid noise from the KEA because of a provision that prohibits the unionization of a charter school — or in other words takes away their power— making the bill “unacceptable to us.” The reality is this bill isn’t likely to pass this year, which allows charter champions in the Bluegrass State to take another bite of the apple, and hopefully a bigger one next time around.

MORE RESEARCH RUCKUS. A report that fails basic standards of sound research methodology grabbed the attention of the New York Times, reporting with a headline saying charters are more likely to suspend black and disabled students. The report makes sweeping generalizations without the kind of detail or data that is actually helpful to making good public policy. Thankfully, many in the know are speaking out against the report’s flimsy research methods. A learning moment for reporters, who should be cautious of research studies making sweeping generalizations about charters, particularly after the 2009 CREDO report.

12295411_548111662012069_4535332731884006862_nLOUISIANA OBSTRUCTIONS. The Jefferson, LA Parish Council has become a forceful advocate on behalf of charter schools, just as the local school board is pushing back on the threat of a successful Kenner charter school. Council members passed a resolution to oppose any action to block the popular charter school’s renewal. “Whatever we can do for you, we will do,” council member Ben Zahn said after the vote. “It’s a great school. I have nothing bad to say about it,” said another council member. The charter has a waiting list of more than 1,000 students, and received more than 1,400 applications for just 200 open seats. And yet, the school board wants it closed. Go figure.

PARENT POWER. The Walton Family Foundation announced last week that it has embarked on a five-year strategic plan that continues its long-term focus on dramatically expanding educational opportunity for all children. We are grateful to WFF Board Chair Carrie Walton Penner for taking a stand on parent power. Her visit with a kindergarten class at a Los Angeles charter school that puts parents first is well-timed, given the opposition of LAUSD as it rejected a parent trigger petition from nearly 350 parents who want a better elementary school for their children. The school Ms. Penner visited is Synergy Academies, whose Co-Founder Dr. Meg Palisoc is a CER fave! Meg recalls attending a CER-led parent meeting in L.A. years ago and our efforts to support her along the way as she started her first school. Today, Synergy Academies is thriving, and it’s because Palisoc, a former L.A. Unified teacher, understands that kids, and in turn their parents, are at the heart of what the education system is truly all about.

ED TECH INNOVATION OF THE WEEK. Founded by experienced ed tech entrepreneurs, EdBacker is the nation’s first user-friendly online platfoScreen Shot 2016-03-22 at 5.04.04 PMrm designed to address the pain points that come along with America’s educational funding gap. From fundraising, to eliminating barriers between corporate entities and districts, to donor management, to parent communication, EdBacker goes beyond just a financial relationship. “Everyone agrees education is important, but making it tangible where they can do something about it is difficult – and that’s EdBacker’s real success,” Gary Hensley, CEO & Founder of EdBacker, told CER’s Newswire. In just three years of existence, EdBacker has helped raise nearly one million dollars for US students from parents and communities. The money also means more people are vested in what the schools are doing, and, we believe, more informed as a result. (Have an ed tech innovation that advances student, educator or parent power? Send it to Michelle@edreform.com)