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Newswire September 26th, 2017

THE NEW SAT. First there was the original, then there was the one they rescored years later to soften the blow, then they added writing, and subsequently many more essay questions (and took out that pesky “if this then that” analogy section). Now there’s the wholly new test – results of which are out today – that the College Board has created to measure more than just test taking skills and aptitude but to gauge readiness for college. It’s a noble goal, but still not entirely clear what it all means. However, the number of students who take the test continues to increase, the “readiness” of students for college is only 46%. Why these scores should mean something is well known, but for a refresher read CER’s New Opportunity Agenda.

AFT HYPOCRISY. AFT president Randi Weingarten continues to astound audiences with incredible pronouncements of absurd and/or offensive nonsense. To re-cap: this past summer she characterized pioneers of education opportunity as segregationists and racists. Then, when called on to apologize for the insult, doubled down, pointing to actions from the Jim Crow era as proof of her offensive conclusion. Then in reaction to a study on absentee teachers which found 28 percent of teachers in traditional public schools miss more than ten days of work each year versus just 10 percent of charter school teachers, instead of calling it a crying shame and calling for revised public school policies she suggested charter schools needed to give their own teachers more time off. Finally, as Hurricane Irma battered Florida, she declared that the state’s charter schools were shirking their social responsibilities because their buildings weren’t required to be constructed as storm shelters. Clearly our friend is grasping at straws to come up with reasoned, reasonable – or even relevant – talking points on education issues. Either that, or she’s gone completely off the rails. Regardless, she should resign as head of the AFT.

LET MIKEY DO IT. Former Michigan Gov. John Engler has a solution for Detroit’s ailing public schools – let Mayor Mike Duggan, or any successor, run them.” The Governor makes a good point. As Detroit schools continue to struggle to escape the morass of, well, themselves, Engler notes that when on a road to recovery, accountability is key: “The mayor is a political figure who is held accountable. You couldn’t get 50 people in Detroit to be able to successfully name who is on the Detroit public school board.”  And while we’re on the subject of Detroit schools, Forbes recently carried an article rebutting a skewed analysis published in the New York Times about charter schools in Motor City. The piece points major errors – some factual and other errors of omission. It’s worth your time.

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, STARRING… Charter advocacy in Philadelphia got a big boost last week with the appointment of Sylvia Simms as the first executive director of Educational Opportunities for Families an organization that represents parents seeking more charter schools and educational choice. Simms, a longtime parent advocate and former member of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission will be leading “an aggressive new initiative to engage more parents in support of school reform, particularly in North Philadelphia.” Simms hopes to create opportunities for parents and community members to talk and ensure that families, especially those in low-income neighborhoods, have high-quality schools for their children. Or, as she puts it, “We always talk about having high-quality schools close to where you live [but] there are no high-quality schools close to where I live, so what are we going to do about that?”

Sylvia Simms in 2013

LET’S GET PERSONALIZED. According to the non-profit group EducationSuperHighway https://www.educationsuperhighway.org/ America inches ever closer to its dream of high-speed internet access for all students with 94 percent of public school districts having connectivity that supports 100 kbps per student of Internet access. This is great news for anyone living in the 21st century, and a boon for advancing opportunities, and creating a wide range of learning environments for personalized learning (through self-directed discovery, with their peers, and with the guidance of adults). It also puts a nice crack in the brittle 150-year-old education mold by favoring learning experiences that are adaptable to the needs, potential – and that support the highest possible outcomes – for each and every learner.”

Did you see T. Willard Fair’s piece in USA Today last week?  Here’s another chance to read this civil right’s icon’s plea for choice for children in need across the land.