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Newswire – January 17, 2018

Martin Luther King Jr.


What Would Dr. King Say? It’s a week when history is very much on people’s minds. For starters, MLK Jr. Day reminded millions that the struggle for freedom and equality continues. As LEAP Innovations’ CEO Phyllis Locket puts forth, If Dr. King were alive today, “He would look for fairness and find inequity in funding. He would look for hope and find inequity in student achievement. He would challenge us to work harder, rise above our differences and march forward together.” In the incredibly thoughtful and forward-looking piece, Phyllis reminds us that expecting great results when we believe we can educate all students with the same uniform approach is shortsighted.

Don’t Know Much About? Meanwhile, after the thousands of forums, remembrances and celebrations ensued around the country, Washington, DC was the site of some talking-heads discussions around whether we’ve progressed educationally as a nation. At AEI, pundits and politicians debated the merits of the signature education efforts of the Bush and the Obama Administrations (as if they were interrelated vs. cumulative and reflective of the times — and the needs of those times). Education Secretary Betsy DeVos took to the stage to argue that neither No Child Left Behind (NCLB) nor Race to the Top accomplished the promised successes, because Washington doesn’t have the answers: “NCLB did little to spark higher scores. Universal proficiency, touted at the law’s passage, was not achieved. As states and districts scrambled to avoid the law’s sanctions and maintain their federal funding, some resorted to focusing specifically on math and reading at the expense of other subjects. Others simply inflated scores or lowered standards.”

True, some say, but what of the enormous changes it spurred in parents’ behaviors when they learned they could hold their schools to account? Suddenly parents had “rights” under a federal law — rights that caused them to ask questions, seek options and helped 12-15% increases in charter school enrollments nationwide.

35 Years Since a Nation at Risk. Assuming you know all about it (and if you don’t, here’s your very own copy), the nation has come a long way in changing the conventional notion of schooling: correcting a generation of mythology that once posited that districts were superior to parents when it comes to educating kids, dispelling the notions that poverty was an excuse for failure, and that just requiring certain subjects to be taught would result in mastery, and on and on. To be sure, progress is slow, but it’s been steady, and the last 35 years have seen schools closed for failing for the first time in history, while whole communities choose to find other schools (Detroit and DC come to mind), because there were other schools to be chosen.

One-hundred-eighty years of uniform, top-down schooling will take a few more years to bust — that is, if we’re willing. And on that note, we were interested to see the Reagan Institute is planning a 35th anniversary review of A Nation at Risk in Washington, DC. Details are forthcoming. Meanwhile, here’s your own personal library of various revisits to A Nation at Risk that we and others have conducted over the years.

It all underscores that no one effort — be it federal, state or local — is enough. They are all necessary to stem the tide of failing, or mismatched, or underachieving, or irrelevant, or mediocre, bureaucratic schools and systems!


The nation is pumped for National School Choice Week, which will take place from January 21 – 27. A special double edition of Reality Check with Jeanne Allen will feature Voices of Opportunity — parents, teachers, leaders in the field and advocates — and will be available on January 22.


According to the Washington Post’s Jay Matthews, an Education Trust study of 1,876 literacy assignments in 6 urban middle schools revealed that 18% required no writing at all; about 60% demanded only some note-taking, short responses or a sentence or two; 14% required students to write a single paragraph, and only 9% went beyond that. Almost no U.S. high school students are required to do long research papers, except students in private schools or public schools with International Baccalaureate programs.


Is your state or city missing a big piece of the puzzle? Are you involved in an effort to make significant changes? Maybe you’re running a school. Maybe you’re driving change in your school or community and have hit a roadblock. The bottom line is that no effort is too small.

Share with CER how you are helping deliver the promise of an excellent education for all children. Together we can show how innovative education opportunities are bettering students’ lives.