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Maryland charter school law ranked seventh worst

“State charter school law ranked seventh worst”
by Blair Ames
Frederick News Post
February 29, 2012

The creation of great new public charter schools in Maryland requires just one simple thing, according to Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, an advocacy organization.

“It’s a law that is very clear and open to actually allowing people to step forward to get those schools,” Allen said Tuesday.

Maryland is far from having what CER officials consider an adequate charter school law, she said. According to the center’s 2011 annual ranking and score card of charter school laws released in January 2011, Maryland’s law ranks 35th of 41 laws on the books.

As reasons for the poor rating, the report cited limitations with district-only authorizing, union requirements, school board control of charters and lack of funding for charters.

Mississippi claimed the worst ranking, while Washington D.C. was deemed to have the best charter law.

Allen will visit Frederick tonight to discuss Maryland’s charter law, what she believes is lacking and what needs to be done to improve the law. The event at the C. Burr Artz Library will be hosted by FrederickEducationReform.com.

Tom Neumark, a founder of FrederickEducationReform.com, said his organization wanted to inform the public and elected officials about the rankings and how the law could be changed.

According to Allen, fixing the law won’t be easy.

The state law would need to be totally rewritten for Maryland to have a quality charter school law, she said.

She suggested starting with adding an independent authorizer to form charter schools rather than school boards because school boards don’t know what it’s like to operate a charter school.

“They’re not set up to review, approve and even consider what a new school looks like,” she said. “They’re not in the new schools business.”

Allen said the Maryland legislature has shown no “appetite”

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U.S. Gets an “F” in Nation’s Report Card

CER Press Release
Washington, DC
November 1, 2011

Barely 40 percent of the nation’s 4th- and 8th-grade students are proficient in math and reading, an alarming statistic that would be considered failure in any grade, any school or on any state report card.

The results of the 2011 National Assessment of Education Progress (Commonly called “The Nations’ Report Card”) showed a statistically insignificant gain of 1 percentage point over 2009 scores. Nationwide only 13 states showed any significant progress at all. The District of Columbia is one of the only states to increase in both 4th- and 8th-grade math and reading scores, but it still lags behind most other states and its students achieve only 21 percent on reading in 4th-grade and 17 percent on 8th-grade math.

“Our nation’s students can’t afford for us to sit idly by while another year passes with relatively no improvements. The Nation’s Report Card demonstrates the status quo does not work,” said Jeanne Allen, president of The Center for Education Reform. “We must overhaul our educational system. We need revolutionary change, if we want to break free from the failing trends of the past and truly celebrate student achievement.”

Allen continued, “As a nation, we are well behind our educational goals and student achievement continues to flatline. In two years, since the last release Report Card, math and reading scores have shown little to no improvement.”

Forty-two states have shown no significant improvement on either test since 2009. Closing the achievement gap also seems to be impossible, with the gap between white and black students decreasing by only one point to a 25-point gap. The gap between white and Hispanic students was also 20 points or higher across all assessments.

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Welcome to Washington's Food Fight, Mr. Smith

foodfightJust as Jimmy Stewart’s Jefferson Smith did upon his cinematic arrival in Washington, this year’s Capitol newbies will encounter the three major political “food” groups – The Know-It Alls, The Pessimists and The Relativists.  If they are lucky, or smart, or just plain good, they may find themselves associating with a lesser known but more effective commodity – the more principled drivers of change, The Reformers.

Unlike the Reformers, the Know-It-Alls are the Washington establishment, which on the whole believe that everything being done now in the federal government is as it should be, is being done for a reason and must simply be sustained and grown – not changed one bit. It’s good, it’s comfortable and it all seems to work for them. Don’t worry about effectiveness or review. That’s for the pessimists.

The Pessimists don’t really believe things are working well, but they require hard, fast proof before they accept anything new.  They complain that things aren’t funded enough and that the government needs more regulation, not less (indeed, they are pessimists and believe the people cannot really govern themselves).  They believe that our rights have been taken away by various agencies and public bodies. The Pessimists cast a dark cloud over anything that may suggest more choice and freedom – particularly in education.  How can you trust them, afterall?

The Relativists are on everybody’s side.  There is no deal too compromising for them.  You have your opinion, I have mine. They are all equal. There’s really no right or wrong (except in the opposite political party).  If you really believe in a cause, the relativists are at the ready with their idea of reality – that you simply can’t win at all so don’t even try. Relativists tell reformers to

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Welcome to Washington, Mr. Smith

smith-taylorAt one point in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the legendary film by Frank Capra, the lead character (played by Jimmy Stewart) arrives as a new Senator from Illinois and finds himself sitting with his senior peer and the state’s political bosses. They tell him how Washington works, that for the good of his career he must get in line and feed the machine. His political mentor tries to soften the blow by saying,

“You’ve got to face facts, Jeff. I’ve served our state well, haven’t I? We have the lowest unemployment and the highest federal grants. But, well, I’ve had to compromise, had to play ball. You can’t count on people voting, half the time they don’t vote anyway. That’s how states and empires have been built since time began. Don’t you understand? Well, Jeff, you can take my word for it, that’s how things are … Now, when the (bill) comes up in the Senate tomorrow you stay away from it. Don’t say a word. Great powers are behind it, and they’ll destroy you before you can even get started.”

Translation: Vote like we tell you, not how you think you should.

This, not the famous filibuster scene, is actually my favorite. It’s not made-up Hollywood stuff. It really happens this way, amidst a long cast of characters that descend on the new Member of Congress. And every two years, when a new Congress is created from the hundreds of districts our leaders have sprinkled throughout the land to represent us, it’s our job to remind them why we sent them there.

(Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 – Welcome to Washington’s Food Fight, Mr. Smith)


Letter to Arne Duncan, Next Secretary of Education

duncanYou’ve been called a “great guy” by democrats who think you will help them grow school reform.  You’ve “made a lot of progress,” say university types.  You’re the “compromise candidate,” because the unions have endorsed you.

Now comes the hard part.

Frankly, you’re one of the few national education leaders I do not know, which gives me some rare objectivity in the matter. That, and the fact that my organization has no horse in the race, no member group to protect, no current ties to you at all.

So, let me offer some fresh advice about what you can expect – and what might take you by surprise.

1) Everyone will want to claim you as his own.  Allowing them to do so will compromise your efforts.



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