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Ten Years After Katrina

After attending the event Ten Years After Katrina: Education Reform in New Orleans at the American Enterprise Institute, I am left with many thoughts. A bit of confusion of course, since I am still learning when it comes to education reform and all of the technicalities that come with it, but I was also very unsettled and surprised. I had no idea until I started interning at The Center for Education Reform (CER) of all of the organizations, people, and work put into reforming education. I also would never have guessed that there were conferences held in Washington D.C. that focus on New Orleans’ successes and struggles (specifically regarding education) still 10 years after the hurricane hit.

The speakers began from a general viewpoint, talking about education, and focusing on areas such as Memphis, Tennessee and Boston, Massachusetts. I really liked the fact that people and organizations care and are passionate about school systems in other cities. The panelists were so knowledgeable about these cities; they were shooting out statistics left and right, as well as answering in-depth questions. I applaud their knowledge and passion of education.

Although I was so impressed by the knowledge of the speakers, in my mind I still always ask one question: How much do conferences, policies, and formal business meetings really help? The real world is so much different than a formal business conference – there is such a big gap between what is happening in New Orleans (and all over the country) and what the speakers are saying. So many people from the audience ask “so HOW do we do this?” and sometimes the panelists would say, “The only question is HOW do we keep this policy in place and functioning?” There are so many “how” factors that it is quite overwhelming.

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First Day As An Intern

On the way to The Center for Education Reform’s (CER) offices for my first day, I was completely nervous with a million expectations running through my head. While navigating myself from the metro, I basically jogged to get to the office, only to arrive 40 minutes early. No one wants to be late on his or her first day (or any other day), but I made up things to do in order to waste time, as I didn’t want to arrive too early. Already having checked my phone multiple times, I decided to walk around the floor a bit to look for a restroom to assess my outfit (for a third time that morning). I was doing my best to stay calm, but I was so nervous and slightly hot. Somehow I wasted 20 minutes, and decided to go inside 20 minutes early. Upon entering, the internship coordinator, Tyler, graciously welcomed me as if we had met many times before. I instantly enjoyed the office environment and atmosphere. It’s professional, but has a lot of personality, allowing the space to be very comfortable and welcoming. Tyler gave me a very nice CER folder including everything I needed to be informed about CER and my internship. We had a short but fulfilling conversation covering various topics, and then moved on to a quick tour of the office where I was able to meet everyone. My nerves quickly retired as I was beginning to feel more and more comfortable.

As the morning moved along and I became more acquainted with the office and its employees, I began to realize the position I am in being able to work at CER. I really want this internship, not for the title, but to be a progressive vessel in the movement towards positive education reform. While

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My First Day At CER

I am ecstatic to begin my journey as an intern here at The Center for Education Reform (CER). As a senior at The George Washington University majoring in human services and social justice, I have been required to take service-learning classes throughout my collegiate career. Thus far I have volunteered as an English as a second language tutor through D.C. Reads, an organization aimed at improving literacy rates in public schools in D.C. In addition, after the completion of my study abroad program in Tunisia this past semester, I worked at the Berlitz Language Center, and taught English to children ages seven through seventeen years old.

I immensely enjoyed my experiences in these classrooms, and through my experiences attending public school myself, have recognized the importance of establishing a strong and efficient education system through these truly transformative years. There is a lot of work to be done in perfecting a constantly changing system that will prepare our future leaders and contributing members of society in their endeavors.

Even though it has only been a couple of hours in the office, I am inspired by the enthusiasm and passion for education reform by all working for CER. As a political science minor, I am so excited to learn more about the process of policy reform, and to experience the education system through a different lens. I am looking forward to learning more about education reform policy and working hard to aid in accomplishing CER’s goals.

Karina Lichtman, CER Intern


First Day at CER

As I approached the doors of suite 705, I was not exactly sure what to expect. This organization, CER, seemed so small in comparison to something so big – the gap between high-quality and low-quality schools, the gap between education policy and what is actually happening inside of the schools, and the endeavors to empower parents through choice of school for their children. There are so many issues and ideas that CER is working toward, that I couldn’t help but think that I would be quite overwhelmed.

Being from Buffalo, one must be quite naive if he or she isn’t appalled and saddened by the public schooling in the city. However, upon further research, I very soon realized that it is organizations such as The Center for Education Reform that intend to solve these issues (the differences between education quality throughout America, the gap between education policy and practice, etc …) as well as educate the general public on education policy and the reality of education among many cities. As soon as I entered the doors of CER, I quickly realized that although this organization is taking on such a large issue — education quality — there is nothing to be overwhelmed or worried about. The staff is friendly, warm, and extremely helpful, and they all seem to care very much about their work from what I can see. I am so happy to be a part of an organization such as this because although I am only one person and CER is only one organization, slowly but surely we can improve education equality and quality.

I hope to gain many skills at CER. I have never worked in such a small, formal (yet still very laid back and calm) office, but I hope to really thrive. Through doing research and

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The Summer I Became An Education Reformer

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nine weeks since I first walked into the CER office. As I sat in on my first staff meeting that Monday morning, I had a million thoughts swirling in my head about what my time here would be like. Never would I have believed I would have the chance to go to several talks at Capitol Hill, be invited to a multitude of education reform events, have the experience of planning an intern only event or even be a part of an education reform rally. Nor could I have imagined the amount of knowledge I have had the privilege of learning. All these things and more are what encompassed my time here at The Center for Education Reform.

One of my favorite experiences would have to be a discussion we went to at American Enterprise Institute about Robert Putnam’s book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.” This event combined my two favorite subjects: education and economics. It was reasonable, logical and laid everything out on the table. I enjoyed hearing the explanation of the book from the author himself, Robert Putnam, but I also enjoyed the critiques different members of the panel gave as well.

Having the opportunity to be in this world and become an education reformer has only reaffirmed my passion in life. Making a difference and doing everything I can to ensure every child is given a proper education is my lifelong dream and being here this summer at CER has given me a chance to start the path to accomplishing this dream.

My experience this summer would not be what it was if it weren’t for the amazing staff here at CER. Without their wisdom, guidance, or knowledge my summer would have not been the enriching experience

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Last Day Blues!

I simply cannot believe that today is my last day here at The Center for Education Reform! Where did the summer go? I remember patiently anticipating my arrival here for a whole month before I began my internship. So many thoughts were going through my head as to how this summer would go, the things I would learn, and if education reform would be the thing for me.

Well let’s just say I answered all of those questions and more. I now look at myself as a well-versed education reformer trainee in this long fight for school choice. CER taught me so many things about the movement that I never would have been able to grasp had I searched for the information myself. For instance, who knew that charter schools are not private schools and vouchers are actually used for more than just shopping, and my favorite (E)SEA is not just the blue waters we play in, etc. Just me? Ok, let’s excuse these little mishaps.

CER has also taught me about the strenuous work of nonprofits. I always knew that a nonprofit was started from a just cause, but I never knew that it took this much work to operate. From doing the office grunt work that many like to avoid, to offering input on education policies in different states, even to doing grassroots work like participating in parent choice rallies, CER works!

One great thing about this internship was being able to go out to events and hear the many different voices in Ed Reform. Going to different events and hearing people passionately speak about their efforts in Ed Reform let me know that the work I’m doing and will do is worth it. One of my favorite events that I attended was called “The State of Entrepreneurship in K-12 Education”.

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What Did I Learn?

“How was your summer working at the National Education Association?”

“Great, except I spent my summer working at The Center for Education Reform.”

Although my dad was misinformed about how and where I spent my summer, I am confident that my dad will not be misinformed of what the Education Reform movement entails when the time comes to answer all his inevitable questions about my summer internship. One of which I anticipate to be, “what did you learn?”

When I think about how responding to this question, I can name a million and three things I learned this summer, but the most prominent was the importance of communication of correct information and knowledge.

This small conversation with my dad parallels a prominent aspect of the Education Reform movement; the power and importance of knowledge and information. Before my summer interning with The Center for Education Reform (CER), I thought that being on the ground was the only way to enact change and progress. Nine weeks later I realize how misinformed I was about the different levels of work being done to propel the education reform movement forward.

Although I could go on for hours reciting and recounting all the things I learned this summer about the education reform movement, one of the most important things I learned was that this movement would be nothing if parents and community members were not accurately informed about their options of education for their children. I gained a new appreciation and understanding of how knowledge encourages and fosters change and progress; without information or knowledge movements can’t change and children can’t be given the quality education that they deserve.

I am not the same person I was walking into the doors of CER as I am walking out. I am not only much more informed about the education reform

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Here Comes The Sun

It seems like only yesterday I walked into CER’s office for the first time. As I entered, I was immediately struck by the CER logo, most specifically by the sun. It was fun, something a little different. However, as time went on, I learned just how much the sun embodies CER’s mission and work.

My experience at CER has been diverse and the opposite of dull. I started my internship knowing “enough” about edreform, and I end it having lived and breathed the movement. My experience here has been invaluable and those who I have been surrounded by could not be more inspirational. The talks and panels I had the opportunity to attend were informative and impassioning. Additionally, the event that the interns put on, “EdReform Past, Present, and Future”, was such a blast and I had a wonderful time moderating.

These opportunities allowed me to see that education is not limited to a traditional public school setting but rather that every child is unique and as a result every child has a right to his own choice of school. Education is the great equalizer; this is something we must cherish as well as protect. The sun can never set on education reform until every parent has a choice so every child has a chance.

I want to thank the amazing team at CER for giving me this wonderful opportunity, as well as my fellow interns for being at my side throughout the learning process and encouraging me each step of the way. Each of you has taught me so much and I wish you all the best on your journey to give every child a chance through choice.

Your passion and leadership has inspired me and I know you will all continue to be movers and shakers in the edreform movement.

Madeline Ryan,

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When Parents Have A Choice, Kids Have A Chance

On Tuesday morning, PublicSchoolOptions.org held a rally outside of the U.S. Capitol to unite edreformers in an effort to celebrate school choice as well as push for more options for heightened parent power. The group of those who gathered at the rally was diverse to say the least. Coming from all over the country, students, teachers, education professionals, parents, and kids gathered in Upper Senate Park in support of giving parents the opportunity to make individual school choices for their children. Every parent wants what is best for their child, every mother and father wants to see their son or daughter succeed and live out their dreams. The importance of parent power is undeniable because more so than anyone else, parents have their child’s best interest in mind. All around me I saw impassioned people holding “I Trust Parents” signs and chanting those same words. The atmosphere was infectious and immediately, I was captivated.

To add to the excitement, we were joined by many notable guest speakers including Senator Tim Scott (SC), Congressman Luke Messer (IN), Kevin Chavous, CER board member and Executive Counsel at the American Federation for Children and CER’s very own Kara Kerwin. Each spoke with a sense of urgency for more school choice and each instilled in the crowd a feeling of purpose and pride in the cause. Although the four individuals come from diverse backgrounds and have different experiences, the four cannot deny the importance of choice in education.

One thing that really stuck out to me at the event and that I believe will follow me on my journey in the education reform movement is everyone at some point or another will be touched by school choice. There is an innate sense of universality in school choice and

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Writing Coming Back Into The Equation

I like to refer to myself as a “professional reader” when I tell people that I am an English Major. What I commonly leave out of the equation is the amount of writing that accompanies, if not equals, the copious amount of reading that awaits me every semester. Writing, like many other skills, is perfected through practice. Writing is critical in the schooling of a student because it is a skill transferrable throughout the disciplines; a skill that is integral to success in several fields, it is not just limited to English.

The National Writing Project (NWP) works as an organization to enhance teacher quality and commitment regarding the reintegration of writing into the curriculum of low-income schools. Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, the executive director of NWP, recently discussed the unfortunate reality that when schools are dubbed as “failing” or “struggling” writing is quickly dismissed from the curriculum to make room for test prep to improve test scores. As made evident through personal experience, being able to answer multiple-choice questions doesn’t transfer directly to success in college and beyond. Eidman-Aadalh and the other panelists made the need to reintegrate writing into the curriculum of these schools imperative, as well as make teachers competent instructors in the field of writing.

Reintegrating writing into the curriculum is one thing, but without effective and quality teachers who can teach students to write well, success will not be obtained. This is where the NWP comes into play, as well as the several devoted individuals across the country who work in tandem with NWP to help teachers optimize their teaching skills and make low-income students gain success through effective writing. Hearing the panelists discuss nationwide initiatives that have helped teachers become more effective at teaching low-income students how to write well and therefore excel across the

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