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Touring D.C. International Public Charter School

Last week, CER Interns attended a First Fridays Tour at D.C. International Public Charter School (DCI). Mary Shaffner, the Executive Director, founded the school in 2014 with “the mission of training students to become multilingual, culturally competent and capable of taking their learning to the next level.” Each student engages in partial language immersion in content-based instruction classes in Spanish, French, or Mandarin Chinese.

During the tour, one aspect of DCI that struck us the most was the considerable amount of racial, intellectual, and economic diversity. Forty percent of students are African American, 27 percent are Latino/a, 26 percent are Caucasian, and 7 percent are Asian. A majority of students take part in the free and reduced meals program, and 20 percent of students receive special education. The tour showcased this variety by bringing us to different classes, and focused on the school’s distinctive elements, like its concentration on language and effective implementation of technology in the classroom.Students finalize their presentations

DCI heavily relies on intensive language immersion. Students take language classes every day, and take other classes in in the student’s target language. Roughly 50 percent of a student’s day involves using their target language to, for example, discuss controversial topics, write reports, or read articles about current events.

Technology is also highly used in the classroom. Each student has their own Chromebook that can be used for independent projects, homework, assessments, and research. Technology gives students access to a wealth of information and resources. In addition, it instills a sense of responsibility in each of the students.

“We believe that a student who embraces culture is best prepared for future success. While our world grows more interconnected, the job market of the future has yet to be defined. But we know that

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Education’s Impact on Success

Education is an essential part of life. It can create an opportunity of a lifetime that many aren’t fortunate enough to obtain. Education is the key to success that opens the door to knowledge, opportunities, and personal development.

My mother strongly valued education when I was younger. It was unacceptable to bring home any grade less than a B, even though she wanted me to strive for all A’s. She knew from the start that we had full potential. I started in a public school. The classes weren’t very difficult. I easily excelled in math, reading, social studies, and science. Elementary school was a breeze. But then …middle school happened. I made a transition from a public school to a charter school. The classes became more rigorous. In the 7th grade I got my first C ever. I knew this was unacceptable. I had to try harder. What I failed to realize was that it would become more difficult. In 10th grade I got my first F, but it wasn’t long until that F went away. More rigorous courses allow me to unlock my full potential.

I noticed that during the transition of schools there were many differences: different school hours, different classes, different grading policy, but most importantly, a different feel towards education. I wasn’t sure how it would impact my learning experience in the future but so far so good.

Just like my mom pushed me to get good grades, made me take more rigorous courses, made me strive for what’s best, I strongly believe that students everywhere should have the opportunity to these challenging diverse schools. The internship at The Center of Education Reform would be the perfect place to start. I’m going to look forward to these few weeks.

Tre’Von York, CER Intern


Intersection of Politics and Education

As I prepare to enter into my fourth and final year at Wake Forest University I can’t help but reflect on the opportunities I have been awarded due to my education, which makes me think about what other individuals miss out on due to a lack of access to education. This inequity of access to education continues to propel the achievement and opportunity gaps persistent in many communities throughout the nation, not just in my home state of North Carolina.

This obvious inequity made apparent the need to use policy and politics to better the state of education, not just teacher practices confined to the classroom. Through my time spent in the education department at Wake Forest I have learned ways to work to diminish the achievement and opportunity gaps through teacher practices in the classroom. Although there is a discussion of these persistent problems, there is little discussion of the policies that work to diminish these discrepancies outside of the classroom. I do not discuss this missing component to condemn the education department at Wake Forest, but rather as a springboard to discuss my motivation to spend my summer with CER.

This missing component of my education is the reason why I am spending my summer interning at CER. I hope to gain an understanding of what policies are being enacted at the federal, state, and local levels to make access to quality education available to all, not just those with a coveted address. As well, I hope to learn more about reform initiatives implemented in several schools to see what works and what does not work and hope to continue these initiatives in my future as an educator.

Elizabeth Kennard, CER Intern


What Lies Ahead

Walking into the building this morning, I had no idea what to expect. I had applied for the internship, done my research, had my interview, asked all my questions and yet I had no idea what lay before me.

My passion for education started when I was three years old and I would force my parents to play school for hours on end. As I grew up, my interest and passion for education grew just as fast as I did. I took every opportunity to be in the classroom or tutor someone outside the classroom. I was lucky enough to experience a charter education, public education, and private education during my childhood, which has allowed me to learn and experience different methods of education and teaching. As I learned more about the education system the more I realized there needed to be a shift and reform in the current education system. When I started college in my Introduction to Education class I read A Nation at Risk and everything suddenly made sense to me. If I wanted to fulfill my dreams and make an impact on education, I needed to get involved with the policies that make up education.

Looking around the conference room on my first day at The Center for Education Reform I can see that I am in the perfect place to learn and gain the wisdom I need to make my dreams come true. I am excited and anxious to get started on the many different projects and attend the events CER has presented to us interns. I still may not know exactly what lies before me or what I am about to learn, but to be able to have this experience and to see the possibilities that I have before me is an exciting prospect to

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My First Day at CER

Today marks the beginning of my involvement in the education reform movement, and I couldn’t be more excited.

I am a rising junior at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine majoring in Sociology and am from Wilton, Connecticut. I became interested in education during high school, when I witnessed the stark contrast between the public education system in my hometown and that of the neighboring city of Bridgeport. I was appalled at their acute differences and simultaneously disheartened that the children in Bridgeport did not have access to the same educational opportunities as others and myself. I also became acquainted with the weaknesses in my own school district while working at a local after school program. These inequities led me to seek out further improvement in Bridgeport and Wilton’s education programs.

While at Bowdoin College, I have continued these pursuits by tutoring children in Brunswick as well as working for Bowdoin’s Upward Bound program, which is an organization that encourages students in low-income areas to pursue a college education.

My experience in education has primarily been hands-on. Although immersing myself in schools of various financial circumstances has been beneficial, I recognize that educational policy is integral to the education reform movement. That being said, for my summer internship, I sought out an organization that is committed to implementing and improving educational policy. This drew me to CER.

I am only a few hours into my internship at CER and have already been introduced to numerous projects that the organization is currently spearheading. I am both impressed and amazed at all that I will be able to learn in the next seven weeks as well as all of the events and opportunities that are at my disposal because of this internship.

There is a palpable energy in this office, and it stems from the common desire

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First Day Introduction

Today is my first day into my matriculation as a summer intern for The Center for Education Reform. The start of my day began with a brief staff meeting in which the interns and staff were introduced to each other. During the staff meeting the employees here at CER gave us a brief overview of CER and its many programs and upcoming events that we should look forward to. Following the staff meeting the interns participated in an intern orientation in which we learned the basics of what it takes to make the organization run successfully and its mission. Whether it’s from working with grassroots organizations, advocating different educational policies, or even talking to teachers and parents, every aspect makes CER what it is.

As a student at Clark Atlanta University majoring in Political Science much of my interest in the education reform movement stems from learning about the different policies that help create disparities in our education system. In addition to my studies, I have experienced both sides of the coin in dealing with the good and bad of the education system, so I have first-hand knowledge on some of the things that needs to happen in the education reform movement.

While interning at CER this summer I hope to learn more about what exactly makes the education reform movement successful. I want to learn all aspects besides that of my studies in public policies so I can see if this is a field/ career that I would like to explore in life.

Rahdaysha Cummings, CER Intern


The First Day

On my first day as an undergraduate at Syracuse University I was confident that I knew exactly what was to come on my path throughout the next four years. I would attend lectures, live in a dorm, make new friends and graduate as an English Education major ready to head a classroom in an inner city school district. While I have in fact attended lectures, lived in both a dorm and two apartments and made new friends who feel like old friends, the one thing that has changed is the “end goal.” Now, as an English Major with a double minor in both Education and Policy Studies I am more determined than ever to participate in the quest to change the face of education in the United States. After taking a course titled “The American School” I was exposed to a wide variety of issues that those in the field of education have faced and continue to face across the country. This course combined both sociology and education to explore these issues in a way that made them relevant to an audience composed largely of education majors who had limited experience in the field outside of their role as a student.

That being said, the topic that stood out most to me was that of charter schools in the United States. The topic was briefly touched on, almost as if it was a curse word in the education field and when students asked questions about charter schools my professor seemed unsure of his answers. I began researching charter schools almost immediately and stumbled upon The Center for Education Reform’s website. I read the articles on the website and decided to apply for the Summer 2015 internship in the hopes of better understanding the education reform movement as a whole and

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First Fridays: Achievement Prep Charter School

By Megan Morrissey

When I walked down the halls of Achievement Prep. Elementary School last Friday, it became immediately apparent that the standards at this school are extremely high for both faculty and scholars.

At Achievement Prep, the primary expectation is that scholars WILL go on to college. One of the first words that the kindergarteners learn when they arrive is “college.” College banners line the halls. Each classroom is named after the head teacher’s alma mater. I even walked by a bulletin board showcasing scholars’ pictures with the titles “Master’s degree” and “PhD” underneath to show they demonstrated proficiency in a particular academic area.

While observing three kindergarten and first grade classrooms on a guided tour, I was surprised, and very impressed, regarding the efficiency with which classrooms were run. There were at least two teachers present in each classroom, and the pace of instruction was fast and focused.

Scholars were split into small groups, and constantly switching activities to stay sharp during their long school day. Even during activity transitions, scholars had to get settled in a matter of seconds, all the while singing a song and cheering on their classmates to behave. Some groups were doing “Show What You Know” quizzes with their teachers while others were on computers playing interactive games. I walked over to one group and was astonished to overhear scholars learning about poetry and getting quizzed on the word “stanza.”

Shantelle Wright, Founder and CEO of Achievement Prep, explained that educators have to hold their scholars to very high standards so they can measure up academically with other students across the country. Educators know scholars can achieve, therefore, it is up to them to set a high bar. Ms. Wright also explained the sense of urgency in each classroom. Realizing scholars were too far behind

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Closing the Semester’s Chapter

My internship here at The Center for Education Reform (CER) is drawing to a close and although I have spent an entire semester here, I am finding it hard to piece together words that accurately describe my experience. I met Outreach Coordinator, Tyler, at a nonprofit networking event, and immediately was hooked on CER and everything the organization stood for. On my first day, I was blown away by how much was going on at all times around the office. Press releases were being written, phone interviews were taking place, and all of the sudden I was heading out the door to attend a panel event. Amongst all of the hard work and deadlines, the thing that immediately separated CER from other offices was the heart that the staff puts into the work.

One of the most rewarding takeaways of this experience is seeing how many great people are behind education reform and knowing that I, in some way, helped. Updating data, researching topics, going to events, visiting charter schools; all of these day-to-day tasks I accomplished all went toward a greater goal. I loved that this wasn’t an internship where people were just clocking in and out. Instead, it was an environment of individuals who actually care about making education better. Attending events opened my eyes to the power of conversation and human interaction. I learned so much about other areas of education reform just by attending events and striking up conversation about CER and other organizations with those around me. It was amazing to be able to attend panel discussions, which covered education research and data, as well as First Fridays, where I could experience a more hands-on approach by visiting charter school classrooms. The mix of traveling to events and researching from a computer gave

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First Fridays Tour Of Capital City PCS

My Friday morning journey to Capital City Public Charter School (PCS) was filled with transit catastrophes and rainy weather, but when I entered the school, all negativity melted away when I was met with a warm atmosphere and welcoming faculty. The school building itself is massive, since all grades learn in the same building, but a student named Avery was sweet enough to walk me to my starting point of the tour. Capital City uses a hands-on learning approach, which is evident by the project-based learning model implemented in all classrooms. In fact, expeditionary learning is quite literally built into the framework of the school because in 2011, the seventh and eighth grade students created and published goal books for environmentally friendly buildings and presented their findings to the school board. Students really do become advocates, an initiative that is important to the social curriculum of character development that Capital City PCS values.

Capital City PCSThroughout my tour, I saw the hands-on learning approach put into action with projects starting with preschoolers learning about ants, up to high school students presenting research on healthy lifestyles. Research, fieldwork, and findings were all posted on the walls of the school and students were participating in curriculum based on that topic. In a fifth grade classroom I sat in on, they were discussing their unit about the Constitution and Bill of Rights and they were highlighting important points and making comprehensive explanations for younger grades. They also reflected on their “Day Without Rights” experience and spoke about how laws were important in order to cultivate a safe and free society. At Capital City, in order for students to move onto middle school and later, graduation, they must present a packet of lessons they have learned to

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