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CER Expresses Importance of Ed Reform With PA House Leaders

CER Press Release
Washington, D.C.
November 14, 2011

Pennsylvania is poised to be the next big battleground for serious, and potentially controversial, school reforms. Next to Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin, if the legislature adopts the Corbett education plan, the state will be the next big prominent player in national school reform and the leader on the East Coast.

President of The Center for Education Reform (CER) Jeanne Allen was on the ground visiting with Pennsylvania House Leadership and other House members on Monday, November 14, to express the importance of pending education reform proposals for Pennsylvania children.

“At the Center for Education Reform, we’re both watching and working in the field to ensure that sound policy advances are adopted for all children, in every state. In Pennsylvania, we’ve been actively engaged for years in developing charter schools,” said Allen. “Improvements to that original law, which have been tested over time, are now pending and we’re hopeful that the state will soon stand with others who permit universities and other independent entities to create charter schools.”

Public school reform is an important proposal to allow parents, who feel trapped in failing schools by virtue of their zip code, to access schools of their choice. While limited to children in the lowest 5% of performing school districts, SB 1 ensures that those children, who are currently forced to attend a failing school, do not have to stay there any longer. The state’s popular business tax credit program, which funds additional scholarships for middle- and low- income families, also grows.

The teacher evaluation proposal is what will hopefully be a first step in a long line of important teacher quality initiatives that follow recommendations of some of the leading education researchers in the nation.

It’s important that Pennsylvanians have context for the pending proposals:

Academic Performance: On the 2011

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The Grand Rapids Press: Lawmakers hope to lure successful charter school companies to Michigan

By Dave Murray
The Grand Rapids Press

September 30, 2011

LANSING – Companies managing charter schools would no longer pay property taxes as part of reforms aimed at luring successful out-of-state operators to Michigan.

The package is headed to the state Senate, with a vote expected in the next two weeks. It includes lifting a cap on university-approved charter schools and allowing all public schools to hire companies to provide teachers.

Supporters say the bills are intended to spark more competition for struggling schools, but critics charge competition alone won’t help them do better.

“They’ve taken a free-market approach to education and providing parents with more and more choices and seeing if anything sticks,” said Donald Wotruba, deputy director for the Michigan Association of School Boards.

“But when you have a struggling business, you either shut it down or use resources to fix it. They’re doing neither to the low-performing schools.”

The reforms passed the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday on a party line vote.

Committee Chairman Phil Pavlov said it’s fair to waive property taxes for charter schools because they can’t collect taxes for new buildings or improvements, as districts do, He said tax payments for charters mean taking money from the classroom.

“I look at this as a tax abatement,” said Pavlov, R-St. Chair Township. “Governments offer tax abatements to industries all the time, so why not for education?”

The savings to schools or their landlords would be considerable. Property taxes for National Heritage Academy’s Knapp Charter Academy in Grand Rapids Township were $90,800 in 2010. The company manages 44 schools in Michigan.

Pavlov also said allowing charter schools and traditional districts to contract with outsiders to provide teachers is intended to allow districts flexibility and cost saving, not break unions, as critics contend.

Districts pay an amount equal to 24 percent of each

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Washington Post: Passions on charter schools surface quickly at ed finance commission

By Bill Turque
Washington Post
September 30, 2011

There was certainly nothing energizing about the venue–a windowless, stifling basement room beneath the MLK Library. But this was where the 13 members of the new D.C. Public Education Finance Reform Commission met Tuesday evening to begin their complex and politically fraught mission: sorting out questions of equity and fairness around the $1 billion that taxpayers spend annually on schools.

“In some ways these issues are very concrete and objective. I also understand that discussion about the use of limited budget resources are impassioned discussions,” said commission chairman Ed Lazere, executive director of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute.

It didn’t take long for those passions to surface on Tuesday. During the public comment period Ramona Edelin, veteran civil rights activist and executive director of the D.C. Association of Chartered Public Schools, said there was a moral imperative to the funding issue.

“Many of us come out of a long history of separate and unequal,” and inequitably funded charters must not be part of that tradition, she said.

The charter community, which pushed hard for the D.C. Council’s creation of the commission last year, has long contended that their publicly-funded, independently operated schools–which serve about 40 percent of the city’s 75,000 public school students–are treated unfairly in the budget process.

By late November, the commission is required to submit an “Equity Report” that lays out where and how DCPS and the public charters get money and in-kind services–and recommendations for addressing inequities. The group’s findings are expected to inform decision-making on the FY13 budget.

By multiple measures, the District has among the most generous charter funding laws in the country. A 2010 survey by the pro-charter Center for Education Reform ranks D.C. as the nation’s most legally and fiscally hospitable environment for charters–ahead of all

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Pennsylvania Legislative Services: Charter Schools Urge Legislature to Pass Education Reform Bills

By Matt Hess
Pennsylvania Legislative Services
September 28, 2011

The Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools held a press conference this afternoon to urge lawmakers to vote for education reform bills that they said would provide additional accountability and transparency measures to charter schools.

Lawrence Jones, President of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, said the reform measures are “long overdue” and emphasized “we are here to talk about choice in education, to support high quality, but more specifically to support children.”

Jenny Bradmon, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Families for Public Cyber Schools, said the legislation would bring “extra layers of accountability for our schools” and urged lawmakers “to treat our charter school students the same as you treat any other students.”

Secretary of the Department of Education Ron Tomalis said the governor is in support of the reforms and spoke in favor of charter schools. “We are no longer in a time of experimentation. We are in a time that this is part of the foundation of choices, part of the foundation of public education,” he stated. “We need to act quickly to provide more opportunities for students across Pennsylvania. We are looking for a bill that will strengthen reauthorization. A single, statewide authorizer that can provide the oversight and quality assurance is an important part. We also need additional transparency and accountability.”

Sen. Jeff Piccola (R-Dauphin), Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, spoke in favor of the reform measures and called on the legislature to act.

“I’m tired of rallies, the time for rallies is over,” he stated. “It’s the time for action. It’s time for leadership. The time for rallies is gone. The time for action is here. We need choice in education and we need it as soon as possible.”

Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester), Minority Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, emphasized that financial

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Daily Headlines for September 28, 2011

Promoting Jobs Bill In Denver, Obama Highlights $60 Billion For Schools
Washington Post, DC, September 28, 2011
As he has barnstormed the country to promote the American Jobs Act, President Obama has made the case that spending money now will pay off later for the United States ’ global productivity and competitiveness. And one of the biggest investments he is proposing comes in education.

The President’s Plan For The Economy And Education
Denver Post, CO, September 28, 2011
Imagine Steve Jobs trying to design the next generation of tablet computers using mainframe hardware from the Eisenhower administration. Or American automakers trying to out-engineer foreign competitors on an assembly line with equipment from the 1960s.

Don’t Let Learning Fall Victim To Politics
Minneapolis Star Tribune, MN, September 27, 2011
During last week’s GOP presidential debate, several candidates drew applause by calling for the elimination of the federal Department of Education.

FROM THE STATES

CALIFORNIA

Horizon Opens New Charter Program in Roseville
Rossville Press Tribune, CA, September 28, 2011
In a seventh-grade science class, student Joel Reedy demonstrates how magicians use light refraction for optical illusions by dipping a test tube filled with oil into a beaker of oil.

State Should OK Smarter Ways To Judge Schools
Sacramento Bee, CA, September 28, 2011
Any family looking to move into a neighborhood with good schools knows the magic “800″ number.

FLORIDA

School District Could Add 2 Charter Schools
Tallahassee Democrat, FL, September 28, 2011
Leon County could be looking at the addition of two charter schools opening as early as next summer.

Seminole Nixes 3 Proposed Charter Schools
Orlando Sentinel, FL, September 27, 2011
Plans for three new charter schools in Seminole County were rejected Tuesday by the School Board, which agreed the proposed charters were poorly planned and not needed.

More Orange County Teachers Will Get Low Ratings Under

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Los Angeles Times: $12.6-million grant will open 13 new L.A. charter schools

September 28, 2011
Los Angeles Times

Two California-based charter school organizations have been awarded $12.6 million in federal grants to start 13 new campuses in Los Angeles, federal education officials announced Wednesday.

Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, which received $3.1 million, will open 10 new campuses in Los Angeles County, adding to 20 existing middle and high schools.

The organization, headed by Judy Burton, a former senior administrator for the Los Angeles Unified School District, focuses on smaller campuses, longer school days and years, rigorous instruction and high expectations.

“This is absolutely great news,” Burton said. “Given all the financial cuts in California now, it makes a huge difference to know we have startup funds for the new schools.”

KIPP, which stands for Knowledge Is Power Program, will open three new middle school campuses in South and East Los Angeles beginning with fifth-grade classes next year.

The charter organization received a total $9.4 million in grants and will also open 15 other schools in Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Chicago; Washington; Gaston, N.C.; Houston; Jacksonville, Fla.; Memphis, Tenn.; Newark, N.J.; New York; and San Antonio.

KIPP, which also emphasizes high expectations, more time in school and effective school leadership, operates 109 schools in 20 states and the District of Columbia, enrolling more than 32,000 students.

KIPP and Alliance have been highly praised for raising academic achievement among their students, who are overwhelmingly low-income Latinos and African Americans.

Burton said one of the biggest reasons for success has been more instructional time.

Alliance school days are an hour longer than those in traditional schools, and while the school year is 190 days at a time, many school districts have cut back to 175 days to reduce costs.

In addition, Alliance students attend a 20-day summer session.

“We believe that, particularly at the secondary level, the students can learn — they just need more time to learn,”

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The Notebook: Big test score gains at Renaissance charters

by Benjamin Herold

ASPIRA Mastery Charter Schools Education Week Promise Academies Universal Companies INN feed Young Scholars Charter Schools low-performing schools WHYY/NewsWorks Renaissance Schools

For the Notebook’s October print edition on school turnarounds, we took a comprehensive look at the city’s initial group of seven Renaissance charter schools. This article looks at test score gains at the schools. You can also read more about the extent to which the schools remained neighborhood schools.

Philadelphia’s new “Renaissance” turnaround operators are reporting big gains on the 2011 PSSA exams at the seven long-struggling public schools they converted to charters last year.

All the converted schools saw improvements in both reading and math scores. Six of the seven saw double-digit gains in math.
At Stetson Middle School, for example, 55 percent of students scored proficient or advanced in math last year, up 22 points from 2010. Stetson also saw an 8-point jump in the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced in reading, from 25 percent to 33 percent.

“We’re elated,” said Alfredo Calderon, the executive director of ASPIRA of Pennsylvania, which now manages the school.

In 2010, then-superintendent Arlene Ackerman launched her Renaissance Schools initiative, aimed at quickly turning around some of the city’s toughest elementary and middle schools. Seven schools were handed over to four outside managers for conversion to charters, and six more were slated for internal turnaround as District-run Promise Academies.

This year, six more schools, including three neighborhood high schools, have been converted to Renaissance charters. Three more schools were designated Promise Academies.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is expected to release official PSSA results for all schools in the state later this week. But ASPIRA and fellow Renaissance operators Mastery Charter Schools, Scholar Academies, and Universal Companies each provided preliminary PSSA results to the Notebook in advance of the official announcement.

There could be slight

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