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Morning Shots

On the 7th Day of Christmas CER Gave to Me…

Opportunity Scholars Expanding!

(6th) Parent Power Growing
(5th) State Policy Changing
(4th) Reformie Ladies Lunching

(3rd) A Global Hub for Technology
(2nd) Model Legislation
And a Nominee for Opportunity!

 

The 7th in our 12-ish days of Christmas series, intended to bring gifts to education reformers everywhere!

by Princess V. Lyles on behalf of Opportunity DC, a project of CER and Democracy Builders

The DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) launched in 2004. This vital choice program provides low-income families with federally funded scholarships to attend independent schools throughout the District of Columbia. Since its inception, over 6,500 families have seen their opportunities expand.

Our holiday wish is to see the program expanded as soon as possible!

Throughout 2016 our team of grassroots organizers worked side by side with families who receive this scholarship. We listened to their stories, heard from their children, and supported their efforts as they plead with Members of Congress to sustain and grow this vital program. We stand behind these amazing families because we know that the OSP works! Graduation rates for OSP recipients surpass ninety percent, compared to 69% in DCPS.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to education. As Americans we have choice in almost every aspect of our daily lives…and yet for many low-income families, their zip code alone is the determining factor in the quality or their school. The OSP provides an additional option for DC families who aren’t selected in the lottery for their choice of traditional or public charter schools. The program is a rising tide in DC that has lifted all boats, as all three sectors have seen tremendous academic gains in

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The Miseducation of CNN (And Bernie Sanders)

A question posed to Bernie Sanders at last night’s Ohio democratic debate was a missed opportunity to powerfully educate the public about charter schools.  Typically, information is power, but when the information is bad, all we have is mush.  Following is Sanders’ exchange with the questioner and Roland Martin, a well-informed media commentator with a passion for education: (with some of my own commentary sprinkled in)

MARTIN:  Since I have a brother and two sisters who are teachers, and one who is a teacher’s aide, let’s go to a teacher.  We have Caitlyn Dunn, she helps lead a charter school here in Columbus, Ohio.  She did Teach for America and saw the inequities in our school system, and she says she is undecided.  So, you got a shot.  Go for it.

DUNN:  Thank you so much for taking my question.  An article was released in the Columbus Dispatch Friday announcing the schools producing top student gains from around the state of Ohio.  Of these, one-third of those schools producing these results were charters right here in Columbus, Ohio.  So, knowing this, and also having similar narratives from across the country, do you think that charter schools are a viable way to educate children in low-income communities, or do you think that you would continue, as President, giving money to traditional public schools?

During this time, apparently CNN’s Teleprompter was miscued by an ill-informed editor, because rather than abbreviate the question correctly, CNN produced this bastardized version, suggesting that charters were not public schools.

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Adding insult to injury, Mr. Sanders seemed to create a new class of charter schools, one that does

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Senator Scott Presses Acting Education Secretary King on DC Vouchers

Today at the Senate HELP Committee hearing on the nomination of Dr. John B. King Jr. for US Education Secretary, Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), an ardent supporter of school choice, asked King about expanding DC’s Opportunity Scholarship Program (DC OSP), as DC students and families watched.

Here’s the exchange between King and Scott:

SCOTT:  One area that we may have to agree to disagree on is the DC OSP. I know there are parents and students in the audience who have a very passionate position, as I do, on the importance of the DC OSP.

Especially when you look at your commitment to equity and excellence, and the fact that we have a classic example here in Washington DC of a process and a program that has produced numbers and success in a way that’s inconsistent with other schools.

I believe the graduation rate of DC OSP students is around 90%. Other schools in DC are around 62%, some going as low as 38%. The cost per pupil for the DC OSP is somewhere around $9,000-12,000, and for other DC schools it’s over $18,000. So you get about a 50% better graduation rate, and 88% of those students go on to a two-year or four-year college experience.

It seems to me that the administration, and you as Secretary, should take a second look at that program, and look for ways to integrate it and to use to carry over money of $35 million dollars to fund more scholarships. And quite frankly this is not just my perspective but a bipartisan perspective. You look at the support of Senators like Ron Johnson (R-WI) as well as Senators Feinstein (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) who all have the same opinion of the DC OSP.

What can we do to move the

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National Lawmakers Championing Choice

Today, we celebrate national lawmakers like Rep. Luke Messer and Sen. Tim Scott who understand the importance of creating education opportunities for children, especially those who need it most.

They are champions of DC’s Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP), which has proven powerful in improving education for low-income children in the nation’s capital for over a decade. The average annual income for families who receive opportunity scholarships is less than $22,000, and approximately 98 percent of DCOSP students live in zoned neighborhood schools designated as in need of improvement. More than 90 percent of DCOSP participants graduate from their schools of choice – a much higher rate than DC’s traditional public schools (by at least 30 percent!) – and 88 percent go on to enroll in two or four year higher education institutions.

DC opportunity scholarship Save opportunity

More than 16,000 families have applied to the program since its inception. Data reveals that parents are both highly satisfied with their school of choice as well as the progress their children are making.

However, despite efforts to reauthorize the program in October 2015, the DCOSP was left out of the FY 2016 Omnibus Bill, creating uncertainty for these students most in need of educational attainment and options.

Take action here to ask Congress to make sure the DCOSP continues to be a vital lifeline for students.

This is one of a series of posts highlighting numerous diverse opportunities from towns to nations for National School Choice Week 2016.

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State of the States: How Do Our Governors Stack Up on Education?

Governors all over the country are in the midst of delivering their State of the State addresses, laying out their reflections on the last year and where they plan to go this year. What better time than during National School Choice Week for reformers to compare and challenge – what’s your chief executive’s record compared to when he or she ran for office and what have they done?

CER’s Educationfifty.com offers analysis on where governors stand on three core edreform tenets: 1) strong charter school laws, 2) meaningful school choice, and 3) strong teacher quality efforts, providing information to help you gauge whether they are acting on their original commitments, today.

From Boston, Mass. where there is a major cap lift going on and a governor that’s been true to his promises, to Tennessee where progress toward full vouchers for the most needy is finally on a positive path and holds hope for that governor’s initial promises, it’s important to not just know but highlight how state chief executives are doing in ensuring innovation thrives in our schools.

With states our laboratories for change, it’s a critical time just one month into the new year to take stock.

Here’s a list of State of the State addresses that have already occurred, and whether or not education reform was addressed (Click on a state’s name to be taken to full Education50 analysis):

Alaska
Gov. Walker’s State of the State address touched on the need to ensure high-quality educators for Alaska’s children.

Arizona
Gov. Ducey, in his State of the State address, discussed philanthropic foundations that are investing into the state education system and his intent to partner with them to expand opportunities for low-income children (and to further arts and sciences programs).

California
Gov. Brown’s State of

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Feelin’ 22

I dunno about you, but we’re feelin’ 22!

Yesterday CER officially turned 22, marking over two decades of advocating for choice, accountability, and Parent Power. While we’re proud of what the #edreform movement has accomplished, it’s time to ramp up the pace at which students have access to choices. Across America, only about five percent of all school-aged children are taking advantage of great educational opportunities.

YOU can help edreform grow more opportunities for children in its 22nd year and beyond in a variety of ways like donating or selecting CER as your charitable organization of choice when you shop on Amazon through AmazonSmile. Thank you for your support over the years, and together, we will continue to change the conditions of education today and push for policies that increase #ParentPower.

Hear what our friends and partners in education reform have to say about CER’s work here!

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FROM THE DESK OF… Jeanne Allen, Senior Fellow: Recommendations on the GOP Presidential Debate

In the hands of some very seasoned campaign advisors, most presidential candidates take a safe approach to debates. With a relatively short time to get your talking points out, numerous issues to cover and lots of competitors working hard to hog the stage, they are advised to stay focused. But the measure of a candidate is what they do – and say – when programming is impossible. Who these people are and how they’d do as our president is best measured by dealing with issues that every one of us can relate to, the most communal of issues. That’s why I’m hoping that the candidates find opportunities across every issue to demonstrate their understanding that education is the great equalizer, and its connection to the economy and our international competitiveness, our peace, our safety at home and abroad is all connected to how well we educate our youth and our adults. Education is a big field, of course, so I’ll be looking for the guy or gal who is able to talk about education in the context of the most important current events we face today in improving and revolutionizing our schools. In my book, the candidate who touches well on the following three most important themes will win my vote.

Number One: Celebrate charter schools

Charter schools provide choice and diversity to parents and teachers, and challenge the status quo to do better. They are held accountable by performance contracts and in states where charters are largely independent from state and local bureaucracies they thrive. Charter schools are the reason we talk about standards today, have performance pay and teacher quality on the table and have closed some achievement gaps. Charters have helped breathe new life into cities like Washington, D.C. and New Orleans (just two out of

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Answering the call…

The nation will never forget watching the levees break, the fear and pain on the faces of the people trapped, the destruction, countless lives lost too soon. Ten years ago to the date, a storm, an act of God, broke down almost every system and structure that was supposed to keep the great people of New Orleans safe.

There is no question that those systems and structures were severely flawed and broken before the storm. But one in particular – the traditional public schools – literally had tens of thousands of students falling through the cracks. Before the storm, every effort to bring substantive reform to education was fought and defeated by special interests. At the time, CER was intricately involved with the dozen or so folks locally trying to bring about substantive change.

When news of Hurricane Katrina hit, we were all glued to our televisions in horror, outraged that Americans were suffering because of it. There’s a lot of speculation as to the reasons why – flawed government, brutally failed efforts to evacuate – the list goes on.

On August 29, 2005 I made a phone call. What about the hundreds of families of the dozen or so charter schools we personally knew and worked with – were they safe? Dr. James (Jim) Geiser, the former director of Louisiana Charter School Association, now Senior Program Consultant at University of Georgia, answered the call!

Jim and several charter leaders and families made it to Baton Rouge. If my memory serves me right, a charter operator in Louisiana’s state capital gave them refuge.

I’ll never forget Jim’s words, “It’s all gone… You can’t even imagine the destruction. We’re desperately trying to find students and their families to make sure they are safe.”

I could hear the pain in his voice while he was multitasking to

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Why D.C. Parents NEED School Vouchers

In 4th Grade, Shirley-Ann Tomdio’s life changed forever when she was accepted into the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP), which allowed her to transfer from a failing D.C. public school to Sacred Heart, a private Catholic school. Shirley, the daughter of two Cameroon, African immigrants, used the voucher for nine years.

Shirley testified to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on May 14, 2015 at Archbishop Carroll High School in Northeast D.C. to discuss the possibility of reauthorizing the DCOSP.

“In 2009, I graduated Sacred Heart School as the valedictorian and took my Opportunity Scholarship across town to Georgetown Visitation (Prep School)!” Shirley told federal lawmakers on Thursday. “At Visitation, I made Second Honors my first two years and First Honors in my third and fourth year. I was a decorated member of the track and field team, co-editor of our school’s Art and Literary magazine, a cheerleader for our school’s pep rally, and the Secretary and Treasurer of the Black Women’s Society. In May 2013, I walked across the stage and accepted my diploma.”

The voucher program for low-income children was enacted a year after congress passed the D.C. School Choice Incentive Act of 2003. The program has been extraordinarily successful for the District’s most disadvantaged children. Consider:

The scholarship program has been under assault since President Obama took office. The program ceased to exist in the first year he took office, but came back in 2011 through passage of the bipartisan SOAR Act. Every single year since then, his Administration has proposed to

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Spotting the Real Reformers

Wherever there are elections, there will most assuredly be candidates paying lip service to their own interpretations of “education reform.” Naturally, many politicians favor the abstract concepts of “building better schools,” “accountability,” and an old favorite, “doing what’s best for our kids.”

However, do these lofty statements on education make these candidates, reformers? What does it actually take for a candidate to be taken seriously by voters as someone who can effect meaningful change when it comes to the educational systems of their future constituents?

Luckily, there are a few surefire ways for spotting the real reformers, as opposed to those whose words have never and probably won’t translate into action.

To name a few, a reformer candidate properly defines educational terms when using them, advocates for independent, multiple charter school authorizers and displays a healthy skepticism about the usefulness of teachers’ unions.

When speaking of school choice, the reformer reinforces the need for Parent Power, and quality educational options rather than ambiguous concerns over the effectiveness of choice and parent empowerment.

If all of this and more come through, then you just might have a real reformer on your hands!

Conversely, if a candidate uses evasive language that doesn’t apply reforms to how they might work for their constituents, then it’s likely nothing would get done under that administration. That veneer of support comes crashing down when the candidate lists a set of reforms such as introducing choice and charter schools, but insists their communities are doing just fine without them.

The other telltale sign of a wolf in sheep’s clothing is using educational terms without actually defining them. Of course no one is “for” an achievement gap, but does the candidate you’re considering define that gap in real terms and prescribe how to close it? This candidate will also make excuses for failing

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