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Alabama public education is ranked low again

by Phillip Tutor
Anniston Star
April 17, 2013

Say this much about the Center for Education Reform: It’s not a fan of the quality of public education in Alabama.

The only proof you need is this passage from a recent CER report: “The only other thing this state has going for it is that its teacher quality index isn’t a complete failure. Parents also have access to a decent school report card to better understand their schools, but school board elections are held in October, a busy time for parents to get engaged.”


A recent CER effort ranked all 50 states in what it calls the “Parent Power Index.” Alabama ranked 46th — poorly, in other words, which is so customary in national reviews of states’ public education systems. At the heart of the poor ranking was the state’s lack of charter schools, which, as most Alabamians know, has been a hot legislative topic in Montgomery for some time.

From here, it’s interesting to view the two sides of the broader issue: In Alabama, proponents of our public education — such as the Alabama Education Association, local and state school boards, the governor’s office and the state Legislature — constantly talk of how proud they are of our schools and how convinced they are of their quality.

Yet, out-of-state agencies who study such things consistently point to real and obvious deficiencies. Rarely do the two sides agree.

The Top 10 states for educational options; Arizona 6th

by Angela Gonzales
Arizona Business Journal
April 15, 2013

Arizona ranked sixth on The Center for Education Reform’s Parent Power Index, which means parents have access to quality education options and are provided with good information to make smart decisions about their children’s education.

The states were ranked on prevalence of charter schools, school choice, teacher quality, transparency and access to data, online learning, pro-reform governors and parent trigger laws, where parents have an opportunity to turn around failing schools.

The rankings pointed to Arizona’s scholarship program for students with disabilities and a tax credit that has helped more than 30,000 students opt into new schools. In addition, Arizona’s charter school law has provided more than 200,000 children with choices about their schooling.

Click here to see the top 10 states in The Center for Education Reform’s Parent Power Index.

Here are more specifics on Arizona from the index:

72%: Arizona’s graduation rate
1539: Average SAT test score
19.7: Average ACT score
33%: 4th grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math score
31%: 8th grade NAEP math score
26%: 4th grade NAEP reading score
$8,006: Per pupil funding
1,077,831: Public school enrollment

Pa. gets good grades in education reform ranking

by Damon C. Williams
Philadelphia Tribune
January 26, 2013

The Center for Education Reform, a national non-profit tasked with improving public education, has released an encompassing report that grades parental empowerment, solid educational choices, teacher quality and access to digital learning, among other factors. That Pennsylvania ranks in the top ten of all states can be viewed as proof educational reforms in the commonwealth are beginning to take hold.

According to the annual findings released in the Parent Power Index, Pennsylvania trails Indiana, which ranks first; Florida; Ohio; Arizona; Washington, D.C.; Louisiana and Minnesota. Wisconsin and Utah round out the top ten.

The PPI is an interactive, accessible online tool that collects and itemizes data critical to judging the gains and deficiencies in a parent’s control of their child’s education. The index is designed to provide in-depth information to not only parents, but to stakeholders, politicians and education policymakers as well.

“All across America, parents are demanding more power over their children’s education, but the task of sorting through all the information out there is daunting,” said Center for Education Reform President Jeanne Allen. “There are a variety of resources available to evaluate how students are achieving, but there is widespread disagreement about what constitutes sound education reform policy.

As the mother of college students, I liken the PPI to a cumulative GPA, which is a composite of grades from varying professors,” Allen continued. “In this case, these professors are among the nation’s leading authorities and critical evaluators of education policy.”

Each state is graded on five broad categories: school choice, charter schools, online learning, teacher quality and transparency, and the findings related to Pennsylvania are interesting.

For example, the state received points for having a pro-education reform governor in Tom Corbett, but suffered due to limitations in the so-called parent-trigger law, which allows parents

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Job security at heart of 2 stumbling blocks

by Bill Ruthhart and Diane Rado, Chicago Tribune reporters
Chicago Tribune
September 11, 2012

Two issues being cited as primary stumbling blocks to a Chicago teachers contract are a recall policy for teachers and a teacher evaluation system. Both affect job security for teachers and are part of larger efforts to overhaul schools in the city and nationally.


The Chicago Teachers Union is pushing hard for a procedure to recall teachers who have been laid off because of school closings, consolidations and turnarounds. The issue is of critical importance, the union has said, because of rumors that the district plans to close as many as 100 schools in coming years.

Earlier this year, CPS and the union struck a deal over the longer school day that temporarily allowed for such a recall. In exchange for the union agreeing to an extra 30 minutes in high schools and 75 minutes in elementary schools, CPS agreed to rehire nearly 500 teachers in noncore subjects from a pool of teachers who had been laid off.

The district, however, has resisted making such a recall policy the permanent method for filling vacancies in Chicago schools.

“Teachers in this city agreed to a longer day … and what our union got in return for that was a promise there would be a recall procedure for those teachers who are going to be hired,” said Jesse Sharkey, vice president of CTU. “Now we see that offer is being taken away from the table, and there is no sign of respect there. That’s important for our members.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has framed the issue as one of accountability, saying he doesn’t want to place the district’s hiring control in the hands of the union through such a recall process.

“I don’t believe I should pick ’em. I don’t believe CPS should

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Teacher Trifecta

CER’s recent monograph, Mandate for Change, pinpoints teacher quality as one in a five-part prescription for what ails public education in America today. Richard Whitmire’s essay lays out a compelling argument for addressing the way teachers are evaluated, cautioning “Effective teachers make a difference and the current system does next to nothing to reward effective teaching.”

Here are three examples of teaching/teachers at work for students:

sweating_the_small_stuff_cover1) The new paternalism

David Whitman spoke last Thursday at a CER event about his book Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism. Whitman dedicated a section of both his talk and the book to a discussion focused on the aspects of a paternalistic teaching/learning environment. Here are but three examples:

  • Provide teachers with more on-site training and new opportunities to review student progress and discipline problems, and to observe other teachers’ classrooms.
  • Principals, with assistance from teachers, need to create a sense of mission and concern for student character. They should enlist all staff in attaining their goals, including the secretaries and janitors.

Finally, hire principals and teachers who like — and celebrate — their students. (more…)


The wisdom of youth (the voice of experience)

spelingtestGuadalupe Sandoval, a junior at Serra High School in San Diego, CA has had a lot of time to think about teachers and the impact they have on her and other students. Her parents have chosen to send her to a school outside of her neighborhood based on teacher quality (or lack there of). Her hour and a half bus commute each day has inspired a wonderful essay on teacher pay and performance:

Since I am in 11th grade, I have had a lot of good teachers and bad teachers. In my school, students talk about teachers and who is a good teacher and who is not a good teacher. Believe me, teaching for a long time does not mean that a teacher is good. It just means the teacher has been a teacher for a long time. The same names come up for bad teachers and good teachers every year no matter which students are talking about them.

When the school district had to lay off teachers it didn’t matter if a teacher was not a good teacher. It only mattered if the teacher had been a teacher for a long time. That teacher was not going to lose his or her job. Thinking about that made me decide that merit pay is a good idea. In other jobs, more pay and promotions go to the workers that do the best job. If a worker does not do a good job then it’s, “You’re fired.” I have never seen a teacher fired. Students are just stuck with a terrible teacher.

Guadalupe was chosen as a finalist in a high school essay contest being held by The Voice of San Diego.


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