- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 11, 2017


The Center for Education Reform just released its 2017 Parent Power! Index (PPI), which gauges parental options so they can flex their school-choice muscles.

The study ranks all 50 states and the District — and whether you’re for or against school choice, the state-by-state rankings give you considerable insight on how your state stacks up compared to the others.

What’s also important is that you can use the PPI info when listening to candidates seeking your vote in the 2018 elections. To be sure, you’ll need a counterpoint not only to your local and politicians’ pitches, but also the nation’s largest public school public sector employers — the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) — which surely will step into election frays.

The PPI graded the states on five criteria: school choice, charter schools, online learning, teacher quality and transparency.

To stem any anxiety, I will reveal who’s sitting on PPI’s 51st rung: Nebraska. The state of the cornhuskers has no public charter schools and a graduation rate of 96.6 percent. It spends $12,358 per pupil.

Without further delay, here’s how D.C., Maryland and Virginia ranked:

D.C.: Sixth overall. It gets an A grade and a 95 percent rating for its charter school program, but 0 percent for its online and blended learning program.

“Online learning has yet to fully take off, however blended learning is becoming an option for kids,” the PPI said. “Blended learning, which is a combination of online and face-to-face instruction, is becoming a popular option provided by charter schools.”

Virginia: 31st overall. The commonwealth is among “few states that offer little in the way of schooling choices, public or private,” the PPI said.

However, digital learning opportunities and a strong teacher quality program that helps to support excellent teachers are pluses.

Maryland: 42nd overall. The PPI study said: “It is next to impossible to find information about schools in a state that controls not only the information flow to parents, but also the options available to them. A weak charter law puts decisions in the hands of hostile school boards, and legislators put more stock in special interest communications than in parent needs.”

Also, regarding transparency, Maryland got a zero because “report cards are easily accessible but do not present information in an easily accessible manner.”

And the top five states are 1) Florida, 2) Indiana, 3) Arizona, 4) Nevada and 5) Georgia.

Teaching quality dragged down Arizona. The state earned a D+ in employing well-prepared teachers, expanding its teaching pool and getting rid of ineffective teachers. It earned a C- in retaining effective teachers.

One of the key takeaways from No. 1-ranked Florida is this, according to PPI: “Florida is home to the most online learners and Florida Virtual School (FLVS) is the nation’s largest public online course provider. Florida has made great strides in creating policies to support online and blended learning earning the second-highest ranking in online learning.”

Indiana has several takeaways that can be used as models for other states. For example, it has several school-choice programs, including one that allows home-school and private school parents to receive tax credits for education expenses and a voucher program that aids low- and middle-income families.

And, oh, by the way, the Indiana voucher program is one of the largest and fastest-growing in the nation.

Said Jeanne Allen, founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform: “To transform public education from being top-down and centralized to being truly responsive to parents and personalized for students, engaging parents is one of the most powerful levers at our disposal, and it’s clear from the best states how that can be done.”

Without question, the PPI is a valuable tool for parents and school reform advocates from coast to coast, as well as families redeploying to the states.

And here again, you’re going to need to have the facts in hand when politicians and union leaders try to feed you fake news.

Thank goodness the PPI did the homework for you.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

• Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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