Yesterday, Jeanne Allen announced that effective November 1, 2013 she is stepping down as president of the Center for Education Reform, the organization she founded in 1993. No successor has been named. Ms. Allen is making the move because she feels that a new generation of leaders is needed to take the movement she started to a higher level.
Her decision is not unexpected. In a press release recently released Ms. Allen, who is one of the most optimistic individuals I have ever met, appeared forlorn at the lack of advancement states are making in the development of high quality charter school laws.
“At 21 years old, the national charter school movement is only making satisfactory progress,” said CER president Jeanne Allen. “Satisfactory progress is not good enough for our students’ report cards and it shouldn’t be good enough for our state report cards. In the past two years, we’ve seen two new charter laws but both are average in their construction, unlikely to yield large numbers of successful charter schools, and only minimal state improvements. Many states failed to advance substantive reform in 2012, a fact we hope to see change this year.” Her organization found that “among the nation’s 43 charter school laws, there are only four As, nine Bs, 19 Cs and the remaining 11 states earned Ds and Fs.”
What I will remember most about Ms. Allen is my excitement waking up on a random Sunday morning and turning on C-Span to see her as a guest on Washington Journal. Ms. Allen would explain the issues facing public education in such clear and concise terms that you wanted to do anything you could to help. And when she proposed parental choice as the answer to what ailed American schools it was abundantly clear to everyone in the audience that this was the only way to go.
On a media call yesterday I asked Ms. Allen what it would take to speed up the rate of education reform. She answered without hesitation. Ms. Allen said that we have to take advantage of all the new ideas of the young people entering this movement. She added that we have to be on the constant lookout for new ways of doing things and identifying areas in which we can improve. Finally, Ms. Allen recommended that we be constantly self-critical and open to the notion that if someone is doing something better than we should be open to adopting that change.
Ms. Allen stated proudly that her organization had touched the lives of over 2 million people. But, she added, there are 300 million more that need assistance. Based upon the exceedingly difficult and exhaustively dedicated work of Ms. Allen public education policy in this country is solidly on the right track.