Written by Patricia Hawke for www.schoolsk-12.com

As nation’s capitol, and one of the countries most watched districts, the Washington D.C. Schools are at the forefront of controversy and change. Declining enrollment, voucher programs, and curriculum changes, have all been hot topics in Washington D.C. Schools over the past few years. One of the benefits of attending school in the capitol city is that it’s where decisions are made.
Two of the biggest players in determining what Washington D.C. Schools experience are the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the Center for Educational Policy (CEP). According to its mission statement AERA is “a national research society, [that] strives to advance knowledge about education, to encourage scholarly inquiry related to education, and to promote the use of research to improve education and serve the public good.” 
Located in D.C. the organization is comprised of over 25,000 educational researchers, professors and educational think tanks. The research performed by AERA and the reports they publish impact the Washington D.C. schools on many different levels. One way is through their association with the CEP.
The CEP is also a D.C. based advocate for public schools. Recently Jack Jennings, president and CEO of the Center, received the 2007 AERA Distinguished Public Service award. Jennings earned the honor because of the research and application of school reform issues and policies the center provides. Teachers and administrators of Washington D.C. Schools appreciate the CEP for helping both parents and professional educators make sense of the various opinions of public school success and needs.
Many of the topics that the Washington D.C. Schools struggle with, like exit exams and racial gaps, are unraveled and examined by Jennings’ organization. Washington D.C. Schools have to face the realities of the No Child Left Behind Act and its implications. The CEP has tackled that issue, which is impacting every public school in the nation.
School reform issues tend to be largely influenced by politics at both a local and national level. For Washington D.C. Schools, they are caught in the crossfire of both. As local leaders strive to meet needs with initiatives like the Master Education Plan that overhauled curriculum standards, and the Master Facilities Plan that is bringing buildings up to code, having a local think tank evaluating their steps can be helpful. Washington D.C. Schools are watched closely by some of the most knowledgeable and experienced educators in the nation.
Jennings experience prior to founding the CEP included serving as general counsel for the US House of Representatives’ committee on Education and Labor where he participated in debates about the Vocational Education Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Act. He is also the founding editor of Education Week and Teacher Magazine.