That Was The Year That Was

The 2005-2006 school year is coming to an end. It’s time to look back on some of the events that affected education reform this year.

The single largest issue affecting American education nationally is the question of whether or not all students have the opportunity to a decent public education. Obviously they don’t, so working toward this goal continues to occupy just about everyone involved. We have some lively disagreements about how to achieve the goal of a fair and adequate education for all students.

No Child Left Behind legislation continues to be the biggest factor affecting the direction of American public schools. Continued attention needs to be paid to test scores, school environments, and how the results of testing and improvements are reported. Accountability, measurement, and fairness continue to be major concerns.

Charter schools continue to provide alternatives to failing systems for public school students. While charters falter in some areas, there are some models of well run charter systems that are making a huge impact on public education and the professional practice of teaching in their school districts. Charter schools are making a huge impact in Los Angeles, and their effect in New York City and New York State is so successful that the NYS legislature is considering expanding the number of charters granted to exceed the current 100. Newark’s new mayor-elect Cory Booker is supporting charter schools and vouchers to aggressively reform the most violent and troubled schools there. Charters continue to attract criticism from stakeholders in traditional public school systems, who see them as private schools funded by public money that drain the best and brightest from a public school system while using resources the public school should have. Proponents of charter schools cite the difference they make in students’ lives today, and show how they are working to change expectations of not only student achievement but how a school is run and effectively managed.

Vouchers took a big hit this year when the Opportunity vouchers in Florida were declared unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court. The decision has made an impact not only in Florida, but in other states as well. The big question is, will voucher systems survive, and if so, should they be available to all students or just those who have special needs or are in poor neighborhoods?

While home schooling continues to be derided loudly by many critics, it continues to be a quality alternative for some families. Graduates of home schooling (dare I call them homebodies? Home boys? Home girls? Homeys?) are achieving academic excellence, getting into good colleges, and one student was among the finalists in the Scripps National Spelling Bee this year.

It is really an exciting and interesting time in American education as we focus on what works, what doesn’t and how to give parents and students more control and more choices. Stay tuned!