Updated: May 8, 2013

Education Debates: A Breakdown

Rapid changes in the global economy and within education are sparking fierce battles over the future of public schools in statehouses and cities across the country. In this interactive, explore the ideas that have sparked those battles and the key players who are influencing the debate. Read the related story.

Charters and Choice

As some groups lobby for expanding charter schools and enacting "parent-trigger" laws, others say the emphasis should be on improving existing public schools.

Taking the Public's Pulse on the Issue

of the public supports charter schools, down 4 percentage points from 2011. of the public supports vouchers, up 10 percentage points from 2011.

Common-Core Standards/Testing

As the common core moves into the classroom and common tests draw closer, people are debating whether local communities are losing too much control over their schools.

Taking the Public's Pulse on the Issue

of teachers are confident the common core will better prepare students for college and the workforce. of the public thinks the common core would improve the quality of education in their community. of teachers say standardized testing is an accurate reflection of student achievement.

School Turnarounds/Closings

Citing low performance and enrollment declines, districts are closing or dramatically remaking schools, but many parents and educators argue that what the schools really need is more resources.

Taking the Public's Pulse on the Issue

of public school parents support policies that allow parents to petition to remove the leadership and staff at failing schools.

Teacher Evaluations

A heated debate is ongoing about how much, if any, of a teacher's evaluation should be based on student test scores.

Taking the Public's Pulse on the Issue

of the public favors using student achievement for a part of a teacher's evaluation. of those who are supportive of that policy want those scores to be worth at least one-third of a teacher's evaluation. of teachers are "very satisfied" with their jobs, down 23 percentage points since 2008.

Technology

Schools are exploring digital education and adopting other technology, raising fears that teachers may be replaced and that companies might hold too much sway.

Taking the Public's Pulse on the Issue

of teachers would choose to spend $200 per student for an Internet-connected device over $200 per student for new science textbooks.

Key Players

Some influential people and organizations that represent a myriad of issues across the political spectrum are shaping the education policy debate across the country. Among them:

Key Players by Issues:

Active
Charters Standards Closing Evaluations Technology
AFT/NEA
ALEC
Jeb Bush
David Coleman
Linda Darling-Hammond
DFER
Arne Duncan
Jonah Edelman
Gates Foundation
PAA
Diane Ravitch
Michelle A. Rhee
Joshua Starr
Sandra Stotsky
Walton Foundation

Key Players List:

  • American Federation of Teachers/National Education Association

    Some local affiliates of these powerful national unions are especially active in fighting school closings and putting too much emphasis on test scores in teacher evaluations.

  • American Legislative Exchange Council

    This free-market, limited-government legislative policy group has worked to bring vouchers and parent-trigger laws to states, while working to make sure the common core doesn't lead to a federally mandated curriculum.

  • Jeb Bush

    Jeb BushChairman, Foundation for Excellence in Education: The former Florida governor, through his foundation and an affiliated group of state schools chiefs called Chiefs for Change, is lobbying for states to embrace vouchers and school choice, adopt A-F school grading systems, expand digital education, and tie teacher evaluations to test scores.

  • David Coleman

    David ColemanPresident, College Board: He is one of the chief architects of the English/language arts common standards, developed while he was at Student Achievement Partners.

  • Linda Darling-Hammond

    Linda Darling-HammondEducation Professor, Stanford University: A leading voice on teacher quality, she is opposed to tying test scores to evaluations and has been highly critical of alternative routes to certification, including the Teach For America program.

  • Democrats for Education Reform

    Especially active in New York state, the political action committee started to fight the clout of teachers' unions within the Democratic Party and works to expand charter schools and redesign teacher evaluations.

  • Arne Duncan

    Arne DuncanU.S. Secretary of Education: The former CEO of the Chicago public schools has pursued an aggressive agenda to cajole states into tying teacher evaluations to student test scores, adopting common standards and tests, expanding the charter school sector, and taking drastic action to turn around failing schools.

  • Jonah Edelman

    Co-Founder and CEO, Stand for Children: Sometimes a lightning rod for union criticism, his organization has used its state affiliates to push to tie teacher evaluations to test scores and to increase funding for schools.

  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

    The Seattle-based foundation has funneled tens of millions of dollars into education redesign efforts, with a particular focus on improving teacher quality.

  • Parents Across America

    The national group, co-founded by New York City parent activist Leonie Haimson, fights against parent-trigger laws, mass school closings, and high-stakes testing.

  • Pearson

    The giant publishing and testing company, which is criticized for its influence over education, will be key in developing materials for the common standards.

  • Diane Ravitch

    Diane RavitchResearch Professor of Education, New York University: A former assistant U.S. secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush, she promoted voluntary national standards then and is now a leading critic of the common standards and what she calls "corporate reform."

  • Michelle A. Rhee

    Michelle A. RheeFounder and CEO, StudentsFirst: The former chancellor of the District of Columbia schools uses her organization to push states to adopt charter schools and vouchers, parent-trigger laws, mayoral control of schools, and use of student-growth measures as half of teacher and principal evaluations.

  • Joshua Starr

    Superintendent of Schools, Montgomery County, Md.: He is skeptical of current prescriptions for improving education and has called for a three-year moratorium on testing while the common core is implemented.

  • Sandra Stotsky

    Professor Emerita of Education, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville: The co-author of Massachusetts' highly regarded standards, she is now a frequent and vocal critic of the common core in state capitols.

  • Walton Family Foundation

    A major education philanthropy, the Bentonville, Ark.-based foundation is a big investor in charter schools and other school choice initiatives such as parent-trigger laws.

Sources: Phi Delta Kappa-Gallup Poll (2012); the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher (2012); Scholastic, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Primary Sources study (2012); Leading Education by Advancing Digital Commission Poll (2012)

Reporting: Michele McNeil | Research: Kay Dorko and Holly Peele | Visualization & Design: Chienyi Cheri Hung, Laura Baker and Doris Nhan

Both the Gates and Walton foundations help underwrite reporting by Education Week. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of that coverage.

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