Remembering the Year in Education

January 09, 1991 9 min read
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The National Collegiate Athletic Association ends a yearlong controversy by voting to allow incoming student-athletes to receive financial aid based on family income, even if they do not meet academic requirements for an athletic schoarship.

Two reports from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show that students have shown little improvement in reading and writing since the early 1970’s.

A report by the Economic Policy Institute argues that the United States spends proportionately less on precollegiate education than 13 other major industrialized nations.

Ending the most expensive criminal trial in U.S. history, a jury in Los Angeles acquits two teachers from the McMartin Preschool of 52 charges of child molestation.

A federal district judge rules that a New York State law requiring the disclosure of standardized-test information directly conflicts with federal copyright law.

President Bush unveils a proposed 1991 budget that includes $24.9 billion for the Education Department, a $500-million increase, the biggest boost for education sought since 1980.


Results from the first national assessment of geography reveal critical shortcomings in high-school seniors’ knowledge of the subject.

Public schools in Selma, Ala., are closed during violent confrontations that erupt during protests over the firing of the district’s first black superintendent, Norward Roussell, and concerns over academic tracking in the district.

Secretary of the Interior Manuel Lujan Jr. lays out a broad framework for improving Indian education.

The Los Angeles school board votes to extend a year-round schedule to all the district’s approximately 600 schools by July 1991 to help relieve drastic overcrowding.

The nation’s governors formally adopt six national education goals hammered out in negotiations with the Bush Administration.

To protest a proposed expansion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the testing director of the Pittsburgh school system pulls that district out of participation in NAEP’s first state-level assessment.


Following a year of heated controversy, Whittle Communication’s “Channel One” in-school news show for teenagers premieres in some 400 schools nationwide.

West Virginia teachers launch the state’s first statewide teachers’ strike, which lasts 12 days, when an agreement with Gov. Gaston Caperton over proposed salary increases unravels.

The Wisconsin legislature approves a bill giving 1,000 low-income students in Milwaukee the opportunity to attend nonsectarian private schools at public expense.

The Kentucky legislature passes a landmark $1.2-billion education-improvement package that is one of the most comprehensive ever undertaken by a state.

In what is thought to be the first decision of its kind, a federal district judge rules that federal Chapter 2 aid to religious schools in Louisiana is unconstitutional.


American students show very little understanding of concepts of U.S. history and civics, two NAEP reports say.

The U.S. Supreme Court rules that a federal district judge overseeing the desegregation plan for the Kansas City, Mo., schools could order the district to increase property taxes to pay its share of the cost.

The Oklahoma legislature passes an education-reform measure that includes $230 million in new taxes, and Gov. Henry Bellmon signs the bill into law.

Just before its May 1 deadline, the Texas legislature passes a $555-million school-finance bill, but Gov. William P. Clements Jr. vetoes it.

Gov. Buddy Roemer of Louisiana proposes that the state implement the ''Writing to Read” computer-software program in all elementary schools in the state by fall.

In releasing the annual state education-performance chart, Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos says that student achievement has “reached a plateau” after four straight years of little or no improvement.


The Texas House rejects an attempt to overturn Gov. William P. Clements Jr.'s veto of a school-finance bill, sending the legislators into another special session.

The NAEP governing board unanimously adopts a plan to set the first national standards for student achievement.

On the eve of Head Start’s 25th anniversary, a panel of experts calls for substantial investments in staff salaries, training, and support services for the program.

In a departure for the organization, the National Education Association gives qualified backing to alternative-certification programs for teachers.

The U.S. Supreme Court rules unanimously that teachers in schools run by the Defense Department have the right to bargain collectively on salary issues.


Ruling in the Mergens case, the U.S. Supreme Court declares that public schools that accept federal aid must treat student religious groups on the same basis as other extracurricular clubs.

Gov. William P. Clements of Texas ends a lengthy deadlock by signing into law a landmark school-finance bill.

The New Jersey Supreme Court orders the state to bring spending in its poorest city school systems up to the level of its wealthiest districts.

Two new NAEP reports indicate that students spend little time reading or writing in schools.

The National Commission on the Skills of the American Work Force advocates a plan under which every teenager would be required to earn a national certificate to qualify for employment or further education and training.


President Bush vetoes a family-leave bill that would have provided businesses and schools with flexibility to administer unpaid leave.

Remarks by Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, raise anew the possibility of the union’s eventual merger with the National Education Association.

One-fifth of all 8th graders--and two-fifths of blacks and Hispanics at that grade level--are at high risk of school failure, the Education Department reports.

An ad hoc committee of nationally prominent historians and other scholars publishes a public attack on New York State’s efforts to devise a multicultural curriculum.

The New Jersey legislature approves a school-finance plan proposed by Gov. James J. Florio that shifts $1 billion in new state funds to less affluent districts.

A panel studying ways to improve the schooling of Native Americans says it will recommend the Congress draft an “educational bill of rights” for Indian students.

The Education Department issues its first-ever K-12 lesson plan--a model drug-education curriculum.


The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait leaves faculty members and students of American schools in the Middle East shaken and uncertain of how to maintain a normal schedule. Educators across the nationwide find themselves faced with rapidly rising oil and gas prices as a result of the crisis.

In an apparent first-ever event, the leaders of 20 subject-matter groups meet behind closed doors to begin the process of planning what to teach in the nation’s schools.

The annual Gallup poll on education shows that most Americans support the the national goals drafted by the President and the nation’s governors, but doubt they can be achieved by the century’s end.

Ruling in a suit filed by a group of civil-rights and education groups, a Wisconsin judge refuses to bar the state’s controversial new school-choice program for Milwaukee.


Milwaukee’s new private-school choice program for disadvantaged children opens with 371 students participating.

The New Jersey State Board of Education approves new regulations that will allow candidates without prior experience to become certified as school superintendents.

Virginia announces a major reorganization of its state education department, shifting the agency’s role from regulation to research and service.

A new study says that the federal Chapter 1 compensatory-education and Title 4 student-financial-assistance programs have failed to narrow the educational gaps between the nation’s wealthiest and poorest students.

A Texas judge strikes down a school finance-reform measure passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, saying it falls far short of the state high court’s mandate to reduce spending disparities among districts.

President Bush orders the formation of an advisory panel on Hispanic education.


The Milwaukee school board votes to create the first two schools in the nation to cater exclusively to the academic and social needs of black male children.

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in Board of Education of Oklahoma City v. Dowell, a case that could resolve some of the last remaining key issues in school-desegregation law.

The Choctaw Indians in Philadelphia, Miss., open the first school for Native Americans to be planned, designed, and built by a tribe rather than the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Georgia and North Carolina become the first two states in which state-level textbook committees reject the Impressions elementary-reading series under attack from conservatives who find the books morbid and filled with the occult.

The Congress approves a new law limiting commercial advertising during children’s television programming to 10.5 minutes per hour on weekends and 12 minutes per hour on weekdays.

More than 70 world leaders sign the United Nations’ sponsored declaration on children, including a statement on their right to improved access to primary and secondary education.

Conservative Republicans in the U.S. Senate succeed in killing the omnibus education bill, which included, among a range of proposals, funding for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

The Congress approves a $22-billion, five-year package of child-care grants and tax credits that had been bogged down for months in conference committees.


The College Board approves the most substantive changes to the Scholastic Aptitude Test in decades, including greater emphasis on critical reading skills, fewer multiple-choice math questions, and permitting the use of calculators.

President Bush signs a bill reauthorizing the federal Head Start program through 1994 and gradually increasing the funding authorization to $7.6 billion.

Education plays only a small role in the midterm elections, but three state superintendents lose their bids for re-election.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards awards its first contract to develop an assessment of accomplished teaching practice for the board.

A Wisconsin appeals court rejects the Milwaukee public-school system’s ground-breaking private-school choice initiative.

A federal appeals court says that teachers have no constitutional right to ignore school directives in order to present creationism in the classroom.

The U.S. Catholic bishops strongly affirm the role of Catholic schools and call for greater financial support for them.

The Texas school board becomes the nation’s first to adopt a videodisk to use in its elementary-school programs, a decision that is expected to have wide-ranging effects on the educational publishing market.

A Harris poll shows that most high-school students have witnessed or heard about racial incidents with violent overtones.


The Illinois Supreme Court rules that Chicago’s landmark school-reform law is unconstitutional.

Reportedly under pressure from the White House, Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos resigns. Within days, President Bush announces his nomination of former Gov. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee for the post.

Michael L. Williams, head of the Education Department’s office for civil rights, announces that most colleges will be barred from awarding scholarships based solely on race. Days later, Mr. Williams amends the regulations to allow for a four-year transition period.

Frustrated by the school committee’s failure to select a new school superintendent, the Boston City Council approves a petition to abolish the committee and replace it with a superintendent appointed by the mayor.


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