Remembering 1992: The Year in Education

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  • A new Boston School Committee, the first in the city's history to be appointed by the Mayor rather than elected, takes office. By year's end, many observers see it as equally mired in controversy and politics as its predecessor.
  • The Senate decisively rejects a $30 million Bush Administration proposal to allow low-income parents to use federal funds to send their children to private schools. In his budget proposal to Congress a week later, President Bush includes a $500 million education-voucher plan that also would include private schools.
  • Less than one-quarter of the public gives Mr. Bush an A or a B in his efforts to be the "education President,'' a survey done for the National Education Association finds.
  • A Congressionally mandated panel calls for the adoption of high national standards for student achievement and a related system of national student assessments. Just weeks later, another Congressional body, the Office of Technology Assessment, urges caution in moving toward national assessments.
  • The Texas Supreme Court overturns the state school-finance system for the third time in 28 months, forcing lawmakers once again to devise a new plan.
  • The Texas state school board fines publishers nearly $650,000 after finding more than 3,700 errors--many of them factual--in textbooks purchased by the state. In July, the state assesses another $860,000 in penalties.


  • A 20-nation study by the Educational Testing Service finds students in the United States lagging far behind most of their peers abroad in mathematics and science achievement.
  • A report by the American Association of University Women concludes that girls face pervasive barriers to achievement in their precollegiate schooling and are "systematically discouraged'' from pursuing studies that could lead to well-paying careers.
  • In a decision that could leave schools subject to substantial costs, the U.S. Supreme Court rules unanimously that victims of sexual harassment or other sex discrimination in schools can seek monetary damages under federal civil-rights law.
  • The Fairfax County, Va., school board votes to suspend its nationally watched merit-pay program for teachers as part of a budget-cutting move.
  • The Virginia legislature finally passes a bill allowing for elected school boards in local jurisdictions, ending Virginia's status as the only state in which all school boards must be appointed.


  • Nearly 700 teams from across the nation meet the deadline for submitting ideas for how best to teach children and run schools to the New American Schools Development Corporation. Eleven competitors eventually win NASDC grants to pursue their visions of radically different and more productive schools.
  • A new survey by the liberal lobbying group People for the American Way shows deep divisions among young Americans on race relations.
  • The Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds a controversial Milwaukee program that allows some children from low-income families to attend nonsectarian private schools at state expense.
  • A report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress finds that few students are able to perform at high levels of proficiency in science.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court, ruling in a DeKalb County, Ga., case, makes it easier under certain circumstances for school districts to be freed of federal-court supervision of their desegregation programs.


  • Local school boards should focus more on education policy, and less on district "micromanagement,'' a Twentieth Century Fund-Danforth Foundation task force says.
  • Unless schools, health providers, parents, and others work together, many adolescents will lead troubled, unhealthy lives as adults, a report by the Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development warns.
  • A study finds that as many as half of disabled students nationwide are excluded from prominent surveys and assessments of the nation's educational well-being.
  • In an address one year after unveiling his America 2000 plan, President Bush touts education and job training as major elements on his agenda.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court orders an appeals court to reconsider its decision that the Topeka, Kan., school system has not yet met its duty to desegregate more than 30 years after its central role in the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision.


  • School-age youths and other young people in Los Angeles are among the first to riot in the wake of the verdict in the Rodney G. King beating case. President Bush and Vice President Quayle blame the riots, in part, on a loss of "family values'' in the nation--a theme that will be intensified during the Republican national convention.
  • A 20-year-old gunman kills four and wounds nine others in an attack on Lindhurst High School in Olivehurst, Calif.
  • The National Assessment Governing Board approves a "rigorous'' framework for the first national student-achievement testing program in geography.
  • Provoking a Presidential-veto threat from Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander, a House committee passes legislation authorizing the development of national subject-matter standards, but not the creation of a national testing system.
  • In a major address on education, Gov. Bill Clinton, the apparent Democratic nominee for President, charges that President Bush has used education to score political points but has provided little money or effort for school improvement.
  • A report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress finds that U.S. student do very little reading in or out of school.
  • A survey commissioned by the Camp Fire Boys and Girls finds that most U.S. teenagers find violence and weapons in their schools.


  • New data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that the nation's children are poorer, more diverse, and more likely to have fallen behind in school than 10 years earlier.
  • A conservative advocacy group files suits in Illinois and California state courts demanding that low-income families receive vouchers for private school tuition.
  • In its first round of grants, the federal Commission on National and Community Service awards $63.1 million to 154 projects.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 decision, rules that school-sponsored prayers at public school graduation ceremonies coerce students to participate in violation of the First Amendment's ban on government establishment of religion.


  • Rhode Island ends its three-year-old ban on Whittle Communications' Channel One classroom news show, which still faces possible banishment from New Jersey schools.
  • Maryland becomes the first state to require community service by students as a condition of high school graduation.
  • Conceding that Congress is unlikely to approve his plan for a $500 million voucher program, President Bush says that choice will be a theme of his re-election campaign.
  • Navistar International, a leading manufacturer of school buses, announces a recall of 185,000 school buses with a fuel-system defect that could cause a fire in a collision.
  • U.S. students scored only slightly below average on a small-scale geography test of 13-year-olds in nine nations, the Educational Testing Service says.
  • Federal officials award more than $855,000 in grants for efforts to set national standards for student achievement in geography and civics.


  • Thousands of students in Florida and Louisiana are displaced, and schools suffer hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, as Hurricane Andrew rages along the coast. Schools open three weeks late in Florida and up to 11 days late in Louisiana.
  • Average verbal scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test rose in 1991 for the first time since 1985, and average mathematics scores also increased, the College Board reports.
  • Detroit teachers go on strike, charging that proposals by the school board to "empower'' individual schools would endanger their contractual protections. A strike is averted in Chicago, but teachers later strike in East St. Louis, Ill., and a handful of other districts.
  • The Los Angeles district settles a lawsuit filed by Hispanic parents by agreeing to dramatically redistribute resources and experienced teachers throughout the district.


  • The year's most protracted state-budget standoff ends, as California's Governor and legislature agree to cut school aid by $2 billion while holding basic state per-pupil spending steady.
  • Reported incidents of attempted censorship involving school materials reached a 10-year high in the 1991-92 school year, People for the American Way reports.
  • The annual Gallup poll on education shows that while the public supports efforts to improve schools, few Americans trust that elected officials can do the job.
  • A Gallup poll finds wide support among the public for tuition vouchers for public, private, and parochial schools.
  • Students from the United States outperformed those from nearly every other country in a 32-nation study of reading literacy, according to the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement.
  • An international comparison of education spending and assessment shows that the United States, though the world's wealthiest nation, is not the biggest spender on education.
  • The Council of the Great City Schools reports that the nation's 5.4 million urban schoolchildren are keeping pace "surprisingly well'' with their suburban counterparts.
  • The second annual report on the national education goals for 2000 shows that the nation has made "modest progress'' toward achieving the targets.


  • President Bush signs a spending bill that includes $28.3 billion for the Education Department, nearly $1 billion more than the previous year.
  • A proposal to close or merge six of the 25 high schools in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia school system creates a furor that will last through the end of the year.
  • A three-year study described as the most comprehensive of its kind supports the view that standardized tests exert a pervasive and mostly negative effect on instruction.
  • The National Association of State Boards of Education strongly backs the idea of "full inclusion'' of disabled children in regular school settings.
  • Nine days before the national election, the four former U.S. secretaries of education meet in New York for a panel discussion and lament the low priority of education in the Presidential campaign.


  • The election of Bill Clinton as President draws widespread cheers from educators.
  • Colorado voters overwhelmingly reject a voucher plan that included private schools.
  • A Florida panel agrees in principle on a set of indicators to measure schools' progress toward seven goals set by a 1991 reform law--a major step toward an outcome-based education system in the state. In Pennsylvania, meanwhile, the state school board agrees to delay final adoption of "learning outcomes'' that stirred fierce debate there.
  • A survey by an ethics institute finds an "unacceptably high'' number of young people are willing to lie, cheat, and steal if they think it necessary.
  • Standards setting: Providing a glimpse of the future of mathematics assessment, the Mathematical Sciences Education Board releases a set of 13 "prototype'' math-assessment tasks for 4th graders. The National Academy of Sciences releases prototype standards for what students should know and be able to do at various grade levels in several domains of science. The standards stress quality of knowledge rather than the amount learned through memorization.


  • The Baltimore school district announces a controversial plan to make Norplant, an implanted, five-year contraceptive, available in school clinics.
  • An independent commission calls for a radical revision of the federal Chapter 1 program, including efforts to force states to equalize services among school districts and to set tough new accountability standards based on new types of tests.
  • A report by the RAND Corporation, which finds that Vermont's pioneering student-assessment system has severe problems, raises questions about alternative forms of assessment.
  • The near-bankrupt Los Angeles Unified School District faces a teachers' strike, as members of the teachers' union vote to walk off the job Feb. 22 rather than accept a 9 percent pay cut.

Vol. 12, Issue 16

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