February 7, 1996

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Vol. 15, Issue 20
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As an association of environmental educators hones its drafts of voluntary national standards, a separate independent panel is preparing to determine whether such classroom materials are based in fact and science.
The new chairman of the House education committee in Kansas has only a high school diploma on his wall.
One of the oldest and most well-known mentoring programs, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America, turns 75 this year. But the original Big Brother has been around much longer--since the days of ancient Greece, in fact.
Barbie. She's blond. She's busty. She's bubbly. She's only 36, but she's already been a pilot, an aerobics instructor, and even run for president of the United States. But now this American icon is on a challenging new mission. Faster than a speeding bullet, able to leap tall buildings In a single bound and teach quantum physics all at the same time. Yes, folks, it's Teacher Barbie.
If only it were as easy as black and white. Courts are lifting desegregation orders from districts across the country, leaving the task of integrating schools to districts themselves. Critics say this shift marks a step backward. Students used to go to schools that were legally "separate but equal." These same schools are now, in fact, separate and unequal. Others, however, view this trend as an end to expensive judicial intrusion into the local matter of schooling.
Last April, I sat in the library of the Rock Creek Forest Elementary School in Montgomery County, Md., one of five white parents talking over our concerns with the principal. On the surface, the subject was academic quality, but the subtext was race. We were all exploring ways to avoid sending our children to the school, though maybe like all parents, I felt mine was a unique case.
In lifting the desegregation order governing the public schools in Muscogee County, Ga., federal Judge J. Robert Elliott noted that he was the only person who had had a continuous connection with the case since it was filed in 1964.
Every day in Milwaukee, 1,600 yellow school buses shuttle children from their neighborhoods to distant schools. One thousand six hundred buses. Daily. Busing students from one school to another does not help them learn. Vouchers do. That, quite simply, is why I keep fighting for less busing and more vouchers.
This year marks 42 years since the U.S. Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education. For African-Americans, Brown meant more than the mandate to desegregate public schools. It meant the end of the Plessy v. Ferguson era of officially sanctioned American apartheid. Brown split American history into B.C. and A.D., in which the promise of the Constitution's protection and of full participation in the life of our democracy finally applied to all its citizens. The Supreme Court's decision was one of the sparks that lighted the fires of the civil-rights movement. It stands as one of the defining moments in American history.
Editorial pages are filled these days with attacks on the quality of public schools. My local paper, The Oregonian, in Portland, Ore., published last August a column by journalist Debra J. Saunders called "Education Needs More Civilian Control." It argued that education-reform efforts have been misguided and ineffective, and that the solution to the ills of public schools is to hire noneducators to lead them. The author criticized such practices as "whole language, new-new math, inventive spelling, and self-esteem classes," suggesting that these are responsible for students' failure to learn. At the close of her essay, she surmised that one hoped-for redeemer in our region--retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. John Henry Stanford, recently hired to lead Seattle's schools--had perhaps succumbed to what she called the "educrat body-snatchers" because he is fond of citing as his goal for Seattle schools "to teach people to think for themselves and think responsibly."
During the past year, several reports have been issued on education funding. After subjecting the data of an older report that concluded money didn't matter to a more rigorous "meta-analysis," one study concluded that more money was linked to higher student achievement after all.
FOUNDATION SUPPORT: Coverage of specific topics in Education Week is supported in part by grants from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the CME Group Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the NoVo Foundation, the Noyce Foundation, the Raikes Foundation, the Wallace Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation. The newspaper retains sole editorial control over the content of the articles that are underwritten by the foundations. Additional grants in support of Editorial Projects in Education’s data journalism and video capacity come from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and the Schott Foundation for Public Education. (Updated 1/1/2017)

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