April 21, 1999

This Issue
Vol. 18, Issue 32
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When the New Jersey Supreme Court handed down a ruling last spring requiring hundreds of urban schools to implement wholesale, schoolwide change by no later than next year, heads turned in the nation's education community.
The energy and optimism that radiated from the United States as it strode confidently into the 20th century found a perfect outlet in the multifarious movement known as progressivism.

Time passes slowly in Joan Escoto's language arts class, where eight teenagers quietly struggle to fill out applications for a public library card.

Acceding to political pressure from California and city officials critical of the pace of reform in the Oakland schools, Superintendent Carole C. Quan announced her resignation last week.
In 1997, a proposed law aimed at ushering bad teachers and principals out of Oregon's public schools was hotly debated in the legislature. Two years later, there is widespread disagreement among state and district leaders over whether it has worked.

Ohio Districts Make Errors
On Statewide Report Cards

Margaret Edson's artistic side can be seen not only in her Pulitzer-Prize-winning play, "Wit," but also in her kindergarten classroom in Georgia--hundreds of miles from the off-Broadway theater where her critically acclaimed work has been playing to sold-out audiences.
Mayor Richard J. Riordan of Los Angeles declared victory last week in his bid to retool the local school board and bring a "revolution" to the nation's second-largest school system.
The California state school board has turned down a request from a suburban city to break away from the Los Angeles schools, dampening the hopes of other groups that would like their areas to secede from the nation's second-largest district.

San Francisco

When it comes to employee background checks meant to protect children from sexual abuse, school districts should follow a policy of "do ask, do tell," school law experts say.

Smokers who pick up the habit while they are teenagers are at the greatest risk of developing genetic changes in lung tissue that have been linked to cancer--even after they quit smoking, new research suggests.

Should the new National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education be "neutral" on the subject of vouchers? Or is a "dispassionate" position more appropriate? What about "balanced," "unbiased," or "objective"?

Students soon will be able to earn a high school diploma anytime, anywhere, through a for-profit company that has been started by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

George Washington Elementary School, a brick behemoth that covers the better part of a block in this city's hard-pressed seaport neighborhood, has narrow slits for windows that lend it the air of a fortress under siege. And for many of the educators inside, that's just about how they feel.

Gov. John Engler's plan to augment Michigan's K-12 education budget over the next two years is making big headlines. But it's not the new money that's creating a stir.

Bonus time

Massachusetts Gov. Paul Cellucci awarded 19 teachers his state's first $5,000 bonuses for master teachers last week.

Policymakers in South Carolina aren't willing to leave to chance a referendum authorizing a state lottery for education.

House and Senate negotiators late last week made passage of the first education legislation of the year all but certain after agreeing to strike a Senate GOP provision that Democrats had argued would undermine President Clinton's prized teacher-hiring program.

Debate over Title I's future intensified last week, as the House held its first hearing on the program's reauthorization and education experts weighed in at competing events on how best to improve it.

Congress last week approved a compromise budget blueprint that falls $1.1 billion short of Senate Republicans' original plan for spending on education and related programs. The nonbinding plan for fiscal 2000 sparked criticism from education groups and the Clinton administration.

Much of the philosophy behind the 300-student Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School would be sweetly familiar to its namesake.
John Dewey has been called the "most influential writer on education" and the "greatest philosopher" this country has produced. He's also one of the most misunderstood, oft-quoted, and least-read educational commentators of the progressive era.
On May 3, 1971, Newsweek magazine's cover story explored the "joy and excitement" of an educational movement that had burst into the national consciousness with the publication of Charles E. Silberman's Crisis in the Classroom.
Today, as on most days at Horace Mann, the auditorium is empty, and school officials have chained its two doors to keep potential vandals away. Once upon a time, such a scene would have been unthinkable
In dreams begin responsibilities, as the poet Delmore Schwartz once said. The educators profiled in these pages recounting the century's philosophical debates in education wanted to see their ideas take hold. They knew it might require a decade or more for schools to put the principles into practice. Stamina had to accompany passion. Publication often marked the start, not the end, of the work. One upshot is that many of the best-known books on education reform this century have one or more sequels where "implementation" is the story.
The debate between traditionalists and progressives over curriculum (and I use this term to include both content and pedagogy) is essentially a debate on how best to prepare students to live in society. Differences of opinion about curriculum stem from deeper differences about the nature of learning, the nature of society, and the purpose of schools in a democracy. Traditionalists structure schools to prepare students for filling roles in society--not for transforming it. They do not see that traditional approaches may contribute to maintaining the inequity and injustice that exist in our society. Progressives see society as needing improvement and the schools as serving the function of helping students become thinking citizens who can contribute to creating a more just society. John Dewey, the leading progressive educator of the century, wrote that "education is the fundamental method of social progress and reform."
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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