School Reform

School Reform

The Critical Issues

Editors: Williamson M. Evers, Lance T. Izumi, Pamela A. Riley
ISBN: 978-0-8179-2872-8
Publication Date: 11/19/2001
Pages: 438

This joint undertaking of the Hoover Institution and the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy presents a collection of the most insightful, hard-hitting, and provocative recent articles on education reform. With unflinching candor, the expert contributors address the basic nature of our education problems, provide a clear understanding of why schools and students are underperforming, and propose reasonable and effective alternatives. The articles cover the full spectrum of education reform, including
  • The nature and pitfalls of "progressive" education—and a more traditional, empirically supported alternative strategy
  • Improving teachers—why teachers are ineffective, why it's so hard to fire bad teachers, how teachers should be tested and evaluated, and more
  • The federal government's role in education—and how Title I's $118 billion has failed to close the gap
  • Student responsibility and character education—why no school reform can succeed unless students learn to adopt the values, views, and virtues that foster good character
  • The educationally disadvantaged—the failures of bilingual education, the scandal of special ed, why Ritalin rules the classroom, and why we must reform the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
Full-text PDF versions of each chapter can be accessed below by clicking on the desired chapter title. (PDF files require Adobe Reader. If you do not already have this software installed, click here to download it for free at the Adobe web site.) All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the publisher.
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Lance T. Izumi

Lance T. Izumi is a senior fellow in California Studies at the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy and director of tis Center for School Reform.

Pamela A. Riley

Pamela A. Riley is associate director of the Pacific Research Institute's Center for School Reform.

Williamson M. Evers

Williamson M. Evers, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a member of the Institution’s Koret Task Force on K–12 Education, specializes in research on education policy especially as it pertains to curriculum, teaching, testing, accountability, and school finance from kindergarten through high school. Evers was the U.S. assistant secretary of education for planning, evaluation, and policy development from 2007 to 2009. He was a senior adviser to U.S. secretary of education Margaret Spellings during 2007. From July to December 2003, Evers served in Iraq as a senior adviser for education to Administrator L. Paul Bremer of the Coalition Provisional Authority.continued

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Review by: Kathleen Verner, Temple University - July 2, 2003
What is educational reform? Why isn't it working? According to the editors of this anthology, these are not trivial questions. Currently billions of tax dollars-public funds-are earmarked for public education in states, districts, and schools throughout the United States. According to the editors, in order to understand the lack of success of school reform it is necessary to understand the basic nature of educational organizations and processes in the United States and the remedies that address them. This is the premise upon which the current anthology is based. A joint undertaking of the Hoover Institution and the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, School Reform: The Critical Issues is one of many books dealing with the condition of education in the United States and the process of school reform. However, unlike many others in this area, this volume is a compilation of provocative articles focusing on education reform in recent years but prior to the reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 2001 that legislated significant modifications to business as usual at the state, district, and school levels. Because there is no obvious sequence to the sections or to the articles appearing within each section, each of the articles included in this anthology stands alone. This structure allows the reader the flexibility to scan the book searching for those topics of greatest interest. Each article selected by the editors for inclusion in School Reform: The Critical Issues considers a particular obstacle to the success of school reform and then proposes what the authors of the individual selections consider are reasonable and potentially effective alternatives. The 53 separate articles that comprise this anthology were written by a variety of authors. The articles initially appeared in separate sources and reflect the differing perspectives of the authors and the priorities of the editors. The original writings of the educators, researchers, teachers, and parents who have contributed to School Reform: The Critical Issues can be found in newspapers, popular magazines, academic journals, other national publications and sources of published material. Indeed, the text for the most part reads as if intended for a more general readership than academically erudite scholars. The articles are organized in an uncomplicated way into six major sections which are further divided into selections directly relevant to the major section identified by the editors (e.g., class and school size are subsumed within the category of Structuring Education). Other major sections that may interest the reader include Teaching Approaches, The Student, Parents and Teachers, Educationally Disadvantaged, and Standards and Accountability. Perhaps reflecting the 2001 publication date, the section entitled Standards and Accountability, issues that currently looms large in federal legislation (No Child Left Behind [NCLB], the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2002 [ESEA]) regarding student academic performance and state, district, and school accountability, receives minimal discussion. Hence, it fails to consider the effect of that legislation of students, schools, districts, and states. Nevertheless, the editors intend for this book to provide the reader, policymaker, educational administrator, or parent with an understanding of the obstacles to effective school reform that may be partly responsible for the unsatisfactory levels of student academic achievement. Additionally, the editors intend for the text to inform the reader about the continuing debate in the area of educational reform. Discussion While reading School Reform: The Critical Issues, I was confronted by more questions than answers. Three areas of concern evolved: the difference between learning and education, the purpose of public education, and equity within the educational organization and process. Initially, I searched for a definition of learning and education. While the text identifies obstacles to successful education reform and offers alternative solutions to the contradictory state of public education in the United States, at no time do the authors address the difference between learning and education. In fact, one author selected by the editors describes education as an industry with student achievement as the main product and encourages the application of business-oriented activity and focus, such as improved management and increased profits, as the solution to the achievement gap. The second area of concern, the purpose of education, surfaced in response to a number of articles that seemed to totally ignore the personal value and process of learning. Some of these articles presented obviously contradictory views of education. My third major concern evolved in response to a variety of articles involving the equity of education. Each of these responses suggests the following questions: "Is there a difference between learning and education? What is the goal of education? Is it realistic to apply objective measures to learning? Can learning be mandated from above? Can learning be equalized across different socioeconomic and intellectual boundaries? Can learning be standardized across different cultural, socioeconomic, and intellectual parameters?" Since there is no sequence to the series of sections, this discussion will begin with those sections that seem most antithetical to successful learning. The section dealing with the Educationally Disadvantaged contains an apt description of special education activities and programs including the Ritalin debacle and the popular program entitled "bilingual education." This section, particularly in light of the federal and state emphases on special education certification, funding, and special education activities and services is very enlightening. The description of disability in "Defining Disability Down: Why Johnny Can't Read, Write, or Sit Still" by Ruth Shalit is an informative expose of the inception, application, and current status of the what often seems to be the wholesale application of the special education label of "learning disability." According to the author, the learning disability classification is frequently employed in a variety of opportunistic ways by any number of individuals. Shalit's insightful discussion raises the question, "What is the difference between aptitude or the lack thereof and a learning disability?" Indeed, the author cites instances in which the classification of learning disability has been used to extend the test-taking time of law students which prompts questions about the personal characteristics and intellectual aptitude of those persons practicing law. Unfortunately, according to Shalit, individuals with grave physical handicaps constitute but a small portion of individuals who claim special privilege under the federal disability laws (i.e., Americans with Disabilities Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act) while the "abuse" of the label prevails. In her expose of the issue of Ritalin use/abuse, Mary Eberstadt, describes what Ritalin really is, how it is used with children, and why it is so commonly used with students and adults classified with either Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Additional questions suggested by Eberstadt's article are: "Why are millions of middle- and upper-class children being legally drugged with a substance that is, according to the author, similar to cocaine?" and "How do labeling and Ritalin effect learning?" Yet another topic the editors chose to include in the same section is that of the burgeoning concept of bilingual education within the education system. The description of bilingual education contributed by Glenn Garvin is a blazing indictment of the program. To substantiate his position, Garvin cites the failure of bilingual education practices as well as the inherent contradictions in the application of bilingual programs. Garvin's article raises further questions: "How does bilingual education and the structure and application of that program impact student learning?" and "Do the merits of such a program cancel out the disservice it does to students and their families?" The section dealing with Structuring Education explores a variety of issues related to school performance including spending, the voucher system and private schools, contracting out services, class and school size, and home schooling. Paul Ciotti, in an article that first appeared in Policy Analysis, a Cato Institute publication, extensively reviews the failure of the Kansas City Desegregation Experiment. During this experiment unlimited funds were available to schools in the Kansas City School District in a effort to increase student desegregation and academic performance. The discussion of vouchers, contracting educational services out, and private schools reminds the reader that from an economic point of view public education is cost ineffective. Maybe the more crucial issue even than the extreme cost ineffectiveness of many public education districts and schools, particularly ineffective in the distribution and use of Title I funds, is the failure to adequately serve large groups of students regardless of available funds or expenditures. The Structuring Education section also deals with the benefits and liabilities of home-schooling. Britton Manasco describes the benefits and criticisms of home-schooling. Among the benefits, the author emphasizes the absence of student involvement in a schizoid and failing, both academically and socially, school system. The criticisms include the limitations of academics, socialization, and recreation experiences. As the parent of partially home-schooled children, I have witnessed first hand the benefits of learning under the conditions fostered by the flexibility of home-schooling. Furthermore, my decision to home-school received the same criticisms put forward by the author. To such criticisms, I respond now as I did then. It is the parents' responsibility to provide the opportunities for their children to learn and practice developmentally appropriate social skills that are not necessarily the same skills available to them in school. Another major section that also considers the role of parents and that I found most appealing and very close to my own experience and understanding is that of Parents and Teachers. This particular section concerns both parents and teachers and their roles in the educational process. The selection discussing parents, The Parent Trap, written by Tom Loveless, addresses the assumption made by proposed educational reformers that parents will do whatever it takes to raise children's level of academic achievement. According to Loveless, this is the case with many parents but not necessarily those parents whose priorities are neither learning nor academic achievement. According to the author, parents often welcome school as the caretaker of students but commonly recoil and withdraw their support for the school when school policy does not fit their plans for themselves or their children. Another point made by Loveless that must be considered is that improving education is not totally pain-free to either students or parents and certainly not to teachers or to school administrators. Schools, parents, and students will of necessity bear the cost of student achievement, effective classrooms and effective schools. The question prompted by Loveless comments is "How has education changed in this decade to reflect the differing priorities of society, parents, and students?" Other articles in the section on parents and teachers address the issue of teacher preparation. "Who Teaches the Teachers" questions the relationship between teacher preparation programs and student achievement. Lynne V. Cheney sums up the data with the argument that teacher preparation programs are "...sabotaging the best efforts of reformers to get schools to use methods that work" (p. 156). It is baffling that many classroom teachers are asked to implement reform efforts in their own classrooms for which they were neither prepared for nor acquainted with while enrolled in a teacher preparation program. The section dealing with student characteristics that may be considered obstacles to school reform flows from the section dealing with parents. Steinberg emphasizes that at least two conditions outside the classroom impact on student attitude and behavior in the classroom. These conditions, cited in Steinberg's "Failure Outside the Classroom", are the lack of peer and parental support for learning and achievement exemplified by peer activity that competes with learning and parental disengagement. Steinberg lists a three highly specific steps that he feels must be taken prior to rushing " reinvent the curriculum, retrain our teachers, refurbish our schools' laboratories or expand access to higher education (119)." A variety of additional articles address the impact of unions on education-not just teacher benefits but also curriculum and student learning. Each of the articles discussing the extent of union power in schools portrays unions as obstacles to effective reform efforts and to growth in student achievement. Schools' and districts' hands are virtually tied when it comes to union contracts that identify and regulate a myriad of items in addition to teacher salaries including the time of day and the days in the year that represented teachers are expected, and allowed to work, regardless of the needs of students or schools. The impact of such constraints on student achievement and the success of school reform is further discussed. School Reform: The Critical Issues provides the reader with a good, brief glance at the variety of obstacles inherent in the different components of the United States public education system. Among the obstacles cited by the various authors are conflicting philosophical beliefs concerning education, teacher preparation programs, teachers unions, the educational bureaucracy, policy makers, the curriculum and, of course, students and parents. The fact is that each of these obstacles-even more when they operate in conjunction-can make or break education reform and seriously hinder student learning. The text provides a good introduction that the reader interested in obstacles to school reform can pursue. However, individuals already acquainted with the obstacles discussed in this edited text may be better informed by searching out literature on specific obstacles, which offers in-depth explanations and deeper understanding. About the Reviewer Kathleen Verner, PhD Laboratory for Student Success, Temple University Center for Research in Human Development and Education Temple University Kathleen Verner is a Research Assistant with the Laboratory for Student Success, Center for Research in Human Development and Education. Her research focuses on human learning, educational reform, and teacher preparation. Kathleen Verner has also been involved in teaching Psychology, Child and Adolescent Development, and Effective Classroom Teaching at the college and university levels as an Adjunct Professor.


Acknowledgments xi
Introduction xiii
Progressive Education  
School Reforms Hinder Learning, Crusader Argues 3
Richard Lee Colvin  
A Unique School or Out of Step? 8
Richard Lee Colvin  
Opposing Approaches So Johnny Can Read: Finding the Answers in Drills and Rigor 14
E. D. Hirsch, Jr.  
The Schools They Deserve: Howard Gardner and the Remaking of Elite Education 17
Mary Eberstadt  
What Is an Educrat? 33
Debra J. Saunders  
Curriculum and Methods  
Developmental Appropriateness:
Review – Years of Promise: A Comprehensive Learning Strategy for America’s Children
Philip H. Abelson  
Science Friction 38
Steve Olson  
Dictatorship of Virtue: Multiculturalism in Elementary and Secondary Schools 48
Richard Bernstein  
Computers/Distance Learning  
Should Schools Be Wired to the Internet?: No—Learn First, Surf Later 66
David Gelernter  
The Learning Revolution 68
Lewis J. Perelman  
Direct Instruction, Explicit Teaching  
Effective Education Squelched 82
Lynne V. Cheney  
Ability Grouping  
The Concept of Grouping in Gifted Education: In Search of Reality—Unraveling the Myths about Tracking, Ability Grouping, and the Gifted 85
Ellen D. Fiedler, Richard E. Lange, and Susan Winebrenner  
Whole School Reform  
Ready, Read! 96
Nicholas Lemann  
Student Beliefs/Character Education  
Failure Outside the Classroom 117
Laurence Steinberg  
Values,Views, or Virtues? 121
Kevin Ryan and Karen Bohlin  
Blame the Schools, Not the Parents 125
Thomas Sowell  
Goodbye to Sara and Benjamin? 128
Thomas Sowell  
Social Promotion  
Student Customers Being Sold a Bad Product 130
Susan Estrich  
Why Johnny Can’t Fail: How the “Floating Standard” Has Destroyed Public Education 132
Jerry Jesness  
The Parent Trap 143
Tom Loveless  
Who Teaches the Teachers? 151
Lynne V. Cheney  
Why Johnny’s Teacher Can’t Teach 157
Heather Mac Donald  
The Truth About Teacher Salaries and Student Achievement 174
Eric A. Hanushek  
Why It’s Too Hard to Fire Bad Teachers 176
Maribeth Vander Weele  
How Teachers’ Unions Handcuff Schools 182
Sol Stern  
How Teachers Should Be Evaluated 198
Siobahan Gorman  
Put Teachers to the Test 202
Diane Ravitch  
Top-Notch Teachers Are Key to Better Schools 205
Joanne Jacobs  
School Unions Shortchange Students 207
La Rae G. Munk  
A Taboo Erodes 213
Abigail Thernstrom  
Loco, Completamente Loco: The Many Failures of “Bilingual Education” 217
Glenn Garvin  
Defining Disability Down: Why Johnny Can’t Read, Write, or Sit Still 239
Ruth Shalit  
Why Ritalin Rules 255
Mary Eberstadt  
The Scandal of Special Ed 272
Robert Worth  
Developing and Implementing Academic Standards: A Template for Legislative Reform 285
Lance T. Izumi  
The War Against Testing 288
David W. Murray  
Making America’s Schools Work 297
Eric A. Hanushek  
Half of Choice Schools Spend Less than State Allots 305
Joe Williams  
Money and School Performance: Lessons from the Kansas City Desegregation Experiments 308
Paul Ciotti  
Public Schools: Make Them Private 339
Milton Friedman  
School Choice: Beyond the Numbers 345
Joseph P. Viteritti  
Fighting for School Choice: It’s a Civil Right 350
Alveda C. King  
Contracting Out  
Whittling Away the Public School Monopoly 353
Thomas Toch  
A Private Solution 356
Lawrence Hardy  
Charter Schools  
Class Acts: How Charter Schools Are Revamping Public Education in Arizona—and Beyond 362
James K. Glassman  
Healthy Competition 373
David Osborne  
Class and School Size  
The Elixir of Class Size 381
Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Michael J. Petrilli  
Where Everybody Knows Your Name 385
William R. Capps and Mary Ellen Maxwell  
Federal Aid to Education and the Poor  
Title I’s $118 Billion Fails to Close Gap 390
Ralph Frammolino  
Home Schooling  
Special Ed: Factory-like Schooling May Soon Be a Thing of the Past 398
Britton Manasco  
Private Schooling  
“Doing Something” in a Catholic School 409
Brother Bob Smith  
Index 413
Permissions 431

The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace, founded at Stanford University in 1919 by Herbert Hoover, who went on to become the thirty-first president of the United States, is an interdisciplinary research center for advanced study on domestic and international affairs. The views expressed in its publications are entirely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff, officers, or Board of Overseers of the Hoover Institution.

The Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy (PRI), founded in 1979, promotes the cornerstones of a civil society—individual freedom and personal responsibility. PRI believes these principles are best achieved through a free-market economy, limited government, and private initiative. The Institute publishes original research in four key areas—education, health and welfare, technology, and the environment—and conducts strategic outreach to lawmakers, media, business leaders, and mainstream audiences nationwide. Through these comprehensive efforts, PRI is a leading force in “putting ideas into action.”

Hoover Institution Press Publication No. 499

Copyright ©2001 by the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the publisher.

Pages 431–435 constitute an extension of this copyright page.

First printing, 2001
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

School reform: the critical issues / edited by Williamson M. Evers, Lance T. Izumi, and Pamela A. Riley p. cm.—(Hoover Institution Press publication; no. 499) ISBN 0-8179-2872-3 (alk. paper)

1. School improvement programs—United States. 2. Educational change—United States.

I. Evers, Williamson M., 1948– II. Izumi, Lance T., 1958– III. Riley, Pam. IV. Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace. V. Hoover Institution Press publication; 499.

LB2822.82 .S372 2001 371.2'07—dc21


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