Restructuring Education: Innovations and Evaluations of Alternative Systems

Restructuring Education: Innovations and Evaluations of Alternative Systems

Restructuring Education: Innovations and Evaluations of Alternative Systems

Restructuring Education: Innovations and Evaluations of Alternative Systems

Synopsis

American education is undergoing rapid change. Concern over poor student performance, the ability and motivation of teachers, and the inefficiency of school bureaucracy have led to numerous recommendations for changing the structure of American education. These vary from small changes in the current structure to wholesale privatization of public schools. The contributions in this book discuss a wide range of proposals, including greater school choice, charter schools, promoting contact with the business community, public-private partnerships, and more. Several chapters assess the current research on choice and restructuring. Overall the consensus is that proposed reforms have a good chance of yielding significant benefits.

Excerpt

Any visitor to Beacon Hill in Boston is likely to notice a large statue at the south entrance to the Massachusetts State House. The statue pays tribute to the father of American public education, Horace Mann. Mann understood that the promise of American life--our economic prosperity and our democratic form of government--would be realized only if every child received a good education in the basics. That's why he worked so hard to create government-supported "common schools" in the 1840s that would be open to all students.

Since then, the world has changed in ways Horace Mann couldn't have imagined, particularly changes in the way we work and live. Yet the schools haven't adapted to those changes. Today the antiquated nature of those schools--and our policy arrangements--suggest that, as we approach the next century, we need a new social contract when it comes to education. America's new education covenant with its people is--or should be--to extend the opportunity for a world-class education to every child in the land.

For many Americans this commitment is a hollow promise and will remain so until we loosen the grip of the government monopoly, which today dominates American education. How in the world did we ever fall into--and persist in--this rut that says a government monopoly will design nearly all the schools, operate nearly all the schools, and tell each of us--unless we have the money to move across town or go to a private school--which one of those schools our child must attend? In this post-Cold War period, nothing is so much in disfavor as government monopolies of essential services. Any recent visitor to the new emerging democracies of Eastern Europe can see why. As the Berlin Wall fell and we got a good look at the remnants of their societies, we could imagine life in these countries for over four decades.

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