Issues in Education
Issues in Education
Schools, like other institutions, face various issues as they grow and attempt to meet the needs of an ever-changing population. In the nineteenth century the common school movement sought to establish education for all that would be paid for by property taxes. In the early twentieth century school advocates debated questions of whether school should be compulsory, whether teachers should use corporal punishment, the best way to train teachers, and school centralization. During the post-World War II "baby boom," concerns included building enough schools and educating enough teachers to fill the need. During the 1960s and beyond, schools faced the challenges of integration and busing. Later came sex and drug education, the role of religion in the classroom, and using ideas from business organizations to restructure schools.
In the twenty-first century American schools continue to face enduring problems and new challenges. Some of the topics under discussion are diversity, higher standards, assessment, accountability, school-choice programs, school funding, safety, discipline, school and classroom size, parental involvement, home-schooling, the achievement gap between demographic groups, and the role of educational technology. There is no clear consensus on how to approach these and other issues, but the passion with which they are debated in contemporary American society gives evidence of their importance.
SCHOOL REFORM MOVEMENTS
In 1957 the "space race" began when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I, the first satellite sent into space. To prevent the nation from falling behind in the technology competition, American leaders called for improved educational techniques and student performance. More than two decades later, the administration of President Ronald Reagan released A Nation at Risk (National Commission on Excellence in Education, Washington, DC, 1983), a report on education in the United States. The report claimed that, instead of responding to the 1957 challenge to raise standards, American education had produced students who actually were scoring lower on performance tests than in 1957. The writers of the report feared that the nation would become less competitive in world markets, causing the economy to suffer.
The report recommended that American education, especially in high school, should primarily focus on academic achievement, with students spending more time in school and working on homework. As a result, most states raised graduation requirements, revised testing and evaluation programs, and improved teacher preparation standards.
Demands for reform continued in 1986 with eight new reports on the state of American education, including Time for Results (National Governors' Association, Washington, DC), A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century (Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy, Washington, DC), and What Next? More Leverage for Teachers (Education Commission of the States, Denver, CO). These publications focused on strategies to improve education, including teacher training and higher salaries, state initiatives to reform education, and school choice. The states followed many of the recommendations issued in the reports, especially in the areas of recruiting and preparing teachers, and in restructuring the organization and management of school systems.
At the Education Summit held in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1989, President George H. W. Bush and the state governors established six National Education Goals to be met by the year 2000. These goals presented a broad approach to education reform, including providing preschool children sufficient nutrition and health care so they are ready to learn by the time they start school; greater levels of high school completion and student achievement; ensuring that U.S. students are first in the world in mathematics and science; safe, disciplined, and alcohol- and drug-free schools; and improved adult education. In 1994 Congress passed the Goals 2000: Educate America Act (P.L. 103-227), reemphasizing the National Education Goals and adding goals calling for increasing the involvement of parents in schools and providing further professional development for teachers. Progress toward the goals was slow, and in 2002 Congress dissolved the National Education Goals Panel.
Congress passed the Charter School Expansion Act of 1998 (P.L. 105-278), which authorizes State Educational Agencies (SEAs) to use federal funds for planning, designing, and implementing public charter schools and requires Local Education Agencies (LEAs) to use innovative assistance funds for the same purpose. Funding priorities are based on a state's progress toward increasing its number of high-quality charter schools.
The Education Flexibility Partnership Act of 1999 (P.L. 106-25) gives states more freedom in how they spend federal education dollars. To participate in the Ed-Flex Partnership program, states must apply to the Secretary of Education for a waiver from the normal requirements for obtaining federal funds. They may then set up their own programs under which they are held accountable for improved educational results in order to receive continued funding. For example, schools can use federal money intended for science and mathematics teachers on reading programs to boost progress in that area.
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was signed into law by President George W. Bush in January 2002. The new authorization was a major reform to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. NCLB focuses on increasing accountability for results, implementing programs that are based on scientific research, expanding parental options, and increasing the control and flexibility of local school officials. NCLB especially promotes assessment, reading/literacy, teacher quality, school choice, and innovative programs.
The following sections describe some of the approaches developed in recent years in response to the above policy initiatives intended to improve education.
Charter schools are one element of the school choice movement. They are nonsectarian (not affiliated with any religious groups) public schools that may be exempt from some regulations that apply to regular public schools. Charter schools are related to other aspects of educational reform, including privatization, site-based management, magnet schools, and parental involvement. The idea of charter schools was first suggested in the 1970s. Albert Shanker, former president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), helped promote the idea. In the 1980s Philadelphia piloted several model schools, calling them "charters." In the 1990s Minnesota developed charter schools based on three values: choice, opportunity, and accountability for results.
In charter schools teachers, parents, administrators, community groups, or private corporations design and operate a local school under charter (written contract) from a school district, state education agency, or other public institution. These local schools often have a specific focus, such as mathematics, arts, or science. In some cases charter schools are nearly autonomous (self-directing) and are exempt from many state and district education rules. In other cases the schools operate much like traditional public schools and must apply for certain exemptions, which they may or may not be granted.
Many states find charter schools appealing. Common reasons given for considering alternatives such as charter schools are problems associated with regular public schools, including overcrowded classrooms, district mismanagement or disorganization, low scores on standardized tests, and a high number of students at risk of dropping out of school.
In 1991 only one charter school existed in the United States. According to the State of the Charter Movement 2005 (Gregg Vanourek, Charter School Leadership Council, May 2005), in 2005 forty states and the District of Columbia had authorized charter schools, and there were an estimated 3,400 charter schools in the country, serving approximately one million students, or about 2% of all students in the nation.
In 2005 more than two-fifths (42%) of charter schools were concentrated in three states (Arizona, California, and Florida), and more than half (54%) of the charter school growth since 2000 had occurred in those three states plus Michigan and Texas.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2003 most public charter schools (41.2%) were located in the West. About one-quarter each were in the Southeast (24.3%) and Central United States (24.1%). Only 10.4% of charter school students attended schools located in the Northeast. More than half (51.4%) of charter school students attended schools located in central cities in 2003. (See Table 7.1.)
Charter schools tend to be smaller than regular public schools. According to State of the Charter Movement 2005, in 2004 median enrollment at charter schools was 250 students. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2003 more than a quarter (28.5%) of students in charter schools attended schools with enrollment of one to 299 students, about one-fifth attended schools with enrollment of 300 to 499 students, more than one-third (35.2%) attended schools that enrolled 500 to 699 students, and 15.9% of students attended charter schools with 700 or more students. (See Table 7.1.)
|Students attending public charter schools, by selected school characteristics, 2003|
|School characteristic||All public schools||All public charter schools|
|Entity granting school charter||Origin|
|Conventional||Charter||School district||State board of education||Post-secondary institution||State-chartering agency||Newly created school||Pre-existing school|
|*Rounds to zero.|
|aInterpret data with caution (estimates are unstable).|
|Note: Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.|
|Source: John Wirt, Susan Choy, Patrick Rooney, William Hussar, Stephen Provasnik, and Gillian Hampden-Thompson, "Table 28-2. Percentage Distribution of Students Attending Public Charter Schools by Type of School, Entity Granting School Charter, Origin of School, and Selected School Characteristics: 2003," in The Condition of Education, 2005, NCES 2005-094, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Washington, DC, June 2005, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/2005/section4/table.asp?tableID=288 (accessed July 26, 2005)|
|700 or more||27.0||15.9||19.6a||22.2a||∗||∗||10.6a||29.5|
|Urban fringe/large town||41.0||37.4||47.7||21.2a||36.4||18.6a||35.5||41.9|
The National Center for Education Statistics conducted a pilot study of students in grade four at a sample of charter schools. The study found that in 2003, 48% of fourth-grade charter students were male, and 52% were female. For students in grade four in other public schools, the proportions were 51% and 49%, respectively. Nearly a third (31%) of the charter students were African-American, 45% were white, and 20% were Hispanic. In 2003 more than two-fifths (42%) of charter school students were eligible for a free or reduced-price lunch. (See Figure 7.1.)
Charter schools that target special populations such as at-risk students are increasingly popular. These schools may focus on nontraditional teaching and learning experiences, such as combining academics with work experience or changing the class structure. Some states require a specific number of charter schools to serve this special population.
According to A Decade of Charter Schools: From Theory to Practice (Katrina Bulkley and Jennifer Fisler, CPRE Policy Briefs, University of Pennsylvania, April 2002), about half of charter schools have grade configurations that differ from traditional elementary, middle, and secondary grade organizations. According to Gregg Vanourek in State of the Charter Movement 2005, charter school teachers are less likely to be certified than teachers in other public schools, and are more likely to hold master's degrees in such fields as business, arts, and science, as opposed to education. The impact of charter schools on student achievement is uncertain; charter schools as a whole are too new to have established track records. However, parents of students in charter schools, the teachers that work in them, and students who attend them generally are satisfied.
Funding for charter schools varies widely, ranging from direct state funding to funding through the local school district. Since 1994, the U.S. Department of Education has provided grants to support states' charter school efforts, starting with $6 million in fiscal year 1995. In fiscal year 1998 the federal budget appropriated $80 million for charter schools. According to the U.S. Department of Education, in 2005 funding for charter schools and choice options was $504 million.
Challenge and Opportunity: The Impact of Charter Schools on School Districts (John Ericson et al., U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC, June 2001) presented the results of a study of 274 charter schools in Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Michigan. Almost half (47%) of district leaders reported that charter schools had no impact on the district budget; 45% said charter schools had a negative impact. A positive impact was perceived by 8%, because although enrollment revenues were lost, costs to the district were also less.
In some cases school boards and state education offices have turned to "privatizing" their schools, contracting with private corporations to administer one or more local schools. In 2001 the state of Pennsylvania passed a school reform plan to take control of Philadelphia's public schools, privatize the district's leadership positions, and place school operations in the hands of church, business, and other community groups.
Contracts for privatizing services are usually awarded based on bids submitted by the education companies. In general, teachers' unions oppose privatizing schools. The National Education Association (NEA) stated in its 2000–01 resolutions that it opposed education for profit, because there is an inherent conflict between serving the needs of children in an educational setting and serving the needs of stockholders.
According to State of the Charter Movement 2005, nearly 90% of charter schools are independently run, rather than managed by educational management companies (EMOs), but the proportion varies by state. In Michigan about 69% of charter schools are operated by a nonprofit or for-profit EMO. In 1998 fifteen states contracted with EMOs, and by 2003 the number had increased to twenty-nine.
The Edison Project
Private, for-profit companies run an estimated 10% of all charter schools. By 2004–05 the Edison Project, the largest private manager of public schools in the country, operated 157 schools in forty-three cities in twenty states, with an enrollment of about 250,000 students. Its program is based on extensive use of high technology, a longer school day and year, and a full-day kindergarten that has an academic program.
Are For-Profit Schools Improving Student Performance?
In the Seventh Annual Report on School Performance 2003–04 (Edison Schools, New York), the Edison Project stated that Edison schools increased the percentage of student achieving standards by 7.4 percentage points on average from 2002–03 to 2003–04, and that this increase was 1.6 percentage points higher than performance gains in comparable non-Edison schools.
According to the Edison report, the company's schools were closing the achievement gap that exists between African-American and white students; for the ninth consecutive year, parents were very satisfied; and 85% of teachers rated their level of career satisfaction as an A or B, with A being the most popular grade.
In the 1998 AFT Report on Student Achievement in the Edison Schools (Washington, DC), researchers studied Edison schools in 1997–98. The AFT reported that the Edison schools used a widely admired reading program for elementary students; that they tended to have motivated parents involved in the schools; and that they attracted donations from outside organizations in addition to public funding. However, the report also noted that class size and teacher turnover rates tend to be high and that years of teaching experience tend to be low. In addition, the report noted that Edison does not measure or report performance in the same way that regular public schools do, but instead presents only the most favorable comparisons and test score gains.
In A Guide to Recent Studies of School Effectiveness by the Edison Project and the American Federation of Teachers (Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, May 1998), Paul E. Peterson conducted a review of Edison's 1997 Annual Report as well as the AFT report. Peterson stated that the evidence, although not definitive, supported Edison's claims that it was providing more effective schools than were available otherwise to students in Edison's communities.
In another study, Gary Miron and Brooks Applegate compared students at ten Edison Schools with a group of similar students at other schools in An Evaluation of Student Achievement at Edison Schools Opened in 1995 and 1996 (Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, December 2000). They concluded that the trends in achievement scores were mixed. The majority of Edison students were achieving at levels no different from students in the group attending conventional public schools.
In 2000 the RAND corporation began an evaluation of Edison Schools, analyzing student achievement and Edison's academic program in a sample of Edison schools. Published in 2005, the report Inspiration, Perspiration, and Time: Operations and Achievement in Edison Schools offered statistical analysis of school performance as well as recommendations for Edison managers and for those considering contracting with the firm to educate children within their community. According to the RAND researchers, student achievement gains at Edison Schools matched or exceeded similar improvements in student performance in comparable public schools. The report noted that achievement showed slight declines during the time the Edison methods were being implemented, either as a new school was being started or as a previous school was being converted from conventional management to Edison control. However, by about the fourth or fifth year of operation, Edison students demonstrated higher achievement, particularly in mathematics.
SCHOOL CHOICE AND VOUCHERS
"School choice" allows students to attend schools other than their designated neighborhood school. Families who can afford to move to an area with high-performing schools or send their children to private schools already have school choice; less wealthy families generally do not. The major debate over school choice is whether or not parents should receive some kind of financial assistance from the state or local government to pay school fees if they elect to send their children to private schools.
Parents generally influence which schools their children attend, often locating in an area known for excellent schools. The U.S. Supreme Court, in Pierce v. Society of Sisters (286 U.S. 510, 1925), upheld parents' constitutional right to select a church-affiliated or private school. Because "the child is not the mere creature of the state," parents cannot be forced to send their children to public schools. A family is free to choose private education or to leave one school district for another in which it believes the public schools are better. In reality, many people are limited by financial and social restrictions, and moving to another district or enrolling their children in private school may not be possible without financial help.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 1993 about 80% of students attended a public school that was assigned to them based on where they lived. Between 9% and 19% of students attended a public school they had chosen, and between 4% and 10% of students attended a private school. By 1999, 78% or less of students attended a public school that was assigned to them based on where they lived, between 11% and 23% attended a public school they had chosen, and between 5% and 11% attended a private school. Minnesota introduced the first school-choice program in 1987. According to the Alliance for School Choice, in 2005 more than 500,000 children in twelve states were participating in some form of educational choice.
School-choice plans usually follow one of three models:
- The "district-wide" model allows parents to select a public school within their district. Often the district establishes specialty or "magnet" schools (those offering an emphasis on a particular subject area, such as business, science, or the arts) to attract students to different schools.
- The "statewide" model permits students to attend public schools outside their home districts, depending on available space, desegregation requirements, and the students' ability to travel. Typically, when a school district loses students, it also loses state funding, so this plan may not appeal to many school districts.
- The "private school" model, known as the voucher or scholarship plan, is the most controversial. This model allows parents to use public funds to send their children to private schools. As of 2005 only a few school districts offered a voucher plan.
According to the Alliance for School Choice, in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Colorado, voucher programs are means-tested. Poor families who meet specific income criteria can use funds set aside for education by the government to pay for all or part of the tuition at any public, private, or religious school of their choice. In Florida and Colorado parents whose children are doing poorly in school or who attend schools that have been designated as failing can use public funds to send their child to a better performing public, private, or religious school. In Florida parents of children with special educational needs can use public funds to send their children to another public, private, or religious school. In Maine and Vermont parents who live in areas that do not have elementary or secondary schools can send their children to public or non-religious private schools in other areas, using funds provided by the child's home school district.
In Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois parents can claim a tax credit or tax deduction for educational expenses, including supplies, tutors, and in some cases tuition. Most programs have income caps, which vary from state to state, and limits on the amount a parent can claim. In Florida, Pennsylvania, and Arizona tax-deductible contributions are collected from individuals and corporations that fund scholarship-granting programs. Scholarships are given to children to cover the cost of tutoring and private school tuition. Some programs require that eligible families meet specific income criteria.
Vouchers—Pro and Con
Since about 1990 voucher plans have been a hotly debated political issue. Those favoring voucher programs consider them an equitable means of helping low-income families provide their children with better education. Voucher programs emphasize educational choices rather than requirements dictated by the government. In addition, many believe increased competition will cause public schools to improve or face closure.
Those opposing vouchers believe the plans would only help a few students, leaving most low-income students behind in schools with reduced community commitment. Critics maintain that vouchers weaken public schools by diverting resources from them. The debate becomes even more heated when voucher supporters advocate allowing students to attend religious schools with public voucher funds. A major dimension of that debate concerns whether the use of vouchers at religiously affiliated private schools would violate the First Amendment by directly supporting religious institutions, or whether vouchers avoid such violations by supporting only the children.
Vouchers and the Law
The Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Ohio concluded in December 2000 that there was probable cause that the Cleveland voucher program, which gives low-income students scholarships to attend private secular or religious schools, violated the constitutional separation of church and state and would be found unconstitutional. The court rejected arguments that the Cleveland vouchers were a neutral form of aid to parents that only indirectly benefited religious schools. The ruling was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court by the state of Ohio as well as by a group of voucher parents and by several religious schools participating in the program, which continued to operate pending the further appeals. The court accepted all three petitions for review but said it would treat them as one case. In late June 2002 the Supreme Court overruled the 6th Circuit and determined that the Cleveland voucher program was legal.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court, in Jackson v. Benson (218 Wis.2d 835, 578 N.W.2d 602), ruled that inclusion of religious schools in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program does not violate U.S. federal or Wisconsin state constitutional prohibitions against government support of religion. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case (119 S. Ct. 467, 1998).
In two related cases (Bagley v. Raymond School Department [1999 Me. 60] and Strout v. Albanese [No. 98-1986] 1999) brought by parents who wanted reimbursement for the cost of religious schools, the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit ruled that inclusion of religious schools in the tuition program would be unconstitutional. Maine's "tuitioning" law allows reimbursements to families that send their children from districts lacking public schools to secular private schools. Appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court were filed in both cases. In October 1999 the Court declined without comment or a recorded vote to review either case.
The Arizona Supreme Court, in Kotterman v. Killian (972 P.2d 606), upheld the state program allowing a tax credit of up to $500 for individuals making charitable contributions to "school tuition organizations" that provide scholarships to private schools, including religious schools. In October 1999 the U.S. Supreme Court denied review (68 LW 3232).
Do Americans Support School Choice?
The 36th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll (http://www.pdkintl.org/kappan/k0409pol.htm) asked if respondents favored or opposed allowing students and parents to choose a private school at public expense. The poll found that in 2004 more than half (54%) of Americans did not support allowing parents to choose private schools and receive financial assistance from public funds in order to do so. In contrast, 42% of the survey respondents favored publicly supported school choice. (See Table 7.2.)
|Public opinion on allowing students to attend a private school at public expense, 2004|
|do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense?|
|Source: Lowell C. Rose and Alec M. Gallup, "Table 30. Do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense?," in "The 36th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools," Phi Delta Kappan, September 2004. Reproduced with permission.|
The poll asked respondents whether they would choose a public, private, or church-related school if they had a school-age child and were given a voucher that covered the full costs of tuition. Thirty-seven percent said they would choose a public school. More than half (56%) said they would opt out of the public school system: 36% said they would select a church-related private school, and 20% responded that they would choose a non-church-related private school. (See Table 7.3.)
|Public opinion on choosing a public, private, or church-related school, if vouchers covered the full price of tuition, 2004|
|suppose you had a school-age child and were given a voucher covering full tuition that would permit you to send that child to any public, private, or church-related school of your choice. which kind of school do you think you would choose?|
|National totals||No children in school||Public school parents|
|Source: Lowell C. Rose and Alec M. Gallup, "Table 31. Suppose you had a school-age child and were given a voucher covering full tuition that would permit you to send that child to any public, private, or church-related school of your choice. Which kind of school do you think you would choose?," in "The 36th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools," Phi Delta Kappan, September 2004. Reproduced with permission.|
|A public school||37||35||38||35||38||39|
|A church-related private school||36||38||33||37||40||38|
|A non-church-related private school||20||24||22||25||17||21|
|Public opinion on choosing a public, private, or church-related school, if vouchers covered half the price of tuition, 2004|
|what if the voucher covered only half of the tuition, which do you think you would choose?|
|National totals||No children in school||Public school parents|
|Source: Lowell C. Rose and Alec M. Gallup, "Table 32. What if the voucher covered only half of the tuition, which do you think you would choose?," in "The 36th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools," Phi Delta Kappan, September 2004. Reproduced with permission.|
|A public school||46||47||46||45||50||55|
|A church-related private school||32||34||29||34||34||29|
|A non-church-related private school||16||17||18||19||11||15|
When asked which kind of school they would choose if the voucher covered half the tuition, 46% said they would choose a public school, 32% said they would select a church-related private school, and 16% responded that they would choose a non-church-related private school. (See Table 7.4.)
In the 1970s a number of parents, unhappy with public schools, began teaching their children at home. In 1990 the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) estimated that about 474,000 school-aged children were being taught at home. (The HSLDA provides legal counsel for homeschooling families.) The HSLDA estimates that the rate of growth in homeschooling is 7% to 15% annually. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were 850,000 students who were at least partially homeschooled in 1999. By 2003 the number of students who were homeschooled at least part of the time in the United States was more than one million. (See Table 7.5.)
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2003, 31.2% of the children who were homeschooled had parents who cited a concern about the environment of school as the most important reason for doing it; 29.8% had parents who believed religious or moral reasons were most important; and 16.5% had parents who were dissatisfied with academic instruction at conventional schools. (See Table 7.6.)
Based on research data from the late 1990s, the HSLDA reports on its Web site (http://www.hslda.org/) that on average homeschool parents had more education than other parents in the general population, with 88% of homeschooling parents having attended college. Almost 24% of homeschooled students had at least one parent who is a certified teacher. Families who homeschooled had higher median incomes than the median income of all families with children. Homeschool families also were larger than the national average, the majority have three or more children. Only about 6% of homeschooling families were minorities. On average, only 1.6% of homeschooled students in the fourth grade watched three or more hours of television per day.
|Number and distribution of school-age children who were homeschooled, by amount of time spent in schools, 1999 and 2003|
|Number||Percentage distribution||Homeschooling ratea||Number||Percentage distribution||Home-schooling ratea|
|aThe homeschooling rate is the percentage of the total subgroup that is homeschooled. For example, in 2003, 2.2 percent of all males were homeschooled.|
|bBlack includes African American and Hispanic includes Latino. Race categories exclude Hispanic unless specified.||Note: Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding. Homeschooled children are those ages 5-17 educated by their parents full or part time who are in a grade equivalent to kindergarten through 12th grade. Excludes students who were enrolled in public or private school more than 25 hours per week and students who were homeschooled only because of temporary illness.|
|Source: John Wirt, Susan Choy, Patrick Rooney, William Hussar, Stephen Provasnik, and Gillian Hampden-Thompson, "Homeschooled Students: Number and Distribution of School-Age Children Who Were Homeschooled, by Amount of Time Spent in Schools: 1999 and 2003," in The Condition of Education, 2005, NCES 2005-094, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Washington, DC, June 2005, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2005/2005094.pdf (accessed July 26, 2005)|
|Homeschooled and enrolled in school part time||153,000||18.0||100.0||198,000||18.0||100.0|
|Enrolled in school less than 9 hours per week||107,000||12.6||100.0||137,000||12.5||100.0|
|Enrolled in school 9-25 hours per week||46,000||5.4||100.0||61,000||5.6||100.0|
|Number of children in the household|
|Three or more children||523,000||61.6||2.4||679,000||62.0||3.1|
|Number of parents in the household|
|Parents' participation in the labor force|
|Two parents, one in labor force||444,000||52.2||4.6||594,000||54.2||5.6|
|Two parents, both in labor force||237,000||27.9||1.0||274,000||25.0||1.1|
|One parent in labor force||98,000||11.6||0.7||174,000||15.9||1.4|
|No parent in labor force||71,000||8.3||1.9||54,000||4.9||1.8|
|$25,000 or less||262,000||30.9||1.6||283,000||25.8||2.3|
|$75,001 or more||148,000||17.4||1.5||238,000||21.7||1.7|
|High school diploma or less||160,000||18.9||0.9||269,000||24.5||1.7|
|Some college or vocational/technical||287,000||33.7||1.9||338,000||30.8||2.1|
Homeschooling is legal in all fifty states, but states vary widely in the way they govern homeschooling. Because all states' laws require school attendance, the states have jurisdiction over homeschools. Some states have set up elaborate requirements for homeschools, while others have taken a "hands-off" approach.
Three states—New York, Ohio, and Texas—illustrate the wide variance in homeschool requirements.
|Number and percentage of school-age children who were homeschooled, by parents' reasons given for homeschooling, 2003|
|aPercentages do not sum to 100 percent because respondents could choose more than one reason.|
|bSuch as safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure.|
|cParents homeschool their children for many reasons that are often unique to their family situation. "Other reasons" parents gave for homeschooling include the following: it was the child's choice, to allow parents more control over what child was learning, and to provide more flexibility.|
|Note: Homeschooled children are those ages 5-17 educated by their parents full or part time who are in a grade equivalent to kindergarten through 12th grade. Excludes students who were enrolled in public or private school more than 25 hours per week and students who were homeschooled only because of temporary illness. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.|
|Source: John Wirt, Susan Choy, Patrick Rooney, William Hussar, Stephen Provasnik, and Gillian Hampden-Thompson, "Table 3-2. Number and Percentage of School-Age Children Who Were Homeschooled, by Parents' Reasons Given as Important and Most Important for Homeschooling: 2003," in The Condition of Education, 2005, NCES 2005-094, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Washington, DC, June 2005, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/2005/section1/table.asp?tableID=228 (accessed July 26, 2005)|
|A concern about environment of other schoolsb||935,000||85.4||341,000||31.2|
|A dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools||748,000||68.2||180,000||16.5|
|A desire to provide religious or moral instruction||793,000||72.3||327,000||29.8|
|Child has a physical or mental health problem||174,000||15.9||71,000||6.5|
|Child has other special needs||316,000||28.9||79,000||7.2|
New York has established extensive requirements for homeschools. Elementary-age students must spend 900 hours per year in class, and those in grades seven through twelve must be in class 990 hours per year. The teacher must be "competent" (no specific credentials required), and each year the superintendent of local schools must receive advance notice of the intent to homeschool. Records of attendance and assessment (including standardized tests) must be filed with the superintendent at specified times. Curriculum is specified by grade level and includes the basics, plus eight other subjects, such as American and New York history, music and art, health, and physical education. Students instructed at home are not awarded high school diplomas.
Ohio requires students to spend 900 hours per year in class, and the homeschool teacher must have a high school diploma or equivalent. Each year, advance notice of intent to homeschool and assessment of student performance must be filed with the superintendent of schools. The assessment can be standardized test scores, a written description of progress, or another approved form of assessment. No attendance records are required. The state specifies which subjects must be taught, including the basics and other topics, such as first aid, fine arts, health, and government. Ohio does not award diplomas to students who are homeschooled.
Texas has very few requirements for homeschools, considering them private schools (which are not regulated by the state). The state requires no teacher certification, no advance notice, and no testing or attendance records. The only specified subjects are reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and good citizenship. Texas does not award diplomas to students who are homeschooled.
RELIGION IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
The separation of church and state as outlined in the U.S. Constitution is one of the most widely debated constitutional issues. During the past two decades, controversy has swirled around school prayer, religious baccalaureate services, and other exercises of religious belief within public schools.
The church/state separation clause in the First Amendment was intended to prohibit the establishment of a state religion or the coercion of citizens to belong to a particular group, either religious or antireligious. Contrary to popular belief, the Supreme Court's interpretations of First Amendment rights do not prohibit the private expression of religion in the public school. They do not prevent students from praying at school or in the classroom so long as these activities do not disrupt the school's normal order or instruction. A student may pray either silently or quietly aloud whenever he or she is not actively participating in school activities, such as recitation in class. For example, students may not decide to pray aloud just as the teacher calls on them for an answer in class.
On the other hand, a student may not attempt to turn a class or meeting into a captive audience for a religious service. Public school officials may not legally require prayers during the school day, make them a part of graduation exercises, or organize religious baccalaureate services. Teachers and school administrators may not participate in, encourage, or insist upon student religious or antireligious activities while they are acting in their capacities as representatives of the state. Doing so could be interpreted as coercion or as the establishment of a particular group as a state-sanctioned religion, which violates the First Amendment. Teachers and other school personnel may exercise private religious activity within the boundaries of the First Amendment in faculty lounges or private offices.
Public schools may teach about religion, but they cannot give religious instruction. The study of the Bible and other religious scriptures is permissible as part of literature, history, and social studies classes so that students can understand the contribution of religious ideas and groups to the nation's culture. Students may express their personal religious beliefs in reports, homework, or artwork so long as these meet the goals of the assignments and are appropriate to the topics assigned.
The separation of church and state is very clear in some areas, but it can be ambiguous in others. For example, one of the biggest issues surrounding school vouchers is whether or not state funds, generated from taxes, can be used to pay tuition at parochial (religious) schools. In 1973 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Committee for Public Education and Religious Liberty v. Nyquist (413 U.S. 756) that doing so would be an unconstitutional mingling of church and state.
The Supreme Court, however, seems to have changed its stance on the necessity for a rigid barrier between public and parochial schools. Five justices criticized a 1985 finding in Aguilar v. Felton (473 U.S. 402), which ruled that sending public school teachers to parochial schools to conduct remedial classes was unconstitutional. In 1997 the Court reheard the case, a most unusual procedure. Divided five to four, the Supreme Court, in Agostini v. Felton (65 LW 4524, 1997), ruled that "Aguilar [is] no longer good law." In reversing Aguilar the court declared that
a federally funded program providing supplemental, remedial instruction to disadvantaged children on a neutral basis is not invalid under the Establishment Clause when such instruction is given on the premises of sectarian schools by government employees pursuant to a program containing safeguards. This carefully constrained program also cannot reasonably be viewed as an endorsement of religion…. The mere circumstance that [an aid recipient] has chosen to use neutrally available state aid to help pay for [a] religious education [does not] confer any message of state endorsement of religion.
Specifically, the Court decided that Title I instructional services may be provided by public school teachers in private schools. Some observers believe the decision may help define future cases concerning state and religion, especially those involving vouchers that could be used to pay for tuition at religious-oriented schools.
The Controversy over the Pledge of Allegiance
In 2001 Michael A. Newdow, an atheist who objected to the Pledge of Allegiance being said in his daughter's school, filed a lawsuit arguing that requiring his daughter to recite the words "under God" in a public school was unconstitutional. In Elk Grove Unified School District v. Michael A. Newdow (2002) a panel of the Ninth Circuit court agreed, issuing a 2 to 1 decision that requiring schoolchildren to say the phrase "under God" violates the First Amendment's prohibition of government sponsorship of religion. However, in 2003 the full Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ninety-day stay, which allowed students in nine Western states to continue saying the Pledge of Allegiance without the words removed, pending a decision by the Supreme Court on whether it would review the case.
The Supreme Court did agree to hear the case, and in 2004 it overturned the Ninth Circuit's original decision, but without ruling on the constitutionality of the Pledge. The Court determined that because Newdow did not have legal custody over his daughter (the child's mother had sole custody), he did not have legal standing to sue the school district on her behalf. This decision effectively kept the phrase "one nation, under God," in the Pledge of Allegiance, but left the door open to future challenges on First Amendment grounds.
Teaching Evolution vs. Teaching Creationism in Schools
The theory of evolution, which argues that life has evolved from simple to complex forms over millions of years, has caused controversy since it was first put forward by Charles Darwin in the nineteenth century. Some people believe that evolution contradicts their religious beliefs that life was created by God, a view known as creationism, and have sought to ban the teaching of evolution and/or have creationism taught in public schools. In 1968 the Supreme Court ruled in Epperson v. Arkansas (393 U.S. 97) that bans on teaching evolution in schools violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution because their primary purpose was religious. In 1987 the Court used the same reasoning in Edwards v. Aguillard (482 U.S. 578) to strike down a Louisiana law that required those who taught evolution to also discuss creation science. Despite these historic rulings, the controversy over teaching evolution and creationism in schools continues. In 1999 the Kansas Board of Education voted to remove the subject of evolution from state standardized tests, but the old science standards were restored in 2001 after the election of a new board. In 2002 the Ohio school board voted to change state science standards, mandating that biology teachers critically analyze evolutionary theory.
Late in 2004 the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board mandated the teaching of "intelligent design," a theory proposing that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power. In the 2005 case Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, a group of parents and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the school board for adopting the policy. The lawsuit claimed that the Dover policy violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by promoting a religious doctrine. The school board members who put the intelligent design into the curriculum were voted out of office in November 2005. In December, Judge John Jones ruled that because intelligent design has no scientific basis, it clearly supports the creationist view and therefore violates the Constitution.
A Constitutional Amendment on School Prayer?
Many members of Congress have proposed legislation to amend the constitution specifically to allow prayer in public schools. To date, none of the proposals has passed, but some legislators continue trying. In June 1998 the U.S. House of Representatives voted for the first time since 1971 on a constitutional amendment to restore voluntary school prayer. The measure, the Religious Freedom Amendment, had a majority of voters but not the two-thirds needed to amend the Constitution.
Faith-Based Organizations Providing Services
As part of his education agenda, President George W. Bush proposed using tax dollars to support after-school academic programs provided by faith-based and religious organizations. Through Title I, Part A of the No Child Left Behind Act, faith-based organizations are eligible to apply for approval to provide supplemental educational services to low-income students attending chronically underachieving schools. Federal funds may not be used to support religious practices, such as religious instruction, worship, or prayer. Supported activities include extra help before school, after school, on weekends, or during the summer, in reading, language arts, and mathematics.
TECHNOLOGY IN AMERICAN SCHOOLS
Computer use has become common in American schools. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 91% of students in nursery school through grade twelve used computers in 2003. Nearly all (97%) students in high school, 95% of students in middle school, 91% of students in elementary school, 80% of children in kindergarten, and 67% of children in nursery school used computers. Equal proportions (91% each) of males and females used computers. Computer use was higher among white students (93%) than African-American (86%) or Hispanic students (85%). More nondisabled (91%) than disabled students (82%) used computers. (See Table 7.7.)
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 84% of poor children and 93% of those not in poverty used computers in 2003. More children whose parents held bachelor's degrees used computers than children whose parents dropped out of high school (92% versus 82%). The proportion of children in Spanish-only households who used computers was 80%, while 91% of children who lived in households that were not Spanish-only used computers. (See Table 7.7.)
Nearly three-fifths (59%) of students in nursery school through grade twelve used the Internet in 2003, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. More females (61%) than males (58%) used the Internet. Internet use was more common among high school students (80%) than students in middle school (70%), elementary school (50%), kindergarten (32%), or nursery school (23%). Internet use was higher among white students (67%) than
|Percentage of children enrolled in grade 12 or below who use computers and the Internet, by child and family/household characteristics, 2003|
|Characteristic||Number of students (in thousands)||Percent using computers||Percent using the Internet|
|Asian or Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic||2,116||91||58|
|American Indian, Aleut, or Eskimo, non-Hispanic||522||88||50|
|More than one race, non-Hispanic||1,400||92||65|
|Family and household characteristics|
|Parent educational attainmentc|
|Less than high school credential||5,691||82||37|
|High school credential||13,804||89||54|
|Some graduate education||10,713||95||73|
|Not in poverty||39,016||93||66|
|Percentage of children enrolled in grade 12 or below who use computers and the Internet, by child and family/household characteristics, 2003 [continued]|
|Characteristic||Number of students (in thousands)||Percent using computers||Percent using the Internet|
|aData on "nursery school" enrollment may not reflect enrollment in all kinds of early childhood programs.|
|bAmerican Indian includes Alaska Native, black includes African American, Asian or Pacific Islander includes Native Hawaiian, and Hispanic includes Latino.|
|cParent educational attainment measures the highest level of education of either of the child's parents.|
|dPoverty status is derived from household size and income. Households with incomes below the poverty threshold for their household size (as currently defined by the U.S. Census Bureau for 2003) were classified as poor. Some households reported incomes in a range that straddles the poverty threshold; these households were classified as poor. The 2003 poverty threshold for a four-person household was $18,810.|
|Note: Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding or missing data. Population estimates in this table apply to children age 3 and older who are enrolled in nursery school or in grades K-12.|
|Source: Matthew DeBell, Chris Chapman, and Carol Rohr, "Table 1. Percentage of Children Enrolled in Grade 12 or Below Who Use Computers and the Internet, by Child and Family/Household Characteristics: 2003," in Issue Brief: Rates of Computer and Internet Use by Children in Nursery School and Students in Kindergarten Through Twelfth Grade: 2003, NCES 2005-1111, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, Washington, DC, June 2005|
|$75,000 or more||13,769||95||74|
African-American (47%) or Hispanic students (44%). More nondisabled (61%) than disabled students (49%) used the Internet. (See Table 7.7.)
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 40% of poor children and 66% of those not in poverty used the Internet in 2003. More children whose parents held bachelor's degrees used the Internet than children whose parents dropped out of high school (67% versus 37%). The proportion of children in Spanish-only households who used the Internet was 28%, while 61% of children who lived in households that were not Spanish-only used the Internet. (See Table 7.7.)
Distance Learning for Elementary and Secondary Students
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 8,210 (9%) of the 89,310 schools in the nation had students enrolled in distance education courses. Most (6,250) of the schools were high schools, and most had total enrollments of less than 2,500 students. Schools that had students enrolled in distance learning courses were more common in rural areas than urban or suburban areas. Nearly 37% of the schools were in the Central United States. (See Table 7.8.)
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, from 1979 to 2003 the population of school-age children increased by 19%, but the number of children who spoke a language other than English at home or spoke English with difficulty increased by 161%. In 1979 only 9% of all five- to seventeen-year-olds spoke a language other than English at home, and 3% spoke a language other than English at home and spoke English with difficulty. By 2003 those numbers had jumped to 19% and 5%, respectively. (See Figure 7.2.)
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, in California there were 1.5 million LEP (limited English proficient) students (one-fourth of all students) in 2001–02, while Texas reported more than half a million (one in seven students) receiving LEP services.
When first adopted, bilingual education was intended to offer better education to students (usually poor and recently immigrated to the United States) who did not speak English. The belief was that instructing these students in their native languages—and teaching them English at the same time—would help them overcome the language barriers to successful school achievement.
Some students do not participate in bilingual education, even when it is offered, and in many school districts there is a shortage of bilingual teachers. While it is difficult to measure the effectiveness of bilingual education, many observers believe that children in bilingual programs acquire English at least as well as, and usually better than, children in all-English programs. Others suggest that students in bilingual classes do not learn English more quickly and do not achieve better test scores.
The No Child Left Behind Act consolidated the U.S. Department of Education's bilingual and immigrant education programs. The new federal program focuses on helping LEP students learn English. States and school districts are held accountable for making annual increases in English proficiency from the previous year. States set performance objectives to ensure LEP children achieve English fluency after they have attended school in the United States for three consecutive years. States that do not meet their performance objectives for LEP students could lose up to 10% of the administrative portion of their funding for all ESEA state-administered formula grant programs.
The American High School Today: A First Report to Interested Citizens (James Conant, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1959) recommended that in order to be cost effective and to offer a rich curriculum, a secondary school had to have at least 100 students in its graduating class. Conant asserted that the small high school was the most
|Number of schools in the nation, and number of schools with students enrolled in distance education courses, by instructional level and district characteristics, 2002–03|
|District characteristic||Number of schools||Number of schools with students enrolled in distance education courses|
|All instructional levels||Elementary schools||Middle or junior high schools||High schools||Combined or ungraded schoolsa||All instructional levels||Elementary schools||Middle or junior high schools||High schools||Combined or ungraded schoolsa|
|∗Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation is greater than 50 percent.|
|aCombined or ungraded schools are those in which the grades offered in the school span both elementary and secondary grades or that are not divided into grade levels.|
|Note: Percentages are based on unrounded numbers. There were 3 cases for which district enrollment size was missing and 112 cases for which poverty concentration was missing. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding or missing data.|
|Source: J. Carl Setzer, Laurie Lewis, and Bernard Greene, "Table 2. Number of Schools in the Nation, and Number of Schools with Students Enrolled in Distance Education Courses, by Instructional Level and District Characteristics: 2002–03," in Distance Education Courses for Public Elementary and Secondary School Students: 2002–03, NCES 2005-010, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, Washington, DC, March 2005, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2005/2005010.pdf (accessed July 26, 2005)|
|All public school districts||89,310||50,880||15,520||16,610||6,310||8,210||130||580||6,250||1,250|
|District enrollment size|
|Less than 2,500||30,580||14,300||5,310||7,490||3,480||4,520||40∗||190||3,300||990|
|2,500 to 9,999||26,310||16,130||4,620||4,350||1,200||1,670||20||160||1,360||130|
|10,000 or more||32,390||20,440||5,590||4,760||1,610||2,020||60||240||1,590||120|
|Less than 10 percent||27,910||16,720||5,300||4,750||1,140||2,260||30∗||200||1,700||330|
|10 to 19 percent||33,230||18,630||5,980||6,380||2,240||3,390||70∗||240||2,560||520|
|20 percent or more||26,090||15,060||4,080||4,770||2,180||2,420||30||150||1,900||350|
significant problem in education, and that eliminating it should be a top priority. He favored the establishment of larger, comprehensive high schools. This book was influential in reforming schools, and it helped to fuel the consolidation movement. However, the modern high school became considerably larger than Conant advocated; he encouraged creating schools with enrollments of 300 or 400, which would be small by current standards.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 1937–38 there were 119,001 public school districts and 229,394 schools. By 2001–02 the number of districts and schools had decreased to 14,559 and 94,112, respectively. At the same time, enrollments in schools grew. In 1939–40 public schools enrolled 25.4 million students, and in 2001–02 enrollment was 47.9 million. In 2001–02 the average enrollment at public schools was 520 students per school—477 in elementary schools and 718 in secondary schools. Most (70.4%) public school students attended schools with enrollments of 500 students or more.
The justification for large schools was that they could offer more resources and a better curriculum to students at less cost per student. However, proponents of smaller schools argue that large schools and high enrollment create rigid, impersonal environments that alienate students. They assert that large schools contribute to the high school dropout problem.
Some recent reform efforts have been directed at creating smaller school communities. Advocates of smaller schools suggest that teenagers thrive in more personal settings. Proponents believe that small schools offer individualized education, providing students with more attention and holding them to higher academic standards.
In "School Size, Achievement, and Achievement Gaps" (Bradley J. McMillen, Education Policy Analysis Archives, vol. 12, no. 58, October 22, 2004), the author examined the relationship between school size and student achievement. In a study of North Carolina public elementary, middle, and high school students, McMillen found that the achievement gaps existing between certain groups of students were greater in larger schools. In general this was more significant in mathematics than in reading, and it was more pronounced at the high school level.
In the 2002 report Sizing Things Up, the opinion research organization Public Agenda found that parents whose children attended small high schools were more likely to say that teachers helped struggling students and that students speak and write well. Parents whose children were in large schools were more likely to report that students were alienated, bullied, and likely to drop out. Teachers in large high schools were more likely to say their schools were overcrowded and more likely to respond that students can fall through the cracks. However, most teachers said that small class size was more important to student achievement than small school size. Both parents and teachers believed that large schools had a more diverse student body. Large numbers of students said there were problems with bullying, cheating, and substance abuse in their school, regardless of the size.
According to the National Education Association, when parents are involved in their child's education, the child does better in school, and the school the child attends is also improved. The NEA states that three kinds of parental involvement are associated with higher student achievement: organizing a child's time, helping with homework, and discussing what is happening at school. Positive outcomes of parental involvement include improved student achievement, reduced absenteeism, reduced behavior problems, and increased confidence among parents in their children's education.
According to Parent and Family Involvement in Education 2002–03 (Nancy Vaden-Kiernan, John McManus, and Chris Chapman, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Statistics, NCES 2005-043, Washington, DC, May 2005), as students' ages increased, the amount of contact initiated by the school decreased. In 2002–03, 55% of parents of students in grades four and five reported that someone in the school sent a note or e-mail specifically about their child, while for parents of students in grades six through eight the proportion decreased to 49%, with 42% of parents of ninth and tenth graders reporting that the school sent notes or e-mails home.
In 2002–03, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, more parents of students who attended private religious (70%) or secular (63%) schools reporting having served as a volunteer or on a committee than did parents of public school children (38%). The proportion of parents who had attended a general school meeting was higher in households where parents had completed graduate school (93%) or college (93%) than for children whose parents had completed high school (84%) or less than high school (70%).
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 95% of children in grades kindergarten through twelve had parents who reported they helped with homework in 2002–03, and 85% of children in K-12 had parents who reported that they checked to be sure homework was done. Overall, 90% of students had a place in their homes set aside for doing homework.
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