Keeping our standards up

The Washington Post profiled Josh Powell, a homeschooled young man, who—having never written an essay or learned that South Africa was a country—had to take several years of remedial classes at a community college to get back on track with his peers. Citing worry for his eleven younger siblings, all still being homeschooled by their parents, young Mr. Powell (now a Georgetown undergrad) urges that homeschooling to be subject to accountability. But just what kind of accountability? That’s a tricky question. This is a fascinating case—and a very touchy subject.

There’s a waiting list of about 1,000 students who want to take part in Louisiana’s new Course Choice program, which currently allows 2,000 youngsters to shop around for courses, virtual and otherwise, that are not offered in their home school. State Superintendent John White says that 100 applications pile in every day and that, to accommodate everybody, he’ll have to scrounge for money. The state Supreme Court has already ruled that a constitutionally protected source of public funding is off limits. White estimates that he’ll need another $1.5 million just to meet the current demand.

After reaching a long-awaited teachers’ contract in April, Hawaii’s $75 million Race to the Top grant, awarded in 2010, has finally been cleared of its “high-risk” label. Essentially, this means that the state will no longer have to endure stricter reporting requirements—and, as noted by Education Week, it is a big confidence boost as the Aloha State continues implementing its reforms.

The PARCC assessment consortium has lost another state or two (Indiana, Georgia) but insists—plausibly—that it has a solid core of states that are bent on seeing it through. Fourteen of them, plus D.C., have pledged to take part in the coming year’s field testing—and Gadfly is inclined to say good riddance to the rest. But cost is definitely going to be an issue with these new assessments, even though it’s a miniscule fraction of per pupil education spending. Bandwidth may be, too. And testing time. Is it possible to give good tests that are leaner, faster, and cheaper but still faithful to the Common Core? We’re pretty sure that other vendors will be trying to deliver such assessments.

Back in June, the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a state law that allowed children in failing school districts to transfer to better ones. And now, with the August 1 deadline for transfer requests upon us, thousands of students are applying to escape to a better education. Not all parents, however, are on board: Many of those in the receiving schools are balking at the perceived influx of more needy kids, leading the New York Times to ponder the influence of race and the persistence of school segregation in many areas. Gadfly prays that it all goes smoothly—because all kids deserve the opportunity to be dealt a fair hand.

More By Author

Related Articles