Thursday, December 23, 2010

College and Career Readiness Survey

The New York State Board of Regents would like your feedback on a "College and Career Readiness Survey." As professional educators, parents, or stakeholders in the success of public education, your input matters! The survey focuses on three topics:

The survey is planned to take approximately 20-30 minutes to complete. It must be completed in one session. Please follow the hyper-link to access the survey.
The "College and Career Readiness Survey" is one aspect of a series of meetings, presentations, and data collection processes conducted in 2010 by the NYS Board of Regents' College and Career Readiness Working Group. Results of the survey will be shared with the Board of Regents during the March 2011 meeting. The deadline for your input is January 31, 2011 at 10:00 a.m.
Thank you in advance for your time and your continued support of all students in New York State.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

New York State PreKindergarten Learning Standards

The Board of Regents would like your feedback on the final draft of the New York State PreK Learning Standards, which will be presented for discussion and adoption at their January 2011 meeting. As someone invested in the education of young children, your informed opinion is important to the finalization of this project.

Recall an earlier post alerting readers to Governor Paterson's suggestion that universal Pre-K in NYS could be cut due to the budget deficit. Proactive negative reaction stopped such thoughts!Adopting effective learning standards is the next step to ensuring effective NYS education begins with Pre-K!

"The New York State PreKindergarten Learning Standards are arranged in five
developmental domains: Approaches to Learning; Physical Development and
Health; Social and Emotional Development; Communication, Language and Literacy;
and Cognition and Knowledge of the World. Each domain identifies clearly the
benchmarks that children should meet during their prekindergarten experience and
performance indicators that can be observed as children meet these

A survey is posted on the Universal PreK website, , for you to share your comments and recommendations. Any questions about the survey may be sent to

The deadline for your input is December 22, 2010."

Time is of the essence! Your input is valued! Thank you in advance for your time and your continued support of the young learners in New York State.

Monday, October 18, 2010

With an Eye to the Future

Thomas Jefferson (1816) wrote, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Our Founding Fathers clearly saw the connection between freedom and education. Given this, the main purpose of United States’ public education has always been to develop an informed populace. Before writing "Light and liberty go together” (1795) Jefferson, in a letter to James Madison (1786), stated "Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to, convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty."
For most of my adult academic life, politicians assured possible voters how badly our public schools were serving the populace. Starting with A Nation at Risk (1983) through the latest reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, PL 98-10) known as No Child Left Behind (2001), education reform has been predicated on the need to fix a broken system. Yet, the more politics became involved in reform, the further the United States has fallen behind other industrialized nations-especially in science and math.
Currently, ESEA is past due for reauthorization. This can either mean another opportunity for true reform or simply another chance for politicians to use education as a means for power. The Obama Administration has developed a blueprint for reform and is actively seeking bipartisan support within a very partisan Congress . The American Association of School Administrators (2010) is very correct in its belief that “Now more than ever, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (the law currently known as No Child Left Behind) must be rewritten to reflect its original purpose: success for all children, especially disadvantaged children.”
As part of the college’s International Teacher Training Institute, several times each year I am blessed with the wonderful opportunity to teach groups of mid-career educational professionals from Shenzhen China. They come to the College of Mount Saint Vincent for professional development with a focus on learning about the history of western educational practices and current initiatives. With each group, I become more aware of one fact: we have much to learn from them!
One of the greatest opportunities provided by the current ESEA reauthorization process is for our populace to become as informed as possible. As outlined in a previous post to this blog, we need to avoid the distractions politicians provide in an effort to avoid focusing upon what is truly important. Education that focuses upon the whole child while ensuring upward mobility for all Americans needs to regain focus as the primary mission of ESEA. Jefferson (1789 noted, "Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government;... whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights."
My fellow Americans and lovers of truth, ever since that horrific September 11, 2001 day; before which Congress enjoyed a budget surplus and exhibited regular discourse about finally fully-funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and fixing Social Security; our great country has been on the wrong course! The last two years have been spent on triage for an economy utterly wrecked by the sins of corporate greed, personal avarice, and moral sloth. The reauthorization of ESEA can be the first step out of the triage stage and a return to health. We need to become well-informed so, as a united people, we can be trusted with our own government! Things have gotten so far wrong that we cannot ignore such self-evident truths any longer.
You are encouraged to learn as much as you can about public schools, charter schools, and our global economy. Become involved in the process of education reform by talking with educators, administrators, elected officials, children, and each other! It is the only way we may be relied on to set things right.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Is an "English Only" Policy in America's Best Interest?

As a logical follow up to the previous post on "Fear and Prejudice," addressing the issue of linguistic diversity seems appropriate. What drives those believing we should only speak one language in the United States? Would our children REALLY be harmed by having the ability to speak multiple languages? Karl Fisch, a high school administrator from Littleton, Colorado, originally developed a powerpoint for teachers at his school involving shifting paradigms due to the impact of globalization and technology. Later, Scott Mcleod, a professor at Univ. of Minnesota, generalized the presentation. Three years and 20+ million online views later, the evolution (4.0) of the Did You Know? (Shift Happens) video continues to help raise awareness of the need to think critically upon the current policies and practices related to education and the economy. Comparing version 4.0 to the original 2007 Shift Happens video, exemplifies just how quickly technology is changing and its impact upon future education and economic choices.

The need to become a multilingual country should be central to any discussion related to educational reform. China has a plan in place for its 1.2 billion people to become proficient in both Mandarin and English within five years. More importantly, China is helping Mandarin replace English as the language of diplomacy and trade throughout Asia. We cannot confront such a challenging educational and economic reality with the usual partisan fear mongering. The United States should instead look upon this as an opportunity. Contrary to the belief of many motivational speakers, the Mandarin word for "crisis" is not truly comprised of two symbols individually meaning "danger" and "opportunity." However, it is apropos to hope the crisis imposed by a dangerous status quo regarding "English Only" will inspire the great American spirit to see the opportunity to become multilinguistic as a great benefit to its children.
An example of what is possible can be seen through the Patchworks Films documentary: "Speaking In Tongues." At a time when 31 states have passed "English Only" laws, four pioneering families put their children in public schools where, from the first day of kindergarten, their teachers speak mostly Chinese or Spanish. Speaking in Tongues follows four diverse kids on a journey to become bilingual. The film is a winner of the Audience Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival. The story will challenge you to rethink the skills that Americans need in the 21st century.

A schedule of information follows: Watch Speaking in Tongues on PBS WNET, New York City on Saturday September 4, at 1:00 p.m. Tune to your local PBS affiliate for other viewing options.

From September 3 through September 17, PBS will stream the program in three different languages: English, Spanish and Chinese on the PBS website . Check its website during those dates for the direct URL.

Watch the trailer:

San Francisco International Film Festival

Find a screening near you :

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fear and Prejudice

With all due respect to Jane Austen’s choice of title and the thoughts of collective theologians, I believe self-centered fear rather than pride is the bane that continues to drive prejudice within the United States. Recently I saw the play “Race,” which provided a wonderful opportunity for discussion afterwards. Undoubtedly, this discussion, the ongoing media-induced melodrama concerning the proposed building of an Islamic mosque and cultural center within walking distance of the September 11, 2001 al-Queda terrorist attack upon the World Trade Center buildings and its innocent civilians, and the ongoing politically-based collective denigration of Mexicans as “illegal immigrants” inspired me to reflect upon the correlation between fear and prejudice .
For two hundred and nineteen years the United States has been a more perfect union because of Amendment One of the Constitution whereby "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Why doesn’t the press, which obviously embraces the freedom granted to it by the First Amendment, recognize the Amendment’s strength is based on protecting ALL the freedoms granted within? Could it be the desire to manipulate freedom of thought in order to maintain power is more inticing than the freedom ensured through a balanced education? If so, isn't regulation to increase equal access to balanced information in the public interest?
Since 2003, when the Bush Administration changed the FCC ownership rules, can anyone deny the increased partisanship of cable news broadcasts? Can Fox News or MSNBC really be considered true reporters of news rather than creators of news? On a daily basis, doesn't the partisanship exhibited in the media exemplify "yellow journalism"?
While the Constitution protects the freedom of the media, it does not guarantee its fairness. Based on the First Amendment, the Federal Government may not place a prior restraint on the news. Broadcast media, i.e., radio, television, have a special legal status that is more subject to regulation than print media (newspapers, magazines) because their assignment of a broadcasting frequency by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is regarded as a public trust. As noted above, until the 2003 regulation changes, the FCC prohibited a single individual or firm from owning both a leading television and newspaper in the same city so as to insure diversity. With the increase in cable and satellite channels the rule was unwisely deemed to be outdated. The result has been a single entity can now own nearly 50% of a region’s media. Although the FCC imposes an equal-time rule, which requires stations to give equal time to opposing candidates if free time is given to any candidate, or to offer opposing candidates air time at an equal price in the case of paid political commercials. However, the equal-time requirement does not apply to news, talk shows, or documentary coverage. This is just one loophole whereby partisanship is now allowed to freely create fear and distortion as a way to retain power.
The result of such media oligopoly and manipulation seems to be the promotion of prejudice rather than balanced education. The Fairness Doctrine, which once "enforced the FCC’s belief that broadcast licenses (required for both radio and terrestrial TV stations) were a form of public trust and, as such, licensees must provide balanced and fair coverage of controversial issues” was repealed in 1987. In the ensuing twenty-three years it should be very apparent to the three branches of government that the Fairness Doctrine truly did serve the public interest.
As the first step toward promoting education to ensure an informed populace, the Fairness Doctrine should be restored and include both quasi-news and talk shows for terrestial, cable, and satellite sources within the Doctrine's expectations. Since its accessibility and influence upon a given market has allowed the media to virtually become a fourth branch of our system of government, without FCC regulation ensuring an expectation of equal access and fairness, the very freedoms granted by the Constitution would continue to be eroded through partisan manipulation. Balanced education through bi-partisan access and presentation of information would be this great country’s best deterrent to the promotion of self-centered fear and the resultant continuation of prejudice.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Preliminary Draft of New York State Teaching Standards

The State Education Department has released the Preliminary Draft of New York State Teaching Standards for public review and comment. To view a letter from Deputy Commissioner Joseph Frey, the preliminary draft standards, and the web response form, click on this direct link .
The deadline for comment is August 16, 2010.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

What Are Charter Schools?

President Obama has called upon states to encourage the expansion of charter schools. The Obama administration believes a network of innovative and high-achieving charter schools can be an important part of a state's school reform effort. The consideration of each state's application for federal "Race to the Top" funds is clearly linked to that state's acceptance and promotion of charter schools. Therefore, as the Department of Education begins accepting state applications for the federal government's largest one-time investment in K-12 public school reform, a better understanding of charter schools is apropos. By the end of the year, the department will be distributing grants from the $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund. Additionally, $1.5 billion in Title I School Improvement Program funds will be made available to improve teaching and learning for all children.
Charter schools are part of the public education system. They are not allowed to charge tuition. They provide an alternative to other public schools. When enrollment in a charter school is over subscribed, admission is frequently allocated by lottery-based admissions. Charter schools can be primary or secondary schools and receive public money. Charter school funding is dictated by the state. In many states, charter schools are funded by transferring per-pupil state aid from the school district where the charter school student resides. The Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Part B, Sections 502–511 also authorize funding grants for charter schools. Additionally, charter schools, like other public schools, may receive funding from private donors or foundations. A charter school funding study (2008) in all 40 charter states and the District of Columbia found that charter students are funded on average at 61 cents compared to every dollar for their district peers, with charter funding averaging $6,585 per pupil compared to $10,771 per pupil at conventional district public schools. While some proponents believe this funding difference is mitigated through efficient budgeting and accountability, lower teacher and administrative salaries at charter schools compared to conventional district public schools are usually evident.
In exchange for additional accountability for producing academic results, as established by each school's charter, a charter school is not subject to some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools. Two principles guide charter schools:
First, through waivers from many of the procedural requirements of district public schools, a charter school will operate as autonomous public schools. Autonomy can be critically important for creating a school culture that maximizes student motivation by emphasizing high expectations, academic rigor, discipline, and relationships with caring adults.
Second, charter schools must be accountable for student achievement. To date, of the over 5000 charter schools founded in the United States, 12.5% have closed due to academic, financial, managerial problems, consolidation, or district interference.
The rules and structure of charter schools depend on each state's authorizing legislation and differ from state to state. A charter school is authorized to function once it has received a charter. The school's charter is a statutorily defined performance contract detailing the school's mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and explicates how success is measured. The length of time whereby charters are granted may vary by state but most are granted for 3–5 years. Charter schools are held accountable to their "sponsor." A sponsor may be either a local school board, state education agency, university, corporation, or other entity. The accountability is intended to produce and prove positive academic results while adhering to the charter (contract).
While stronger accountability is one of the key arguments in favor of charters, initial research by the United States Department of Education (1997) suggests that, in practice, charter schools were not held to higher standards of accountability compared to traditional public schools. However, by comparison, "underperforming public schools" closed due to students' poor academic results are much less compared to charter schools and are often allowed to remain open, perhaps with new leadership or restructuring, or perhaps with no change at all. Proponents of charter schools assert that charter schools are not given the opportunities to restructure often and are simply closed down when students perform poorly on academic assessments.
On June 8, 2010; U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan emphasized the need for additional effective education entrepreneurs to join the work of reforming America's lowest performing public schools, noting states must be open to charter schools. Each state's pursuit of federal "Race to the Top" funds are clearly linked to its openess toward charter schools. The stakes are too high for states financially and for students academically to restrict choice and innovation.
"States that do not have public charter laws or put artificial caps on the
growth of charter schools will jeopardize their applications under the Race
to the Top Fund... To be clear, this administration is not looking to open
unregulated and unaccountable schools. We want real autonomy for charters
combined with a rigorous authorization process and high performance
standards...I am advocating for using whatever models work for students, and
particularly where improvements have stagnated for years... We cannot
continue to do that same thing and expect different results. We cannot let
another generation of children be deprived of their civil right to a quality
education." (Duncan, 2010)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Inclusion of Students with Special Needs: More than an issue of access, it is about civil rights!

A review of post-war educational reforms and initiatives certainly corresponds to our society’s evolving desire and respect for civil rights. Yet, despite being developed alongside the civil rights and equal rights movements, the education of children with disabilities in the least restrictive environment is seldom viewed as an issue of either civil or equal rights. Reviewing mainstreaming beliefs and practices in education dating back to 1975, Lipsky and Gardner (1997) found mainstreaming is based on the assumption that a student with a disability can cope with the academic and social demands of a general education classroom. Specifically, they found mainstreaming was traditionally only “applicable to those students who were considered to be most like normal” (p. 77). By contrast, inclusion signifies that a student with a disability can benefit both academically and socially from the general education classroom, even if goals for students with disabilities were different from typically developing students. Too often mainstreaming and inclusion are used interchangeably in educational literature. They differ significantly in terms of both definition and philosophy. In a critical commentary on the field of special education, Kauffman (1998) stated, “Inclusion has become virtually meaningless, a catch-word used to give a patina of legitimacy to whatever program people are trying to sell or defend” (p. 246).
The p, eriod following 1997 marks a clear point of change in the field of special education. Requirements increasing accountability using standards-based assessment for all students as stated in the reauthorization of IDEA (1997) stressed increased access to the general education curriculum and inclusion of general educators as members of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team. These explicit mandates promoted the opportunity for increased inclusion to become firmly established as the foundation for placement decisions. Although requirements for placement within the least restrictive environment had been in special education legislation since 1975, the explicit mandates of IDEA 1997 increased academic expectations, resulting in a shift in policies and practices within education. An effective “inclusion movement” helps ensure educators will, to the greatest extent appropriate, provide access to the general education curriculum in the least restrictive environment (LRE) for students with disabilities.
Despite progress, placement decisions are too often based on budget and staffing considerations rather than the rights of a student with disabilities to receive a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment to ensure access to the general education curriculum with optimal success. Such a practice should be met with the same outrage we now hold toward segregated water fountains, lunch counters, or bus seats. Inclusion of a student with special needs in the appropriate least restrictive environment is indeed a civil right.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Get Involved With Educational Reform!

Why should you write your congressional representatives encouraging support for a "Whole Child"approach to education? The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), now known as "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) requires reauthorization. Testifying before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and the House Education and Labor Committee on the Obama Administration's Blueprint for reauthorizing ESEA, Secretary of Education Duncan presented a compelling case for correcting many of the problems related to our current educational system. Reauthorization will only be sound and perfected through further input from educators seeking to ensure effective policy and solid implemetation of best practices. Congressman Moran's (D-VA) recent House of Representative resolution (H-1093) identifies the rationale for why you should be contacting your congressional representatives and stay well-informed about the reauthorization process. It is essential for educators to become familiar with all aspects of educational reform for this country.

At the core of reform should be the "Whole Child" philosophy, which advocates:
  • Each student should be able to enter school healthy and ready to learn about and practice a healthy lifestyle. According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, the percentage of overweight children ages 6 to 11 has doubled and the number of overweight adolescents has tripled over the last 2 decades.
  • Each student should be able to learn in an intellectually challenging environment that is physically and emotionally safe. According to the Indicators of School Crime and Safety report of 2009, 32 percent of middle and high school students reported being bullied during the 2007 school year.
  • Each student should be able to be actively engaged in learning and connected to the school and broader community. A study on high school student engagement conducted by the Center for Evaluation & Education Policy at the Indiana University School of Education found that half of high school students feel they are an important part of their school community; what does the other half feel?
  • Each student deserves access to personalized learning and is supported by qualified, caring adults. The same Indiana University study cited above reported that more than 20 percent of students say there is no adult at their school who cares about them and knows them well. Given this, why wouldn't 1 in 5 students feel disenfranchised or left behind?
  • Each graduate deserves to be challenged academically and prepared for success in college or further study, and for employment in a global economy. According to the most recently published information from the Condition of Education on the availability of advanced courses in United States high schools, more than 25 percent of students do not have access to a single advanced course in mathematics, English, science, or foreign language in their high school.

Another student drops out every nine seconds in the United States. That translates to 7200 students dropping out EVERY day! Tell those students they weren't left behind! Previously, this writer encouraged in-service educators and pre-service teachers to speak up and speak out for educational reform. The time is now! The need is urgent! Act now! Contact your elected representatives.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Brain Imaging Science and Best Practices in Education

Neuropsychology is a fascinating field. Thomas Insel, MD, PhD, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said “Brain imaging in clinical practice is the next major advance in psychiatry.”
Becoming more familiar with this science can improve educational practices. Absent concrete evidence of brain functioning, an effective multidisciplinary team can usually only produce an Individualized Educational Program (IEP) that seeks to impliment best practices that is too often based on speculation. Specially designed instruction requires a wide range of pedagogical tools and professional knowledge to effectively utilize interventions. Yet, interventions, including the use of medications, are too often grounded in trial and error. By contrast, when the brain can be reliably examined before, during, and after the introduction of interventions, treatment errors can be drastically mitigated.
For instance, increased activity in the anterior cingulate gyrus and prefrontal cortex is often associated with problems shifting attention, which may be clinically manifested by cognitive inflexibility, obsessive thoughts, compulsive behaviors, excessive worrying, argumentativeness, oppositional behavior or "getting stuck" on certain thoughts or actions. How often are these behaviors handled in strictly behavioral terms? Yet, there has been found to be a strong association with these findings and obsessive-compulsive disorders, oppositional defiant disorders, eating disorders, addictive disorders, anxiety disorders, Tourette’s syndrome and chronic pain--especially when combined with increased basal ganglia activity (Amen, 2007). When clinically indicated, hyperactivity in this part of the brain may be helped by anti-obsessive antidepressants or supplements that increase serotonin levels. Specific behavior modification techniques can also be useful for reducing activity in this part of the brain.
By contrast, when this area of the brain is low in activity it is often associated with low motivation and verbal expression. An "off centered cingulate" may be indicative of a brain injury.
Brain imaging science provides valuable information that can lead to more effective interventions, including natural treatments to optimize the brain whenever possible. The advantage of this work is to make the diagnostic process and treatment recommendations as scientifically reliable as possible. Daniel Amen, has compiled brain science research since 1991. The Amen Clinics website includes 300 SPECT images. You can also read the related scientific literature including:
Summary articles of Amen's work with brain SPECT imaging. Also, over 2300 scientific abstracts on brain imaging for psychiatry and neurology, including extensive tables that summarize the brain SPECT research are categorized for:
Brain Trauma
Obsessive, Compulsive, Spectrum Disorders
Treatment Effects
A healthy brain is associated with a healthy, successful life. We should all strive to keep our brain healthy. Success starts with a healthy brain. Failure is often the result of a brain gone wrong. Educators should become familiar with the organ of learning and teach students how to optimize their brains. Regardless of how badly you have been to your brain, it may still be possible to change your brain and change your life.
Please browse the Natural Standards database on the research underlying natural treatments in psychiatry and medicine. As educators, we must always remain current with available knowledge in order to ensure best practice.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Building Trust in the Classroom: An essential competency

Are you an educator that accepts you must earn the trust of your students? By contrast, do you expect students will enter your classroom inherently willing, ready, and able to trust they will be met by your good intentions and hard work? Research by Bryk and Schneider (2002) find schools with high trust levels are three times more likely to report gains in reading and math scores. Students that trust in their teachers are more willing to share interests, needs, and personal circumstances. Teachers can thereby use this information to make meaningful connections between students' lives and their learning. Our students who face the greatest challenges to effective education will benefit the most from building upon these connections. The result of this effort can be the difference between their successfully staying in school compared to failure and dropping out.
As educators, we must recognize our students will start each school year with a range of feelings about their teachers. Most of these feelings will have little to do with their personal experience with you. Rather, they will be greatly influenced by their past experience with other educators and adults. The reality is whenever students don't trust us, we must spend considerable time and effort dealing with the symptoms of their distrust, including defiant or disrespectful behavior, instead of the underlying issue. We should be alert to subtle cues that a student is struggling to trust. Otherwise, a lack of trust that remains unnoticed, unaddressed, or ignored will continue to undermine the educational process. Whenever educators exhibit an understanding that not all students enter school feeling trust for educators, they view trust as another competency that must be nurtured and developed in our students. Relational trust is a foundation for learning, teaching, and leading, which allows individuals to connect to the school community. Without this essential trust, an educator's efforts will produce only temporary results. Bill Gates (2005) notes teachers can create a trusting environment by focusing on the three Rs: relationships, relevance, and rigor.
When educators model caring, respectful relationships over time their students are thereby allowed to build trust with them. Educators begin fostering relationships with their students by helping students find personal meaning and relevance in the course material. Educators can further build effective student relationships by maintaining high expectations, even when students are struggling, thus showing your belief that they have what it takes to be successful.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A New Year and a New Chance to Review Our Educational System

We are a country that still strongly believes in states' rights. Not withstanding Lincoln's victory during "the war of northern aggression", as it is known by my colleagues living below the Mason Dixon line, the desire for individual state's rights are still seen most profoundly in regards to our educational system. During the Federal Constitutional Convention (1787), states' rights proponents pressed to include their ideas in the Constitution; others advocated a strong national government, with minimal power residing with the states. The federal system adopted at that convention was a reasonably satisfactory compromise that reconciled state and national power. It included an upper house, the Senate, which provided each state with equal input into the legislative process. In 1791, the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution made the states' rights doctrine more explicit: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." However, the federal government can influence state policy even in areas that are constitutionally the purview of the states (e.g., education, local road construction) through withholding funds from states that fail to comply with its wishes. John Stuart Mill (1859) wrote that an "education established and controlled by the State should only exist, if it exists at all, as one among many competing experiments, carried on for the purpose of example and stimulus to keep the others up to a certain standard of excellence." During the nineteenth century the dangers of too much state involvement in the sphere of education was seen as a necessary state intervention to reduce the dominance of the church and thereby to protect the right to education of children against their own parent's belief system. During the late 20th century the term, "states' rights" came to be applied more broadly to a variety of efforts aimed at reducing the powers of the national government.
Educational reform has been adversely impacted by the overarching desire to protect state rights. While other countries were developing a national approach toward effective education, individual states within the United States developed separate statewide standards to guide the education of their children. The result of such a fractured system is most clearly seen in NAEP testing, which is currently the most reliable example of a "national report card."
Compared to other developed countries, the United States continues to exhibit poorer and poorer test results, especially in the area of mathematics and science.
Failure of every state to adopt national standards for learning, clinically-based teacher preparation, and minimal length of a school year will result in a continuation of this downward spiral. While states' rights provide an important opportunity to balance power, strong national standards for assessment, integrity, and fiscal accountability should lead every state's education systems to ensure the highest quality education while mitigating the damaging results of local partisan preferences.