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Public School Facts, History, and Education Issues

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High Schools: Grow up!

Author(s): Maria Ferguson
Published: January 30, 2014

CEP Executive Director Maria Ferguson is the author of the “Washington View” monthly column for Kappan magazine (www.kappan.org). This month she focuses on the unique needs of high schools. Click here to read the column.

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Failure IS an Option

Author(s): Maria Ferguson
Published: January 16, 2014

CEP Executive Director Maria Ferguson is the author of the “Washington View” monthly column for Kappan magazine (www.kappan.org). Her December column focuses on finding the value in failure and how educators and policymakers can learn from their efforts, even those that don’t turn out the way they hope. Click here to read the column.

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Career Readiness Assessments Across States: A Summary of Survey Findings

Author(s): Jennifer McMurrer, Matthew Frizzell and Shelby McIntosh
Published: October 29, 2013

This summary report describes how states are defining career readiness and which assessments states and districts are using to measure this attribute.  The report is based on a survey administered in the summer of 2013 to state directors of career and technical education (CTE) or their designees about career readiness assessments.  A total of 46 states completed the survey, counting the District of Columbia.  Also available on this site are four related papers containing additional details on the main topics covered in the summary report, including the responses of specific states, and profiles of major career and technical assessments.

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Civic Education and Charter Schools: Current Knowledge and Future Research

Author(s): Naomi Chudowsky, Victor Chudowsky, Nancy Kober, Nanami Yoshioka, and Jennifer McMurrer
Published: February 6, 2013

At the request of the Spencer Foundation, CEP analyzed data and background variables from the 2010 NAEP civic assessment to learn how the performance of charter school students compared to traditional public school students.   The study also reviewed other research on charter school students and civic education. The full report and a summary are available.

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Student Motivation: An Overlooked Piece of School Reform

Author(s): Alexandra Usher and Nancy Kober
Published: May 22, 2012

This series of papers examines topics related to students’ academic motivation, a critical but often overlooked aspect of education. The summary paper, Student Motivation: An Overlooked Piece of School Reform, pulls together research findings from the six background papers, each of which includes a brief overview of research findings, examples of current programs and policies, and implications for the future, offering a more in-depth look at specific themes surrounding student engagement, including: why motivation is important and how it might be defined and measured; whether rewarding students can result in higher motivation; whether students can be motivated by goal-setting; the role of parental involvement, family background, and culture; strategies schools might use to motivate students; and nontraditional approaches to motivating otherwise unenthusiastic students. The appendix outlines four major dimensions of motivation and how they are defined by major scholars in the field.

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A Civil Right to a Good Education

Author(s): Jack Jennings
Published: January 30, 2012

This January 30, 2012 Huffington Post blog by CEP President Jack Jennings reviews past national movements to improve schools and proposes a new effort where a good education would become a civil right for all.  The blog summarizes Jennings’ January 2012 paper Reflections on a Half-Century of School Reform: Why Have We Fallen Short and Where Do We Go From Here?

View Blog Post

Reflections on a Half-Century of School Reform: Why Have We Fallen Short and Where Do We Go From Here?

Author(s): Jack Jennings
Published: January 27, 2012

Upon his retirement from the leadership of CEP, Jack Jennings reviews in this paper the three major school reform efforts of the last 50 years, proposes an agenda focused on the classroom, and advocates for the creation of a federal civil right to a good education to advance that agenda.

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The Evolution of the Center on Education Policy: From An Idea To A Major Influence

Author(s): Anne Lewis
Published: January 27, 2012

This paper by free lance writer Anne Lewis describes the beginning and the development of the Center on Education Policy from 1995 to 2012.

View Article

A Public Education Primer: Basic (and Sometimes Surprising) Facts about the U.S. Education System, 2012 Revised Edition

Author(s): Nancy Kober and Alexandra Usher
Published: January 19, 2012

The 2012 Public Education Primer highlights important and sometimes little-known facts concerning the U.S. education system, how things have changed over time, and how they may change in the future. Together these facts provide a comprehensive picture of the nation’s public schools, including data about students, teachers, funding, achievement, management, and non-academic services.

View Report

Coal for Christmas

Author(s): Jack Jennings
Published: January 10, 2012

Before Christmas, Jack Jennings, CEP’s president, submitted the following blog to the Huffington Post. This blog discusses the disappointing results from urban school districts on the National Assessment of Educational Progress that were released in December. He suggests a link between those results and the financial problems being experienced by American schools.

View Blog Post

Have We Gotten It Wrong on School Reform?

Author(s): Jack Jennings
Published: November 23, 2011

This November 23, 2011 Huffington Post blog written by CEP’s president Jack Jennings highlights a recent study of the education systems in Shanghai (China), Finland, Japan, Singapore, and Ontario (Canada), and discusses what lessons can be learned from these countries to help improve public education in the United States.

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Higher Wages Would Attract, Keep Better Teachers

Author(s): Jack Jennings
Published: November 9, 2011

On November 9, 2011, a commentary written by Jack Jennings, CEP’s president, appeared in the Debate Club of U.S. News and World Report. That magazine had asked him to comment on a recent report concluding that American teachers were over-paid. The commentary rebuts that conclusion.


View Blog Post

A Serious Step Backward

Author(s): Jack Jennings
Published: October 24, 2011

On October 24, the Huffington Post carried a blog written by Jack Jennings, CEP’s president and CEO, on the views of the Republican presidential aspirants on the role of the federal government in education.

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Ideal Traits for New DSID Superintendent

Author(s): Jack Jennings
Published: October 7, 2011

The Dallas Morning News asked Jack Jennings, CEP’s president and CEO, to write an article advising the city’s school board on what it should look for in a new local school superintendent. The article appeared in the newspaper on October 7, 2011.

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Teacher Pay: U.S. Ranks 22nd Out Of 27 Countries

Author(s): Jack Jennings
Published: August 30, 2011

This August 30, 2011 Huffington Post blog by Jack Jennings discusses how teacher pay in the United States compares to other countries.

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Keeping Informed about School Vouchers: A Review of Major Developments and Research

Author(s): Alexandra Usher, Nancy Kober
Published: July 27, 2011

This report examines a decade’s worth of research on school vouchers and concludes that vouchers have had no clear positive effect on student academic achievement, and mixed outcomes for students overall. Effects on graduation rates, parental satisfaction, public school achievement and cost to taxpayers are discussed. The report also notes that much of this research has been carried out or sponsored by pro-voucher organizations, signaling a particular need for scrutiny. In addition to this research review, the report describes voucher programs currently in existence, summarizes major court cases and referenda on vouchers from the past ten years, and reflects on changes in the voucher landscape. The report serves as an update to CEP’s paper School Vouchers: What We Know and Don't Know…and How We Could Learn More, released in 2000.

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School Vouchers: No Clear Advantage in Academic Achievement

Author(s): Jack Jennings
Published: July 27, 2011

In this Huffington Post blog, posted on July 27, 2011, Jack Jennings reviews the evolution of pro-voucher arguments over last 50 years, discusses these findings in light of CEP’s recent report on vouchers, and calls for greater efforts to improve public schools, which is where 90% of students attend school today.

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Long-Term Gains In Minority Education: An Overlooked Success?

Author(s): Jack Jennings
Published: May 8, 2011

This blog, which was written by Jack Jennings, CEP’s president, and posted on the Huffington Post on May 8, 2011, discusses achievement gains of white, Latino, and African American students on the long-term National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).  The blog points out that while general trends show a mixed picture of achievement gains over the last four decades, Latino and African American students made great gains.  Accompanying the blog is a table that shows the changes in long-term NAEP reading and math scores since the 1970s for white, Latino, and African American students as well as for all students.

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Federal Aid to the Schools - Wasteful or Helpful?

Author(s): Jack Jennings
Published: April 21, 2011

This blog posted on April 21, 2011, in the Huffington Post, by Jack Jennings counters the criticisms of conservative critics of federal aid to education by describing the equity purpose of this aid and then highlighting the major educational achievements of the groups principally targeted for this assistance.

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Those Who Don't Learn From Their History ...

Author(s): Alexandra Usher
Published: April 20, 2011

In this guest blog posted April 20 on Education Week’s Sara Mead’s Policy Notebook, Alexandra Usher discusses the early federal land grant program which encouraged the creation of public schools across the U.S. Referencing CEP’s 2011 background paper Public Schools and the Original Federal Land Grants, Usher describes how the Land Ordinance and Northwest Ordinance established a policy through which new states were given land by the federal government for the support of public schools.

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Get The Federal Government Out Of Education? That Wasn't The Founding Fathers' Vision

Author(s): Jack Jennings
Published: April 13, 2011

In this paper, CEP president and CEO Jack Jennings tracks the federal government’s involvement in education through the course of American history, and argues that this involvement must continue.  Jennings provides evidence that the government has played an essential role in the development of public schools – consistent with the founding fathers’ vision – and that this role is vital to the continued success of the country.  Supplemental papers by Wayne Riddle and Alexandra Usher discuss in more detail two aspects of federal involvement: special provisions written into the U.S. tax code that provide substantial indirect financial support for public education, and the federal land grants given to states for the support of public schools.  PDFs of states’ original Enabling Acts establishing their land grants are also available below.

View Article

Get the Federal Government Out of Education? That Wasn’t the Founding Fathers’ Vision

Author(s): Jack Jennings
Published: February 7, 2011

This article, written by Jack Jennings, CEP's president and appearing in the February 7, 2011 Huffington Post, discusses the history of the federal role in education, and gives reasons why the federal government should continue to be involved in education.

View Blog Post

Are Private High Schools Better Academically Than Public High Schools?

Author(s): Harold Wenglinsky
Published: October 10, 2007

This study, based on an analysis of the National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988-2000, finds that once family background characteristics are taken into account, low-income students attending public urban high schools generally performed as well academically as students attending private high schools. The study also found that students attending traditional public high schools were as likely to attend college as those attending private high schools. In addition, the report also finds that young adults who had attended any type of private high school were no more likely to enjoy job satisfaction, or to be engaged in civic activities at age 26, than those who had attended traditional public high schools.

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Why We Still Need Public Schools: Public Education for the Common Good

Author(s): Nancy Kober
Published: January 1, 2007

This report highlights the history and importance of public education in the United States, dating back to its establishment as a necessary institution for the young republic and Horace Mann’s efforts to promote a common school for all. The report focuses on how and why the U.S. system of public education came into being; the six core public missions that public schools have been expected to fulfill, such as unifying a diverse population, preparing people for democratic citizenship, and ensuring equal opportunities for all children; and why these missions are relevant today and why the nation must maintain them while pursuing reforms to help all schools live up to these core ideals.

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The London Challenge

Author(s): Rachel Shatten
Published: December 1, 2006

As the U.S. struggles with improving inner city schools and especially high schools, a successful program being implemented in London, England is worth a look. The London Challenge seems to have attracted and retained experienced teachers for the inner city and also to have raised test scores for students attending the most challenging schools. The following paper describes the components of the Challenge as well as evidence of success.

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A Public Education Primer: Basic (and Sometimes Surprising) Facts about the U.S. Education System

Author(s): Nancy Kober
Published: July 1, 2006

This report highlights the important facts concerning the U.S. education system and how things have changed — and will continue to change — over time. The primer provides a comprehensive picture of the nation’s public schools with data about students, governance, funding, achievement, teachers, and non-instructional services.

View Report

Debate on High School Dropout Rates

Author(s): CEP & The Economic Policy Institute
Published: April 27, 2006

On April 27, 2006, the Center on Education Policy hosted a debate on High School Dropouts between Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, and Jay P. Greene, endowed chair and head of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas and a Manhattan Institute senior fellow. Jack Jennings, president and CEO of CEP, moderated. The debate focused on the discrepancy between Mr. Green's dropout figures, which employ U.S. Department of Education diploma and enrollment data, and Mr. Mishel's analysis which also includes household and student longitudinal surveys.

Listen to audio file of the debate. (Real Media Player / MP3)

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TestTalk for Leaders-Issue 4: The Good News Behind Average NAEP Scores

Author(s): Dalia Zabala
Published: January 1, 2006

Issue 4: The Good News Behind Average NAEP Scores - Analysis of data from the October 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress report shows higher achievement scores by certain subgroups than the average.

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Do You Know … The Latest Good News About American Education?

Author(s): Nancy Kober
Published: August 1, 2005

A summary of data shows positive trends in American education and indicates areas for improvement. 

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TestTalk for Leaders-Issue 3: My School Didn't Make Adequate Yearly Progress - So What Does That Mean?

Author(s): Nancy Kober
Published: October 1, 2004

Issue 3: My School Didn't Make Adequate Yearly Progress -- So What Does That Mean? - A brief overview of the significance of failing to meet adequate yearly progress as it relates to states' progress as defined by the No Child Left Behind Act.

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What's Good About Public Schools

Author(s): Jack Jennings, Madlene Hamilton
Published: May 1, 2004

This article, written for the National PTA's magazine-- Our Children, highlights the gains made in US public schools.

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Effects of High School Exit Exams on Dropout Rates

Author(s): Naomi Chudowsky, Keith Gayler
Published: March 1, 2003

Summary of a Panel Discussion. This is the summary of a panel discussion covering major research dealing with the effects of exit exams on dropout rates and indications for future studies.

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Preserving Principles of Public Education in an Online World

Author(s): Kathleen Fulton, Nancy Kober and CEP
Published: November 1, 2002

Report, Highlights and Meeting Summary on the 2002 CEP conference on virtual schools and the impact of online education in the public education sector.

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TestTalk for Leaders-Issue 2: What Tests Can and Cannot Tell Us

Author(s): Nancy Kober
Published: October 1, 2002

Issue 2: What Tests Can and Cannot Tell Us - A brief overview of the pluses and minuses of standardized testing.

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TestTalk for Leaders-Issue 1: Teaching to the Test: The Good, the Bad, and Who Is Responsible

Author(s): Nancy Kober
Published: June 1, 2002

Issue 1: Teaching to the Test: The Good, the Bad, and Who Is Responsible - A brief review of what constitutes good and bad practices in "teaching to the test." 

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Changing Schools, Enduring Principles - What You Should Be Asking About Education Reform

Author(s): Nancy Kober
Published: March 1, 2002

A brief overview of questions that should be asked for each change impacting the US system of education

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Higher Learning = Higher Earnings

Author(s): Diane Stark Rentner and Nancy Kober
Published: October 1, 2001

A student's guide to choosing the type of postsecondary school or college to suit their career and earnings goals.

View Pamphlet

The Future of the Federal Role in Elementary and Secondary Education

Author(s): CEP
Published: February 1, 2001

This collection of invited papers presented at the December 2000 conference discuss the history of, present problems and strengths with, and possible future direction of the federal role in elementary and secondary education.

Presented Papers:

"An Education Agenda for the Congress and New Administration" by Jack Jennings

"Federal Aid to Education Since World War II-Purpose and Politics" by Carl F. Kaestle

"New Federal Roles in Education" by Richard Rothstein

"Rethinking the Federal Role in Elementary and Secondary Education" by Paul T. Hill

"The Federal Role in Standards-Based Reform" by Margaret E. Goertz

"The Elementary and Secondary Education Act and Standards-Based Reform" by Paul E. Barton

"Refashioning the Federal Role in Education--Keep it Focused-Keep It Simple" by Elizabeth Pinkerton

"Title I--Politics, Poverty, Knowledge" by David K. Cohen & Susan L. Moffitt

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School Vouchers: What We Know and Don't Know…and How We Could Learn More

Author(s): Nancy Kober
Published: June 1, 2000

Review of current findings about voucher programs and indications for future studies. Summaries are included of voucher programs in Milwaukee, Cleveland, Florida, and International studies on the use of vouchers in other countries. A summary of the January 26, 2000 meeting includes the listing of participants and members of the subgroups that contributed to the report.

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School Vouchers: International Summary

Author(s): Nancy Kober
Published: June 1, 2000

This is a report summary excerpted from "School Vouchers: What We Know and Don't Know…and How We Could Learn More" on International Studies: The potential for research on the use of vouchers in other countries is explored as part of the larger report, SCHOOL VOUCHERS: What We Know…And Don't Know And How We Could Learn More.

View Summary

Ending Social Promotion: Early Lessons Learned

Author(s): CEP
Published: May 16, 2000

On May 16, 2000, a national conference, "Ending Social Promotion: Early Lessons Learned," was convened by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council of the Great City Schools. Jack Jennings of the Center on Education Policy served as moderator of that meeting and wrote introductory and concluding remarks for the report, which appears below. In 1999, the Center on Education Policy was involved in other work dealing with the issue of social promotion. 

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It Pays To Study Hard

Author(s): Nancy Kober
Published: March 1, 2000
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This guide helps parents understand why it is important for their children to study harder, learn more and take challenging courses in middle school and high school.

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Do You Know … The Good News About American Education?

Author(s): Nancy Kober and Diane Stark Rentner
Published: January 1, 2000

Review of positive trends in student achievement from the 1980s and 1990s and comments on current challenges.

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Did You Know? ACT Scores Are Rising

Author(s): Diane Stark Rentner
Published: December 1, 1999

This policy brief on high school students' rising ACT scores was part of a larger 2000 publication, DO YOU KNOW THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT AMERICAN EDUCATION?

View Policy Brief

Did You Know? SAT Scores Are Rising

Author(s): Diane Stark Rentner
Published: December 1, 1999

This policy brief on the increasing SAT scores of high school students was part of the larger 2000 publication, DO YOU KNOW THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT AMERICAN EDUCATION?

View Policy Brief

Did You Know? Students Are Taking More AP Exams

Author(s): Diane Stark Rentner
Published: December 1, 1999

This policy brief on high school students taking more advanced placement courses was part of the larger 2000 publication, DO YOU KNOW THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT AMERICAN EDUCATION?

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A Brief History of the Federal Role in Education

Author(s): Diane Stark Rentner
Published: October 1, 1999

Why It Began and Why It's Still Needed - An overview of the historical role and the impact of the federal government in education.

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Education and Social Promotion: What is the Debate?

Author(s): Angela R. Rudolph with Jack Jennings
Published: May 3, 1999

Education and Social Promotion: What is the Debate?, by Angela R. Rudolph with Jack Jennings, is a background document for two conferences on social promotion that occurred in the suburbs of Chicago on May 3-4, 1999.

Summary: Illinois Social Promotion Conferences describes these meetings. The conferences were sponsored by the Center on Education Policy and the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory.

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Pittsburgh Forum on Public Schools: A Community Forum on Public Education

Author(s): CEP
Published: May 2, 1999

This is the report on a public form held in Pittsburgh in May 1999 on the effectiveness and need for change in the public schools.

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Did You Know? School Crime is Decreasing

Author(s): Diane Stark Rentner
Published: May 2, 1999

In 1998, the Center on Education Policy released a series of one-page issue briefs highlighting aspects of public education where there have been positive trends in the preceding 20 years. These one-page publications were updated and compiled in 2000 for the Center's Do You Know the Good News About American Education? report.

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Lessons From Other Countries About Private School Aid: Higher Public Funding for Private Schools Usually Means More Government Regulation

Author(s): Nancy Kober
Published: May 1, 1999

A review of data showing the effects of using public funds to support private elementary and secondary schools in other industrialized countries.

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Public Schools: A Place Where Children Can Learn to Get Along with Others in a Diverse Society

Author(s): Diane Stark Rentner
Published: January 6, 1999

A brief presentation and a pamphlet on the reasons public schools offer a good place for children to learn about diversity and how to live in social harmony.

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Did You Know? High School Students Are Taking Tougher Courses

Author(s): Diane Stark Rentner
Published: December 1, 1998

This policy brief on the trend of students taking more difficult high school courses was part of the larger 2000 publication, DO YOU KNOW THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT AMERICAN EDUCATION?

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Did You Know? Fewer Students Are Dropping Out of School

Author(s): Diane Stark Rentner
Published: December 1, 1998

This policy brief on the positive trend of fewer students dropping out of school was part of the 2000 publication DO YOU KNOW THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT AMERICAN EDUCATION?

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Did You Know? More Students Are Going to College

Author(s): Diane Stark Rentner
Published: December 1, 1998

This policy brief on the increasing number of high school students going on to college was part of the larger 2000 publication, DO YOU KNOW THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT AMERICAN EDUCATION?

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Did You Know? Student Math Achievement is Rising

Author(s): Diane Stark Rentner
Published: December 1, 1998

This policy brief on the positive trend of rising math achievement in high school students was part of the larger 2000 publication, DO YOU KNOW THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT AMERICAN EDUCATION?

View Policy Brief

Did You Know? Students' Science Achievement is Rising

Author(s): Diane Stark Rentner
Published: December 1, 1998

This policy brief on the positive trend of high school students achievement in science was part of the larger 2000 publication DO YOU KNOW THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT AMERICAN EDUCATION.

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What People in Illinois Say About Their Public Schools: Summary of Forums

Author(s): CEP
Published: December 1, 1998

These forums held in December and November 1998 were one of 11 in the state and became part of the larger report, WHAT PEOPLE IN ILLINOIS SAY ABOUT THEIR PUBLIC SCHOOLS.

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Public Schools and Citizenship

Author(s): Diane Stark Rentner
Published: June 1, 1998

Report on 60 community forums sponsored by CEP, the National PTA, and Phi Delta Kappa to discuss what Americans expect from public education.

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An Experiment in Democracy

Author(s): Jack Jennings
Published: June 1, 1997

The author recounts his experiences in conducting public forums on education throughout the country in 1996-1997 in this article published in the June 1997 issue of the Phi Delta Kappa.

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The Good — and the Not-So-Good — News About American Education

Author(s): Diane Stark Rentner, Nancy Kober
Published: July 1, 1996

Review of data showing the achievements of American public school children and the areas for improvement.

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Do We Still Need Public Schools?

Author(s): Nancy Kober
Published: March 1, 1996

A brief history of public education followed by questions and answers on the role and importance of public schools in the US.

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Information Bulletin #2 - Block Grants and Education

Author(s): Jack Jennings and Diane Stark Rentner
Published: January 1, 1995

A brief overview of how the Contract With America Act affects the block grants for educational programs.

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Information Bulletin #3 - Education and the Contract With America

Author(s): Jack Jennings and Diane Stark Rentner
Published: January 1, 1995

A brief overview of the effects of the Contract with America Act on education programs.

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Information Bulletin #4 - Should There Be a U.S. Department of Education?

Author(s): Jack Jennings and Diane Stark Rentner
Published: January 1, 1995

This brief overview poses the issues for and against maintaining the U.S. Department of Education.

View Information Bulletin
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