School Choice, Atlanta Scandal Top 2011 Ed Best/Worst List

The Hoover Institution’s Koret Task Force on K-12 Education has announced its annual list of the best and worst events in American education in 2011. The aim of the list is to indicate the positive developments that have led to greater choice and accountability, while also reflect on what we can learn from the negative aspects of the past year in education.

“We evaluated hundreds of events, laws, programs, and studies in creating this list,” said Williamson M. Evers, Hoover research fellow and project coordinator of the Education Task Force’s Best and Worst project.

Topping the list as the best educational development in 2011 is the evolution of opportunity scholarships and vouchers, reinvigorating private school choice.

“In what history may view as a watershed, private school choice moved ahead in many places in 2011, including the District of Columbia, where the scholarship program was resuscitated in Congress by Speaker John Boehner; Indiana, where opportunity scholarships were made available to perhaps half the state’s students; and Ohio, which lifted a too-tight cap on its program for kids exiting low-performing schools.”

The worst development in 2011, according to the Hoover Institution, has been the misreporting of the Atlanta Public Schools’ cheating scandal.

“The cynicism with which some district administrators, teachers, and principals approached their responsibilities to the children of Atlanta is appalling.  When they couldn’t educate their students, they doctored their test papers in a systemwide effort to mislead parents, public officials, and the community that they were doing a good job.”

Reductive and recessive actions were the main factors looked at when the task force considered the worst aspects of education this year. Task force members, Evers said, were dismayed when union power “stopped school districts from making needed reforms” or when a governor’s “utopian philosophy” blocked “the possible in the name of the impossible.”

Particular criticism was reserved for the Obama administration and both parties in Congress, who, according to the task force, were “dismal” when it came to managing proposed reform programs and amending laws that desperately need updating.

It wasn’t all dismal, however. Task force members were said to be heartened to see parental power strengthened in California and voters were given greater say in Indiana. Reform came to teacher-evaluation systems and major breakthroughs in what was once considered untouchable collective bargaining agreements this year.

Indiana’s “amazing record” of school reform in 2011, according to Evers, boosted the morale of reformers across the country.

To see the full list of the Best and Worst, click here.