NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Choosing From A Smorgasbord Of Educational Models

February 18, 2000

Over the past three years, Congress has set aside $510 million for grants worth at least $150,000 to entice schools into adopting what are supposed to be well-researched, well-tested school reforms. But educational "reformers" have a sorry record of embracing the latest educational fads, critics say, and the funds are being used to launch dubious learning models.

Studies have demonstrated that perhaps only a dozen top-notch models exist, based on good research. But states have already handed out awards for 281 different models. Experts contend that only about half of the 1,750 schools receiving federal reform grants are using the education reform models with the best research and track records.

Here are the most popular models being adopted by participating schools:

  • "Success for All" is a phonics-rich reading program developed at Johns Hopkins University and is being utilized particularly in inner-city schools.
  • "Accelerated Schools" attempts to offer all children a "gifted and talented" curriculum usually available only to a few students.
  • "Lightspan" employs Sony PlayStations and a Web site.
  • "Direct Instruction" uses a highly-scripted approach -- breaking the learning process into small pieces.
  • "America's Choice" relies on reorganizing school district management -- giving schools standards and assessments.

Concerned that many schools lack the tools to choose wisely among the many models, the non-profit New American Schools Group has formed a blue-ribbon panel of education leaders to set criteria for the models. But its first quality standards won't be released until June.

Source: Editorial, "Schools, Aided by Washington, Fund Unproven Reforms," USA Today, February 18, 2000.


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