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Education > Education Policy and Reform

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Brookings Papers on Education Policy

2000 - 2007

Published annually, Brookings Papers on Education Policy (BPEP) analyzes policies intended to improve student performance. In each volume, analysts review the current situation in education and consider programs for reform.

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Building Bridges, Crossing Borders

Kyler Daniels was born in 1988 with a profound bilateral hearing loss. Her deafness went undetected for a year since newborn screening for hearing loss was not yet available. Kyler benefited, however, from the great support of her family and a string of excellent professionals in deaf education, including Ann Darby Getty, the author of this shared, experiental story. As soon as they realized that their daughter was deaf, Kyler’s parents, who were hearing, immediately began to learn sign language. They also engaged Darby, a parent/infant educator employed by the state school for the deaf, to work with Kyler. From the age of 13 months until Kyler’s college graduation 22 years later, Darby was involved in her education and development. Despite living in a rural area, Kyler enjoyed an array of services, including parent/infant education, sign language interaction/modeling, speech and language therapy, and also a cochlear implant. At the same time that she developed her speech skills, sign language continued to be a critically important facet of her communication. In grade school, she learned with other deaf students, while in high school, she worked successfully in mainstream classrooms with interpreters and notetakers. As a college graduate, gifted artist, and veterinarian’s assistant today, Kyler exemplifies how a balanced approach to deaf education, using all resources at hand, can achieve remarkable results. Her story serves as a model for parents of other deaf children and professionals working with deaf children.

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Challenges of Education Financing and Planning in Africa: What Works and What Does Not Work

What Works and What Does Not Work

This volume highlights the proceedings of the two policy dialogue conferences held by the Working Group on Finance and Education (WGFE) in 2004. Part I of the document discusses the endemic crisis that higher educationhas been beset with since the outset of the post colonial period in Africa. It highlights the critical state of higher education systems in Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal by scrutinizing the causes, manifestations and consequences of the crisis to posit useful recommendations and possible solutions. Part II is a comprehensive review of the challenges facing the financing and planning of all levels and types ofeducation - from kindergarten to graduate school - in selected African countries. The papers reveal the sources and mechanisms of funding education in Africa, drawing attention to the experiences of communities confronted with new funding sources. A new trend, which consists of designing decade long educational development plans, has emerged and is rapidly expanding in numerous African countries. This experience is examined and shared by the authors. This book has contributions in both French and English.

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Charter Schools

Hope or Hype?

Jack Buckley

Over the past several years, privately run, publicly funded charter schools have been sold to the American public as an education alternative promising better student achievement, greater parent satisfaction, and more vibrant school communities. But are charter schools delivering on their promise? Or are they just hype as critics contend, a costly experiment that is bleeding tax dollars from public schools? In this book, Jack Buckley and Mark Schneider tackle these questions about one of the thorniest policy reforms in the nation today.

Using an exceptionally rigorous research approach, the authors investigate charter schools in Washington, D.C., carefully examining school data going back more than a decade, interpreting scores of interviews with parents, students, and teachers, and meticulously measuring how charter schools perform compared to traditional public schools. Their conclusions are sobering.

Buckley and Schneider show that charter-school students are not outperforming students in traditional public schools, that the quality of charter-school education varies widely from school to school, and that parent enthusiasm for charter schools starts out strong but fades over time. And they argue that while charter schools may meet the most basic test of sound public policy--they do no harm--the evidence suggests they all too often fall short of advocates' claims.

With the future of charter schools--and perhaps public education as a whole--hanging in the balance, this book supports the case for holding charter schools more accountable and brings us considerably nearer to resolving this contentious debate.

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Citizenship under Fire

Democratic Education in Times of Conflict

Sigal R. Ben-Porath

Citizenship under Fire examines the relationship among civic education, the culture of war, and the quest for peace. Drawing on examples from Israel and the United States, Sigal Ben-Porath seeks to understand how ideas about citizenship change when a country is at war, and what educators can do to prevent some of the most harmful of these changes.

Perhaps the most worrisome one, Ben-Porath contends, is a growing emphasis in schools and elsewhere on social conformity, on tendentious teaching of history, and on drawing stark distinctions between them and us. As she writes, "The varying characteristics of citizenship in times of war and peace add up to a distinction between belligerent citizenship, which is typical of democracies in wartime, and the liberal democratic citizenship that is characteristic of more peaceful democracies."

Ben-Porath examines how various theories of education--principally peace education, feminist education, and multicultural education--speak to the distinctive challenges of wartime. She argues that none of these theories are satisfactory on their own theoretical terms or would translate easily into practice. In the final chapter, she lays out her own alternative theory--"expansive education"--which she believes holds out more promise of widening the circles of participation in schools, extending the scope of permissible debate, and diversifying the questions asked about the opinions voiced.

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Race Talk Dilemmas in an American School

Mica Pollock

This book considers in unprecedented detail one of the most confounding questions in American racial practice: when to speak about people in racial terms. Viewing "race talk" through the lens of a California high school and district, Colormute draws on three years of ethnographic research on everyday race labeling in education. Based on the author's experiences as a teacher as well as an anthropologist, it discusses the role race plays in everyday and policy talk about such familiar topics as discipline, achievement, curriculum reform, and educational inequality.

Pollock illustrates the wide variations in the way speakers use race labels. Sometimes people use them without thinking twice; at other moments they avoid them at all costs or use them only in the description of particular situations. While a major concern of everyday race talk in schools is that racial descriptions will be inaccurate or inappropriate, Pollock demonstrates that anxiously suppressing race words (being what she terms "colormute") can also cause educators to reproduce the very racial inequities they abhor.

The book assists readers in cultivating a greater understanding of the pitfalls and possibilities of everyday race talk and clarifies previously murky discussions of "colorblindness." By bridging the gap between theory and practice, Colormute will be enormously helpful in fostering ongoing conversations about dismantling racial inequality in America.

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Contemporary Economic Perspectives in Education

Kristof De Witte (ed.)

Efficiency and effectiveness in ‘education economics’. Economists are well placed to study education. They are intrinsically interested in (public) spending. They want to examine whether resources are spent in an effective (i.e., doing the right things) and efficient (i.e., doing things right) way. By focusing on educational efficiency, economists can provide intuitive insights that engender more value for money. Moreover, the effectiveness concerns are related to the ‘evidence-based education’ idea. Contemporary Economic Perspectives in Education contributes to this growing field of ‘education economics’. This book provides a detailed approach to how economists treat earlier evidence, how they avoid measurement problems, and how they measure efficiency. Applications covered include the underperformance of boys, efficiency and equity in education, and inter-industry wage differentials in the health sector.

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Cross Purposes

Pierce v. Society of Sisters and the Struggle over Compulsory Public Education

Paula Abrams

A definitive study of an extremely important, though curiously neglected, Supreme Court decision, Pierce v. Society of Sisters. ---Robert O'Neil, Professor of Law Emeritus, University of Virginia School of Law "A careful and captivating examination of a dramatic and instructive clash between nationalism and religious pluralism, and of the ancient but ongoing struggle for control over the education of children and the formation of citizens." ---Richard W. Garnett, Professor of Law and Associate Dean, Notre Dame Law School "A well-written, well-researched blend of law, politics, and history." ---Joan DelFattore, Professor of English and Legal Studies, University of Delaware In 1922, the people of Oregon passed legislation requiring all children to attend public schools. For the nativists and progressives who had campaigned for the Oregon School Bill, it marked the first victory in a national campaign to homogenize education---and ultimately the populace. Private schools, both secular and religious, vowed to challenge the law. The Catholic Church, the largest provider of private education in the country and the primary target of the Ku Klux Klan campaign, stepped forward to lead the fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925), the court declared the Oregon School Bill unconstitutional and ruled that parents have the right to determine how their children should be educated. Since then, Pierce has provided a precedent in many cases pitting parents against the state. Paula Abrams is Professor of Constitutional Law at Lewis & Clark Law School.

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Deaf and Disability Studies

Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Susan Burch and Alison Kafer, Editors

This collection presents 14 essays by renowned scholars on Deaf people, Deafhood, Deaf histories, and Deaf identity, but from different points of view on the Deaf/Disability compass. Editors Susan Burch and Alison Kafer have divided these works around three themes. The first, Identities and Locations, explores Deaf identity in different contexts. Topics range from a history of activism shaped by the ableism of Deaf elites in the United States from 1880–1920, to a discussion of the roles that economics, location, race, and culture play in the experiences of a Deaf woman from northern Nigeria now living in Washington, D.C. Alliances and Activism showcases activisim organized across differences. Studies include a feminist analysis of how deaf and hearing women working together share responsibility, and an examination of how intra-cultural variations in New York City and Quebec affect deaf-focused HIV/AIDS programs. The third theme, Boundaries and Overlaps, explicitly addresses the relationships between Deaf Studies and Disability Studies. Interviews with scholars from both disciplines help define these relationships. Another contributor calls for hearing/not-deaf people with disabilities to support their Deaf peers in gaining language access to the United Nations. Deaf and Disability Studies: Interdisciplinary Perspectives reveals that different questions often lead to contrary conclusions among their authors, who still recognize that they all have a stake in this partnership.

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Deaf Students and the Qualitative Similarity Hypothesis

Understanding Language and Literacy Development

Peter V. Paul, Ye Wang, and CheriWilliams, Editors

Sign language interpreters often offer the primary avenue of access for deaf and hard of hearing students in public schools. More than 80% of all deaf children today are mainstreamed, and few of their teachers sign well enough to provide them with full access. As a result, many K-12 interpreters perform multiple roles beyond interpreting. Yet, very little is known about what they actually do and what factors inform their moment-to-moment decisions. This volume presents the range of activities and responsibilities performed by educational interpreters, and illuminates what they consider when making decisions. To learn about the roles of K–12 interpreters, author Melissa B. Smith conducted in-depth analyses at three different schools. She learned that in response to what interpreters feel that their deaf students need, many focus on three key areas: 1) visual access, 2) language and learning, and 3) social and academic participation/inclusion. To best serve their deaf students in these contexts, they perform five critical functions: they assess and respond to the needs and abilities of deaf students; they interpret with or without modification as they deem appropriate; they capitalize on available resources; they rely on interactions with teachers and students to inform their choices; and they take on additional responsibilities as the need arises.

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