Introduction

This mini-course seeks to answer the following question: How did a school system, once the envy of the world, stumble so that the performance in math, science, and reading of U.S. students at age 15 fell below that of students in a majority of the world’s industrialized nations?

Exploring that question, we identify the personalities and historical forces—the progressives, racial desegregation, legalization and collective bargaining—that shaped and re-shaped U.S. school politics and policy. We visit the places where new ideas and practices were spawned, and we look at some of their unanticipated consequences.

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In the three subsequent mini-courses, we seek answers to a second question: What are the best ways of lifting the performance of American schools to a higher level? To explore these questions, we look at ideas and proposals of those who want to save our schools—be it by reforming the teaching profession, holding schools accountable, or giving families more school choices. In interviews with reform proponents and independent experts, we capture the intensity of the current debate. In the end, we do not find any silver bullets that can magically lift schools to a new level of performance, but we do pinpoint the pluses and minuses of many new approaches. These three subsequent mini-courses will launch later in the fall and continue into 2016.

Each mini-course contains five to eight lectures, with each lecture containing approximately three videos. The mini-courses also include assigned readings, discussion forums, and assessment opportunities.

This is the first mini-course in a four-course sequence. View other mini-courses here:

Saving Schools: History, Politics, and Policy in U.S. Education, Mini-Course II: Teacher Policies

Saving Schools: History, Politics, and Policy in U.S. Education, Mini-Course III: Accountability and National Standards

Saving Schools: History, Politics, and Policy in U.S. Education, Mini-Course IV: School Choice

Meet The Author

Paul E. Peterson

Paul E. Peterson

Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government

Paul Peterson is the Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government in the Department of Government at Harvard University. He directs the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and is the editor-in-chief of Education Next, a journal of opinion and research.

He received his PhD in political science from the University of Chicago. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Education, he has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the German Marshall Foundation, and the Center for Study in the Behavioral Sciences. He is an author or editor of over 30 books, four of which have been identified as the best work in its field by the American Political Science Association.

Peterson is a member of the independent review panel advising the US Department of Education's evaluation of the No Child Left Behind law and a member of the Hoover Institution's Koret Task Force of K-12 Education at Stanford University. The Editorial Projects in Education Research Center reported that Peterson's studies on school choice and vouchers have been among the country's most influential studies of education policy.

 

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