This is the first mini-course in a sequence of four mini-courses, releasing on September 8, 2014. This initial 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.
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 2015.
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.
Paul E. PetersonPaul E. Peterson is the Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government, Harvard University and Director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance. He is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and editor-in-chief of Education Next. He is the author of the book Saving Schools: From Horace Mann to Virtual Learning (Harvard University Press, 2010).