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Quality Checklist for Education Consumers

IP-2-1990 (February 1990)
Author: John Andrews

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Introduction: Certitudes for Colorado

Public education in Colorado is ripe for change. The legislature has enacted a new funding formula and a grassroots accountability process. The Governor has made school creativity a priority issue.

The final months of 1989 brought to the state three major conferences on improving the schools: a business-education summit in August, a Gates Foundation national symposium of reform experts in September, and a regional strategy meeting on parental choice hosted by U. S. Secretary of Education Lauro Cavazos in November.

All this against the backdrop of sagging test scores, rising dropout rates, and growing concern that even the students who graduate are inadequately prepared as workers and citizens.

Seldom discussed, however, is the potential for school improvement to start from the bottom rather than the top. While there is no lack of a reform agenda confronting educators and policymakers, neither is there any lack of proven tools which individuals in the community can use to measure local school effectiveness and begin upgrading it.

New laws and new money may or may not have a part to play in revitalizing Colorado education; the point of this paper is that we already know enough about what works, regardless, for concerned citizens to begin playing their own part much more aggressively.

Specifically, many of these educational certitudes are contained in a small book by that very title, What Works: Research about Teaching and Learning, published by the U.S. Department of Education in 1986 at the direction of then Secretary William J. Bennett. (Order from U.S. Consumer Information Center, Pueblo, CO 81009.)

The Independence Institute presents here a digest of the book’s findings, laid out in the form of a grading sheet which can be used by any education consumer (including parents, taxpayers, voters, employers) to ask hard questions of the education providers who are accountable to him.