Let the backlash begin

It's as predictable as it is ironic.

A wave of education reform - the most sustained in this century - sweeps the United States. It trumpets its ability finally to teach our children well - rich and poor, majority and minority. It sweeps people up with promises of high standards, accountability, and an end to inflated claims.

Families climb on board. And like clockwork, the backlash begins, spurred by the very people the reform was designed to help.

Educational change has been swift and dramatic in the 1990s. As the decade closes, students face standards of knowledge and batteries of tests that make their older siblings glad they finished school earlier. They're told they won't graduate unless they pass the new tests. They're also told they'll be better prepared for real life. So everyone is happy.

If only it were that easy.

As Gail Chaddock reports in our cover story, opposition is mounting. Less-affluent communities remain unconvinced that tests intended to spotlight weak schools will yield improvements. They're concerned about the high number of students predicted to fail, and what will happen to them. They charge that tests discriminate against minorities. And they're going to court to prove their point.

Meanwhile, wealthier communities are protesting state tests that push aside courses that are challenging but bear little direct relevance to the tests.

Reformers vow they have the support - and the stamina - to stay the course and avoid the pendulum swings so prevalent in US education. The next decade will prove whether they can pass a tough test of their own.

*E-mail newcomba@csps.com

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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