Throughout the United States, innovative efforts at reform are under way. For example: Kentucky began a sweeping five-year plan this fall. The state's 176 school districts will benefit from increased local taxes, a reorganized state department of education, and an eventual shift to site-based management. In addition, each classroom will be provided with a telephone to help make teachers more accessible.
Choice plans allowing students to transfer to schools outside their home district exist in Minnesota, Iowa, Arkansas, Nebraska, Ohio, and Utah.
In Milwaukee, a voucher plan allows 345 children from low-income families to attend private schools at the state's expense. Milwaukee also plans to open schools exclusively for young black men starting next fall.
Vermont is moving away from standardized tests and toward performance-based testing. Instead of students taking multiple-choice tests, they produce portfolios - collections of work done in the classroom. Students in 4th and 8th grade math and writing classes are now being tested this way.
Next year, a public elementary school in Miami will be run by a private company.
A Massachusetts state legislator is proposing legislation to lengthen the school year from 180 to 220 days.
In New York, experimental efforts are allowing teachers, parents, and principals to share in school government.
Chicago began a decentralization plan whereby local school councils govern (a majority of the members are parents). Last month, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional, leaving the reform plan in limbo.
Boston University is managing the public schools in Chelsea, Mass., in an effort to revive the failing system.
New Mexico passed legislation requiring school districts and public universities to report on student performance.