Education Notebook

Profile in Political Courage

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, May 5—In an editorial on school reform, the Journal praises New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, one of the country's few politicians who “have demonstrated they understand that … the moral high ground rests on vouchers and a political leader willing to make the climb.”

Johnson ignored political advisors who warned him not to use the “v” word during his reelection bid last year. “Instead,” reports the Journal, “he talked up vouchers” and captured 54% of the vote “in a state where Democrats dominate.”

With public opinion polls mixed, Johnson promised to veto any education budgets that do not include his voucher plan — a promise that he has twice fulfilled — and to mount an “understand the voucher” campaign.

Even though poll numbers are now in Johnson's favor, that might not be enough to convince opponents that it is in their interest to include vouchers in the budget. “Legislators will have to be convinced that voters would punish them if they continued to oppose reform,” said the Journal.

Anti-violence Spending Scrutinized

THE NEW YORK TIMES, April 27—“The tragedy in Littleton, Colo., has left some in Congress searching for a legislative response,” observed Matthew Rees in an opinion piece.

Rees cautions that lawmakers and taxpayers should take a careful look at how anti-violence moneys — usually part of anti-drug programs — have been used in the past before undertaking any new efforts. The results are not encouraging, he found.

“The Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado has surveyed more than 400 violence-prevention programs used in schools and communities and found that most had not been subjected to credible evaluations or had no record of effectiveness,” said Rees.

“This includes such fashionable approaches as conflict resolution, peer mediation and individual counseling.”

Boost For American Competitiveness

USA TODAY, May 5—Middle school mathematics is a “a place where inhabitants study arithmetic year after year while rarely progressing to algebra and geometry,” said an editorial in the national daily.

The result is that American eighth graders rank near the bottom on international math tests, thanks largely to watered-down math classes dedicated to treadmill reviews of basic math. In other countries, students the same age have long since moved forward.

The paper reported that IBM is willing to finance the development of a national exam for eighth graders calibrated to international standards. But only Maryland and Wisconsin have signed up to devise such a test.

USA Today reported a general lack of interest in the program because most states are “still happy with their state-based math tests, which typically show that most hometown schools are doing fairly well. What parents aren't told is that their kids are passing a dumbed-down test that doesn't pass international muster.”