Unit 1: Basic Theoretical Issues
Issue: Should the Curriculum Be Standardized for All?
Yes: Mortimer J. Adler, from "The Paideia Proposal: Rediscovering the Essence of Education," American School Board Journal (1982)
No: John Holt, from Escape from Childhood, E.P. Dutton (1974)
Philosopher Mortimer J. Adler contends that democracy is best served by a public school system that establishes uniform curricular objectives for all students. Educator John Holt argues that an imposed curriculum damages the individual and usurps a basic human right to select one’s own path of development.
Issue: Should “Public Schooling” Be Redefined?
Yes: Stephanie T. Scott, from "An Argument for Redefining Public Schools," Pawley Learning Institute (2008)
No: Linda Nathan et al., from "A Response to Frederick Hess," Phi Delta Kappan (2004)
Researcher Stephanie Scott explains that the purpose of public schools must be clarified at a minimum and redefined at a maximum in this era where parents have increased choices for the education of their children. Linda Nathan, Joe Nathan, Ray Bacchetti, and Evans Clinchy express a variety of concerns about the conceptual expansion that Hess proposes.
Unit 2: Current Fundamental Issues
Issue: Are Truly Democratic Classrooms Possible?
Yes: Lina Bell Soares, from "The Education Students Deserve: Build a Democratic Classroom in Teacher Education," Critical Literacy: Theories and Practices (2013)
No: Gary K. Clabaugh, from "Second Thoughts about Democratic Classrooms," Educational Horizons (2008)
Lina Soares, Associate Professor of Education, draws from John Dewey and literature related to social justice and critical multicultural education as a way to practice democracy in the classroom. Gary K. Clabaugh, Professor of Education, examines such factors as top-down management, compulsory attendance, business world influences, and federal mandates to declare Morrison’s ideas to be “out of touch” with reality.
Issue: Do Public Schools Have Grounds to Punish Students for Their Off-Campus Online Speech?
Yes: Theodore A. McKee, from Layshock v. Hermitage School District, United States Court of Appeals (2011)
No: Theodore A. McKee, from J.S. v. Blue Mountain School District, United States Court of Appeals (2011)
In Layshock v. Hermitage School District, Third Circuit Court judges approved a local Pennsylvania school officials’ 10-day suspension of a high school student who mocked his principal with a fake MySpace profile that he accessed off-campus. On the same day and in the same circuit court as Layshock v Hermitage School District, a different set of judges ruled in J.S. v. Blue Mountain School District that local Pennsylvania school officials overreacted and breached the First Amendment Rights of a junior high school student who ridiculed her principal online using MySpace with a computer that was accessed off-campus. Chief Judge Theodore McKee wrote the court’s opinion for both cases. In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear either of these social media cases.
Issue: Do American Schools Need a Common Curriculum?
Yes: The Albert Shanker Institute, from "A Call for Common Content," American Educator (2011)
No: Jay P. Greene et al., from "Closing the Door on Innovation," Education Next (2011)
The Albert Shanker Institute, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, promotes a common curriculum to build a bridge from standards to achievement across the nation. A coalition of opponents, led by Jay P. Greene, Sandra Stotsky, Bill Evers, Greg Forster, and Ze’ev Wurman, offers a critical response to what they see as an effort to nationalize public education.
Issue: Can the Common Core State Standards Be Successful?
Yes: William H. Schmidt and Nathan A. Burroughs, from "How the Common Core Boosts Quality and Equality," Educational Leadership (2012/2013)
No: Tom Loveless, from "The Common Core Initiative: What Are the Chances of Success?" Educational Leadership (2012/2013)
With a focus on the new math standards, Michigan State University researchers William Schmidt and Nathan Burroughs indicate the Common Core State Standards will address two tenacious problems in U.S. education: the mediocrity quality of mathematics learning and unequal opportunity in U.S. schools. Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, takes the position that chances for the Common Core Standards to be successful are “slim at best” when compared to the claims on how well similar policies have worked in the past.
Issue: Can Failing Schools Be Turned Around?
Yes: JoHyun Kim and Kriss Kemp-Graham, from "Capacity Rich? Or Capacity Poor? An Exploratory Examination of School Capacity in Texas Public Schools That Have Successfully Turned Around Chronically Low-Performing Schools into Higher Performing Schools," National Forum of Educational Administration and Supervision Journal (2013)
No: Andy Smarick, from "The Turnaround Fallacy," Education Next (2010)
Texas A&M professors JoHyun Kim and Kriss Kemp-Graham identify 74 turnaround schools in Texas and compared them with 117 non-turnaround schools in Texas and found that “capacity” as defined in their study is the chief factor in reforming failing schools. Andy Smarick, a visiting fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, advocates the closing of failing schools to make room for replacements through chartering.
Unit 3: Current Specific Issues
Issue: Is There Support for Arming Teachers in Schools?
Yes: Justin Moody, from "Safety First: How Arming Mississippi Teachers Would Protect Students," Mississippi Law Journal (2014)
No: National School Safety and Security Services, from "Arming Teachers and School Staff with Guns: Implementation Issues Presents School Boards and Administrators with Significant Responsibility and Potential Liability" (2013)
Justin Moody, 2015 J.D. Candidate at the University of Mississippi, supports arming Mississippi teachers to better protect the state’s juvenile citizens and future leaders. Led by President Kenneth Trump, the National School Safety and Security Services asserts that teachers want to be armed with “textbooks and computers, not guns.”
Issue: Has the Time Arrived for Universal Preschool?
Yes: Julie Poppe and Robyn Lipkowitz, from "Preschool is for Real," National Conference of State Legislatures (2015)
No: Erika Christakis, from "How the New Preschool Is Crushing Kids," The Atlantic (2016)
Writers from the National Conference of State Legislatures Julie Poppe and Robyn Lipkowitz state that funding is up for preschool, as is enrollment, as states continue to invest in high-quality early childhood education to help kids succeed. Erika Christakis from The Atlantic posits that the same educational policies that are pushing academic goals down to ever earlier levels seem to be contributing to—while at the same time obscuring—the fact that young children are gaining fewer skills, not more.
Issue: Should Teacher Preparation and Licensing Be Regulated by the Government?
Yes: James Cibulka, from "Strengthen State Oversight of Teacher Preparation," Education Next (2013)
No: David Chard, from "Training Must Focus on Content and Pedagogy," Education Next (2013)
Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation President Jim Cibulka states that tightening government licensure regulation is needed to assure candidate and program quality that can result in a more favorable learning environment for Pre-K–12 students. David Chard indicates that current state control of teacher preparation and licensing does not ensure that teachers will be of high quality.
Issue: Can Zero Tolerance Violate Students Rights?
Yes: Hon. David Souter, from "Strip Search Violates 14th Amendment," United States Supreme Court (2009)
No: Hon. Clarence Thomas, from "School Officials Deserve Leeway," United States Supreme Court (2009)
Supreme Court justice David Souter, delivering the opinion of the Court, hold that school officials, in carrying out a zero-tolerance policy on drug possession, violated a student’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure when they included a strip search of the girl. Justice Clarence Thomas, in dissent, states that the majority opinion imposes too vague a standard on school officials and that it grants judges sweeping authority to second-guess measures those officials take to maintain discipline and ensure safety.
Issue: Should There Be No-Zero Grading Policies in Schools?
Yes: Powers Thaddeus “Teddy” Norrell, from "Less Than Zero," National School Boards Association (2015)
No: Michael Zwaagstra, from "Zero Support for No-Zero Policies," Frontier Centre for Public Policy (2012)
Author Powers Thaddeus “Teddy” Norrell argues that handing out zeroes is ineffective as an instructional tool and as a deterrent. Teacher, education researcher, and author Michael Zwaagstra posits no-zero policies are logically flawed, unsupported by research, and mathematically unfair.
Issue: Is the Road to Virtual Schooling Smoothly Paved?
Yes: William Crossman, from "From the Three Rs to the Four Cs," The Futurist (2012)
No: Gary Miron, Brian Horvitz, and Charisse Gulosino, from "Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2013: Politics, Performance, Policy, and Research Evidence," National Education Policy Center (2013)
Futurist Philosopher William Crossman depicts the inevitable movement from brick-and-mortar schools to a flexible learning environment dominated by digital multi-sensory media. Professor Gary Miron and Associate Professor Brian Horvitz from Western Michigan University and Assistant Professor Charisse Gulosino from the University of Memphis submit that very little is known about virtual schooling and that their work is the first research-based effort in virtual schooling, finding that advocates for virtual schools are several years ahead of policy makers and researchers.
Issue: Is the “21st Century Skills” Movement Practical?
Yes: Michael F. Fitzpatrick, from "Presenting a Practitioner's Response to the 21st Century Skills Debate," Mass.gov (2015)
No: Margaret Hilton, from "Preparing Students for Life and Work," Issues in Science and Technology (2015)
Michael Fitzpatrick, a member of the American Association of School Administrators, presents a research-based view that concludes school leaders can and should promote challenging and meaningful structure for 21st century skill development. Margaret Hilton, a senior program officer of the Board on Science Education and the Board on Testing and Assessment at the National Research Council, argues that the “Achilles” heel of the growing movement for 21st century skills is the absence of agreement on what these skills are and that important challenges to this concept remain.
Issue: Should Educators Be Cautious Regarding Flipped Classrooms?
Yes: Stacy M.P. Schmidt and David L. Ralph, from "The Flipped Classroom: A Twist on Teaching," The Clute Institute International Academic Conference (2016)
No: Project Tomorrow Speak Up, from "Speak Up 2014 National Research Project Findings: Flipped Learning Continues to Trend for Third Year," Flipped Learning Network (2015)
Professors Stacy Schmidt from California State University at Bakersfield and David Ralph from Pepperdine University advocate for more research and funding for the flipped classroom noting five reasons to use caution in implementing flipped classrooms. Speak Up’s 2014 National Research Project Findings assert that school leaders, teachers, librarians, and students are increasingly interested in flipped learning to transform the learning experience and a growing number of teachers who are moving to the concept, so “why fight it?”
Issue: Does Class Size Affect Student Achievement?
Yes: Charles M. Achilles, from "Class-Size Policy: The STAR Experiment and Related Class Size Studies," NCPEA Policy Brief (2012)
No: Christopher Jepsen, from "Class Size: Does It Matter for Student Achievement?" IZA World of Labor (2015)
Professor Charles Achilles summarizes that his 25 years of research advances the benefits of small classes on cost savings, social benefits, as well as long-term pupil gains. Christopher Jepsen states that smaller classes are often associated with increased achievement, but evidence is far from universal.
Issue: Does Funding Improve Student Achievement?
Yes: Michael J. Hoffman et al., from "State School Finance System Variance Impacts on Student Achievement: Inadequacies in School Funding," eJournal of Education Policy (2013)
No: Lisa Snell, from "School Finance Reform and Student Achievement," Education at a Glance (2013)
Researchers Michael Hoffman et al. argue that adequate stable funding for education is a perquisite for supporting higher levels of student learning and achievement in all public schools. Lisa Snell of the Research Foundation asserts that large increases in funding are no guarantee of student learning.
Issue: Should Charter Schools Be Expanded?
Yes: Scott Pearson et al., from "How Many Charter Schools Is Just Right?" Education Next (2015)
No: William M. Gabelman, from "Bringing Education Back Home: Rethinking the Charter School Expansion in Nashville Public Schools," Pursuit (2016)
In Education Next talks with Scott Pearson and John McKoy from the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board and Neerav Kingsland former CEO of New Schools for New Orleans, all three support charter schools; Pearson & McKoy support the “mix” of charter and traditional schools and Kingsland supporting all-charter school districts. William Gabelman, University of Tennessee, found in his study of Nashville, TN schools that there is data to suggest that a limited number of small charter schools can enhance student performance, but the more charter programs expand, the less effective they are.
Issue: Is the Use of Technology Changing How Teachers Teach and Students Learn?
Yes: Joanne Jacobs, from "Beyond the Factory Model," Education Next (2014)
No: Benjamin Herold, from "Why Ed Tech Is Not Transforming How Teachers Teach: Student-Centered, Technology-Driven Instruction Remains Elusive for Most," Education Week (2015)
Former San Jose Mercury News editorial writer and columnist for K-12 education, Joanne Jacobs, provides evidence from the field that technology use through Blended Learning strategies has a positive effect on student learning outcomes even though she acknowledges it is not “transformational” right now. Benjamin Herold posits that a mountain of evidence indicates that teachers have been painfully slow to transform the way they teach despite the massive influx of new technology into their classrooms.