Features

Making the grade

National

Issue: "AIDS: Africa's affliction," Sept. 9, 2000

As kids return to the classroom for a new school year, WORLD reports on the struggles of parents, teachers, and policymakers who are trying to change the way students learn

During recent weeks Staples has been airing a back-to-school commercial it first aired in 1994. It features a grinning dad pushing his shopping cart through the aisles and tossing in school supplies to the tune of the re-purposed Christmas carol "It's the most wonderful time of the year," while his children look on glumly.

Life isn't that straightforward. For some parents and children, back to school means back to a school that wastes minds, puts bodies in jeopardy, and attempts to banish God from the premises. That's why we start this section with a look at the progress of a national struggle-that of American parents fighting for the right to choose the best education for their children. The past year brought progress for the school-choice movement. More children have been freed, and tax credits for private-school tuition withstood a judicial litmus test. Studies show that most are doing better academically and are happier, as are their parents. Although charter schools have limitations, they also offer some choice, so it's good news that hundreds of them last year opened their doors, while California joined a growing group of states where charter schools have survived legal challenges.

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We also look at other challenges. Large school districts are struggling to stay focused on educating kids. Our page 33 story examines bureaucratic bloat in a mammoth school, shows how the top-down administrative nightmare can force classroom teachers to sacrifice teaching, and looks at what one Louisiana teacher did to fight the system.

Some teachers are struggling. From cheating on standardized tests to recruiting students to help stalk their enemies, our page 36 back-to-school roundup shows that it's not just students who are prone to get into trouble during the warm days of summer. Also featured: the homosexual club juggernaut that's rolling over the nation's high schools.

This year, back-to-school season coincides with the quadrennial battle for the White House, and education is one of the issues that divides the parties. While both are promising more education spending, differences emerge over how that money is to be spent. Our page 39 story focuses on what the presidential candidates are proposing.

But new approaches are emerging, at college as well as at K-12 levels. On page 40, we tell the story of one homeschool grad's months-long struggle to choose a college, and profile the institution he chose. Patrick Henry College, the nation's newest evangelical Christian college, is the first post-secondary institution to target homeschooled students.

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