We can get news anywhere, on TV and radio and from blogs and Twitter, not to mention Web sites like CNN.com and FoxNews.com. Over 11 billion results pop up if you type “news” into the Google search bar, creating a flood of information.
In education news, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University reviewed 21,514 stories from 43 media outlets in 2012 to determine what subjects were talked about the most. The top 5 subjects in education were charter schools, teachers’ unions, special education, pre-kindergarten education, and No Child Left Behind.
What should parents pay attention to and what is just noise?
Let’s start with the noise, which would be anything that involves Washington, D.C., like pre-kindergarten programs. The latest long-term study of Head Start, the federal preschool program, found that there were no lasting benefits to third graders who attended Head Start prior to elementary school. Head Start does not give students an advantage, yet taxpayers spend $8 billion per year on the program. President Barack Obama is even talking about expanding Head Start.
Likewise, No Child Left Behind, the federal education law, only generates news because no one is sure what to do with it. Congress has not reauthorized the law, and the U.S. Department of Education has granted “waivers” to states that create more administrative work.
What we really need to know more about is how to give every child the chance at a great education. Charter schools generate headlines here. Arizona has 535 charter schools, and a higher percentage of charters earned an “A” on their state report card (35 percent) than traditional schools (22 percent).
The Arizona Charter School Association estimates charter school enrollment could double by 2020 if enrollment trends continue, which means parents are paying attention. Lawmakers should do the same and make sure charters are free from burdensome state regulations and reporting requirements so they can focus on teaching children.
Two bills are moving through the Arizona Legislature this year that will do just that: HB 2496 would allow A-rated charter schools to request exemption from some state regulations, allowing them to devote resources to the classroom instead of on paperwork (traditional schools can already request exemption); and HB 2318 would allow charter and traditional schools that do not accept federal funding to be exempt from federal regulations. Both bills eliminate some of the red tape that can tie up charter schools.
The demand for charter schools shows that Arizona parents have separated the news from the noise, and lawmakers should, too.
USA Today: Charter School Experiment a Success
Arizona Charter School Association: Arizona Public School Choice and Its Impact on Students
Hoover Institution: News Media Hits and Misses in 2012 Education Coverage
Health and Human Services: Third Grade Follow-up to the Head Start Impact Study
Health and Human Services: Head Start Program Fact Sheet Fiscal Year 2011