Tell Hoover Institution Your Best and Worst Education Events of 2011 (Vote #1)

One thing December brings is the obligatory year-end lists. If you are even a casual reader of this blog, then you should be interested in taking a moment to vote on the “Best and Worst in American Education, 2011” — brought to you by the Hoover Institution’s Koret Task Force on K-12 Education.

Being of a decidedly reform-minded bent, the group has offered up some expected developments in their five choices for each of the “Best” and “Worst” categories. Most of the items I’ve covered at one time or another during 2011. Naturally I can’t make you vote for any particular events (or even vote at all), but I am making some strong suggestions that fans could select on my behalf as one of the most inexpensive Christmas gifts you’ve ever purchased. This is my blog, and I like to save the best for last. So which of the five choices should you recognize as the worst education event of 2011?

Worst: As time goes on, I have less and less patience for the big people in Washington, D.C., so the bungled re-authorization of No Child Left Behind (#2) mostly makes me shrug. The magical money tree hasn’t done much for real education reform in many of the Race to the Top-winning states (#3), either. Maybe California’s new governor further messing things up (#4) just seems too far away for me to get too worked up. And as tempting a choice as it is, the chief reasons for the repeal of Ohio’s Senate Bill 5 (#5) are little connected to education reform and teachers unions.

So by default, I am casting my vote for #1: the Atlanta cheating scandal. As I wrote months ago when the story first emerged, the problem here is the predictable overreaction from reform opponents. If the scandal led to better testing security and/or greater use of online adaptive assessments, I would have to vote for something else as the worst development of the year. But the Koret Task Force page explains what really has transpired:

…[W]hat the public has “learned” is that testing is bad because it creates so much stress that well-meaning educators are pushed to the limit and eventually succumb (for the children’s sake, of course!) to the temptation to cheat, lie, and break the law.

Best: My Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow wrote an op-ed explaining the sensible rationale for rolling back government employee collective bargaining privileges in states like Wisconsin (#2). expressed my admiration for the sweeping range or reforms legislated in Indiana (#5). While California made some progress in establishing working rules for its “Parent Trigger” (#3), here in Colorado the idea faltered. And my edu-crush on Michelle Rhee is no secret, so I had to give some consideration to her teacher evaluation system surviving her tenure in DC Public Schools (#4).

But in the end, we can’t do any better than recognizing 2011 as the Year of School Choice (#1). Especially when the “reinvigoration of school choice via opportunity scholarships and vouchers” hit so close to home with the passage of the groundbreaking Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program. Forget the injunction for now. Cast your vote for the accelerating national trend toward educational freedom.

Vote for the #1s, and I’ll say: Thank you very much! Of course, I could point out that there are still nearly four weeks left in 2011, and maybe we haven’t yet experienced the “best” or “worst” education event of the year. But that’s just the pesky little provocateur in me speaking….