Professor Paul Peterson's newest book Saving School

Peterson places today's debate over American education in historical context by showing how school reformers centralized political control without realizing the customized learning they sought.
In a compelling conclusion, he shows how virtual learning can reverse these trends, allowing each student to access directly the information they need.

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Book Summary

Can technological innovation transform the contemporary American school?  Will education be customized so that each child is taught material at a level he or she can grasp?  Can information be transmitted online in “Avatar-like” three-dimensional spaces? Will new curricular materials be created by the same open-source techniques used by Wikipedia?  Will students co-operate together in virtual projects and compete online in sophisticated academic games? Will teachers become coaches instead of instructors?

Saving Schools Q&A at Harvard
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These questions are posed by Harvard scholar Paul E. Peterson in a dramatic conclusion to his compelling re-interpretation of the history of the American school.  Saving Schools: From Horace Mann to Virtual Learning traces the story of the rise, decline, and potential resurrection of American public schools through the lives and ideas of six mission-driven reformers: Horace Mann, John Dewey, Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Shanker, William Bennett, and James Coleman. Many of these reformers sought to customize education to the needs of each child.  But in ways that were never anticipated, reform efforts centralized power in the hands of those who controlled institutions remote from the concerns of families and local communities—large school districts, states, courts, collective bargaining agreements, and, eventually, the federal government.

Listen to Paul E. Peterson's Podcast

Now, the possibilities unleashed by technological innovation, when coupled with the economic impact of ever-rising cost of traditional schooling, have created an environment for another educational transformation. Peterson traveled to Orlando, Florida to visit Julie Young, head of award-winning Florida Virtual School, to learn the practice—and pitfalls—of virtual education. Although still an adolescent with many sharp elbows and awkward gestures, online learning has the potential to create the highly personalized learning experience that has long eluded school reformers. The result could be a customized system of education in which families have greater choice and control over their children’s education than at any time since our schools were founded.

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Read Paul E. Peterson’s Washington Times Op-Ed “Holes in the case against Michelle Rhee”

Article by admin, 12 April 2011

Not only have newspapers claimed cheating at a few specific schools in the District, but two separate studies have sought recently to cast doubt on the distinctiveness of the gains achieved by D.C. students during Ms. Rhee’s tenure in office – one by Alan Ginsburg, a former director of policy and program studies at the Department of Education, the other by a committee constituted by the National Research Council (NRC).

Where’s the evidence that Ms. Rhee was no better than her predecessors? And that other cities are doing just as well?

Read the full article, available here.

The Education Next study on which the article is based is available here.

U. S. Math Performance in Global Perspective Webinar

Article by admin, 10 November 2010

Please join the webinar on “U. S. Math Performance in Global Perspective” TODAY from 12:30 to 1:45 PM (EST). The corresponding report is now available.

U.S. Math Performance in Global Perspective
How well does each state do at producing high-achieving students?

November 10, 2010: 12:30 - 1:45 pm (EST)

This free event is a Webinar and takes place online. Registration required.

The corresponding study became available at 12:01 AM EST today. For an online copy of the report, see: For an abbreviated version, with a map that provides specific information for each state, see:

The report has been prepared under the auspices of Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance & Education Next in the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at the Harvard Kennedy School.