A special issue of CommonWealth, which will be released tomorrow and is now posted in full on our website, looks at the state of public schools 15 years after Massachusetts passed the Education Reform Act. Schools are still failing across the state, reports Michael Jonas, even though we're getting a pretty good idea of how to improve high-poverty districts. (It's not as simple as spending more money on them.) Too many students are getting a high-school diploma without being prepared for college, according to a story by Laura Pappano, which greatly reduces the chances that they'll actually earn degrees. And Charles Euchner reports that the neglect of physical education represents a lost opportunity to "spark" students' brains and put them in a better state of mind for learning.
The special issue also includes a debate on the merits of the MCAS test (the mayor of New Bedford says it shoudn't be a graduation requirement; former state Senate president Tom Birmingham and Nellie Mae Education Foundation president Nick Donohue defend MCAS); an interview with Mark Roosevelt, a co-author of the Education Reform Act and now superindentent of Pittsburgh public schools; and a look at the state's high school dropout crisis, which doesn't seem to have been helped at all by ed reform.
There are also stories on declining enrollment in Massachusetts public schools (bad news for colleges and employers) and on the rising costs of school construction; plus maps, charts, and statistics on all aspects of public education; and a summing-up essay by incoming secretary of education Paul Reville.