Don't Leave "Have Nots" in the Dust

3/15/2005 5:00:00 AM

Susan McLesterIn this month's cover feature, "Big Time for Small Schools," page 34, Kim Carter takes us on a journey through a variety of new small schools nationwide, with a particular focus on the individual and distinctive ways each school is seeking to successfully implement reform. With common denominators moving beyond size considerations to include such elements as multiple forms of assessment, stronger student-educator relationships, and a very focused, themed program, it is truly exciting to see the rich range of experimentation that is breathing new life into a system that a growing body of research is pointing to as a dinosaur on the American landscape.

On the other hand, not so fast. Despite the research and the enthusiastic rush of acceptance by consumer press across the country, there remain important issues to address. In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg, a strong pioneer of the small school movement, has been sternly criticized for such fallout as the further overcrowding of the remaining large high schools (which still serve 90 percent of the student population) and the students-many at-risk-who may find their neighborhood small school's particular focus does not meet their needs. Moreover, recent findings from WestEd's report Rethinking High School: Five Profiles of Innovative Models for Student Success, reemphasizes that strong leadership still remains a key component to the success of schools of any size. Let's ensure that in our support for new reform efforts we don't continue to leave in the dust the most needy among us.

Perhaps of more immediate concern is President Bush's recent proposal to eliminate the $500 million-plus funds currently earmarked for technology in education (see Trend Watch, page 8). As disturbing as the mixed message this delivers-during the 2004 campaign he said he was committed to expanding technology in the public education system-is the knowledge that the high poverty districts these funds were designed to help will be back on the losing side of the digital divide if the measure passes.

A more positive message comes from Jordan's Queen Noor, who at a recent media roundtable in San Francisco (again, see Trend Watch) expressed her dedication to harnessing the Internet in the service of peace, understanding, and human rights in the Middle East. In an informal discussion with the eloquent American-born queen, who has feet strongly planted in both cultures, we heard stories of individuals in remote desert areas gaining a new livelihood by using the Web's e-commerce abilities to sell their homemade crafts and of communities of practice being set up around virtual education opportunities for women after decades of being denied this right. These stories were strong reminders of the power of technology to save lives, increase human connections, and ultimately impact nations.

Susan McLester, Editor in Chief

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