Fatigued by School Reform

by Jack Jennings

Jack Jennings Fatigued by School Reform book cover

Fatigued by School Reform, by Jack Jennings

After a half-a-century of school reform, a majority of Americans consider the public schools as worse today than when they attended school. Those reforms missed the mark because they were not focused on the backgrounds of the students’ parents–by far the most important indicator of students’ progress in school. The importance of parents was documented by the Coleman Report more than 50 years ago.

School reform must be continued but re-directed to over-come the power of low parental socio-economic status. The best way to improve the schools is to create a better, fairer economy providing parents with good jobs and decent wages. In the meantime, good pre-school, after-school, and other aids are needed to help students from low income families.

Teacher quality, although not as influential as the parents’ backgrounds, is the second most significant indicator of student success. Teachers, like parents, have not been the focus of the attention their importance deserves. In particular, teachers should be fairly paid, and their verbal and cognitive skills improved. 

Articles, lnterviews, and More on Fatigued by School Reform

Available now at:

Barnes and Nobles


Rowman & Littlefield

Presidents, Congress, and the Public Schools: The Politics of Education Reform

by Jack Jennings

Presidents, Congress, and the Public Schools: The Politics of Education Reform, by Jack Jennings #jackjenningsdc

April 2015 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the landmark legislation that has provided the foundation of federal education policy in the United States. In “Presidents, Congress, and the Public Schools,” longtime policy analyst Jack Jennings examines the evolution of federal education policy and outlines a bold and controversial vision for its future. Jennings brings an insider’s knowledge to this account, offering a vivid analysis of federal efforts in the education arena and revealing some of the factors that shaped their enactment. His rich descriptions and lively anecdotes provide pointed lessons about the partisan climate that stymies much federal policy making today. After assessing the impacts of Title I and NCLB, and exploring the variety of ways that the federal government has intervened in education, Jennings sets forth an ambitious agenda for reframing education as a federal civil right and ensuring that every child has the opportunity to learn. (Source: ERIC, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, 11-2018).

Jack Jennings’s book, Presidents, Congress, and the Public Schools: The Politics of Education Reform, is available at:

Powell’s Books

Barnes and Noble


and the publisher, Harvard Education Press.

Politics of American Education Reform: 50-Year Struggle in Search of Equity

Japanese Translation

by Jack Jennings

Politics of American Education Reform: 50-Year Struggle in Search of Equity

Politics of American Education Reform: 50-Year Struggle in Search of Equity (in Japanese}

 In November 2018, a translation in Japanese of Presidents, Congress, and the Public Schools, was released in Japan by the Tokyo University Press. The Japanese version titled, Politics of American Education Reform: 50-Year Struggle in Search of Equity, contains the text of that book with an Epilogue which brought the book up to date as of early 2018.

Three distinguished professors, Naoshi Kira, Toshiyuki Omomo, and Satoshi Takahashi, worked over a year to produce the translation. Jack Jennings contributed the updating chapter.

Tokyo University Press

ISBN 10: 4130513419

ISBN 13: 978-4130513418

Release date: 11/19/2018

Review by Professor Akio Kitano, Nihon University, Tokyo, appearing in a journal of the Japan Educational Research Association (JERA) summer 2019.

“This book, written by Jack Jennings, who was involved in the legislative processes at the Congress for a long time, was originally published upon the 50th anniversary of the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA) of 1965 and deals with its policy background, reauthorization processes, future challenges from the perspectives of equity…

“In the existing literature on the history of policy making in the U.S., the detailed analysis of legislative processes in the federal government and within the Congress was rare. The author is not a so-called academic researcher on education administration and education policy making, but was personally involved in legislative processes of numerous education laws. Consequently, the author was in a position to assess the political dynamism of confrontations and compromises between Republicans and Democrats from the seat at the table and behind the scene. I think that this research method can be applied to processes of education policy making at the state and school district levels as well…(T)his book contains objective evaluation of federal education polities through a variety of research studies and reports…

“The author was a policy maker himself, and it is often the case that critical evaluation is missing while reflecting on the effects and influences of the policies of their own. However, Mr. Jennings is evaluating the policies from multiple perspectives using a variety of research studies, reports, case studies, comments by researchers, etc. Based on the lessons learned from 50-year federal involvement in education, the author is making recommendations on problems and measures that the federal government should get involved…

“Finally, the three translators are leading scholars on U.S. education reform in each of three generations. There is no doubt that this is likely to be a must-read book….

“I show my respect to the translators to have selected this great book…”

Available from:


Why National Standards and Tests? Politics and the Quest for Better Schools

by John F. (Jack) Jennings*

Jack Jennings’s book, Why National Standards and Tests? Politics and the Quest for Better Schools #jackjenningsdc

Why National Standards and Tests? Politics and the Quest for Better Schools
By John F. (Jack) Jennings*

In the 1990s, a movement to develop and implement academic standards as a way to raise American students’ level of education became a major education reform. Prior to this, states had not generally used academic standards and related tests as a way to improve elementary and secondary education.

This book is a case study of the development of this major national policy. During the 1990s, Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton worked with Congress to eventually enact two laws requiring states to adopt their own academic standards and state-wide student testing programs. In the process, the concept of national standards and tests was jettisoned.

Showing how the Congress and the presidents decided on this national policy is the purpose of this book. Those experiences are a prime example of political science in action. State governors, congressional representatives of all political stripes, national education organizations, CEOs of major corporations, and many others were involved in these debates.

In addition to this political education, a lesson in education policy is offered through following the rise and evolution of the academic standards and testing movement. That movement became, after this book was written, the springboard from which came the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, the forceful federal accountability statue.

In a manner of speaking, this book is Chapter One in understanding that federal test-driven accountability measure. It is difficult to grasp NCLB’s strong presidential and congressional support, and the heavy opposition by teachers and other educators, without learning how standards and tests came about in the first place.

From the 1960s forward, the country has been trying to improve education. This book offers the chapter on the policy and politics of academic standards and testing. Washington, D.C. was more involved in this reform than most others. In that regard, education policy and politics are presented as intertwined.

*John F. Jennings, the author of this book, was identified at the time of publication by that, his formal name. Subsequent books and writings identify him by his nickname “Jack” since he is more widely known as Jack Jennings.

Review of Why National Standards and Tests? that appeared in Choice Magazine of November 1, 1998 written by R. Unruh, California State University-Fresno. Mr. Unruh had served as the Speaker of the House in the California state legislature.

“This book presents an insider’s view of the process by which national policy is developed. Showing considerable knowledge and expertise, Jennings (Center on Education Policy, Washington, DC) provides an excellent and fair picture of the political pressures and agendas that have an impact on the development of laws.

“The book traces chronologically the development of national policy on performance standards and attempts to improve the schools through federal efforts, from an idea and agenda of the Bush administration through the implementation of a national policy in the Clinton Administration. The numerous political issues, agendas, and compromises along the way are carefully documented.

“’Why National Standards and Tests?’ might also be titled How National Standards, as it provides answers to many questions about the political process. This is an excellent book for anyone wishing to gain insight into the workings of Washington, whether it be in education or any other arena.

“Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above, professionals and practitioners.”

Sage Publications
Copyright 1998
ISBN 0-7619-1475-7

Available here:

Sage Publications


Powell’s Books

Barnes & Noble


Other Works

National Issues in Education, a series of four books edited by Mr. Jennings and published by Phi Delta Kappa and the Institute for Educational Leadership.

National Issues in Education: The Past is Prologue May 1993, ISBN 0-87367-460-X

National Issues in Education: Community Service and Student Loans, 1994, ISBN 0-87367-466-9

National Issues in Education: Goals 2000 and School-to-Work, 1995, ISBN 0-87367-471-5

National Issues in Education: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, 1995, ISBN 0-87367-479-0