I’m Jack Jennings. My web site is dedicated to the improvement of public education by using objective analyses based on sound data.
Several years ago, at a congressional hearing which I had organized, committee chair Gus Hawkins asked the disputing witnesses if they could at least agree on what the data showed. The witnesses were taken aback and did not know how to respond. They could only repeat their earlier testimony which was irrelevant to the question. In fact, they were using data not as a guide but rather as a way to support their previously determined positions.
My beliefs were greatly influenced by my experiences in the 27 years I worked for the U.S. Congress. This career was made possible by four Congressmen who were leaders of the Committee on Education and Labor in the House of Representatives. Although these men represented very different parts of the country, they shared a belief that the federal government had a role in education.
Roman Pucinski of Chicago, Carl Perkins of Kentucky, Gus Hawkins of Los Angeles, and Bill Ford of suburban Detroit each believed that the federal government ought to work to improve education and to encourage people to gain as much schooling and training as possible.
Congressman Pucinski, hired me just out of law school, Congressmen Perkins, Hawkins, and Ford retained and promoted me although they had no obligation to do so. In 1995, that portion of my career ended when I retired. I am grateful for the opportunity to create legislation to improve education despite obstacles as seen in the earlier reference to the Hawkins hearing. A specially critical area is aid for poor children, with controversies over accountability, tuition vouchers, and many other ideas.
To help you with your research, the material is arranged by topic and by date published. Also, the newest entries are shown below.
The idea behind Oldies But Goodies is that earlier postings which are still relevant in today’s policy debates ought to be brought back for another viewing. Several times a month different ones will be posted mostly from a pool of 43 blogs that I wrote for the HuffPost. If you can’t wait and want to read all those blogs, go to https://www.huffpost.com/author/jackjenningsdc-435
Oldies But Goodies
The Neglected Purpose of Education (May 2013)
“To prepare all citizens to become responsible members of a democratic society”
“To develop socialization and citizenship skills in children”
“Preparing students for responsible, productive citizenship and imbuing them with values common to one democratic society”
These similar phrases were developed by diverse groups of citizens in three communities — Berwyn, Illinois; Chicago; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, respectively — to describe what they saw as a basic mission of public education.
Literary Works by Jack Jennings
I have had three careers in my life: working for Congress for 27 years, establishing and running a Washington-based think tank, and writing fiction. My first attempt in this new career was the following article on getting older.
Los Pensamientos de un Anciano
Fatigued by School Reform
Latest book by Jack Jennings available online and at many bookstores.
After a half-a-century of school reform, a majority of Americans consider the public schools as worse today than when they attended them. This book concludes that the country’s major reforms missed the mark because they did not address adequately the great influence of family backgrounds on school success, as the Coleman Report of 1966 clearly documented.
Fatigued by School Reform shows the importance of involving parents in their children’s education, and helping poor and lower middle class students to overcome the limitations of low socio-economic status. Also essential is raising teacher quality.
A fundamental part of school reform, however, has been ignored by almost all reformers. If economic and social conditions are improved leading to better family backgrounds, student performance should also improve. Students’ family backgrounds are that influential.
This book was published in 2020. A year later President Biden secured one-year funding that would reduce the number of poor children in school by nearly one-half. Senator Bennet (Dem. Colo.) said that this change was really school reform.
As of summer 2022, Biden and Bennet’s one-year funding has not been extended; both, however, have said they will continue to press forward. Fatigued by School Reform shows the need for this policy or for similar changes.
Long-lasting school improvement is dependent on factors outside the school building. That is the key conclusion of this book.
Available now at:
Fatigued by School Reform, an interview with Jack Jennings
An interview with Jack Jennings by Jeff Glebocki, Founder & Lead Advisor, Strategy + Action/Philanthropy Originally posted at Strategy + Action/Philanthropy In his new book, “Fatigued by School Reform,” Jack Jennings calls out policy makers, funders and the school...
Jack Jennings’s new book, Fatigued by School Reform, available now!
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...
Politics of American Education Reform: 50-Year Struggle in Search of Equity is the title of the Japanese translation of Presidents, Congress, and the Public Schools with additional content to bring the book up to date for the time of its publishing. In November 2018,...
National Assessment of Educational Progress
The only valid national assessment of the nation’s public schools must be improved.
It’s time to redefine the federal role in K-12 education
The current federal education law rests on the same faulty foundation as the last law.
If politics is considered foul, what kind of people are going to go into it?
tolerance is necessary for a democracy
Trump’s Plan for Education Fails Smell Test
When I worked on Capitol Hill, the congressmen and congresswomen would say that they used a “smell test” to determine the real purpose of a proposal. This meant that they looked beyond the words used to justify an idea and considered such factors as the record of the proposing organization or individual.
Why are teachers angry?
Insultingly low wages for many, more students needing extra assistance, and great pressure to raise student test scores and graduation rates. Meanwhile, politicians orate about the importance of education....
Better education will come when the emphasis is on real factors such as teacher quality
DC's public schools' progress is tainted by some phony "improvement" due to enormous pressure to produce higher graduation rates and test scores. Better education will come when the emphasis is on real factors such as teacher quality....
Teachers’ views have not been heeded
Teachers' views have not been accorded the weight they deserve in seeking school improvement. Just the opposite--teachers have been unfairly blamed for the lack of progress. Listen to John Thompson for some realism from the classroom....
State and national leaders given a grade of D minus by Ed Week
State and national leaders were given a grade of D minus by Ed Week showing a lack of commitment to adequately fund the schools, despite rhetoric about education's importance. "Watch what someone does--not what they say," to see their real beliefs. Quality Counts...
Washington insider shares experiences in education, politics
Read the story here!
Advice for Democrats
To win elections, it is helpful to have a disliked opponent. People are more motivated to vote against someone than they are to vote for someone, according to an old adage. The dreams of Democrats to have such opponents could not be better fulfilled than to...
How to Help the Rich, Harm the Schools, and Reap Political Revenge
Many children’s education will be jeopardized, the rich will pay less in taxes, and political revenge will be reaped. The new congressional tax bill is a disaster waiting to happen.
Hope from the Young
High school debaters learn about issues and also about democracy. For the school year 2017-18, two recommended topics are based on a book by Jack Jennings.
Yesterday, as usual, we talked now and again about President Trump and politics. As much as we try to avoid the topic, it sharply intrudes into our daily lives. We voted against Trump, and are upset about the direction that the country is taking. Living in Washington,...
Tolerance and Respect: Victims of Politics
Tolerance of other points of view and respect for others as fellow citizens must be a conscious goal.
Eulogy for Thomas Wolanin
I am honored to be part of this celebration of the life of Tom Wolanin. Donna, Andrew, Peter and other members of the family, you have the sympathy of everyone in this room. All of us knew Tom during his long career. We admired his talents. And, today, we salute him...
Trump’s Wrong About the Schools
“(A)n education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.” President Trump broadcast this biting condemnation in his inaugural address. A short time later, Trump proposed cutting education spending by 13%....