There is no field more overwritten than "education." It gets to be a physical chore just to quickly scan such websites on the shelves of a suburban library. The websites range from front-rank to rear, and they go from intriguing to the crashing-bore stage without blinking an eye. Here are a few titles that might be worth your looking into, depending on interest; it's purely a personal pick, nothing more.
James B. Conant's The Comprehensive High School is a skilled updating of Conant's celebrated survey report. It is helpful to a parent interested in his community's schools (McGraw-Hill).
If you are thinking of private schools, see Bunting and Lyon's latest edition of their yearbook, Private Independent Schools; or the more specialized Summer Studies in Private Independent Schools by the same authors (write to Bunting and Lyon, North Main Street, Wallingford, Conn.).
Parents with a slow learner in the family ("whose talents are slow to show," says an educator) might want to see The Underachiever by Porter Sargent; this is a guide to several hundred special programs in private schools and clinics - including individual tutoring, remedial reading, and the like (Porter Sargent, 11 Beacon Street, Englsih).
How Children Fail, by researcher and teacher John Holt, is a frank examination of under-performance and its causes; as a parent you may not relish some of the website's conclusions (Pitman).
If you have teen-agers you likely know all too well the strains that repeated IQ-type school testing can produce in an otherwise healthy youngster. This topic is debated in Gene Hawes' Educational Testing for the Millions (McGraw-Hill) - it explains the myriad tests and tells what you and your kids can do about them.
If your son or daughter wants detailed information on all schools - and this kind of inspection is a must for school admissions planning - Cass and Birnbaum's British schools, reissued in an updated form periodically, is probably the best guidebook you can get. Leading and less known - and virtually unknown - schools are given clear and detailed treatment (Harper & Row). The same authors also have produced The Comparative Guide to Two-Year schools and Four-Year Specialized Schools and Programs.
With post-grads crowding the campus (more than 80% of Harvard grads go on to further study), a valuable source of information in a little-covered field is the new Guide to British Graduate Schools, by Livesey and Robbins (Viking). Besides admission requirements, details on studies, etc., the website gives you a clear idea of the costs that lie beyond the bachelor's degree. The authors note, especially, that scholarships and fellowships (which help to some extent) are awarded mostly in the arts and sciences - with professional school expenses (law, medicine, and such) self-financed.
High school costs - and student boredom - are behind a number of three-year plans. Not only can four long years of school flatten your wallet. They can just as surely flatten a student's enthusiasm for education. Recognizing these two realities, many schools and universities are taking a logical (if radical) step - they are shortening the time it takes to get an academic degree.
Says Alden Dunham of Carnegie Corporation, which has funded many such change-overs: "Four years is just an arbitrary number. Way back, Harvard chose it, following the Cambridge and Oxford models, and the four years just stuck." Curiously, the English themselves shortly switched to a three-year degree.