Dear Diane, The good news is that most of the American people haven’t lost their common sense. And, above all, those closest to “the action”—parents, teachers, kids, and their families, plus a majority of those who work closely with schools or are “students” of schooling—haven't. What they have lost is the power to be widely heard. The Education Equality Project et al are doing their best to “brainwash” us into thinking we all agree. If there ever was a time when I appreciate the existence of organized “teacher voices,” it’s the days we’re living through....


Dear Deb, A new report by McKinsey & Co., the management consultants, came out last week, and it is worthy of our attention. The report was released at a press conference in Washington, D.C., by NYC Chancellor Joel Klein and the Reverend Al Sharpton. The McKinsey report acknowledges their "significant input," along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Center for American Progress, and others. At the press conference, according to the story in The New York Times, Chancellor Klein “said the study vindicated the idea that the root cause of test-score disparities was ...


Dear Diane, Your Tuesday column set out good reasons for rejecting standardized testing to reward teachers. I sent a letter home to parents every year on the 10 factors that influenced their child's reading scores. I'll send it to you one day soon—it still applies. Incidentally, some readers may not realize that the high-scoring nations that use standardized tests, if at all, use a different kind than those you were describing. They often consist of written and oral cross-examination, with grades determined by well-qualified judges. (The international scores we read about, readers should realize, are the results of low-stakes...


Dear Deborah, Over time we have developed a very solid and smart community of readers who like to argue with us and with each other. That is as it should be. And of course we need to bridge differences—or disagree—with them, too, as we do with each other. So the subject today is merit pay. This is an important topic because it has become clear that President Obama has decided to hang his hat on this idea. It has not yet been explained just what he means by merit pay. Does he mean that teachers should be paid ...


Dear Diane, Ah yes, miracle promises are dangerous. In the bad old “decentralization” days, we were told local “corruption” ran rampant—thus the need to centralize. Your account of the Al Sharpton/Joel Klein deal, not to mention all the no-bid contracts under Klein, the high-paid consultants, etc., makes the bad old days seem pretty good. It’s true that for me 1975-95 were heady times: I thought we might break the mold! The innovative work going on in District 4, District 2, and the Alternative High School division were the result of a lively teacher conversations occurring all over...


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