Dear Deborah, Since you brought up the subject of “21st Century skills,” it seemed like an opportune time to talk a bit about this subject. A week ago, I participated in a panel discussion on this topic, sponsored by an organization called Common Core in Washington, D.C.. Common Core was created to advocate for the liberal arts and sciences, particularly because of the pressure to spend more and more time emphasizing only reading and mathematics. After all, they are the only subjects that “count” for purposes of NCLB accountability, so supervisors and principals are demanding that teachers produce higher ...


Dear Diane, A great Tuesday letter. It has outraged some of my friends—whose strategic approach now is to applaud anything moving in our direction and speak quietly about anything we profoundly disagree with. Yes, alas: Duncan’s office is not yet offering a change either of us can believe in. To stimulate the economy, Obama’s education plan includes more focus on charters, and for teachers, schools, and districts that implement so-called “merit pay” based on student test scores. Aside from misdirecting the goals of education, it misdirects the path to a good education. By confusing test scores with...


Dear Deborah, I have been watching and listening to our new secretary of education, trying to understand his views on the most important issues facing our schools and the nation's children. I wanted to believe candidate Barack Obama when he said that he would introduce real change and restore hope. Surely, I thought, he understood that the deadening influence of No Child Left Behind has produced an era of number-crunching that has very little to do with improving education or raising academic standards. We truly need change and hope. I thought he understood. He chose to keep his own children ...


Dear Diane, Thanks for “nailing” Nicholas Kristof. Another very well-meaning ally. With friends like Kristof we... . Kristof ought to read Rothstein et al more carefully on the complexity of the relationship between the economy and schooling. The lapse between schooling data and economic data is one source of error. Confusing correlation with causation is another. Besides, if all the people in the world became well-educated, would that be tragic? What data is Kristof referring to that shows that teachers with a better education and who stay in teaching longer don’t “teach” better? What does “teach better” mean? Suppose it ...


Dear Deborah, I was about to move on to a new topic but on Sunday read a column in The New York Times by Nicholas Kristof titled "Our Greatest National Shame." Well, as you must surely realize, it is American education that is "our greatest national shame." Kristof says that "...we do know that the existing national school system is broken, and that we're not trying hard enough to fix it." I believe that when he uses the collective noun "we," he is referring to himself and other newspaper columnists, not to people working in America's schools, who are working ...


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