An interview with Craig Brandon, whose book the The Five-Year Party offers an unvarnished but balanced look into the value of a college education.


When reformers talk about how to improve public schools, one of their favorite solutions is competition. They maintain that forcing schools to vie with each other to attract students will by necessity improve educational quality. They claim that's how private schools have been able to post their impressive outcomes. But what they avoid mentioning is that private schools operate under a completely different set of rules. Not only do they admit only those students they deem a good fit, but they also retain the right to remove students for any number of reasons. To most people, the latter strategy is ...


In a column-one, front-page story on Dec. 8, the Los Angeles Times reported that Gov. Jerry Brown of California replaced virtually all members of the state Board of Education ("Many see influence of teachers union in Gov. Jerry Brown's shakeup of California Board of Education"). What makes the move - one of his first official acts - noteworthy is that those who were sacked were all strong supporters of charter schools, teacher accountability and parental empowerment. It's too soon to know if Brown's decision indicates the start of a major pushback against the reform agenda of the Obama administration. But ...


The controversy surrounding the appointment of Cathleen Black to be the new chancellor of New York City schools despite her failure to meet the stipulated requirements for the job has been so well covered by the media by now that little more can be said. But like so many contentious issues in education, the fallout is not limited to the immediate venue. On the first day that Black assumed her duties of the nation's largest school district, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced that he intends to try to convince the state board of education to jettison education experience as ...


At the risk of sounding like a Pollyanna, I have to take issue with the latest alarmist depiction of public education. The New York Times published a news story about the Program for International Student Achievement. The article said that the rankings of American students posed a direct threat to this country's competitiveness in the new global economy ("Shanghai Schools' Approach Pushes Students to Top of the Rankings"). Arne Duncan called the results a "wake-up call." The trouble with this assessment is that it is hardly new. Taxpayers were exposed to similar hyperbole before in, of all place, a feature ...


Teachers opt to teach in religious schools for reasons known only to themselves. But I wonder if they fully understand what they give up when they decide to do so. Two cases now before the courts illustrate the issue. In Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC , the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 applies to teachers who also perform religious duties in church schools ("Washington Wants a Say Over Your Minister," The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 5). Specifically, the leaders of the Hosanna-Tabor church in Redford, Mich. tried to force ...


Asking if money affects student performance is a little like asking if gravity affects inanimate objects. The answer in both cases is more nuanced than it initially seems. Let's begin by looking at the numbers. We spend $11,749 per student in public schools annually (Statistical Abstract of the United States). To put this into context, between 1970 and 2005, inflation-adjusted per-student spending increased by more than 100 percent (Digest of Educational Statistics). In actuality, spending on public schools per student is probably considerably higher because school districts ordinarily don't include debt service, employee benefits and transportation costs. But I'll ...


They say if you live long enough, you get to see it all. So I wasn't surprised to read that the District of Columbia has implemented Impact Plus, the nation's most advanced merit pay system for public school teachers ("In Washington, Large Rewards in Teacher Pay," The New York Times, Jan. 1). What distinguishes Impact Plus from performance pay strategies in other cities is the amount of money that teachers who are rated "highly effective" for two consecutive years can earn. One special education teacher saw her annual salary increase by 38 percent, from $63,000 to $87,000. The ...


The end of the year is a propitious time to take a closer look at the proposal that teachers should be paid like workers in business because it's when bonuses are handed out. In this regard, no group is more fitting to examine than executives, whose pay is ostensibly based on company performance. But the truth is that far from being deserved, those at or near the top in corporate America receive pay packages largely disconnected from individual performance. Wall Street is the most blatant example, although it is hardly alone. In an op-ed published in the Washington Post on ...


A new report by the non-profit Education Trust found that more than 15 percent of secondary school teachers were teaching outside their areas of expertise in the 2007-08 school year. Although this is a decrease from about 17 percent four years earlier, the finding is still disturbing. Yet there is more to the story than initially meets the eye. If knowledge of subject matter were the most important factor in delivering a quality education, then professors with doctorates and a long list of publications in their field would make ideal candidates for K-12, as I wrote in a letter to ...


The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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