Spared for years by criticism aimed at K-12 schools and four-year institutions of higher learning, community colleges are now in the dock for failing to perform their missions. The main venue is California, whose Master Plan for Higher Education in 1960 conceived community colleges as an affordable way for students to complete the first two years of college before transferring to a four-year school and for students seeking an associate's degree or career certification. In a report by the Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy, researchers found woefully low student transfer and completion rates at California's 112 community colleges serving ...


Competition for admission to coveted schools has been so well documented by the media by now that I thought I had seen it all. But a news article in the New York Times on Oct. 28 about the battle for acceptance to private preschools in New York City convinced me otherwise ("For Some Youngsters, a Second Chance at an Exclusive School"). The report described how children from some families are allowed to take the Educational Records Bureau a second time if their score the first time did not make the cut for admission. The E.R.B. is a one-hour ...


When New York City's Education Department announced on Oct. 20 that it intends to release the ratings of 12,000 teachers based on student test scores, United Federation of Teachers immediately said it would seek a court order to block the move. These developments are reminiscent of what took place in late August when the Los Angeles Times published a database of 6,000 teachers in third through fifth grades that ranked their effectiveness relative to their colleagues. The difference was that the Los Angeles Times calculated the value-added after obtaining the data under the state's Public Records Act. In ...


(For my related essay on how teachers are being hamstrung by court decisions, see "Rules for Schools: Dealing with Delinquents" in the Oct. 26 issue of The American.) The latest reminder that freedom of speech for teachers in K-12 is an illusion came from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati on Oct. 21. In Evans-Marshall v. Board of Education of the Tipp City Exempted Village School District, the court ruled that teachers cannot make their own curricular decisions. The case came about when high school English teacher Shelley Evans-Marshall was fired after 500 parents ...


If the role that poverty plays in student achievement was not already controversial enough, the debate is bound to become even more contentious as a result of renewed interest in the influence of culture on academic performance. The New York Times published a front-page story on Oct. 17 that traced the resurgence of what anthropologist Oscar Lewis called the culture of poverty (" 'Culture of Poverty' Makes a Comeback"). Although researchers have known for four decades that poverty and culture are intertwined, they shied away from the latter as an explanation to avoid being labeled politically incorrect. But as pressure has ...


(Last of a three-part series this week on innovative schools.) At the same time that for-profit colleges are campaigning hard to justify their existence in the face of harsh criticism from Congress, for-profit schools are in increasing demand from desperate parents. Since I've already weighed in on for-profit colleges ("Are Proprietary Colleges Worthwhile?", July 2), I'll confine my remarks to for-profit schools. New York City is the epicenter of the for-profit trend. Long known for its list of expensive non-profit independent schools in grades K-12, New York City is feeling the presence of these newcomers. The New York Times focused ...


(Second of a three-part series this week on innovative schools.) Press releases are known for accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative in order to mold public opinion. So it came as no surprise when I received news marked for immediate release on Oct. 15 from the Alliance for Excellent Education. Datelined Washington D.C., the Alliance reported on an MDRC study titled "Transforming the High School Experience: How New York City's New Small Schools Are Boosting Student Achievement and Graduation Rates." MDRC is a nonpartisan research group dedicated to improving programs that affect the poor. The study looked at ...


(First of a three-part series this week on innovative schools.) At first glance, the dramatic increase in the number of charter schools across the country seems to assure their place as the No. 1 player in the parental choice movement. But news reports published just two days apart raise questions about how much confidence can be placed in them. On Oct. 7, The New York Times focused on the LEARN School Network in Chicago ("Charter Education Expanding in Chicago"). Greg White, the chief executive, was forced to rely on two $1 million grants last month from Oprah Winfrey's Angel Network ...


Ever since the accountability movement gained traction, critics have subjected the public to an endless recital of the ills afflicting schools. In response, reformers have offered their solutions with the zeal of missionaries trying to convert the masses. The latest example was "How to fix our schools: A manifesto by Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee and other education leaders," which was published in the Washington Post on Oct. 10. Putting aside the emotions their names conjured up, I tried to find something convincing in their remarks. But what they said about charter schools, high-stakes tests, competition, performance pay etc. were assertions. ...


In an investigative report that was supported by charts and graphs, The New York Times on Oct. 11 revealed how New York State officials ignored warnings from experts for more than a decade about the way tests were being misused to create the illusion of progress ("On New York School Tests, Warning Signs Ignored"). The front-page story was a case study of assessment legerdemain in action. What it showed was that a singular obsession with test scores had distorted the entire assessment process, undermining confidence in the claims made by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein. In publishing the ...


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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