If the new standardized tests slated to make their debut in the 2014-15 school year turn out as their designers promise, classroom instruction will enter a new era. Until now, teachers have argued that the tests in wide use largely measure achievement of low-level cognitive goals. As a result, even if teachers were able to post impressive gains for their students, educational quality was unavoidably sacrificed in the process. But the two groups responsible for creating the new instruments in English and math (the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) have ...


Right now, teachers are under the microscope in an attempt to identify which ones are effective based on the value-added model. There's no question that better ways need to be developed and implemented to make that determination. But what is lost in the debate is the role that other figures play in educational outcomes. Strangely, parents have so far evaded similar scrutiny. This oversight is cause for deep concern as the new school year begins. Parental involvement in the achievement of students is well supported by a broad body of empirical evidence. The most recent data come from the Harlem ...


President Obama's proclamation that "by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world" reignites the long-simmering debate about the issue. To achieve this objective, an additional 375,000 students a year would have to graduate with at least an associate's or bachelor's degree. This number represents a 42 percent increase over today's output. At present, the U.S. ranks ninth in the proportion of young adults age 25-34 with college degrees among the countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. At first reading, Obama's goal makes sense. The benefits of ...


Education Secretary Arne Duncan's speech delivered in Little Rock, Ark. put an end to any doubt about the Obama administration's position on full disclosure of teachers who fail to boost their students' standardized test scores. In unambiguous language, he declared: "The truth is always hard to swallow, but it can only make us better, stronger and smarter." So let's take a closer look at the "truth" as Duncan sees it. What is the ostensible purpose of publishing the names of teachers whose students do not make progress on these closely watched tests, as opposed to publishing the names of teachers ...


Since I wrote about the decision by the Los Angeles Times to publish its ratings of 6,000 elementary school teachers based on the value- added model, the debate has heated up ("How Not to Win Support for Teachers Unions," Aug. 18). In a series of front-page stories under the heading of "Grading the Teachers," followed by op-eds and letters to the editor, the Times has focused national attention on the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second largest. Although the LAUSD is not the first district to be associated with the controversial metric, it is being closely watched ...


Frustration and anger over the plodding pace of school reform in this country have reached a fever pitch. Asking disaffected taxpayers, particularly those with children in failing schools, to be patient will only exacerbate matters. When people are desperate for a solution, they understandably are not receptive to explanations. They demand immediate action. In an op-ed that was published in the New York Times on Aug. 20 ("Don't Drop Out of School Innovation"), Paul Tough, the author of Whatever It Takes (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008), makes an enticing argument: The government cannot wait until "airtight proof that a pioneering program ...


Leave it to the British to teach Americans about their common language. A report by the Institute of Education on more than 100 international studies found that obsessing on performance on standardized tests is counterproductive to learning about the subjects evaluated by these tests ("Pupils do better at school if teachers are not fixated on test results," The Guardian, Aug. 13). Semantics comes into the picture because reformers use the words "performance" and "learning" interchangeably. But as teachers have repeatedly maintained, they are not necessarily the same. Students can score high (perform) but internalize little (learn). In my opinion, the ...


It was predictable that demand for an unfettered educational marketplace would bring out opportunists less interested in instruction than in profit. The $3.5 billion earmarked this year for turning around failing schools - about 28 times as much as in 2007 - is proving too alluring for companies with little or no experience in the field to pass up. Only in education is this absurdity allowed. Overhauling the approximately 5,000 schools in the U.S. that have been identified as failing requires a combination of expertise in education and management. But what works in the business world does ...


In a blunder that will undermine taxpayer support for teachers unions when they need it the most, A.J. Duffy, president of the 40,000-member United Teachers of Los Angeles, urged members to boycott the Los Angeles Times ("Union leaders calls on L.A. teachers to boycott Times," Aug. 16). The newspaper's sin was to publish a front-page story that reported on the use of the value-added model to estimate the effectiveness of teachers in the nation's second largest school district, and include the names of a few teachers as cases in point ("Who's teaching L.A.'s kids?, Aug. ...


As pressure has mounted to hold public schools accountable for their performance, it was inevitable that traditional yardsticks would no longer be adequate to satisfy the demand. That's why it comes as no surprise what New York City is doing to hold its schools' feet to the fire ("Schools Are Given a Grade on How Graduates Do," Aug. 10). Rather than rely almost exclusively on the percentage of students who earn a high school diploma as a sign of success, the New York City Department of Education now demands to know how many of these students are prepared for college. ...


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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