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. ...


If colleges were not already feeling enough heat about the education they provide students, a new book adds fuel to the fire. In The Five-Year Party (BenBella, 2010), Craig Brandon maintains that ten percent of the nation's 4,431 liberal arts colleges are essentially party schools. Although he never provides a list of names, he explains why these schools are education-free zones. Brandon cites diluted curriculum and grade inflation as evidence of the predictable consequences of wooing applicants who are not capable of doing college-level work. He places the blame largely on administrators who are more interested in numbers than ...


For too long, teachers have not been consulted about efforts to turn around failing schools. This exclusionary strategy has understandably created resentment among them. But that approach is finally beginning to change - at least in Boston- where Teach Plus has assembled teams of experienced teachers who will constitute a quarter of the staff devoted to the task ("Lesson Plan in Boston Schools: Don't Go It Alone," On Education, Aug. 9). Under Teach Plus, which is financed by the Gates Foundation, teachers will teach a full load, but will act as leaders for their grade level of experience and areas ...


A news article in the Wall Street Journal on Aug. 6 contains some useful reminders for teachers of foreign language ("English Gets the Last Word in Japan"). The report focused on Rakuten Inc., Japan's largest online retailer by sales. CEO Hiroshi Mikitani has mandated that by 2012 the company's 6,000 employees will all speak and correspond with each other in English. To achieve this ambitious goal, weekly meetings, work documents, menus in the company cafeteria, and signs in elevators are in English. What does Rakuten's strategy have to do with teaching a foreign language in this country? The best ...


The latest chapter in the gifted student saga was on display at Hunter College High School in New York City when a graduating senior delivered a commencement address that called into question the basis for admission to the storied school ("Diversity Debate Convulses Elite High School," Aug. 5). The school uses a single, teacher-written test that has not changed for decades. Although the test is defended by Hunter College, which oversees the high school, as "very valuable in terms of preserving the kind of specialness and uniqueness that the school has," it has resulted in a decline in the percentage ...


With the start of the fall semester just weeks away, high school seniors and their parents will have to decide which of the 1,600 public and nonprofit private colleges and universities offering a bachelor's degree offers the educational quality they are seeking. That's just the problem. The accountability movement to date provides them with little useful information. If education is as vital to the nation's future as reformers maintain, don't colleges and universities warrant the same scrutiny as K-12 schools? The question mark in the title of a new book by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus is an indication ...


Taxpayers today are exposed to a stream of studies about public education that purport to be based on scientific research. Yet too often the reports issued by institutions with impressive sounding names turn out to be little more than junk science. At least that's the conclusion of a new book, Think Tank Research Quality: Lessons for Policymakers, the Media, and the Public (Information Age Publishing, 2010). It argues that a large number of studies are policy briefs, rather than original research. This view has far-reaching implications in the debate over how to improve educational quality for all students. Taxpayers have ...


The New York Times published a front-page story about the delayed impact the best kindergarten teachers have on their students ("The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers") on the same day I wrote about the benefit in delaying evaluation of teachers until years after their students graduate ("Who's a Good Teacher"). Raj Chetty, who conducted the Project Star study reported in the Times, is an economist. As a result, he understandably placed heavy emphasis on the pecuniary benefits to students who were taught in kindergarten by an inspired teacher. He says that all else being equal, these students were making ...


When Chancellor Michelle Rhee fired 241 teachers in Washington D.C. on July 23, the news was heralded as evidence that true accountability was finally a reality because the evaluation system used is considered one of the most rigorous in the nation. But like most controversial issues in education, there's more to the story than initially meets the eye. The firings included 165 teachers for poor performance and the rest for lack of proper teaching credentials. These constituted 6 percent of the district's 4,300 teachers. Rhee put an additional 737 on notice that if they don't improve next year, ...


The Newsweek cover story proclaimed a creativity crisis exists in schools that threatens America's future ("The Creativity Crisis'). The report bases its conclusion on a steady decline since 1990 in scores on a creativity test first designed by E. Paul Torrance in 1958. The test, which involved a series of tasks, was given to a group of some 400 third graders. These tasks are considered the gold standard in the field because of their high predictive value. According to Jonathan Plucker of Indiana University, the correlation between scores on the test and lifetime creative accomplishments is more than three times ...


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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