It's time to acknowledge that parental choice of schools is the wave of the future. Its foes can continue to try to stall its growth through a series of rear guard actions, but they will not succeed in derailing the movement. It is too powerful. The only question, therefore, is the form that parental choice will ultimately take. There is an urgency to the issue, however, that is not fully appreciated. I say that because the education of children is time-sensitive. Education Department data show that children from disadvantaged backgrounds enter kindergarten already three months behind the national average in ...


Although the start of the fall semester is months away, obsessed seniors are already hard at work polishing their applications in the belief that the admissions process is a meritocracy. What they don't understand or don't want to accept is that it is a marketplace in which every opening is up for bids. The number of slots that have been set aside for legacies (children of alumni) and development admits (children who wouldn't be accepted but for wealthy parents who might donate large sums to the school) serves as an example. This tilted playing field is nothing new. In The ...


The school year is finally over, but zealous students will not be spending the summer months as they did in days of yore. Instead, they'll be honing their skills either for the SAT or the ACT, which still count heavily for admission to most marquee-name colleges. For years the SAT was the overwhelming choice of high school seniors. But the ACT's growth is outpacing its competitor. The competition pits the College Board, owner of the former, against American College Testing, owner of the latter. Once more popular in the Midwest and the South, the ACT is overtaking the SAT in ...


As the largest non-government provider of education in the U.S., Catholic schools are considered a sensitive gauge of the health of this sector. That's why the news out of San Francisco regarding the uncertain future of Stuart Hall High School is noteworthy. In the 10 years that Stuart Hall has been in operation, it has established a reputation for academic excellence. Yet even its 2010-11 tuition of $32,500 is not enough to offset a $1.1 million budget shortfall ("Exclusive Private School in Danger of Failing"). Readers will be quick to point out that Stuart Hall is an ...


The school year is finally over, but summer vacation won't be the idyllic time of yore for many high school students. Instead, it will be a season of prepping for either the SAT or the ACT, both of which still determine to a large extent admission to most marquee-name colleges and universities. Until fairly recently, the SAT totally dominated the field, but the ACT is slowly gaining ground on its rival. The competition pits the College Board, which owns the SAT, against American College Testing, which owns the ACT. The latter has been around only since 1959, while the former ...


Cheating by educators on high-stakes standardized tests is on the rise. A blatant reminder appeared on the front page of The New York Times on June 11 ("Under Pressure, Teachers Tamper With Test Scores"). As a result of an investigation prompted by suspicions that educators had erased incorrect responses and substituted correct ones in 191 schools in Georgia in February, 11 teachers and administrators were referred to a state agency with the power to revoke their licenses. The Times followed up this story with an editorial on June 18 that focused on cheating at an elementary school in Baltimore as ...


In 1963, I bought a book not because of its titillating cover but because of its provocative title. When I finished reading The Sheepskin Psychosis by John Keats (Delta Book, 1963), I began to question conventional wisdom about a bachelor's degree. Keats maintained that the public has been "wildly oversold" on its worth. College is merely the most convenient place to learn how to learn. Fast forward 47 years to June 12, when the Los Angeles Times ran the lead front-page story belatedly confirming Keats's prescient observations ("Is a college degree still worth it?). It was not the first report ...


It's no longer news that public schools across the country are facing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Because the federal government contributes less than 10 percent of funding, public education depends heavily on state and local support in roughly equal proportions. But the recession has shrunk revenues from both sources. As a result, states are engaged in a series of unprecedented reforms to deal with the deficits they face. At the heart of the movement is the belief that despite spending more per student than most developed countries, the U.S. still performs below average on tests ...


Two books on the same subject written for the general public and published simultaneously have unexpected relevance to the issue of education reform. I was reminded of this connection after reading a review in the New York Times of Being Wrong by Kathryn Schulz and Wrong by David H. Freedman ("To Err Is Human. And How! And Why."). When confronted by ideas that differ from theirs, people first assume that other people are ignorant, then idiotic, and finally evil. Although Schulz was referring to human beings in general, her observation has specific application to self-styled experts on school reform. It's ...


Marquee-name reformers are engaged in a masterfully orchestrated campaign to convince taxpayers that competition between teachers will play a pivotal role in curing the ills afflicting public schools. They insist that what works in business to pinpoint accountability will work in education. Rather than engage in the familiar rebuttal that schools are not businesses, I'll focus instead on the experiences of Finland and Japan, where collaboration—rather than competition—between teachers has resulted in impressive student performance. I think the evidence speaks for itself. At the very least, it calls into question the assumptions being made. Finland's schools became 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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