Next to the persistent achievement gap, the factor most often cited as evidence of the failure of public schools is the appalling dropout rate. It's hard to get an accurate count because many states keep two sets of books. One is designed for Washington D.C. to make themselves look good under the terms of No Child Left Behind, and the other is designed for use at home to make a case for greater support of schools from voters. The best estimate is that 1.3 million students each year drop out of the nation's 11,000 school districts serving ...


It's understandable why teachers feel they need a summer vacation so desperately this year. The spring semester has been marked by an avalanche of educational legislation across the nation that has left them reeling. What is disturbing is not the sheer number of changes as much as their lack of cohesiveness. In an excellent analysis in The Nation, Pedro Noguera warns that policy makers have not thought out clearly what must be done to improve educational quality ("A New Vision of School Reform"). As a result, the Race to the Top and other initiatives constitute fragmented approaches. But the truth ...


The release of new academic standards on June 2 marks the beginning of a new era in public education in this country. Critics contend that the detailed blueprint means the end of local control of schools, but it is a price worth paying. For one thing, the standards do not tell teachers exactly what to teach nor how to teach. Instead, they help teachers organize their lessons by providing clearer guidelines than existed in the past. Because the standards are written in more concrete language than before, teachers should welcome them as an aid in designing their lessons. For another, ...


Educational research is replete with different conclusions by prominent professors on the same controversial issue. The lack of agreement is healthy in academe, but it leaves taxpayers confused at a time when their understanding is vital for developing support for public policies. I was reminded of this by an essay in the Wall Street Journal on May 29 ("A Tale of Two Students"). The writer puts into human terms the importance of inspired teachers in changing the lives of disadvantaged students by focusing on two Hispanic students in Oklahoma City. One attended Santa Fe South High School, a charter school, ...


The successful lawsuit filed by black firefighters against New York City claiming that two entrance exams used in 1999 and 2002 intentionally discriminated against them surfaced once again on May 26 when a federal judge accused the city of obstructionism in redesigning the tainted exams ("Racial Bias in Fire Exams Can Lurk in the Details," July 24, 2009). There is a lesson to be learned from the controversy that applies to standardized test construction in general and to teacher certification in particular. The lesson boils down to the importance of collecting varied kinds of validity evidence in order to determine ...


Sooner or later, a new report by an entity with an impressive title will be released finding students in the U.S. once again coming up short against their counterparts in other countries around the globe. Predictably, the results will be seized on by critics as further evidence of the crisis afflicting schools here. But rankings don't tell the whole story by a long shot. Anyone who doubts this view needs to read Balancing Change and Tradition in Global Education Reform, edited by Iris C. Rotberg (Rowman & Littlefield, 2010). This second edition looks at education in 16 countries, including the ...


The long awaited trial of teacher unions in the court of public opinion has finally arrived. In the view of many, the day of reckoning is long overdue. They see teacher unions as self-serving entities that need to be found guilty for the damage they have done to the education of the young, and be punished accordingly. At the heart of the indictment is the proclamation that the U.S. spends more per student than any other country but gets little back commensurate with its investment. The alleged cause are teacher unions, which aid and abet mediocrity by protecting ineffective ...


Once eagerly awaited as a time of relaxation, summer this year for as many as 150,000 teachers nationwide will be a season of angst. That's because the recession has forced districts to issue pink slips even to teachers in once hard-to-fill subjects such as special education, chemistry, physics and math. The desperation is seen in the lopsided ratio of applicants to openings. This imbalance applies to traditional public schools as well as to charter schools. Recognizing the implications, the U.S. Senate has a pending bill aptly titled Keep Our Educators Working Act. The best estimate is that it ...


If there's one issue that has continued to frustrate educational reformers beyond all others over the decades, it's the existence of the academic achievement gap. More precisely, it's the difference in average performance between various social classes. Despite proclamations at the highest levels to eliminate the gap, the best that can be done is to narrow it. It's not that some students from disadvantaged backgrounds can't match the performance of their advantaged counterparts by hard work, parental support and stellar instruction. But high-blown rhetoric serves only to create unrealistic expectations for the overwhelming majority of public schools. The latest example ...


The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world that places virtually all the burden for learning on the shoulders of teachers. This notion is alien to teachers in most countries that are our competitors in the new global economy. Yet it gets scant attention from reformers. I was reminded of this by a front-page story in the New York Times on May 9 ("Guest-Teaching Chinese, and Learning America"). The reporter focused on the experience of a young Chinese teacher who is teaching her native language to students in Lawton, Oklahoma. The woman is one of about ...


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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