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 ...


This is the season for thousands of graduates of schools of higher learning to march down the aisle to receive their degrees. Whether the time, effort and money involved were worthwhile expenditures depend on what expectations graduates had when they made their decision to apply for admission. If the primary reason was to land a well-paying job right off the bat in today's economy, they are going to be in for a rude awakening. But contrary to popular opinion, this disappointment is new only in terms of severity. Education was never intended to be preparation exclusively for employment. The author ...


The recent news from Washington D.C. and New York City serves as a strong rebuttal to the charge that teacher unions are obstacles to school reform. In both districts, the respective unions agreed to change the rules on how teachers are evaluated. The implications for other districts, large and small, should not be underestimated. Under the new system, standardized test scores will constitute a significant portion of the basis for determining teacher effectiveness. The weight given to progress made on these tests varies from district to district, but the fact that teacher unions took a more flexible stance after ...


The accountability movement is so tightly associated with large urban schools that their counterparts in the hinterlands have been almost totally forgotten. That's a grave mistake because it puts the more than 8.8 million rural students, constituting some 31 percent of K-12 public schools nationwide, at great risk. But before steps are undertaken to give these schools their just due, it's important to clarify some common misconceptions. To begin with, the definition of rural is notoriously inconsistent. The No Child Left Behind Act, for example, says a district is rural if the number of students in average daily attendance ...


Although military schools have been around for generations, they've undergone changes that have attracted little attention. The lack of publicity does a disservice to the students who would otherwise thrive in the culture of discipline and respect that characterizes these institutions. Once overwhelmingly operated as private boarding schools, military academies appealed to parents who believed they instilled in their sons the wherewithal that public schools did not. The Vietnam War marked the beginning of their decline in number. New York State, which once was home to 40 military schools, has only one remaining, the New York Military Academy, and it ...


It's understandable why the debate over school reform focuses on ways to bring low-performing students up to proficiency. For too long, they've been written off, even though the cost to the nation of doing so has been steep. But this unrelenting obsession has hurt gifted students, who deserve at least as much attention. Explaining the reasons will trigger cries of elitism, but certain realities simply can't be denied any longer. First, no country can ignore its gifted students and expect to prosper. That's because they will likely become the future scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and thinkers who will make an inordinate ...


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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