The Wall Street Journal's publication of a letter to the editor on Mar. 30 ("Free-Market Accountability Could Rescue Our Schools") in response to an op-ed on Mar. 25 ("Why Freer Schools Are Better Schools") cries out for a rebuttal. Bob Schoolfield, who wrote the letter, is president of Let's Choose Schools in Texas! He argued that there is a fundamental difference between government accountability and free-market accountability. The latter "provides for mutual responsibility, not entitlement." This is the opposite of a mandate system, which is what presently exists in this country. Fair enough. But then Schoolfield goes on to write ...


Reformers today increasingly stress the indispensability of passion for inspired teaching. Its place in the classroom is illustrated by the title of a popular book, "Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire" (Viking Press, 2007) by Rafe Esquith, winner of numerous prestigious awards as an elementary school teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District. But passion by definition is an intense emotion that is hard to sustain over a protracted period. Most public school teachers at the high school level, for example, teach five classes a day five days a week. How likely is it that they can teach all ...


The tributes to Jaime Escalante, who died on Mar. 30, are for a teacher whose success with inner-city students read like a work of fiction. He achieved the seeming impossible at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles by posting a pass rate of more than 90 percent on the famously difficult Advanced Placement calculus test. In so doing, he instilled in his students the importance of determination and perseverance. But fed up with petty jealousies among the faculty, Escalante quit in 1991 to teach at Hiram Johnson High School in Sacramento, where he intended to apply the same methods. ...


The release of a set of proposed national academic standards on Mar. 10 is likely to intensify interest in three tests that purport to measure the ability of the U.S. to compete in the new global economy. The trio are known by their acronyms: PISA, TIMSS and PIRLS. Although they are given periodically to samples of students in countries around the globe, they are given too much importance. PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) tests 15-year-old students in reading, math and science every three years. The test is designed to measure the ability of students to apply their skills ...


When a panel of educators released a set of proposed national standards on March 9 to replace the crazy quilt of locally written standards, the blueprint was rightly hailed as a long overdue step to assure that students are prepared for college or career. But before uncorking the champagne, reformers need to follow through with a plan that provides appropriate evidence about student learning. What comes to mind immediately is the use of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Often referred to as the nation's report card, NAEP would seem to be the ideal instrument for this task. After all, ...


The news from the nation's most influential state board of education is another reminder of the difficulty of creating a curriculum that passes muster with all stakeholders. In early March, the Texas board released its social studies standards, which are expected to be adopted in May. Because the Texas market is so large (4.7 million students), no publisher dares to print textbooks that don't conform to the stipulated standards. But the larger issue here is the purpose of a curriculum, whether on a state or national level. Although Texas is the latest focus, the debate over what should be ...


Choice is increasingly promoted as the best way to improve schools. The argument has great intuitive appeal. Good schools will flourish, as students flock to their doors, and bad schools will vanish, as students abandon them. At least that's what Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman wrote in 1955. But there's another side to the story that needs to be told. The latest example was on display in New York City, which is home to the nation's largest school district. For the second consecutive year, hundreds of families will receive letters informing them that their children have been placed on a ...


It's de rigueur to scapegoat schools for the economic ills afflicting the country. But the oft repeated argument simply doesn't stand up to scrutiny. A brief stroll down memory lane reveals the reasons for this skepticism. The case against schools began in earnest with the seismic "A Nation at Risk" in 1983. The widely publicized study declared that the shortcomings of schools constituted a grave risk for the future of the economy and the country. Then in 1990, "America's Choice: High Skills or Low Wages" tried to make the case that failing schools were responsible for bringing productivity to a ...


Dear Mr. Secretary, You are at the helm of a ship that is entering uncharted waters. Whether the voyage is successful depends in large part on your judgment. The eyes of the nation are on you as you attempt to navigate. I'd like to remind you that the morale of teachers plays an indispensable role. But unfortunately I don't think you appreciate the harm you've done by inordinately focusing on the failures of schools. Your remarks leave taxpayers with the distinct impression that teachers are not doing their jobs and that schools are shortchanging their students. There are 3.2 ...


The accountability movement so far has focused exclusively on measuring the knowledge and skills that students learn from their teachers. These are cognitive outcomes that constitute the very foundation of education. They are the primary reason that students go to school. But there is another aspect of learning that is no less important. It consists of the attitudes, values and interests that teachers want to instill in their students. They come under the umbrella of affective outcomes. Yet as vital as they are, they are totally ignored by today's reformers. There are several reasons for the oversight. First, they are ...


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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