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 ...


As if public schools are not already faced with enough daunting challenges in today's accountability movement, their responsibilities have become heavier as a result of a series of court decisions and district policies regarding special education. The setting for the latest example is New York City, home of the nation's largest school district. Beginning this fall, more than 250 schools will be urged by Chancellor Joel I. Klein to accept more students with disabilities, rather than send them to schools that have specific programs for special education. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975, students are to be ...


It's always encouraging to read reports of underperforming public schools that were turned around even though they still served the same proportion of disadvantaged students. In 2006, for example, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform released Beating the Odds: How Thirteen NYC Schools Bring Low-Performing Ninth-Graders to Timely Graduation and College Enrollment. More recently, the New York Times published a news story about P.S. 172 in Brooklyn, N.Y. to illustrate how family poverty does not necessarily determine performance ("Brooklyn School Scores High Despite Poverty," Apr. 26). But before concluding that past explanations for the dismal achievement of some ...


One of the greatest challenges facing reformers is recruiting the best teachers for the worst schools. These schools are disproportionately staffed by novice teachers who have not yet demonstrated their effectiveness. Convinced that veteran teachers with a track record of success will flock there if the proper incentives are put in place, reformers are pushing hard to implement their strategies. There's one problem, however, that gets little attention. It was the basis of a news story in the Wall Street Journal on Apr. 28 ("Teacher Absences Plague Schools"). Even if the best teachers agree to teach where they are needed ...


Although President Obama has repeatedly urged all states to adopt "college- and career-ready" standards, in reality it is the former that overwhelmingly dominates the reform movement. That's nothing new. Vocational education (now called career and technical education) has long been treated as a stepchild in the U.S. But this second-class status poses a serious threat to the nation in the new global economy. While there is certainly some overlap between the knowledge and skills needed for college and those needed for work, they are different. This does not mean, however, that one is superior to the other, as Jeffrey ...


What do medical schools and Ivy League schools have in common? Two recent news articles prompted this question. The first dealt with the projected shortage of 150,000 doctors in the next 15 years. The figure is based on current graduation and training rates provided by the Association of American Medical Colleges. The second dealt with the growing number of undergraduate applicants put on waiting lists at elite schools. Yale, for example, raised the number on its list by 21 percent this year. To put this into perspective, last year the school admitted only seven of the 769 on its ...


The New York Times in a front-page story on Apr.18 reported that plans are underway in New York State and elsewhere to allow organizations other than schools of education to certify their own teachers because of dissatisfaction with the present system ("Alternate Path for Teachers Gains Ground"). If the plan becomes a reality, the question is whether traditional schools of education will become an anachronism. There are 1,450 schools, colleges and departments of education in the U.S. There is no doubt that some are sub-par. But there are also some that are first-rate, such as Harvard, UCLA, ...


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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