One of the criticisms frequently leveled at public schools is that they're run for the benefit of teachers rather than for students. The media love to play up this angle because it is guaranteed to elicit heated responses. But there's another side to the story that needs to be heard. When teachers feel demoralized, they're not going to be able to do their best for their students. And when that happens, students are shortchanged. The military has long appreciated the importance of maintaining high morale if missions are to be effectively carried out. That's why so much emphasis is placed ...


It's easy to understand taxpayer frustration when the pace of school improvement has admittedly been glacial. Patience has its limits, even among supporters of public education. But blaming teachers alone, in the belief that they are overwhelmingly responsible, is counterproductive. To understand why, it's important to remember that educating the young is a partnership between parents and teachers. While it's impossible to ascribe an exact percentage to each, it's common sense that teachers are not miracle workers. No matter how dedicated and talented, they cannot do the job by themselves. This is particularly the case in schools in the inner ...


In my first post, I wrote about the exclusion of teachers from the Race to the Top initiative and the danger this practice poses for education. The latest example was a cover story in The New York Times Magazine of Feb. 14. It focused on the Texas State Board of Education, which is considered the most influential in the country. What the writer Russell Shorto showed is that those with absolutely no expertise in the subject matter under consideration for inclusion in a state's curriculum wield extraordinary power. The case in point was the development of the social studies curriculum, ...


Today is the debut of Walt Gardner's Reality Check. I'd like to mark the occasion with a note for readers who are unfamiliar with my work. For the past 17 years I've written about education for major newspapers and magazines around the globe. (Google me for a small sample.) I did so because I felt that too much reportage and commentary about educational issues were confusing and/or incorrect. Based on the number of op-eds and letters that I've had published, editors apparently agreed with me. But with school reform now a high priority in the Obama administration, I felt ...


At the risk of sounding like a Pollyanna, I have to take issue with the latest alarmist depiction of public education in this country. On Dec. 30, the New York Times published a news story about the Program for International Student Achievement. The article said that the rankings augured ill for America's competitiveness in the new global economy ("Shanghai Schools' Approach Pushes Students to Top of Tests"). Or as Arne Duncan said: the PISA rankings are a "wake-up call." The trouble with this assessment is that it is hardly new. Taxpayers were exposed to similar hyperbole before in, of all ...


Asking if money affects educational quality is a little like asking if gravity affects inanimate objects. I say that because in both cases there are many factors that come into play, making the answer more nuanced than it initially appears. Let's begin by looking at the numbers. In 2007, we spent $11,749 per student annually in grades K-12 in public schools (Statistical Abstract of the United States). To put this into context, between 1970 and 2005, inflation-adjusted per-student spending increased by more than 100 percent (Digest of Educational Statistics). In actuality, spending on public schools per student is probably ...


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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