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, ...


It's not often that a scathing academic study about business schools and front-page news about a Wall Street scandal are published simultaneously. But such was the case when three Harvard Graduate Business School scholars released "Rethinking the M.B.A.: Business Education at a Crossroads," and the New York Times reported that the SEC had filed a civil complaint against Goldman Sachs for securities fraud. The confluence of the two events warrants a closer look because of its relevance to the debate over reforming K-12 schools. The professors charged that business schools contributed to the economic meltdown of 2008 by ...


Gov. Charlie Crist's veto on Apr. 15 of a bill that would have eliminated tenure for public school teachers in Florida and linked their pay to student performance on standardized tests was seen as a bellwether. But the issues raised are far from dead. As a result, this is a propitious time to take a closer look at three lessons that emerge from the state's experience. First, tenure is a two-edged sword. Although it is given too soon in a teacher's career and has been abused, it provides teachers with due-process rights. Brooklyn Technical High School, one of four elite ...


Public schools have been depicted as an unmitigated failure for so long that it comes as a surprise to many people to learn the truth is far more nuanced. U.S. News & World Report serves as Exhibit A ("Methodology: America's Best High Schools," Dec. 9, 2009). Its 2010 analysis of 21,786 public high schools in 48 states and the District of Columbia provides compelling evidence that the bleak characterization is overstated. The magazine hired School Evaluation Services, a K-12 education data research firm of Standard & Poor's, to determine which high schools could produce measurable academic outcomes to demonstrate that ...


The cover story of the latest issue of TIME magazine serves as an example of how journalists often get in over their heads in reporting on educational issues ("Should Schools Bribe Kids? Apr. 19). Amanda Ripley looked into the work of Harvard economist Roland Fryer Jr., who wanted to know if cash is the answer to motivating students to learn. Ripley described how Fryer eventually convinced 143 schools in Chicago, Dallas, New York and Washington to participate. Half the students were randomly selected as a control group (students received no cash) and the other half were randomly selected as the ...


The big news out of Washington D.C. last week was the tentative deal reached between unionized teachers and reform advocates that avoided a high-noon showdown. By consenting to tie compensation largely - although not completely - to improved standardized test scores, the local union retreated from its longstanding opposition on the issue. There were other important concessions made by the Washington Teachers' Union, but they took a back seat to pay-for-performance. So let's take a closer look at the details of this specific section. First, the pay-for-performance plan is voluntary. At present, teachers can earn a maximum of $87,000....


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 ...


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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