Now that the fall semester has begun, schools will be faced with deciding where to draw the line on their students' right of free speech on the Internet. I'm not talking now about student-on-student cyberbullying, which is outlawed by nearly every state. Instead I'm referring to postings that slander teachers. Recognizing the harm done to the reputation of teachers, North Carolina has made comments that "intimidate or torment" teachers a misdemeanor punishable by fines up to $1,000 and/or probation ("Teachers Fight Online Slams," The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 18). Critics maintain that the law infringes on the free ...


One of the advantages of charter schools in the minds of their supporters is the absence in most cases of teachers unions. Without them, principals have far more freedom to fire those who are ineffective. But there is a price to be paid, as was seen at Philadelphia's Delaware Valley Charter High School on May 31 ("Philadelphia Charter School Teachers - And Their Union - Stand Up to Management," In These Times, Aug. 2). What happened serves as a rebuttal to those who believe that teachers unions are interested only in protecting their members to the detriment of students. In ...


During the 28 years that I taught in the Los Angeles Unified School District, I participated in three strikes. No one who hasn't taught can understand how truly conflicted teachers are about striking. Despite what many commentators have opined, teachers feel guilty about abandoning their students and going on the picket line. That's because they never chose teaching in search of fame, fortune or power. They did so because they believed that they could make a small difference in the lives of young people. I realize that's a platitude, but it cannot be denied. So when teachers go out on ...


It sometimes takes a celebrated author to bring to the public's attention an issue that teachers have long known. I have reference now to Paul Tough's new book How Children Succeed. His thesis is that non-cognitive skills matter more than cognitive abilities in determining how a young person's life will turn out. Tough acknowledges that skills and knowledge (cognition) are important, but he believes that "persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit and self-confidence" (non-cognition) have been given short shrift ("Opting Out of the 'Rug Rat Race,' " The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 8). What to make of Tough's view? Frankly, I'm ...


Now that the fall semester is underway, it won't be long before teachers are evaluated about their instructional effectiveness. In years past, the process applied largely to new teachers who did not yet have tenure. But most states today require that even veteran teachers be evaluated. High on the list of strategies for this purpose is the value-added model. Two papers published by prestigious organizations two years apart almost to the day present contrasting views about this controversial metric. The Economic Policy Institute was first when it released its paper on Aug. 29, 2010 ("Problems With the Use of Student ...


Although alternative routes to teacher licensing now exist, the overwhelming majority of candidates still enters the classroom through traditional channels. The problem is that so much of what they are taught is based on theory by professors who themselves have not taught in a public school for decades. As a result, departments and schools of education overall are rightly held in low esteem. Evaluating new approaches fairly is daunting because of differences in opinion about what constitutes effective instruction. I respect these diverse views, but I'd like to make a case for a particular model of instruction that served me ...


The start of the fall semester is a propitious time to examine the claims made by school officials across the country about the importance of academics. Despite their insistence, athletics continue to receive far too much attention in my opinion. I'm not talking about physical education, which I think is vital, but about interscholastic sports ("Classes come first, but schools must add more physical activity," The Boston Globe, Oct. 2, 2011). I was reminded of the disparity after receiving an essay submitted for publication by John Richard Schrock, a professor from Kansas who trains biology teachers in China ("Sports: The ...


Teachers who opt to teach in charter schools think they understand the changes and challenges they will face as a result of their decision. But I doubt anything prepares them for a proposal that the Internal Revenue Service quietly released late last year ("Charter school teachers fear IRS rules change," The Washington Times, Feb. 12). If the change goes into effect, it would make more than 93 percent of teachers in the 5,600 charter schools operating in 40 states ineligible for state retirement plans. That's because only teachers in "government plans" are eligible to participate in state pension systems. ...


I thought at first that the essay by Adam F. Falk, the president of Williams College, was a satire ("In Defense of the Living, Breathing Professor," The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 29). But then I realized that he was dead serious. Referring to the ability of students "to write effectively, argue persuasively, solve problems creatively, adapt and learn independently," he maintains that "by far, the factor that correlates most highly with gains in these skills is the amount of personal contact a student has with professors." According to Falk, the curriculum, the choice of major, and the GPA do not ...


When I warned before that public schools are succumbing to sales pitches made by corporations, I was taken to task by a handful of readers for exaggerating the magnitude of the problem ("Be Wary of Corporate Inroads Into Education," Dec. 17, 2010; "Are Public Schools Supermarkets?" May 6, 2011). Perhaps the latest evidence will help change their minds ("Pearson's plan to control education, Report to the B.C. Teachers' Federation," Jun. 30). According to the investment research firm Sanford Bernstein & Co., Pearson, the world's largest education company, has undertaken a series of steps that will "revolutionize how education is delivered ...


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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