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 voucher wars will undoubtedly heat up once again as a result of a new study finding that black students in New York City who used a voucher lottery to attend private schools were 24 percent more likely to enroll in college than black students who didn't win a voucher lottery. Paul E. Peterson and Matthew M. Chingos tracked 1,363 students who received vouchers through the New York School Choice Scholarship Fund. Unlike many other voucher studies, the latest compared students who won a voucher lottery with students who didn't. Therefore, the only difference was "the luck of the ...


For too long, tenure was virtually automatic for teachers. But that is no longer the case, as news from several states shows. I support efforts to ensure that tenure is granted only to teachers who have demonstrated that they are effective in the classroom - not merely to those who have worked a stipulated number of years. But what are the criteria that will be used in making the determination? I'll focus primarily on New Jersey because it is the home of the nation's oldest tenure law. Teachers there will now have to teach for four years and earn ratings ...


In medicine, the quip is that pathologists know the definitive answer about disease - only too late. In education, it can be said that teachers know the answer about effective instruction and learning the same way - belatedly. I thought of this analogy after reading what Arthur Levine, president emeritus of Teachers College at Columbia University, wrote in an op-ed ("Better schools through smarter testing," Los Angeles Times, Aug. 3). Levine stresses the importance of ongoing feedback to teachers as they design their instructional strategies. What he is referring to is known as formative assessment. In contrast, the typical way ...


Reformers assert that competition is indispensable if public schools are to improve. They like to cite examples from the private sector, where companies that had once been written off did an about face when competition forced them to implement new performance criteria. But reformers suffer from selective amnesia, as a series of articles about Microsoft demonstrate. Since this column is devoted exclusively to education, however, I'll focus only on stack rankings of employees there ("Microsoft's Lost Decade," Vanity Fair, Aug.). For readers unfamiliar with the term, stack ranking is "a program that forces every unit to declare a certain percentage ...


Teachers unions have been called practically every bad name under the sun for so long that it seemed impossible to add to the list. At least that's what I thought until I reflected on events unfolding in California, particularly in the Los Angeles Unified School District. On that basis, I'd now like to add another name: oblivious. Let me explain. In June, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled that the district had been violating children's rights to an equal educational opportunity by ignoring the Stull Act of 1971. That's because the act required student test scores to be ...


The lackluster performance of students in this country on tests of international competition is used as evidence of the need for better instruction. I'm not going to explain once again the difference between an exam meritocracy and a talent meritocracy in addressing the issue. Instead, I'm going to examine what is already known about technology and its effects on learning. Despite claims about originality, technology-centric classrooms already exist ("In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores," The New York Times, Sept. 3, 2011). For example, the Kyrene School District in Chandler, Ariz. has invested $33 million since 2005 in "laptops, big interactive ...


The drive to rid schools of persistently underperforming teachers will intensify with the start of the fall semester. I agree that teachers who are ineffective don't belong in the classroom. What I find disturbing, however, is that efforts for the most part are based on a punitive approach: Identify these teachers sooner and fire them if they don't quickly improve. But a new study shows that many of these seemingly hopeless teachers can get better when given proper support ("Teacher Evaluations Found to Improve Midcareer Effectiveness," Education Next, Aug. 9). Researchers Eric S. Taylor and John H. Tyler studied the ...


In the belief that a longer school year will result in more learning, a few public schools are extending their calendar beyond the typical 180 days ("To Increase Learning Time, Some Schools Add Days to Academic Year," The New York Times, Aug. 6). I understand the rationale for the change, but I submit that it's more effective to rework the existing schedule. Specifically I recommend breaking up the time spent in school so that students get more frequent but shorter breaks than at present. I base my case on the principle of diminishing returns. In economics, it means that after ...


The debate over teacher compensation is so familiar by now that I won't bore readers with the details. Instead, I want to address a related but different concept. It has to do with the notion of teachers as virtuosos: how to identify them and how to pay them. I was reminded of this view after reading an op-ed written by Mark Edmundson, a professor of English at the University of Virginia ("The Trouble With Online Education, The New York Times, Jul. 20). Although his comments pertain to lecturers in academe, I think they have direct relevance to K-12. The best ...


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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