Once upon a time, rankings were limited to the sports pages, where avid fans knew them by heart. But that changed when U.S. News & World Report made a name for itself by applying the practice to colleges and universities. In short order, high schools followed, until today at least seven national and local lists exist. It's only natural to wonder at some point how one school stacks up against others. But I urge caution in jumping to conclusions based on the results. That's because many factors determine the position of a particular school. As Michael Winerip explained: "Anybody can ...


It was bound to happen. In what is the boldest move to date to privatize education, Louisiana this fall will give vouchers to parents to cover the full cost of tuition and fees at more than 120 private schools across the state ("Louisiana's bold bid to privatize schools," Reuters, Jun. 1). Approximately 380,000 students are expected to participate. The U.S. Supreme Court in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris in 2002 ruled that vouchers can be used as long as five criteria are met, most notably that they are given to parents and not to the schools. It's not clear if ...


Repeating something often enough does not make it true no matter how intuitively appealing the statement. I thought of that axiom after reading about companies bemoaning the lack of workers with requisite skills. This mismatch is what economists call a structural issue in the labor market. With time, workers will develop the skills in demand or employers will readjust their needs to the skills that workers possess. In the meantime, unemployment will remain high. Let's take a closer look at this phenomenon. Despite what companies argue, I think they're asking for the impossible. For example, one company received 25,000 ...


The debate over parental choice of schools took an unexpected turn recently when Mitt Romney came out in favor of allowing children to enroll in any school anywhere as long as there was room to accommodate them ("Romney's School Surprise," The New York Times, May 30). His remarks fly in the face of the 1974 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Milliken v. Bradley, which held that students could be bused across district lines only when clear evidence of de jure segregation existed. Most often, the movement is from city to suburban schools because the latter are known for the ...


Despite the guarantee of what most state Constitutions define as a basic education (or words to that effect) for all students, the commitment has largely fallen by the wayside because of the protracted recession ("Albany's Unkindest Cut of All," The New York Times, May 25). Yet the situation is not altogether new. Adequacy lawsuits began to make their presence felt some 25 years ago. Since 1989, states have been overruled by margins of more than 2-to-1 by their highest courts on the basis that poor students have been shortchanged. Leading the fight over the years has been The Campaign for ...


Taxpayer patience is slowly running out for the 5,000 persistently failing schools across the country that Education Secretary Arne Duncan has identified. Before writing these schools off as hopeless, however, I think it's important to take a closer look at the reasons. One example is Jordan High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Located in Watts, the school has an appalling track record. Only 3 percent of students are proficient in math and only 11 percent in English. More than half drop out between 9th and 12th grades ("Can Jordan High's experiment work?" Los Angeles Times, May ...


Professors in colleges and universities are better known for the quality of their research than for the quality of their instruction. But the approach taken by a Boston University biomedical engineering professor stands out as a notable exception ("Feedback From Students Becomes a Campus Staple, but Some Go Further," The New York Times, Mar. 29). Rather than wait until the semester is over, Muhammad Zaman asks his students to rate his instruction anonymously on a scale of one to five every other Monday. He prepares a graph of the responses and sends out an e-mail to all students in the ...


Programs designed to redirect public funds to religious schools are effectively using tax credits to skirt the requirement separating church and state ("Public Money Finds Back Door to Private Schools," The New York Times, May 22). Despite its transparent nature, the strategy has succeeded so far because it is supported by donations collected and distributed by nonprofit groups. Although the details differ somewhat, the programs are operating in eight states. The practice first passed legal muster in April 2011 when the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling held that Arizona's private-school tuition tax credit program could not be ...


In football, it's called piling on, and it draws a penalty. But when a similar tactic takes place in education, it rates an op-ed. I'm referring to an essay by Troy Senik, a senior fellow at the Center for Individual Freedom who attacked the California Teachers Association for all the ills afflicting public schools in the state ("The teachers union that's failing California," Los Angeles Times, May 18). Senik asserts that the Rodda Act, which allows teachers to bargain collectively, is the culprit. Passed in 1975, the law touched off dramatic growth in the number of local chapters of CTA, ...


It's easy to dismiss what transpires in the nation's largest school district as an aberration because of its sheer size. But I believe that the latest remarks by Mayor Michael Bloomberg happen to have relevance to districts across the U.S. For the second time in a year, he suggested that some parents don't understand the value of education ("Mayor Michael Bloomberg says many parents don't know or don't care that their kids skip school," New York Daily News, May 11). The irate reaction was swift. Critics charged that Bloomberg's cuts to the school budget resulted in fewer guidance counselors ...


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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