When parents decide to home-school their children, they do so because they find public schools lacking for one reason or another. Although religious reasons top the list, parents also have practical concerns about curriculums, textbooks, peer pressure and bullying. The appeal of the movement is seen in its growth from 850,000 students in 1999 to 1.5 million today, according to the Department of Education. In the past, the debate about home-schooling was usually limited to whether students were being shortchanged socially. But recently, a new issue has arisen: Should home-schooled students be permitted to play varsity sports at ...


The attention finally being paid to bullying in K-12 schools would seem to assure a wide audience for a documentary about the subject. But that hasn't been the case with "Bully," which received an R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America because of six "f" words. Despite the absurd rationale, there are groups that support the rating, including the Parents Television Council, a nonpartisan organization advocating responsible entertainment (" 'Bully' deserved an R," Los Angeles Times, Mar. 28). Although "Bully" is being released unrated by the Weinstein Co., the issue will not go away - and for good reason. ...


There's no guarantee that what takes place in California will be repeated elsewhere, but it's a mistake to dismiss events in the Golden State out of hand. A new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll serves as a case in point. Despite a series of reports about the persistent underperformance of public schools in the state, voters strongly support Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to increase the sales tax and raise levies on top earners in order to raise money for schools ("Strong majority backs Jerry Brown's tax-hike initiative," Los Angeles Times, Mar. 26). Specifically, 64 percent of voters surveyed were ...


It's axiomatic that when the stakes are high enough in any field there will be cheating. But what is news is the extent of the problem in education. In the best tradition of investigative reporting, The Atlanta Journal Constitution found suspicious test scores in some 200 school districts across the nation ("Cheating our children: Suspicious school test scores across the nation," Mar. 24). A team of three reporters and two database specialists spent five months under freedom of information laws examining test results in math and reading at 69,000 public schools in 14,743 districts in 49 states. (Nebraska ...


The public loves ratings in all fields of human endeavor. Anyone doubting that needs to look at Consumer Reports, which has expanded its coverage over the years from products to services of every category. So it wouldn't surprise me at all if K-12 schools will soon be rated overwhelmingly on parental satisfaction. At least that's what I see forthcoming after reading "Hospitals Aren't Hotels" (The New York Times, Mar. 15). I realize that comparing schools with hospitals is risky, but I think enough similarities exist to make a case. Theresa Brown, the oncology nurse who wrote the essay, explains that ...


Although the presidential election is still seven months away, voters are already hearing arguments in support of allowing religion in public schools. "The labor behind the initiatives may be local, but the ideas, the money, and the legal firepower that make them possible are national," as Katherine Stewart makes clear in The Good News Club (Public Affairs, 2012). New York City is the latest venue for the movement. Encouraged by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Good News Club v. Milford Central School in 2001 that a school district discriminated against an after-school bible study group by barring it ...


Ordinarily thought of as a way of evaluating teachers after they have been licensed, performance assessment will be used in Wisconsin to determine if teachers should be given a license in the first place ("New teachers getting ready to be graded on classroom work," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Mar. 11). Beginning on Sept. 1, 2015, teachers will have to demonstrate how well they can teach by submitting 5-day lesson plans, appearing in a 15-minute video of their classroom instruction and reflecting upon their work. The three-part process will be rated on a scale of 1 to 5 by independent trained reviewers ...


Teachers are slated to be judged and rewarded in the next school year largely on how well their students perform on the basis of quantifiable outcomes. The usual rationale is that this strategy is how top executives in business are evaluated and compensated. If adopted, the corporate model will transform schools and allow the U.S. to compete in the global economy. But the argument is dead wrong. "CEOs are different: They are almost certainly the only category of Americans who regularly get rewarded for failure with massive amounts of money" ("Executive Decisions," The New Republic, Mar. 1). To put ...


The report issued by the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights leaves the distinct impression that public schools are unfairly disciplining black students ("Minority students as targets?" Los Angeles Times, Mar. 10). The operative word is "unfairly" because if this is true then the practice needs to immediately change. But I think there is more to this story than meets the eye. First, the Education Department acknowledged through a spokesperson that it is not just white teachers in predominantly black or in predominantly white schools who are disproportionately disciplining black students. In some cases, it is black principals at overwhelmingly ...


Scapegoating is a powerful tool to sway public opinion. That's why I'm not surprised that teachers unions are consistently being singled out for the shortcomings of public schools ("Can Teachers Unions Do Education Reform?" The Wall Street Journal, Mar. 3). After all, they are such an easy target at a time when the public's patience over the glacial pace of school reform is running out. The latest example was an essay by Juan Williams, who is now a political analyst for Fox News ("Will Business Boost School Reform?" The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 28). He claims that teachers unions are "formidable...


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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