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 ...


So much of the criticism leveled at public schools today is focused on the deficits that students display in science and math. But I think doing so detracts attention from their equally disturbing shortcomings in writing. Perhaps my experience teaching English for 28 years in the Los Angeles Unified School District at the same high school accounts for my concern. Yet I'm not alone in this regard. A new study by Drew P. Cingel and S. Shyam Sundar, "Texting, techspeak, and tweens: The relationship between text messaging and English grammar skills," concludes that the more time students spend sending and ...


With the start of the fall semester just a few weeks away, school officials will once again find themselves debating the issue of discipline. Over the past two decades, get-tough policies, often referred to as zero tolerance, have neither made schools safer nor have they helped children learn right from wrong. I'm not referring to suspending or expelling students for serious offenses, an issue that I've written about before ("Rules for Schools: Dealing with Delinquents," The American, Oct. 26, 2010), and that was recently in the news ("Teachers learning to file assault complaints," Boston Globe, Jul. 22). Instead, I'm talking ...


It's always risky to assume that evidence from one state applies to others. But when the state is California, it's hard to dismiss the findings out of hand. According to a poll conducted for the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles Times, 64 percent of voters in the state said they are willing to pay higher taxes to increase funding for public schools ("Californians willing to pay higher taxes for better schools," Los Angeles Times, Nov. 20). The consensus crossed all races, ages, regions, income and educational levels. (The sole exception was conservative Republicans, ...


When David McCullough Jr. recently told members of the graduating class of Wellesley High School in Massachusetts that they are not special or exceptional, his remarks went viral. But his view is not unique. It is shared by many others who complain that young people have an inflated sense of themselves ("Redefining Success and Celebrating the Ordinary," The New York Times, June 29). I'm not talking about the impressive grades and trophies they've collected that are the direct result of parents pushing them to stand out. These students attend the best schools money can buy and segue into lucrative careers. ...


It's disturbing to read an essay that claims to offer a true account about charter schools at this crucial point in the reform movement but instead presents a distorted picture. I'm referring to a piece in The Wall Street Journal by Joel Klein ("New York's Charter Schools Get an A+," Jul. 27). As readers will recall, Klein was the former chancellor of New York City's public schools who is now the CEO of News Corporation's educational division. News Corporation owns The Wall Street Journal. Klein starts off by asserting that the educational establishment has things turned around. Maintaining that "we'll ...


At a time when public schools need all the support they can get from taxpayers, their cause was set back by the unfolding of events in a small Mojave community. On July 20, San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Steve Malone ruled that parents in the Adelanto Elementary School District had the right to take control of the Desert Trails Elementary School under California's parent trigger law ("Judge Backs Push for Charter School," The Wall Street Journal, Jul. 24). When the parent trigger was passed in 2010, it seemed perfectly clear. If a majority of parents sign a petition, a ...


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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