Whenever the subject of failing schools arises, the usual suspects are rounded up. I don't doubt for a second that teachers should be at the head of the list. After all, they are the most important in-school factor in learning. But what about students? Aren't they also responsible for their education? I thought about this once again after reading Will Fitzhugh's "The End of Failure" (The Concord Review, Jan. 18). As he wrote: "We like to think of a student in our schools as if under anesthesia on a classroom operating table, being operated on by our surgeon-teachers who are ...


It was only a matter of time before the full extent of the obsession with a college degree became apparent. Appropriately, the venue is California, which leads the nation in the number of unaccredited schools ("California Leads Nation in Unaccredited Schools, and Enforcement Is Lax," The New York Times, Jan.14). At last count, these totaled nearly 1,000 colleges and vocational schools. One of the reasons students and their parents shell out money for tuition at these schools is that they confuse state approval and accreditation. The former is essentially a license granted by the state to operate. The ...


One of the most important principles of effective instruction requires that teachers identify the knowledge and skills contained in a stipulated objective and provide their students with ample opportunities to develop them. This involves prompt feedback and careful monitoring of student progress. Yet even experienced teachers often don't realize how complex the strategy is. Despite the considerable time and effort they devote to preparing lessons, they sometimes fail to achieve their objective. A recent experiment at a public middle school in New York City's Harlem is a case in point. Forty-eight students, mostly Hispanics and blacks, took philosophy classes twice ...


"Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing." When Oscar Wilde wrote those words in The Picture of Dorian Gray 120 years ago, he had no idea that they would eventually apply to public schools. I thought of the connection after reading "Critical Issues in Assessing Teacher Compensation" by Jason Richwine and Andrew G. Biggs that was released on Jan. 10 (Backgrounder No. 2638, The Heritage Foundation). The report was written as a response to misconceptions arising from the authors' earlier paper "Assessing the Compensation of Public-School Teachers" that was made public on Nov. 1, 2011 (Heritage...


Reformers assert that teachers enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity for their performance, as compared with chief executive officers in business who either deliver results or are shown the door. It's a claim that has great intuitive appeal in today's protracted recession. But the truth is far more nuanced. Consider the case of Eastman Kodak. The Wall Street Journal warns in an editorial that the company serves as "a tale of how easily a corporate giant can be felled by a single disruptive technology" ("The Kodak Lesson," Review & Outlook, Jan. 5). The editorial goes on to explain why "nothing is ...


New York City is home of the nation's largest school district and the venue for notorious cases of abuse of power by principals of elite schools. I've written before about events in this connection at Brooklyn Technical High School ("What About Principal Accountability? Sept. 8, 2010). Today, I focus on the Bronx High School of Science. (Stuyvesant High School is the other member of the storied triumvirate.) New York Magazine published an account of what has transpired at Bronx Science since Valerie Reidy became principal in 2001 ("A Bronx Science Experiment," Dec. 4, 2011). According to the magazine, "she has ...


The daunting task of recruiting and retaining teachers in inner-city schools is now so well known that it seems little more can possibly be said. At least that's what I thought until I read about compassion fatigue. According to the American Nurses Association, it is "a combination of physical, emotional, and spiritual depletion associated with caring for patients in significant emotional pain and physical distress" ("When Nurses Catch Compassion Fatigue, Patients Suffer," The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 3). What struck me were the parallels between teaching in schools serving poor students and caring for patients in hospitals. Both teachers and ...


Teachers opt to teach in religious schools for reasons known only to themselves. But I wonder if they fully understand what they give up when they choose to do so. Two cases before the courts illustrate the issue. In Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide if teachers in religious schools who also perform religious duties can sue for disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Cheryl Perich took a medical leave as a parochial school teacher in Redford, Mich. because she was diagnosed with narcolepsy. When she ...


They say if you live long enough you get to see it all. That's why I was not surprised to read about Impact Plus, billed as the nation's most advanced merit pay system for public school teachers ("In Washington, Large Rewards in Teacher Pay," The New York Times, Jan. 1). What distinguishes the District of Columbia's merit pay program from others around the country is the dramatic increase offered teachers who are rated "highly effective" for two consecutive years. One middle school special education teacher saw her salary rise 38 percent, from $63,000 to $87,000. I applaud efforts ...


It's disturbing to learn that public schools persist in promoting religion despite landmark decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1962 and 1963. The latest reminder comes from Jefferson, S.C., where the American Civil Liberties Union has sued the Chesterfield County school district for the continuing promotion of religion in several of its schools ("Battling Anew Over the Place of Religion in Public Schools," The New York Times, Dec. 28). Specifically, a preacher at a school assembly was permitted to describe how Jesus Christ saved him from drugs. But as the Times reported, similar violations of the separation ...


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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