The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which was part of President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, was specifically designed to help schools with the neediest students. To qualify for federal money under Title I, a school was required by law to have at least a stipulated percentage of its students eligible for free school lunches. I still don't understand why a threshold is needed because I believe that a school deserves to get Title I funds based on any percentage of poor students it enrolls. This view is especially relevant to what is taking place today. As schools ...


Colleges and universities today declare that they are committed to equity and diversity in admissions. The question is whether it's possible to simultaneously achieve that two-part objective. I was reminded of the daunting challenge in light of the history of Asian Americans and Jews in higher education in this country ("The New Jews," The Weekly Standard, Jun. 11). Their experience is uncannily similar. As Jerome Karabel explained in The Chosen (Houghton Mifflin, 2005), the success of Jews on examinations at the turn of the last century was seen as a threat to the makeup of Ivy League schools. To protect ...


In a blatant attempt to boost graduation rates, school districts are allowing students who lack sufficient credits to make them up by what is known as credit recovery. The practice is highly controversial because it comes at a time when the value of a high school diploma earned in the traditional way is already suspect. The latest example was seen in the Los Angeles Unified School District when three students who failed a required course were permitted to make up the class in a few days at another school and then return to graduate with their classmates ("L.A. district ...


If there's one thing guaranteed to grab the public's attention, it's a crisis. In this regard, few subjects are better candidates than schools. Reformers claim that what takes place in the classroom is directly responsible for what takes place in the economy. But a closer look at China, which is America's most formidable competitor, calls into question this assertion. The future of young people in China is almost totally dependent on how they perform on the gaokao. This nine-hour exam administered over two days assesses their knowledge of a variety of subjects. Psychometricians say it makes the SAT seem like ...


Long considered an educational backwater, Louisiana is now in the vanguard of the school reform movement. Two recent events there have implications for other states that are grappling with persistently failing schools and budget shortfalls. In April, the state Legislature put in place one of the nation's largest voucher programs by offering 320,000 poor and middle-class parents the means to send their children to any school of their choice in the fall ("School Vouchers Gain Ground," The Wall Street Journal, Apr. 11). It also made Louisiana one of a small number of states to adopt a parent trigger. Then ...


One of the more effective propaganda techniques is the half-truth. It works so well because there are just enough facts to appeal to the unsophisticated. A case in point is "Why Charter Schools Work" (The Wall Street Journal, Jun. 25). As readers of this column know, I support parental choice, including charter schools. But in order for choice to work the way it is intended, parents need to know all the facts. So let's take a closer look at the writer's argument to see where she comes up short. In what seems more like an advertisement than an essay, Deborah ...


Reformers confidently assert that reducing the number of days students spend in school will be a disaster. Since most states define a school year as consisting of 180 days of learning, they charge that anything fewer will shortchange students ("Shorter school year is a nonstarter," The Sacramento Bee, Jun. 24). I'm not convinced. Rather than automatically assuming that school time per se is the issue, I think it's how the time is spent that is crucial. In fact, more time alone is likely to be counterproductive under the present antiquated timetable. During the 28 years that I taught in the ...


The school year is finally over, but the summer will not be the idyllic time of yore for many students. Their days will be spent prepping for either the SAT or ACT, which still remain the gatekeepers for most marquee name colleges and universities. When I was in high school, the SAT had the entire market to itself. But in 1959, the ACT was founded and slowly began to make headway. It was originally most popular in the South and the Midwest. But by 2008, the geographical distinction had largely disappeared. Nationwide that year, 1.4 million students took the ...


If there's one constant in the debate over how to improve failing schools, it's the demand to get rid of bad teachers and replace them with good ones. After all, the argument goes, it's their job to teach students, and if they can't produce evidence to support their effectiveness, then it's time to sack them. I admit that the argument is alluring. But like so many controversies, there's another side to the story. It has to do with the reality of the classroom. Specifically, it's about the unprecedented challenge facing teachers today. I'm talking about the pressure to boost standardized ...


The preparation of doctors and teachers is moving in opposite directions, even though both professions have the same goal of serving their patients and students according to the highest standards. This paradox is evident in the new Medical College Admission Test, which places less emphasis on basic science and more emphasis on humanistic skills ("Pre-Med's New Priorities: Heart and Soul and Social Science," The New York Times, Apr. 13), and in the new teacher licensing exams, which downplay pedagogy and stress subject matter. Driving the 2015 revision of the MCAT is the belief that mastery of core science is not ...


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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