When a ninth-grade science teacher in Florida placed a "cone of shame" on students who arrived late or misbehaved in class, she immediately put her job in jeopardy ("Florida teacher faces firing for placing 'cone of shame' on students," New York Daily News, May 10). The object in question is a plastic collar that veterinarians use to prevent animals from licking their wounds after surgery. The story predictably set off a series of heated responses from readers who questioned the teacher's fitness for the classroom. But if the teacher, Laurie Bailey-Cutkomp, has otherwise demonstrated her effectiveness, I think the punishment ...


No matter how compelling the evidence to the contrary, reformers persist in the fiction that a college-preparatory curriculum is the best way to prepare students for the future. By refusing to acknowledge reality, they are doing a terrible disservice to countless students whose talents and interests lie elsewhere. In the process, they're aiding and abetting educational suicide. The Los Angeles Unified School District is the prime offender in this regard. Beginning in the fall, all students will be required to take and pass a college-prep course of study designed for admission to a four-year state university ("All L.A. Unified ...


At a time when public schools can't seem to do anything right, it's welcome news that the fourth edition of the rankings of the Best High Schools in the country by U.S. News & World Report awarded 500 gold medals ("U.S. News Ranks Nation's Best High Schools," U.S. News & World Report, May 8). This compares with 100 in 2009. California is home to the largest number (97), as well as the largest number of schools receiving gold, silver or bronze medals (577). In light of this improvement that was based on data from nearly 22,000 public high ...


When Head Start began in 1965, its purpose was to prepare low-income children for school by developing their social, emotional and physical skills. Although math and reading readiness was a focus, Head Start was never intended to be primarily academic. This mission is important to bear in mind now because the Obama administration has identified 132 Head Start programs out of the approximately 1,600 across the country as deficient, meaning that they will be required to reapply for their share of $7.6 billion in federal funding ("Head Start Faces a New Test," The Wall Street Journal, Apr. 27). ...


Teacher Appreciation Week begins today and ends on May 11. It's the one time of the year that is officially designated to remember teachers who for one reason or another have played an important role in our lives. It's easy to dismiss the occasion as just another sop thrown to those in the front of the classroom. But I don't think most people realize how much teachers welcome being recognized for their accomplishments. Teachers may not admit it openly, but a note from a student or parent thanking them for what they have done makes their lives seem worthwhile. This ...


Schools are constantly under attack for graduating students who are ill prepared for college and career. There is much truth to the criticism. Yet one aspect has been less explored. It has to do with protecting young people from disappointment. The most recent example was on display in New York City's elite prep schools ("NYC prep schools institute dress codes, Facebook guidelines about college acceptance," The New York Post, Apr. 22). With college letters of acceptance or rejection now in the hands of seniors, these schools are attempting to minimize the fallout by rules designed to teach the appropriate way ...


It's not often that intellectual heavyweights disagree so fundamentally about the same issue in commentaries published days apart in the nation's two most respected newspapers. I'm referring to Paul Krugman, whose column "Wasting Our Minds" appeared on Apr. 29 in The New York Times, and to George P. Schultz and Eric A. Hanushek, whose essay "Education Is the Key to a Healthy Economy" appeared in The Wall Street Journal on May 1. The subject was the relationship between educational outcomes and economic growth. Let's start with Schultz and Hanushek. They wrote: "Over the past half century, countries with higher math ...


A new report by the Schott Foundation documents policies and practices of the New York City Department of Education that create and reinforce unequal opportunities to learn ("A Rotting Apple"). It maintains that what is taking place in the nation's largest school district amounts to no less than education redlining because the census tract in which students live determines the quality of education they receive. It's a provocative argument. But there's another side of the story that needs to be told. In an ideal world, there would be equal opportunities to learn by all students regardless of the location of ...


The debate pitting supporters of discovery learning against supporters of fully guided instruction seems finally settled. "Decades of research clearly demonstrate that for novices (comprising virtually all students), direct, explicit instruction is more effective and more efficient than partial guidance" ("Putting Students on the Path to Learning," American Educator, Spring 2012). I agree with the conclusion. But I hasten to point out that there will always be students who, for one reason or another, possess advanced knowledge or are self-directed. Teachers who happen to inherit a class of these students will post impressive results in spite of - not because ...


Every subject taught in high school has its unique downsides. But as a former English teacher for 28 years in the same high school, I'd argue that grading student compositions has to be the most arduous in terms of time and effort. That's why I was elated to hear about computer scoring because its designers claim "virtually identical levels of accuracy" as essays graded by teachers. But a closer look dampened my initial enthusiasm. According to Les Perelman, a director of writing at MIT, automated readers are easily gamed ("Facing a Robo-Grader? Just Keep Obfuscating Mellifluously," The New York Times, ...


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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