When Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City told attendees at an M.I.T. conference on Dec. 1 that if he had it in his power he would slash the number of teachers in half and double the salaries of the remainder, his remarks went viral ("Bloomberg: If I Had My Way I'd Dump Half of NYC's Teachers," CBS New York, Dec. 1). Bloomberg acknowledged that his strategy would result in much larger class size, but he refused to back down. "The best thing you can do is put the best teacher you can possibly find and afford in ...


If there's one thing everyone agrees on in the education of children, it's the importance of parental involvement. Until recently, the issue has largely focused on parents monitoring homework, attending open house, and responding to requests for a conference. But lately another aspect has come to the fore. In the face of severe budget cuts, parents have stepped forward to provide generous donations to the school their children attend. Their largess has resulted in the addition of art and music classes, instructional aides and extended library hours. The problem has been that not all schools have been the fortunate recipient. ...


In the debate over the value of a bachelor's degree, the usual argument is that its holders earn on average about $1 million more over their lifetime than those with only a high school diploma. But like all generalizations, the truth is far more nuanced, as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal made clear on consecutive days. What they reported warrants further examination. "Though it's no guarantee, a B.A. or some kind of technical training is at least a prerequisite for a decent salary. It's hard to see any great future for high-school dropouts or high-school ...


Traditional teacher certification is hardly ideal, but it is a paragon compared with online, for-profit programs. A closer look at what is taking place in Texas leads to the inescapable conclusion that the alternative process has gone too far. There are now more than 110 alternative teacher certification programs in the state ("For-Profit Certification for Teachers Is Booming," The New York Times, Nov. 27). These include both for-profits such as iteachTexas and A+Texas Teachers, as well as non-profits such as Teach for America, which turn out 40 percent of all new teachers in the state. It is the online, ...


You'd think that privateers would turn to their heavy guns now that anger and frustration about school reform seemingly have reached a crescendo. But they've learned that a head-on approach can backfire after voters handily defeated vouchers or their variants in state after state between 1967 and 2007. As a result, they've decided instead to take more incremental steps. I'm talking now about the use of educational technology. An investigative report published in The Nation on Nov. 16 details how Florida has become ground zero for this approach ("How Online Learning Companies Bought America's Schools"). Patricia Levesque, adviser to former ...


Public schools have become increasingly multicultural since 1965 when federal legislation opened the gates to newcomers to these shores. Although some states have felt the change more acutely than others, the presence of these new arrivals in classrooms everywhere continues to pose a challenge at the same time that it enriches the atmosphere. We tend to associate schools having large numbers of students from different cultures with coastal and border states, but they also exist in the heartland ("Where Education and Assimilation Collide," The New York Times, Mar.15, 2009). For example, the Indianapolis Public Schools' 48 elementary schools are ...


Sometimes it takes a public intellectual to drive home the importance of what should be so obvious about student learning. I was reminded of this after reading Thomas L. Friedman's column in The New York Times ("How About Better Parents?" Nov. 20). He confirms the indispensability of parental involvement in their children's education by citing the findings of a study conducted by a team of PISA researchers. As readers of this column know, the Program for International Student Assessment is closely watched because it tests 15-year-olds in the world's leading industrialized nations on reading comprehension and on their ability to ...


When Albert Shanker was president of the American Federation of Teachers, he penned "Where We Stand," a column labeled Advertisement because the AFT paid for the space. In "Our 'Easy' Schools," which appeared in The New Republic on Dec. 28, 1992, Shanker argued that schools in the U.S. demand too little of students compared with what is asked of students by schools abroad. But that was then, and this is now. I don't know what Shanker would say if he were alive today, but I think he would be forced to admit that the pendulum has swung too far. ...


It's to Steven Brill's credit that near the conclusion of his new book Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools (Simon & Schuster 2011) he reluctantly acknowledges that without the support of teachers unions systematic reform is impossible. I think what happened is Brill began to realize as he delved deeper into the subject that reform is far harder than he initially thought. As a result, teachers need unions to represent them as demands for results escalate. In fact, if unions were to disappear tomorrow, school outcomes would not significantly change for the better. Nevertheless, we are incessantly confronted ...


Only in the U.S. are gifted children treated as stepchildren. Despite their growing numbers, which are now estimated at 3 million, they have no strong lobbies in Congress. As a result, they remain underresourced and underchallenged even though they are a national treasure. A new report by the National Association for Gifted Children found that the brightest students are falling behind their international peers on math and reading tests ("Brightest Stall, Low Achievers Gain," The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 12). This squandering of talent is hard to understand and even harder to defend. Up until the 1990s, gifted students ...


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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