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 Bridgeport Education Reform Fund in all likelihood will mean nothing to most people. But ignoring the fund is a mistake because it is a model that figures to play an increasingly prominent role in the funding of schools in the years ahead in this country. Although the present venue is the largest city in Connecticut, whose schools were taken over by the state in July after the superintendent was fired, the strategy has the potential to spread to other underperforming school districts. What is troubling is that the $400,000 in the fund has come from wealthy donors who ...


The news that New York State will lengthen its math and language arts tests for elementary and middle school students to three hours beginning this April is another reminder that common sense is woefully lacking in the accountability movement. According to John King Jr., the state's education commissioner, the change is part of the effort to "fine-tune tests of student performance" ("State Tests Extended to About Three Hours," The New York Times, Dec. 19). I'd be very interested in knowing exactly what King means by that statement, and how he justifies his decision. When I taught English in the Los ...


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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