The debate over effective instruction is so familiar by now that it seems little more can be said. But a provocative article about how music is taught in Venezuela calls that view into question ("El Sistema for all, U.S. kids too," Los Angeles Times, Feb. 26). The fame of Gustavo Dudamel, music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, has focused attention on what is known as El Sistema because he attributes his success to it. Funded by $100 million a year, the state-run music education program in Venezuela is enormously popular. Its nearly 300 music schools for children, called ...


It's always heartening to hear how some students have managed to overcome Dickensian backgrounds to shine in school. They deserve the spotlight for their impressive achievements in spite of the huge disadvantages they brought to class. That's why scholarships provided by The New York Times since 1996 are so welcome ("Resiliency Helps 8 Students Win Times Scholarships," Feb. 25). But at the same time, I wonder if these remarkable students will be used by reformers as proof that all students can post similar outcomes if they only applied themselves to the task. We already see this happening when critics claim ...


It had to happen sooner or later. Sixteen months after the Los Angeles Times published rankings of 6,000 third- through fifth-grade teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District that it compiled from seven years of math and English scores, news organizations under the Freedom of Information Law finally received data on 18,000 teachers in the New York City school system when a state court declined to hear a last ditch appeal from the teachers union to keep the information private. In quick order, The New York Times published the names of teachers and their schools, and their ...


Involvement of parents in the education of their children has long been a goal of school districts. But even when the objective is achieved, there's no guarantee of consensus, as Chicago Public Schools are finding out ("Program to Bridge the Gap With Parents Draws Fire," The New York Times, Feb. 19). The Office of Community and Family Engagement, which was created last July, has dedicated itself to reaching out to parents and community groups to make them an integral part of the educational process. Yet the office has encountered parental resistance to such proposals as a seven-and-a-half-hour day and school ...


It's hard to know which teenagers President Obama was thinking about in his State of the Union speech when he urged making school attendance mandatory until age 18. But his proposal will not decrease the dropout rate because it is premised on a dated view of young people. The truth is that teenagers mature much earlier today than ever before. Leon Botstein, the president of Bard College, pointed out that the age of first menstruation starts at least two years earlier than at the beginning of the last century and so has the start of sexual activity. Moreover, "Information and ...


More and more states are enacting laws that require teachers to be evaluated on the basis of multiple measures. I support the trend as long as the part of the evaluation that uses classroom observations specifically specifies that evaluators are certified in the subject being observed. In this regard, New York City, home of the nation's largest school district, is off on the right foot ("Observers Get Key Role in Teacher Evaluations," The New York Times, Feb. 17). Under an agreement just concluded, the school district, with the consent of the teachers union, will contract with a company to provide ...


If public schools are as bad as reformers claim, then why do parents send their children there? I'm not talking about suburban schools but instead about schools in large cities. Census data show that a large majority of wealthy, foreign-born parents, including both immigrants and others temporarily working in New York City, deliberately choose neighborhood public schools ("Affluent, Born Abroad and Choosing New York's Public Schools," The New York Times, Feb. 15). It's a trend that contradicts claims made by reformers that public schools are failing. If they are, they're apparently not failing enough to deter parents in this group. ...


Why it should be front-page news that income plays a more important role than race in the academic achievement gap is beyond me ("Education Gap Grows Between Rich and Poor, Studies Say," The New York Times, Feb. 10). Studies have consistently shown that poverty is the single most important out-of-school factor in predicting student performance. In 2010, for example, The Century Foundation found that socioeconomic obstacles are seven times as large as those associated with race in performance on the SAT (Rewarding Strivers, Century Foundation Press). But I suppose we should be grateful that the subject is given such prominence. ...


Education reformers place great emphasis on the importance of parental choice. But they recently revealed their hypocrisy in a way that is infuriating to all those who support the strategy. Despite protests from thousands of parents, the Panel for Education Policy voted to close 18 schools in the New York City system and shrink five more ("Thousands Gather in Brooklyn to Fight School Closures," In These Times, Feb. 10). The justification was that the schools were not providing a quality education. Presumably, the evidence used for making this determination were standardized test scores. Another 33 schools are on the list, ...


The news that two teachers at Miramonte Elementary School are accused of lewd acts with children in their classes sent shock waves throughout the working-class South Los Angeles neighborhood. Reacting to parental outrage, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy moved swiftly to announce that the entire staff of the school will be temporarily transferred with full pay to a school under construction for the balance of the school year ("Staff of Miramonte replaced pending sex abuse inquiry," Los Angeles Times, Feb. 7). Their places were filled on Feb. 9 by teachers and other staff members from a rehiring ...


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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