So much of the nation's attention has been focused on literacy, numeracy and science since No Child Left Behind became law that history has been lost in the shuffle. A new book by David Feith titled Teaching America (Rowman & Littlefield, 2011) calls the situation a "crisis" ("Boot Camp For Citizens," The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 9). I'm troubled by the neglect of the subject as much as Feith is, but I hasten to point out that fears about students' knowledge of history are not new. In the 1830's, Horace Mann, secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education, decried the historical ...


The demand seems so reasonable: Evaluate teachers on the basis of how much their students have learned. After all, if schools exist to educate, then what's wrong with asking for evidence that they are successful? It's a fair question. The problem is agreeing on what kind of evidence to accept. At last count, 23 states and the District of Columbia assess teachers in part by their students' standardized tests ("Nearly Half of States Link Teacher Evaluations to Tests," The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 26). Fourteen more states permit districts to use the data to fire ineffective teachers, according to a ...


Education marketeers argue that closing persistently underperforming schools is necessary in order to provide students with the education they are entitled to. The strategy has great intuitive appeal to taxpayers who are fed up with efforts to turn these schools around. But this approach promises far more than it can deliver for reasons that are poorly understood. Chicago, home of the nation's third largest school district, stands out as the best example. Even before No Child Left Behind became law in 2002, the Windy City had a long history of school closings. It's particularly important to bear this fact in ...


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 ...


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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