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 ...


It was inevitable that a study of how American students perform against their counterparts around the globe would challenge longstanding assumptions about the role that poverty plays. In "When the Best Is Mediocre," Jay P. Greene and Josh B. McGee developed the Global Report Card to compare reading and math achievement between 2004 and 2007 for "virtually every public school district in the United States with the average achievement in a set of 25 other countries with developed economies that might be considered our economic peers and sometime competitors" (Education Next, Winter 2012). What the study found was that even ...


As readers of this column know, I've always been skeptical about the claim made by companies that they can't find enough skilled workers to fill existing job openings ("A Closer Look at Skills Mismatch in the Workplace," Sept. 21). My view was validated most recently in the form of an essay by Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the Wharton School and director of Wharton's Center for Human Resources ("Why Companies Aren't Getting the Employees They Need, The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 24). Cappelli correctly maintains that "the real culprits are the employers themselves. With an abundance of workers to ...


It will probably surprise many readers, but when it comes to spending on school elections, teachers unions make megacorporations, industry associations and labor federations combined seem like pikers. I was reminded of this fact after reading John Nichols's otherwise excellent essay in The Nation about the race for a seat on the nonpartisan board of education in Denver ("Big Money, Bad Media, Secret Agendas: Welcome to America's Wildest School Board Race," Oct. 21). Nichols described how "over-the-top spending by wealthy elites and corporate interests," coupled with "partisan consultants jetting in to shape big-lie messaging" and "media outlets that cover spin ...


No, the headline is not a typo. It's the conclusion of a new study "Assessing the Compensation of Public-School Teachers" by Jason Richwine, senior policy analyst in the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation, and Andrew Biggs, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. They attempt to show that public school teachers receive compensation far more generous than is widely believed. They cite summers off, job security, and fringe benefits (health insurance etc.) that make "total compensation 52 percent greater than fair market levels, equivalent to more than $120 billion overcharged to taxpayers each year." Ordinarily, I wouldn't ...


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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