Teachers are slated to be judged and rewarded in the next school year largely on how well their students perform on the basis of quantifiable outcomes. The usual rationale is that this strategy is how top executives in business are evaluated and compensated. If adopted, the corporate model will transform schools and allow the U.S. to compete in the global economy. But the argument is dead wrong. "CEOs are different: They are almost certainly the only category of Americans who regularly get rewarded for failure with massive amounts of money" ("Executive Decisions," The New Republic, Mar. 1). To put ...


The report issued by the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights leaves the distinct impression that public schools are unfairly disciplining black students ("Minority students as targets?" Los Angeles Times, Mar. 10). The operative word is "unfairly" because if this is true then the practice needs to immediately change. But I think there is more to this story than meets the eye. First, the Education Department acknowledged through a spokesperson that it is not just white teachers in predominantly black or in predominantly white schools who are disproportionately disciplining black students. In some cases, it is black principals at overwhelmingly ...


Scapegoating is a powerful tool to sway public opinion. That's why I'm not surprised that teachers unions are consistently being singled out for the shortcomings of public schools ("Can Teachers Unions Do Education Reform?" The Wall Street Journal, Mar. 3). After all, they are such an easy target at a time when the public's patience over the glacial pace of school reform is running out. The latest example was an essay by Juan Williams, who is now a political analyst for Fox News ("Will Business Boost School Reform?" The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 28). He claims that teachers unions are "formidable...


The results of the annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher confirm what has been apparent to anyone who has been paying attention to news and commentary about public schools. They show that morale is at its lowest point in more than 20 years ("Teacher Survey Shows Morale Is at a Low Point," The New York Times, Mar. 8). The findings have direct relevance to the reform movement. Because teachers are the most important in-school factor in student achievement, it is imperative to do everything possible to recruit and retain the best. But about one in three teachers said they ...


Often thought of as an unfortunate but unavoidable part of growing up, bullying is finally being recognized for the serious problem it is. Yet "Bully," a documentary to be released nationwide this month that is aimed at raising consciousness about the issue, may not be seen by students because of its R rating for profane language ("A 'Bully' pulpit for Weinstein Co.," Los Angeles Times, Mar. 6). It's a telling commentary that we are more concerned about language (and sex) in movies than about violence. The double standard is troubling because ignoring bullying can have tragic consequences. I'm referring to ...


As farfetched as it sounds, pulchritude is an important factor in determining how teachers are evaluated. It's not that student test scores don't count (they will constitute up to 40 percent of a teacher's rating in some states beginning in the 2012-13 school year), but as long as classroom observations are factored in, the role of good looks comes into play. Daniel Hamermesh, an economist at the University of Texas-Austin, has conducted a series of studies on the role that appearance plays in the workplace. He found that better-looking men and women get paid more than average-looking men and women ...


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 ...


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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