There was a time when most students in K-12 could expect to be taught by veteran teachers. But this is no longer the case, as the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future points out ("Classroom 'crisis': Many teachers have little or no experience," msnbc.com, Sept. 26). In the 1987-88 school year, for example, 14 years was the most common level of experience. But by 2007-08, it was one or two years. The trend is expected to continue as more Baby Boomers retire, better paying jobs open up in the private sector, and pressure to boost test scores mounts. ...


You'd think that the rise in childhood obesity, along with childhood diabetes and hypertension, would provide reformers with an incentive to make physical education a high priority in K-12. But that has not been the case. Most states in this country have either watered down the requirement for physical education or eliminated it entirely because of budget cuts. Consider New York City, where an audit released on Oct. 4 found that none of 31 elementary schools that officials visited out of a total of about 700 were in full compliance with the state's guidelines on physical education ("Audit Finds Paucity ...


Misunderstanding contentious issues in education is common among those who have never taught, as an op-ed about merit pay for teachers written by FranTarkenton, NFL Hall of Fame quarterback with the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Giants, illustrates ("What if the NFL Played by Teachers' Rules?" Oct. 3). Tarkenton argues that if each player's salary were based on seniority, rather than on performance, "the on-field product would steadily decline. Why bother playing harder or better and risk getting hurt?" He claims that "the NFL in this alternate reality is the real-life American public education system. Teachers' salaries have no ...


It's axiomatic that democracy depends on an educated populace. Part of the process is to expose students to issues that by their very nature are controversial, and help them develop the ability to analyze conflicting arguments. In "Discussions That Drive Democracy," Diana Hess writes: "This means teaching young people that they should not shun, fear, or ignore such issues. Students need to have experiences respectfully discussing authentic questions about public problems and the kinds of policies that can address those problems" (Educational Leadership, Sept. 2011). I agree with Hess's position, but I hasten to point out that the freedom of ...


The school reform movement is obsessed with quantifying outcomes. Whether through standardized test scores, dropout rates or college acceptance rates, the coin of the realm is measurement. Yet there is another side of the story that is largely overlooked. It was highlighted in a cover piece in The New York Times Magazine on Sept. 18. In "What if the Secret to Success Is Failure?," Paul Tough focuses on the importance of developing character. He quite correctly recognizes that without it, students are shortchanged. Because the term means different things to different people, Tough explains which traits qualify based on research ...


It's become a mantra of reformers that the quality of teachers is the single most important in-school factor in student performance. If so, is the quality of doctors the single most important in-office factor in patient health? This question passed my mind after I read a letter to the editor written by Richard Amerling, M.D., director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, that was published in The Wall Street Journal ("Better Use of Medical Records Is Good as Far as It Goes," Sept. 26). Although Amerling's remarks were about the practice of medicine in this country, they ...


The abrupt request for a leave of absence by a ten-year veteran high school art teacher only two weeks after the start of the fall semester serves as a reminder that accountability is still a one-way street. According to a column in the Los Angeles Times, Jeremy Davidson was done in by a combination of factors all too familiar in these troubled times to public school teachers ("At Manual Arts High, a caring teacher is at the end of his rope," Sept. 24). What happened was that students in Davidson's ninth-grade drawing class at Manual Arts High School turned the ...


In the wake of the stock market crash, Congress wisely passed the Glass-Steagall Act in 1933. The landmark legislation successfully separated investment and commercial banking activities until it was repealed in 1999. Many economists today believe the decision to do so played a major role in the country's financial meltdown. I see a dangerous parallel taking place in education. As columnist Michael Winerip explained in "When Free Trips Overlap With Commercial Purposes" (On Education, The New York Times, Sept. 19), test companies are increasingly involved in the decisions made by state education officials. Winerip detailed how the Pearson Foundation through ...


For the past four years, there has been a steady stream of news and commentary about the disconnect between what employers are looking for and what workers have to offer. The latest entry into this debate was "Looking at Education for Clues on Structural Unemployment" (The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 9). According to the article, the mismatch is a "classic example of what economists call a 'structural' issue in the labor market. In time, workers will develop the skills the job market needs - or employers will readjust their needs to the skills workers have available - but that process ...


The practice of law in the U.S. is an adversarial system that is widely accepted as being the most effective way of ensuring that justice is done. This is the antithesis of the way educating the young is supposed to be conducted in this country. Nevertheless, the system too often still pits teachers against principals, to the detriment of students. A case in point was an article in The New York Times on Sept. 16 ("Bronx Science Sees Exodus of Social Studies Teachers"). Eight of the school's 20 social studies teachers chose not to return this year. To put ...


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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