The repercussions from closing persistently failing schools are about to be felt by tiny Premont, Texas, which is located about 150 miles south of San Antonio. The town of 2,700 is bracing for the shuttering of the Premont Independent School District by the Texas Education Agency because of poor academics and a high truancy rate ("Texas district cancels sports in hopes of improving grades," Fox News, Jan. 21). In a last ditch attempt to avoid what seems to be inevitable, officials are eliminating sports this spring and next fall to save enough money to keep the district's schools open. ...


If public schools don't already have enough to contend with today, a new law in New Hampshire has the potential to make their situation worse. The state Legislature earlier this month overrode Gov. John Lynch's veto to give parents the right to object to any course material in their child's curriculum as long as they provide a reasonable alternative that the district approves, and pay for any associated costs ("New NH law allows parental objection to any course material; educators wary of potential consequences," Nashua Telegraph, Jan. 22). Although the law applies only to public schools in New Hampshire, it ...


I was brought up to believe that education is the single most important factor in upward mobility. But Winner-Take-All Politics (Simon & Schuster, 2010) by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson calls the assumption into question by contending that the huge differences in wealth in this country are instead the result of a campaign designed by powerful players in Washington and on Wall Street. In other words, education alone does not explain the enormous gap between those at the very top of the income mountain and everyone else. Wages in the U.S. are at an historic low as a percentage of ...


It's clear by now that the high school dropout rate has implications far beyond what is immediately apparent. A front-page story in The New York Times sheds new details on the problem ("In New York, Mexicans Lag in Education," Nov. 25). According to the census, 41 percent of Mexicans between the ages of 16 and 19 in New York City dropped out. No other major immigrant group there has a rate higher than 20 percent. (The overall dropout rate for the city is nine percent.) Since Mexicans constitute the fastest growing major immigrant group in the city, the situation is ...


Whenever the subject of failing schools arises, the usual suspects are rounded up. I don't doubt for a second that teachers should be at the head of the list. After all, they are the most important in-school factor in learning. But what about students? Aren't they also responsible for their education? I thought about this once again after reading Will Fitzhugh's "The End of Failure" (The Concord Review, Jan. 18). As he wrote: "We like to think of a student in our schools as if under anesthesia on a classroom operating table, being operated on by our surgeon-teachers who are ...


It was only a matter of time before the full extent of the obsession with a college degree became apparent. Appropriately, the venue is California, which leads the nation in the number of unaccredited schools ("California Leads Nation in Unaccredited Schools, and Enforcement Is Lax," The New York Times, Jan.14). At last count, these totaled nearly 1,000 colleges and vocational schools. One of the reasons students and their parents shell out money for tuition at these schools is that they confuse state approval and accreditation. The former is essentially a license granted by the state to operate. The ...


One of the most important principles of effective instruction requires that teachers identify the knowledge and skills contained in a stipulated objective and provide their students with ample opportunities to develop them. This involves prompt feedback and careful monitoring of student progress. Yet even experienced teachers often don't realize how complex the strategy is. Despite the considerable time and effort they devote to preparing lessons, they sometimes fail to achieve their objective. A recent experiment at a public middle school in New York City's Harlem is a case in point. Forty-eight students, mostly Hispanics and blacks, took philosophy classes twice ...


"Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing." When Oscar Wilde wrote those words in The Picture of Dorian Gray 120 years ago, he had no idea that they would eventually apply to public schools. I thought of the connection after reading "Critical Issues in Assessing Teacher Compensation" by Jason Richwine and Andrew G. Biggs that was released on Jan. 10 (Backgrounder No. 2638, The Heritage Foundation). The report was written as a response to misconceptions arising from the authors' earlier paper "Assessing the Compensation of Public-School Teachers" that was made public on Nov. 1, 2011 (Heritage...


Reformers assert that teachers enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity for their performance, as compared with chief executive officers in business who either deliver results or are shown the door. It's a claim that has great intuitive appeal in today's protracted recession. But the truth is far more nuanced. Consider the case of Eastman Kodak. The Wall Street Journal warns in an editorial that the company serves as "a tale of how easily a corporate giant can be felled by a single disruptive technology" ("The Kodak Lesson," Review & Outlook, Jan. 5). The editorial goes on to explain why "nothing is ...


New York City is home of the nation's largest school district and the venue for notorious cases of abuse of power by principals of elite schools. I've written before about events in this connection at Brooklyn Technical High School ("What About Principal Accountability? Sept. 8, 2010). Today, I focus on the Bronx High School of Science. (Stuyvesant High School is the other member of the storied triumvirate.) New York Magazine published an account of what has transpired at Bronx Science since Valerie Reidy became principal in 2001 ("A Bronx Science Experiment," Dec. 4, 2011). According to the magazine, "she has ...


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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