For too many years, tenure was granted to teachers almost automatically. Although critics charged that this practice undermined taxpayer confidence about the quality of education in public schools, their complaint never went anywhere. But things are finally changing. In New York City, home of the nation's largest school district, only 58 percent of teachers eligible for tenure this year received it, compared with 99 percent five years ago ("Once Nearly 100%, Teacher Tenure Rate Drops to 58% as Rules Tighten," The New York Times, Jul. 27). That's because teachers are now rated on a four-point scale, rather than merely satisfactory ...


Reformers are convinced they can create a network of charter schools that can provide a quality education and in the process post a nice profit. They've been able to sell their idea to investors who sense an opportunity to do good and to do well at the same time. But the evidence to date shows they are wrong. The latest involves two marquee-names: Tom Vander Ark, who handed out more than $1.6 billion from the Gates Foundation between 1999 and 2006, and Chris Whittle, whose Edison Schools were supposed to revolutionize public education. The track record of both men ...


It's not often that two institutions as fundamentally different as the press and education are in the headlines for the same reason at the same time. But that is exactly what happened in early July when the News of the World and the Atlanta public schools were exposed for engaging in illegal behavior on a scale never seen before in their respective professions. By now just about everyone knows the details about the hacking scandal in Britain. When Rupert Murdoch is involved, it's impossible not to. Beverly Hall is not exactly a household name, but she now takes her place ...


It's always news when Bill Gates opines about education. After all, giving some $5 billion for education grants and scholarships since 2000 warrants attention. Nevertheless, I have to admit that I was a bit surprised to read what Gates said in an interview published in The Wall Street Journal on Jul. 23 ("Was the $5 Billion Worth It?"). In a wide-ranging exchange with Jason L. Riley, a member of the Journal's editorial board, Gates admitted that his belief in the power of small high schools "didn't move the needle much." He also acknowledged that in low-income inner-city communities "there's such ...


Everyone agrees that the most important in-school factor in student achievement is the classroom teacher. At the same time, however, everyone has a different proposal for reaching that goal. Rather than recite the entire list, I'd like to examine one recommendation more closely. Although alternative routes are now available for licensing teachers, the vast majority of teachers still come from the nation's schools of education. In light of the criticism leveled at the caliber of their graduates, it's time to ask if they should be overhauled. If so, then the question is what should they look like? This point was ...


Corporate America complains that it is forced to look overseas for workers because public schools in this country are not producing enough qualified employees. According to a new report from the U.S. Commerce Department, companies decreased their work forces domestically by 2.9 million during the 2000s, while increasing employment abroad by 2.4 million. I don't believe the explanation. Multinational corporations are hiring more workers overseas than they are at home because the cost of labor abroad is lower than it is here. They are also doing so because they are allowed to deduct the expense of moving ...


So many of the proposals put forth by reformers come from billionaires who have never taught a day in public schools. But because they have deep pockets, their ideas are given credence far beyond their value. Take the example of bonus pay for teachers, one of their favorite strategies. The RAND Corporation compared the performance of about 200 New York City schools that participated in a $56 million, three-year bonus program with that of a control group of schools ("NYC teacher bonus program abandoned," The Wall Street Journal, Jul. 18). It found no positive effect on either student performance or ...


Positive lessons about school reform can sometimes be learned from other countries. What England will do beginning in the fall, however, doesn't fall into this category. According to The Guardian, Ofsted, the office responsible for maintaining standards in education, will make unannounced visits to schools with student behavior problems ("Schools to get surprise Ofsted inspections," Jul. 14). Up until now, such schools usually received prior notice. But critics maintained that the old policy allowed schools to hide what was going on by such strategies as arranging field trips for miscreant students and urging ineffective teachers to call in sick on ...


Budget shortfalls are forcing states to come up with novel solutions for the wide disparities between poor and affluent school districts. The latest reminder was a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling in May that ordered the Legislature to increase spending for only the 31 poorest urban districts ("Court Orders New Jersey to Increase Aid to Schools," The New York Times, May 24). Not surprisingly, the decision did not please the other districts in the state. In light of the problem in New Jersey and in other states as well, perhaps it's time to consider what is known as weighted student ...


The McCarthy era of the 1950's destroyed the careers of those who had associated in one way or another with Communist party members. I thought of this shameful period when I read an article in the Los Angeles Times about some 1,000 teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District who are unable to find positions in the district because they previously taught at low-performing schools that are undergoing restructuring ("Teachers from low-performing schools face stigma on job search," Jul. 8). Although they have enough seniority under the union contract to guarantee them employment, they have become pariahs in ...


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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