Education ideally is a partnership between teachers, parents and students, as the best schools readily acknowledge. But reformers give short shrift to the role that parents play, preferring instead to blame teachers when schools underperform. Yet there is a faint glimmer of hope on the horizon. According to The New York Times, legislators in some states have introduced bills holding parents responsible for their children's performance and behavior ("Whose Failing Grade Is It?", May 21). Whether these bills ever become law is another matter, but at least they signal a possible shift in the accountability movement. Let's be frank: No ...


It's not often that my column elicits as many interesting comments as "A Fairer Way to Evaluate Teachers." Perhaps this is because final report cards have been handed out, but it also may be because the subject by its very nature is controversial. In either case, I'd like to expand upon an excellent suggestion that one reader made. Why not include ratings made by students? After all, they observe what takes place in the classroom on a daily basis. Unlike the dog-and-pony shows sometimes put on when teachers know they will be observed, this continuity is indispensable to obtaining a ...


Although business and education have different missions, there is one exception worth examining. I was reminded of this by a provocative essay written by Kate Canales in The Atlantic with the apt title "Finding Creative People Is Easy (and Here's How)." Canales maintains that the most creative people don't do things "by the book." They engage in behaviors that workplace cultures don't support. Specifically, they occasionally break rules, push things through without first getting permission, and don't make numbers. (The latter means not hitting stipulated targets.) Canales says that "just about everyone is looking to bring creativity into his or ...


Reformers have long maintained that the system of evaluating teachers is a travesty. They cite evidence showing that tenure is virtually automatic after teachers complete a minimal number of years and that subsequent ratings are unreliable. I agree with this overall conclusion. But rather than bemoan the situation, I think it's time to present solutions. In this regard, I urge readers to consider what the Montgomery County Public Schools are doing ("Helping Teachers Help Themselves," column, The New York Times, June 6). Under a program called Peer Assistance and Review, a panel consisting of eight teachers and eight principals are ...


Lest any doubt remain that public schools are under enormous pressure to operate as businesses, a new report by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation presented to the Los Angeles Unified School District should put an end to the question ("Report says L.A. principals should have more authority in hiring teachers," Los Angeles Times, June 7). It backs the right of principals to hire any teacher they wish without regard for existing district rules. If the LAUSD Board of Education approves the recommendations, displaced tenured teachers who aren't hired within the district in one year would be terminated. At present, ...


When the NAACP joined a lawsuit brought by the United Federation of Teachers to prevent the closure of 22 public schools and stop the growth of 19 charter schools in New York City, the news was greeted with disbelief ("The NAACP's mystifying decision to side with a union over students," editorial, The Washington Post, June 2). That's because the schools affected are overwhelmingly failing black students. For example, at the Academy for Collaborative Education, which is earmarked for closing, only 3 percent of students were performing at grade level in English last year, and only 9 percent in math. Why ...


In an editorial published on May 31, The New York Observer dared the teachers unions in New York State to contest Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal to count standardized test scores for as much as 40 percent in the evaluation of teachers ("In Classroom Accountability Battle, Cuomo Will Take the Unions to School"). In high dudgeon and even higher certitude, the editorial blamed teachers unions for what it calls "truly shocking - and infuriating" results posted by the state's public schools. It pointed to the fact that New York spends more money per student than any other state - more than $18,000...


Every year about now, students are focused more on summer vacation than on learning. This places enormous pressure on teachers to command their attention. Yet despite the reality of the situation, reformers insist on expanding the school year and school day, arguing that students in this country aren't in school as long as students in other industrialized countries. (They fail to mention that Finland, which is acknowledged to have the best schools, requires students to spend the fewest number of hours in the classroom in the developed world.) Cynics counter that if public schools here are as bad as reformers ...


The news out of New York City and Los Angeles, homes of the nation's largest and second largest school districts, respectively, was predictable. The two districts announced that they will use standardized tests to grade teachers, rather than merely to grade students. It was the inevitable next step in the obsession with these controversial instruments. Let's begin in New York City, where a law passed last year requires that teachers be graded from "ineffective" to "highly effective." Teachers who are found "ineffective" for two consecutive years can be fired. Standardized tests given to students will determine 40 percent of the ...


With the cost of educating students in public schools rising and state funding declining, it was inevitable that school districts would be forced to resort to new methods of narrowing the gap. In a front-page story, The Wall Street Journal detailed the way different states have added lab fees, book fees and even fees for extracurricular activities ("Public Schools Charge Kids for Basics, Frills," May 25). In response, the American Civil Liberties Union last year filed suit in California arguing that the practice violates Article IX of the state Constitution, which guarantees a free education to students. The ACLU is ...


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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