The Los Angeles Times prides itself on balanced coverage of education news. When it published on its front page in August the names and rankings of teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District based on their students' standardized test scores, it justified its decision by explaining that taxpayers have the right to know if students are being well taught. Yet the Times sees nothing wrong with burying good news about the district. The latest example was its decision to place an article about the Academic Decathlon, an intense intellectual high school competition, in the lower right-hand corner of the ...


Often thought of as an anachronism, single-sex schools are undergoing a reevaluation by reformers who belatedly realize their potential for improving academic achievement. Whether they will find a serious place in the menu of options open to parents largely depends on how well the issues surrounding them are understood. It was only in the late 19th century that public schools in this country became coeducational. Prior to that time, formal education took place in single-sex schools. Girls were most likely to be educated at home, if indeed they were educated at all. Single-sex schools that persisted thereafter were independent or ...


So much of the debate today about improving public schools concerns the curriculum. It's certainly important, but what about instruction? How teachers teach (instruction) warrants as much attention as what they teach (curriculum). An essay by Paul E. Peterson of Harvard University in the Summer 2011 issue of Education Next addresses the issue ("Eighth-Grade Students Learn More Through Direct Instruction"). Peterson starts out on the right foot by framing the debate about instruction as one of "the sage on the stage" versus "the guide on the side." In other words, should teachers stand and deliver material, or should they allow ...


If corporate reformers have their way, all schools in this country will eventually be privatized. The rationale is that competition best serves students. It's a specious argument, but it has great appeal to taxpayers who are frustrated and angry in the face of disappointing results posted by too many public schools. Yet until now, little has been written about the details of the future educational landscape. So maybe it's time to take a closer look. New York City, home of the nation's largest school district, provides a preview that we ignore at our peril. Parents who are disaffected for one ...


Whatever happens first in California tends to eventually happen elsewhere. That's why the news out of Sacramento is worthy of close attention. In a front-page story on Apr. 4, the Los Angeles Times reported that the number of students preparing to become teachers is plunging, with all signs indicating that the trend will continue ("Today's teacher layoffs threaten tomorrow's college classrooms"). The Commission on Teacher Credentialing said that the number of credentials issued annually fell 29 percent over the past five years, from 28,039 in 2004-05 to 20,032 in 2009-10. Although the decline was most evident in state ...


Taxpayers are entitled to know if underperforming schools are making a comeback. But even when evidence shows they are turning around, they continue to be penalized. Two public schools recently in the news serve as cases in point. M.S. 223, a middle school in the South Bronx, has received three straight A's on the report card issued by New York City's Department of Education since Ramon Gonzalez became principal in Sept. 2003 ("The Fragile Success of School Reform in the Bronx," The New York Times Magazine, Apr 10). According to the latest progress report, which judges a school based ...


If taxpayers were not confused enough about conflicting claims over the best way to improve schools, they were left in an even more perplexed state after reading an op-ed written by Vinton G. Cerf ("How to Fire Up U.S. Innovation," The Wall Street Journal, Apr. 12). Cerf, who helped develop the Internet, has impeccable credentials. But he comes up with the wrong answer to the question he poses about why America's K-12 education system is unlikely to turn out enough innovators in technology in the years ahead. If Cerf genuinely wants young people to "understand and experience the thrill ...


In the entertainment business, anything that swiftly rises to the top of the charts is referred to as "number one with a bullet." The term doesn't necessarily denote quality, merely quantity. I thought of Michelle Rhee in this connection after reading an op-ed in the New York Daily News by Richard Whitmire ("Why Michelle Rhee is public enemy number one in education reform debate: She challenged bad teachers," Apr. 1). He is the author of The Bee Eater: Michelle Rhee Takes on the Nation's Worst School District. Whitmire is certainly entitled to his assessment of Rhee as former chancellor of ...


The abrupt resignation of Cathleen Black as chancellor of New York City schools after only 95 days on the job serves as a cautionary tale for taxpayers. I'm not talking about Black's flagrant lack of educational experience, which has been extensively covered by the media. Instead, I'm talking about Mayor Michael Bloomberg's arrogant handling of the matter, which is emblematic of an even larger issue. From the time Bloomberg took office, he made education reform one of the pillars of his administration. He believed that business practices would transform the nation's largest school system. As a result, he ignored advice ...


The caveat that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is has particular relevance to education. I'm talking specifically about parental choice of schools. I've long supported the policy, but at the same time I've cautioned about expecting too much from it. New York City, home of the nation's largest school district, serves as a cautionary tale. According to the Department of Education, waiting lists for elementary school for the fall semester are longer than they were last year ("Kindergarten Waiting Lists Get Longer," New York Times, Mar. 30). There are 3,195 children who find themselves ...


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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