Research has underscored time and again the disproportionate role that out-of-school factors play in student achievement. That's why it's encouraging to learn that billionaires Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, and George Soros, the hedge fund manager, have agreed to contribute $30 million apiece from their respective foundations to aid about 315,000 black and Latino young men who have been denied opportunities open to others. The balance of the nearly $130 million earmarked for the program will be paid for by the city ("Bloomberg to Use Own Funds in Plan to Aid Minority Youth," The New York ...


Just when it seemed that teachers unions could not possibly be subjected to any further attacks, they find themselves confronting a totally unexpected foe. According to a new survey by the National Center for Education Information, nearly one in five educators say they support abolishing teachers unions ("Profile of Teachers in the U.S. 2011"). The 33-question survey of 1,076 public school teachers across the country found that 19 percent favored eliminating unions and 33 percent supported eliminating tenure. This compares with 15 percent and 28 percent, respectively, from 15 years ago. Fifty-nine percent also said that they should ...


Every subject poses unique instructional challenges. Yet I can't think of one that is more daunting than teaching composition. That's because it's impossible to teach students how to write effectively unless they are given an authentic opportunity to do so. Multiple-choice and short-answer exercises are simply no substitute. During the 28 years that I taught English in the same high school, I envied my colleagues in other departments who did not have to lug home piles of essays. They were able to use answer keys to assess their students' work, or at worst had to read only short essays for ...


Two of the most effective tools of propagandists are to tell a big lie so often that it is accepted as undeniable truth, and to create a scapegoat for the anger and frustration that the public feels. An op-ed by Ted Nugent published on Jul. 29 in the Washington Times is a page torn from the textbook used in Propaganda 101 ("NEA - master of disaster"). Nugent starts out by declaring that public schools in America are a "complete and total disaster." As a writer, I take great pains in the choice of my words. I assumed that other writers ...


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 ...


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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