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 ...


By now, it seems practically everyone knows about the cheating that occurred in Atlanta on the state-mandated Criterion-Referenced Competency Test. In a 400-page report, state investigators revealed that the cheating took place at 44 schools, and involved 178 teachers and principals. More disturbing was the involvement of former Superintendent Beverly Hill, who was named the 2009 National Superintendent of the Year. The news about the nation's largest cheating scandal on standardized tests to date is dismaying, but as I wrote on Jun. 21, 2010 ("Campbell's Law Strikes Again") it should come as no surprise. It is the inevitable outcome of ...


It was inevitable that the 3.2 million-member National Education Association would agree to allow student standardized test scores to constitute a part of teacher evaluations. I say that not only because the 1.5 million-member American Federation of Teachers had already said the same thing but also because it is a reasonable requirement. The headlines portray the concession as a radical change. Yet it is in line with the overall consensus among educators that multiple measures are the fairest way of measuring teacher effectiveness. Nevertheless, I have two reservations: the weight given to standardized test scores and the nature ...


Summer vacation has a way of making the fall opening of schools seem years away. Yet for parents who are disaffected for one reason or another with the education their children are receiving from neighborhood schools, it's a time to make some hard decisions. Should they keep their children where they are or should they seek alternatives? In its lead editorial on Jul. 5, The Wall Street Journal addressed the dilemma ("The Year of School Choice"). It pointed to the growth of school choice legislation in 13 states - with 28 more states considering the same - as hopeful signs. ...


Students can't learn if they don't attend classes. That's why the Chicago school district is spending part of $20 million in federal money and part of another $7 million in local money over the next three years to wake up chronic latecomers. In a front-page story, The Wall Street Journal detailed how the system operates ("School Reform, Chicago Style," Jun. 25). I commend district officials for their efforts, but I wonder why their program is necessary in the first place. Isn't education supposed to be a partnership between school and home? If so, where are the parents of these students? ...


In the wake of relentless pressure to improve or risk losing taxpayer support, public schools are faced with hard choices. The dilemma was recently on display at Herbert H. Lehman High School in the New York City school system. The football field at the Bronx campus is 20 yards too short for regulation contests ("At Bronx High School, Field Is 20 Yards Short of Being a Home," The New York Times, Jun. 16). As a result, the team has been forced to play all its games on the fields of other schools. This has created an obstacle in building school ...


The news that the 39 lowest-performing schools in the Detroit school system will be placed under the authority of the newly formed Education Achievement System starting in the 2012-13 school year was greeted as a long overdue step ("State Authority to Run Worst Schools in Detroit and Michigan," Education Week, June 20). But before applauding the strategy, we need to examine what has happened in other cities that have attempted to turn around their failing schools through similar means. I wrote about this subject in a Commentary for Education Week ("When States Seize Schools: A Cautionary Tale", June 13, 2007). ...


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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