Education free marketeers are relentless in their campaign to get K-12 schools to recruit and retain the best and the brightest college graduates. To achieve this goal, they are willing to pay top dollar to top talent as long as the results are there for all to see. Yet when schools post stellar outcomes, these same reformers are quick to lash out at the salaries. It seems that schools can't win, no matter how well they perform. The latest example is a New York Post story about the Syosset Central School District located in Nassau County on Long Island ("She's ...


Public schools in the U.S. have long been overly hospitable to educational trends that eventually run their course and disappear. But the one that has managed to maintain its hold the longest is self esteem. I reject the use of the word "fad" to describe self esteem because it is a worthwhile goal as long as it does not become the end-all and be-all of what transpires in the classroom. Unfortunately that has not been the case. In Everyone's a Winner (University of California Press), sociologist Joel Best describes how a "congratulatory culture" in this country explains the obsession ...


At a time when a bachelor's degree is considered indispensable for a successful future, it's troubling to read about the dark side of a college "education." The latest example is Coastal Carolina University located near Myrtle Beach, S.C. In a detailed article, the New York Times explained how David DeCenzo, the school's president, embarked on a risky program to make Coastal Carolina a brand name ("Coastal Carolina Struggles on Way to Tournament," Feb. 25). But instead of academics, he chose athletics to do so. That was his first mistake. There are already far too many colleges and universities that ...


Just when it appeared that Bill Gates had finally learned a lesson in humility, he put his foot in his mouth once again. In an op-ed in the Washington Post on Feb. 28, Gates argued that student achievement has remained virtually flat over the past four decades despite doubling per-student spending in K-12 schools because teaching is the one profession that has no clear indicators of excellence ("How teacher development could revolutionize our schools"). His solution is to "identify great teachers, find out what makes them so effective and transfer those skills to others so more students can enjoy top ...


Facing mounting criticism that they prevent even the worst teachers from being fired, teachers unions are taking steps to streamline the dismissal process. No doubt their actions are hastened along by their realization that they are at risk of becoming an anachronism. But there's more to the story than mere self-survival. In late February, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the second-largest teachers union, proposed a plan that would give tenured teachers who are rated unsatisfactory by their principals a maximum of one year to improve ("Leader of Teachers' Union Urges Dismissal Overhaul," New York Times, Feb. ...


The rolling demonstrations that began in Wisconsin over collective bargaining rights for public sector unions have been the subject of exhaustive coverage by the media. But there's one aspect that so far has escaped their examination: The reaction to the protests by supporters of free markets exposes the basic contradiction of their position. The essence of the backlash is that in the Great Recession teachers have it too good at a time when employees in the private sector have it very bad. They get Cadillac pensions, enjoy lavish benefits, have summers off, go home at 3:00, and receive substantial ...


In an ideal world, there would be no need for discipline in classrooms. The curriculum would be so engaging and the instruction so inspiring that students would become engrossed in learning to the point that teachers would never have to worry about miscreant behavior. But that is not the real world of education by a long shot. The latest reminder was a recent public hearing before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. At issue was whether discipline policies now in place in schools across the country have a "disparate impact" on a particular group of students. If it can ...


Critics of public schools argue that spending more on education will not improve academic achievement. They point out that educational expenditures have nearly tripled over the past four decades after adjusting for inflation but that overall student achievement has for the most part remained flat. Simply "throwing more dollars" at the problem will do little to improve outcomes. Yet if money doesn't matter, why do suburban parents go to great lengths to supplement existing funding? Parents in the Shawnee Mission School District, a wealthy Kansas City suburb, are fighting to pay more taxes to support their local schools ("Tax Complaint: ...


It's always interesting to contrast educational issues in other democratic countries with those in the U.S. The controversy now taking place in Japan is a good example because it's reminiscent of what transpired here in the past. Since 2003, teachers in Tokyo public high schools have been required to stand up, face the flag and sing the country's national anthem during school ceremonies. In 2004, Sawa Kawamura refused to do so. As a result, she has been assigned duties that limit her interaction with students, even though she has been teaching for 20 years. Some 400 teachers have joined ...


Advanced Placement has been in the news recently for reasons that raise a few eyebrows ("Rethinking Advanced Placement," New York Times, Jan 7). Although record numbers of high school students are taking and passing the AP exams, an increasing percentage are scoring at the lowest level possible. Whether this data should be cause for concern or celebration depends on how AP is viewed. Here's where a bit of history is necessary. AP exams were created in 1956 by the College Board because elite prep schools wanted to convince colleges that their best students were capable of moving directly into advanced ...


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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