For the past four years, there has been a steady stream of news and commentary about the disconnect between what employers are looking for and what workers have to offer. The latest entry into this debate was "Looking at Education for Clues on Structural Unemployment" (The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 9). According to the article, the mismatch is a "classic example of what economists call a 'structural' issue in the labor market. In time, workers will develop the skills the job market needs - or employers will readjust their needs to the skills workers have available - but that process ...


The practice of law in the U.S. is an adversarial system that is widely accepted as being the most effective way of ensuring that justice is done. This is the antithesis of the way educating the young is supposed to be conducted in this country. Nevertheless, the system too often still pits teachers against principals, to the detriment of students. A case in point was an article in The New York Times on Sept. 16 ("Bronx Science Sees Exodus of Social Studies Teachers"). Eight of the school's 20 social studies teachers chose not to return this year. To put ...


It's not at all surprising that homework is now a front-burner issue in many school districts ("Is Homework Out of Control?" Parade, Aug. 21). Although teachers who assign heavy loads have never been popular, it's only in the last few years that they have moved into the spotlight. After all, when elementary school teachers ask children in second and third grade to complete worksheets every night, I have to wonder if things have not gotten out of hand. The rationale for homework is that it enhances learning by reinforcing and enriching classroom instruction. But there are several caveats. First, it ...


As readers of this column know, I've long supported parental choice of schools, even though I acknowledge that not all children have parents who are involved enough in their education to take advantage of the options open to them. But there's another consideration that has been largely overlooked: What happens when there are too many choices available to parents? Posing this question probably seems more theoretical than practical in the U.S., where choice is still not the norm. But that's not the case in England. According to an article in The Independent on Sept. 10, parents are faced with ...


It had to happen sooner or later. The World Economic Forum recently ranked the U.S. No. 5 in economic competitiveness. Although the Geneva-based organization based its decision specifically on huge deficits and declining faith in government, it won't be long before public schools are implicated. It has to be that way because frustration and anger can be discharged only by means of a lightning rod, and schools fit the need to a tee. As Clinton E. Boutwell wrote in Shell Game (Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation, 1997), "America's corporate elite charged that their incompetence was not responsible for the ...


The justification for mayoral takeover of school districts is that it pinpoints accountability. I've always believed, however, that the rationale sounds better on paper than it plays out in reality. The situation in the New York City school system is a case in point. According to a New York Times/CBS News Poll, voters are "broadly dissatisfied" with the quality of public schools since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took control in June 2002 ("New Yorkers Say Mayor Has Not Improved Schools," The New York Times, Sept. 7). They base their views on a frustrating system of school choice, services for disabled ...


Under increasing pressure to produce evidence of greater student achievement, schools are eager to adopt practices that have a proven track record. This has led the Houston public schools to engage in a novel experiment called Apollo 20 ("A School District Mimics Charters, Hoping Success Will Follow," The New York Times, Sept. 6). By implementing five key tenets of successful charter schools (such as the Knowledge is Power Program) at nine secondary schools last year, the district hoped to be able to post similar results. One high school reported gains that were enough to move the school to acceptable after ...


Leave it to Michelle Rhee to pit teacher against teacher just as the new school year begins. In "The Great Brain Game" (Time, Sept. 12), she argues that a policy of last-in first-out in determining layoffs ensures that "thousands of great teachers" will be lost. I have no doubt that there are many outstanding new teachers who don't deserve to be shown the door when staffs have to be cut. But there are also many outstanding veteran teachers who would be vulnerable if seniority were eliminated. Rhee cites the case of Christine Simo in Las Vegas to make her point. ...


Despite the guarantee of a free basic education for all students as stipulated in most state constitutions, the protracted recession has caused at least 23 states to date to slash spending on public education. This has created an uneven pattern of supplemental support by parents, business and residents. The latest example was in New York City, where in early August Mayor Michael Bloomberg and five other wealthy individuals raised $1.5 million to reinstate the Regents exams given in January that New York State had eliminated because of budget cuts ("When Schools Depend on Handouts," The New York Times, Aug. ...


If there's one thing I've learned about parental choice, it's that there's no one thing that all parents agree on when seeking a school for their children. I'm not talking about a safe environment, which is non-negotiable. Instead, I'm referring to the way parents evaluate schools ("7 Things You Need to Know About a School (Before you Enroll Your Kid)," Time, Aug. 24). The reality is that what's important to some parents is not nearly as important to others. For example, Catholic schools are known for their strict discipline and their emphasis on the basics. This combination can be just ...


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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