Forcing schools to compete among themselves is supposed to benefit students. The argument at first seems reasonable enough. If a school can't count on enrolling students because it is the only game in town, then it will either improve or go out of business. The trouble is that in practice competition has not proved to be the panacea it is cracked up to be. Two hard lessons emerge in this regard from California. In Sept. 2004, the California Charter Academy, the largest chain of publicly-financed but privately-run charter schools collapsed because of financial mismanagement ("Collapse of 60 Charter Schools Leaves ...


If there's one thing the Great Recession has taught this country, it's that the protracted pain is not equally felt. While millions of Americans struggle to make ends meet at one end, wealth is concentrating in the hands of the upper one percent of the population in a way not seen since 1928, the year before the stock market crashed. The gross disparity between the polar opposites, however newsworthy, has distracted attention away from the plight of the middle class. It's their existence that has long provided equilibrium in the U.S. by holding out the promise of a better ...


One of the most important principles of successful instruction is providing students with practice that is designed to help them develop the knowledge and skills called for in a stipulated objective. This involves identifying the desired outcome and giving students feedback. Yet sometimes even experienced teachers mistakenly assume that the activities they structure with great care are appropriate for the goals they have established. An experiment that took place at a public middle school in New York City's Harlem involving 48 mostly Hispanic and black students illustrates how complex the principle of appropriate practice can be ("Socrates' New Students," Miller-McCune, ...


An interview with Craig Brandon, whose book the The Five-Year Party offers an unvarnished but balanced look into the value of a college education.


When reformers talk about how to improve public schools, one of their favorite solutions is competition. They maintain that forcing schools to vie with each other to attract students will by necessity improve educational quality. They claim that's how private schools have been able to post their impressive outcomes. But what they avoid mentioning is that private schools operate under a completely different set of rules. Not only do they admit only those students they deem a good fit, but they also retain the right to remove students for any number of reasons. To most people, the latter strategy is ...


In a column-one, front-page story on Dec. 8, the Los Angeles Times reported that Gov. Jerry Brown of California replaced virtually all members of the state Board of Education ("Many see influence of teachers union in Gov. Jerry Brown's shakeup of California Board of Education"). What makes the move - one of his first official acts - noteworthy is that those who were sacked were all strong supporters of charter schools, teacher accountability and parental empowerment. It's too soon to know if Brown's decision indicates the start of a major pushback against the reform agenda of the Obama administration. But ...


The controversy surrounding the appointment of Cathleen Black to be the new chancellor of New York City schools despite her failure to meet the stipulated requirements for the job has been so well covered by the media by now that little more can be said. But like so many contentious issues in education, the fallout is not limited to the immediate venue. On the first day that Black assumed her duties of the nation's largest school district, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced that he intends to try to convince the state board of education to jettison education experience as ...


At the risk of sounding like a Pollyanna, I have to take issue with the latest alarmist depiction of public education. The New York Times published a news story about the Program for International Student Achievement. The article said that the rankings of American students posed a direct threat to this country's competitiveness in the new global economy ("Shanghai Schools' Approach Pushes Students to Top of the Rankings"). Arne Duncan called the results a "wake-up call." The trouble with this assessment is that it is hardly new. Taxpayers were exposed to similar hyperbole before in, of all place, a feature ...


Teachers opt to teach in religious schools for reasons known only to themselves. But I wonder if they fully understand what they give up when they decide to do so. Two cases now before the courts illustrate the issue. In Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC , the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 applies to teachers who also perform religious duties in church schools ("Washington Wants a Say Over Your Minister," The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 5). Specifically, the leaders of the Hosanna-Tabor church in Redford, Mich. tried to force ...


Asking if money affects student performance is a little like asking if gravity affects inanimate objects. The answer in both cases is more nuanced than it initially seems. Let's begin by looking at the numbers. We spend $11,749 per student in public schools annually (Statistical Abstract of the United States). To put this into context, between 1970 and 2005, inflation-adjusted per-student spending increased by more than 100 percent (Digest of Educational Statistics). In actuality, spending on public schools per student is probably considerably higher because school districts ordinarily don't include debt service, employee benefits and transportation costs. But I'll ...


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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