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). ...


Since resigning as chancellor of New York City public schools to become CEO of News Corporation's educational division, Joel Klein has become a frequent contributor to the op-ed pages of newspapers across the country. His output no doubt pleases Rupert Murdoch, but his views are proving to be an embarrassment. Let's consider only his most recent writing. As I explained in my column on June 24, Klein commits the base rate fallacy in continuing to claim credit for improvement of test scores when he was chancellor ("Common Errors in Coverage of Education"). He then further calls into question his understanding ...


Once upon a time, errors in reportage and commentary about education warranted scant attention because relatively so little was at stake. But today, these errors have widespread implications. I'd like to focus on three common mistakes, in the hope that by doing so readers will become more discerning. The first is cherry picking. As the term suggests, this means carefully choosing self-serving data. Since so much of the accountability movement depends on quantification of outcomes, it's easy to see why those with a particular agenda engage in this practice. They can then claim that they have evidence to support their ...


The latest test scores in history posted by students in 4th, 8th and 12th grade on the National Assessment of Educational Progress are cited as evidence that public schools are not doing their job. Only 20 percent, 17 percent and 12 percent, respectively, of the students tested demonstrated proficiency ("U.S. Students Remain Poor at History, Tests Show," The New York Times, June 15). This is indeed troubling, but if it's any consolation college students are not doing much better. A brief stroll down memory lane reveals why. In 2006, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute measured the civic literacy of 14,000...


The living may be easy in the summertime, but the learning lost over the two-month break is hard to overcome. Research has shown that students on average lose about one month of academic skills. For low-income students, however, the loss can be three times as much. In recognition of this problem, June 21 has been designated as National Summer Learning Day. It's a reminder of the importance of maintaining the knowledge and skills taught during the regular school year. There are several excellent programs dedicated to this proposition. I'd like to focus on Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL), which ...


Education ideally is a partnership between teachers, parents and students, as the best schools readily acknowledge. But reformers give short shrift to the role that parents play, preferring instead to blame teachers when schools underperform. Yet there is a faint glimmer of hope on the horizon. According to The New York Times, legislators in some states have introduced bills holding parents responsible for their children's performance and behavior ("Whose Failing Grade Is It?", May 21). Whether these bills ever become law is another matter, but at least they signal a possible shift in the accountability movement. Let's be frank: No ...


It's not often that my column elicits as many interesting comments as "A Fairer Way to Evaluate Teachers." Perhaps this is because final report cards have been handed out, but it also may be because the subject by its very nature is controversial. In either case, I'd like to expand upon an excellent suggestion that one reader made. Why not include ratings made by students? After all, they observe what takes place in the classroom on a daily basis. Unlike the dog-and-pony shows sometimes put on when teachers know they will be observed, this continuity is indispensable to obtaining a ...


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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