Meet Mickey Mouse and R2D2, ed reformers

A recent Hewlett Foundation study made the surprising discovery that computers are "capable of producing scores similar to human scores" when grading student essays. While no one's calling for R2D2 to teach freshman composition (even supporters acknowledge that computers can't evaluate high-level writing skills), Common Core English standards include an increased emphasis on persuasive writing that could drown teachers in essays that are time-consuming and costly to score. While critics are quick to dismiss the idea, educators should be eager to refine and advance technology that frees them to spend more time on other aspects of teaching.

President Obama met the 2012 National Teacher of the Year on Tuesday, and the White House highlighted all the State Teachers of the Year in an accompanying press release. These fine educators certainly deserve the spotlight—and the case of Massachusetts teacher champ Jason Breslow deserves particular attention. Only two weeks after learning of his award, Mr. Breslow, who taught math at a South Boston high school, lost his job because of his lack of seniority. As much as Mr. Breslow and his fellow honorees merit praise, the system they work in has earned much worse.

Three hundred U.S. school districts have turned to Disney over the last two years, not to book senior trips to Disney World, but for help running their schools. School districts have proven to be top clients for Disney's growing consulting business; while consultants have a history of providing schools Mickey Mouse advice at Richie Rich prices, it’s encouraging that districts are recognizing that they need to boost their customer service in the face of greater competition.

The other big education news in Philly shouldn’t overshadow an encouraging development for Catholic education. The Philadelphia Archdiocese announced on Monday that it will join an online clearinghouse with the district and charter schools to provide information about available city education options—and make standardized-test data available on that site. Embracing accountability and marketing performance may be just the recipe for saving America’s urban Catholic schools.

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