Charters and coders get their due

This week, Tennessee capped the number of foreign workers on visas that charter schools in the Volunteer State can hire. Critics have called the bill xenophobic and discriminatory (which is true), but the Gadfly also thinks it's unfair for a different reason: Part of what makes charter schools worth having in the first place is the freedom and flexibility to hire who they need without onerous and unnecessary governmental regulation.

In a special report, The Washington Monthly describes a new reform wave poised to break upon America’s school systems, the combined effect of Common Core State Standards and rapid advances in education technology. The future depicted here is appealing—rigorous instruction aligned to demanding standards and assessed by sophisticated computerized tools that will increasingly blur the line between games and tests—but, as the Wall Street Journal noted yesterday, it’s no sure thing. Much hard work remains before we can know whether this wave turns into a destructive tsunami—or if it's little more than the tide.

After reviewing 2,500 entries, the Hewlett Foundation awarded $100,000 in prizes yesterday to winning three teams that designed software capable of effectively grading student writing. While computerized essay grading promises to benefit teachers and students, equally exciting is the competition itself: None of the winning teams came from education backgrounds, a tantalizing sign of what the technology sector, given incentive and encouragement, is capable of delivering.

Just behind Thomas Jefferson High School and a good fifty-two spots ahead of NYC’s prestigious Stuyvesant in this year’s US News rankings of the country’s top high schools sits a noteworthy name: BASIS Tucson, the nation’s top-ranked charter school. Unlike the selective-admission schools that abound on the list, BASIS provides top-flight education without considering students’ past performances. Here’s hoping that students in the nation’s capital will enjoy a similarly great opportunity this fall.

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