Litigating, debating, penalizing, and prognosticating

The Los Angeles Times is suing the Los Angeles Unified School District for access to its teacher ratings in an effort to continue its controversial practice of publishing teacher-effectiveness rankings; even at the risk of inviting a bit of bad press, reform groups should make clear that public shaming of individual teachers isn't a path to educational improvement.

Last week, the Department of Education followed through with one of the most asinine attempts at improving special education that Gadfly can recall, finalizing $36 million in penalties for South Carolina. The state’s crime? Making tough but necessary cuts to all school spending in the midst of the Great Recession, special education included. The perverse lesson for states? Finding ways to boost efficiency in special education literally may not be worth the trouble. The feds will kill you.

Education couldn't stay out of Monday’s presidential debate on foreign policy, to Wendy Kopp’s delight. Unfortunately, we'd all be better served by a genuine discussion of why the U.S. continues to drop relative to its international peers rather than bland agreement that "we all love teachers."

Teachers are backing Obama over Romney but aren't enthusiastically rallying around the cause as the election nears. Can we expect any last-minute bones thrown to the union base to get teachers to the polls?

Online lessons can increase school efficiency and expose students to new worlds of knowledge, but the question of how well a computer screen can truly replace a real, live teacher has been tough for digital-learning evangelists to answer. Blended learning, Tom Toch points out in The Atlantic, provides a powerful rejoinder: Splitting students’ time between computers and face-to-face instruction actually allows them extra individualized attention that translates into more-engaged teachers and parents.

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