Shepard Barbash is a former bureau chief in Mexico City for the Houston Chronicle and the author of five books, including "Clear Teaching."

A new school year brings back all the old questions: What’s wrong with our schools? Why are they so hard to fix? Who is to blame for their failures? Take this test and find out. There are no wrong answers.


Alex Brandon/AP

Which school districts have been caught cheating on state tests?


Ty Wright/AP

Why do teachers, principals and central administrators cheat?

Their jobs and pay are tied to student performance on the tests.

They administerthe tests themselves and think they can get away with it.

They don’t know how to teach students what they need for the tests.

All of the above.



Why don't they know how to teach students what they need for the tests?

The training they receive is poorly designed.

The curriculum materials they use are poorly designed.

The tests their students take are poorly designed.

All of the above.


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What's wrong with teacher training?

It is based on false assumptions about how children learn.

It is based on false assumptions about how much guidance teachers need.

It is designed by people who are not held accountable for their false assumptions.


Mark Gail/TWP

Which of these popular assumptions is false?

Children learn more when they direct their own learning and discover things for themselves.

Children learn the same thing in different ways, requiring different teaching methods for each.

Teachers know how to write good lesson plans.


Nikki Kahn/TWP

Which of these liberal strategies to improve student achievement has not worked well?

Increasing public funding for education.

Focusing more support on families and the home.


Linda Davidson/TWP

Which of these conservative strategies to improve student achievement has not worked well?

Increasing local control of education.

Revising standards of learning to make them more rigorous.

Increasing accountability through high-stakes testing and laws such as No Child Left Behind.


Katherine Frey/TWP

What has worked best to improve student achievement?

Scientifically-designed curriculum materials taught by teachers trained to use them.

Close monitoring of student performance and frequent adjustment of teaching based on same.

Longer school days and/or more days devoted to better curriculum materials and close monitoring of achievement.

All of the above.


Linda Davidson/TWP

Why don't more educators do what works best?


Edmund D. Fountain for The Washington Post

Why is doing what works best so daunting?

It would trample the cherished myth that teachers know best how to teach their students.

It would trample the cherished myth that children learn most when they direct their own learning.

It would trample billions of dollars of investment in the status quo.


Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Why might schools eventually improve?

Parents will support whatever helps educators do a better job teaching their children.

Even teachers with fallacious assumptions want to succeed, and are generally eager to learn new ways to help their students.

Good schools exist that we can learn from.


Michael Robinson Chavez/TWP

Why might schools never improve?

Too many things have to change, and too many people oppose the changes.

The gap between what policymakers know and what they need to know is huge.

Most education research is junk science that can’t be trusted to improve the field.

All of the above.

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