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WaPo Columnists Debate Teach for America

Is TFA our best method for getting talented young people into the classroom?

Some of the best coverage on education that you'll read in the United States is in The Washington Post, which attacks the subject with reported news and features, as well as via several blogs and columns. Obviously, the outfit had been pretty busy over the last three-and-a-half years, as it bore witness to the lightning-fast reforms in the Michelle Rhee-run D.C. public schools. This week's two of its top voices, Jay Mathews and Valerie Strauss had a polite, but firm debate over the value of Teach for America to education reform.

Mathews wrote a book on the KIPP network of charter schools, is a fan of innovations that are brought into school systems, and was a sympathetic observer of Michelle Rhee's reign. Strauss, on the other hand, is put off by the sudden emergence of so-called "reformers" on the education scene, she finds the obsession with standardized tests to be counterproductive, and was significantly less charitable than Mathews when analyzing Rhee's tenure.

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Should Diversity Be a Mandate of Elite Public Schools?

Some of the best public schools in the country have a dearth of black and Hispanic students.

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County, Virginia, is widely considered one of the best (if not, the best) public high school in America. Its student body, however, isn't reflective of the country that it's situated in, or, more specifically, the county where it's located. A paltry 4 percent of its students are black or Hispanic, whereas 90 percent are either Asian or white.

A story in The Washington Post last week that brought this information to light mirrors a story in The New York Times from August, which highlighted a prestigious Manhattan public school, Hunter College High School, that has the exact same proportion of black and Hispanic students. The Times article discussed Hunter's recently launched attempts at increased "outreach," which among other things, would include coaxing all fifth-graders in New York City who score in the top 10 percent on statewide math and reading tests to take the school's proprietary exam. Unfortunately, according to The Post, TJ's efforts, thus far, have been unsuccessful.

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