Sarah Garland

Sarah Garland is a staff writer at The Hechinger Report, an education-news outlet at the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media at Columbia University's Teachers College.

Recent Articles

Campus Cash

Teacher evaluations are becoming big business for private companies

AP Photo/Andy King
New education reforms often translate into big money for private groups. Following the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, states paid millions of dollars annually for companies to develop and administer the standardized tests required under the law. Companies also cashed in on a provision mandating tutoring for students at struggling schools. Now, a movement to overhaul the teaching profession is creating another source of revenue for those in the business of education. More than half of states are changing their laws to factor student test scores into teacher evaluations and adding requirements for the classroom observations used to rate teachers. The main intent of the new laws is to identify which teachers are doing a good, bad, or mediocre job and to help them improve. One early outcome of such recent legislation, however, is a booming market that sells services and products to help states and school districts scrambling to meet the new standards. “It’s an incredibly heavy...


Education reformers aren't tackling the root problems that lead to bad schools.

(AP Photo/Mel Evans) New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
On an unseasonably warm evening last November, Glendalys Delgado lowered herself into a child-sized chair in the classroom of her youngest son, Juan, a second-grader at Thomas Dudley Elementary School in Camden, New Jersey. Juan's teacher, Shakira Wyche, sat next to her looking serious. "You're going to be a little upset," Wyche told Delgado as she held up Juan's report card. A line of Fs trailed down the page. Juan is "very intelligent," perhaps the smartest in the class, the teacher said, but he refuses to work in class or do his homework. "I can't just give him straight-A's because I like him," Wyche said. Delgado nodded. "I tell him he's going to be left behind if he doesn't do his work," she replied in halting English, giving the teacher a wan smile as she backed out of the room. "No more excuses." Delgado, a 32-year-old mother of three, works as a home health aide for the elderly. She moved to Camden at age 18 from Puerto Rico and lived alone with an infant daughter after the...

Repeat Performance

When charter schools hold students back, is it helping them succeed in the long term -- or does it just improve short-term test results?

Last summer, Rebekah Robinson was called into her son Amari Jacob's charter school, Kings Collegiate in New York City, to meet with a counselor about Amari's grades. The good news was Amari had passed the state tests in math and reading. The bad news was his teachers thought he should repeat fifth grade anyway. Robinson, a 43-year-old mother of two from Saint Lucia, knew the school in her neighborhood would have promoted her son to the next grade. But she was pleased the charter school was so strict. Although Amari was good at math and science, he'd struggled with reading since fourth grade, when he had attended his neighborhood school in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. "He could have gone on, but in his school work, we thought he was just not ready," Robinson says. Uncommon Schools, which runs Kings Collegiate, and the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) are among the more prominent charter-school networks that avoid "social promotion," the practice of passing low-performing...

Suburban Ghetto

Segregation, not immigration, is to blame for the growth of Hispanic gangs.

In this photo provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE officers check a tattoo to log any identifiable gang affiliation in Los Angeles, in this photo, date unknown during a nationwide summer crackdown. (AP Photo/ICE)
Jessica stood in a clearing in the woods where the ground was strewn with used condoms and broken bottles. Cicadas hummed in the country club grounds edging the campus of the Hempstead High School, a brick fortress with narrow windows and a weedy green lawn. Beyond the trees that separated the high school from the golf course, commuters from Eastern Long Island zipped along the expressway on their way to work in New York City. It was September of 2000, Jessica's first week of seventh grade, but she would not be going to class. She felt both anxious and excited as one of the older boys standing next to her pulled out a black-and-white marbled notebook from his backpack and handed it to her. Scrawled inside it were the secrets of his gang, Salvadorans With Pride -- its handshakes, history, and symbols, and even some photographs of its teenage enemies. She was instructed to memorize it. She had 15 minutes, and then she would be quizzed. If she passed, she would move on to the beating...