October 2010 Archives

Our Election Week Guest Star

Next week is election week. So it seemed only fitting to hand the reins over to my go-to expert for education politics, my AEI colleague Andrew Kelly. He'll be guest-penning RHSU next week, and will be providing a thoughtful look at the election results and what they mean for schooling. I'm confident you'll find it well worth your time to track what Drew has to say. Not only is he one of the most creative and interesting writers in higher education (see here or here), he's also a talented political analyst with a deep understanding of polling, elections, and legislative ...


I'm Shocked, Shocked--Well, a Bit Surprised--That the UCEA's Standing Behind Its "Enemies List"

As luck would have it, I'm down here in New Orleans, and the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) is holding its annual conference just a few blocks away. I'm even invited to a Saturday breakfast for an advisory board I sit on. This is all mildly ironic because, for those who read Tuesday's post on the "Enemies List" that ran in the most recent UCEA Review, I was deemed the fifth most significant enemy of public school leadership in the U.S. (For those who missed all this, check out Tuesday's RHSU post here and then UNC-Chapel Hill professor ...


The "Systems" Question

Just had an exceptionally energizing lunch. I'm down in New Orleans, at the invitation of the Grantmakers for Education, to debate my friend Linda Darling-Hammond on the most promising tack for reform-minded philanthropy. Linda and I were the luncheon entertainment in a concise debate, ably moderated by Kent McGuire. The focus wound up being on the question of "systems" reform. And it occurred to me that there's a real problem with how we usually address this. On the one hand, Linda accurately flagged the problem with "popcorn" reform--when a slew of little initiatives bubble up across districts, and then fade ...


Prof. Manna's Sober, Savvy Analysis of Race to the Top

If the Republicans take the House next week, as many pundits expect, it's unlikely the administration will win its hoped-for rounds of additional RTT funding. At least, that's the signal being sent by John Kline (currently in line to chair the House education committee) and by a slew of GOP House candidates running to rein in federal spending. Yet, even in that case, RTT will remain very much with us for years to come. First, the administration is stuck ensuring that states implement their vague, grandiose plans, and that paper assurances of union and school board "buy-in" translate into reality. ...


OK, Bullying Is Bad...But I'm Still Mixed on ED's Fix

Yesterday, the Department of Ed rolled out its new anti-bullying initiative, featuring a "Dear Colleague" letter regarding requirements under federal antidiscrimination laws. ED's press release quoted Secretary of Education Duncan declaring, "Bullying is a problem that shouldn't exist. No one should ever feel harassed or unsafe in a school simply because they act or think or dress differently than others." It's a nice sentiment and, as a guy who took my share of abuse back in the day, I'm all for kids feeling safe and secure. That said, the heavy-handed tenor of the announcement made me uneasy--especially when I envisioned ...


Of Enemies Lists and Education Leadership

I was amused to learn this morning that the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) is now in the business of issuing "enemies lists." A hat tip to NC State's Lance Fusarelli for the heads up. It's actually even better than that. In the same quarterly issue of the UCEA Review that begins with a piece titled "Diversity-Responsive School Leadership" (presumably embracing intellectual diversity, no?), UNC-Chapel Hill's Fenwick English has penned "The 10 Most Wanted Enemies of American Public Education's School Leadership." English is no marginal figure in ed leadership--he is credited by Wikipedia with being the "father" of the ...


New Hill Republicans Will Be Mixed on Federal Support for Charters

The 2010 Republicans who win next Tuesday will be coming to Washington to dial back the federal government. It's also been noted--most recently by the President in a fairly self-serving National Journal interview--that there's a good bit of bipartisan support for administration's efforts on charter schooling. Many friends in the charter school world focus on the second and discount the first, suggesting this augurs happy trails ahead. They figure that Congressional Republicans and the administration will be looking for places they can do business, that education will be a natural fit--and that charter schooling is the easiest piece of that ...


The UFT Could've Taught Bernie Madoff a Thing or Two

In my experience, few topics are more assured to provoke yawns (oh, and the ire of NEA and AFT officials) than talk of teacher benefits and underfunded pensions. But they matter. Big time. Mostly because benefits consume scarce dollars that would otherwise go to schools, students, and classrooms. But they also matter because the deals required to address such unaffordable benefits get really bizarre. Take the deal on guaranteed tax-deferred returns that New York City and the UFT struck last year. In addition to their generous pension, New York City teachers are also eligible for a voluntary tax-deferred annuity retirement ...


ED's 'All Hat, No Cattle' Stance on the Unions

Last week, the Department of Education announced plans for a "national education reform conference on labor-management collaboration" to be held early next year, where they plan to "highlight examples of progressive collective bargaining agreements across the country and promote opportunities for management and labor to forge reforms at the state and district level." Our earnest Secretary of Education, along with AFT chief Randi Weingarten and NEA honcho Dennis Van Roekel, grandly made this announcement down in Tampa. The most striking thing, to me anyways, was the continuation of Secretary Duncan's tendency to talk tough in friendly venues and then pander ...


An Awkward Moment for School Reformers

Yesterday, Gwinnett County, Georgia, claimed the Broad Prize in a classy awards ceremony at New York City's Museum of Modern Art. The event featured New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NBC anchor Brian Williams talking about the vital role of school reform, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan naming the winner. Unmentioned by all, and for good reason, was that Gwinnett is in the middle of a very unreformish attempt to prohibit the Georgia Charter Schools Commission (GCSC) from approving or funding charter schools. Awk-ward.... Gwinnett has been one of several districts suing the state since 2007 over the GCSC's "imposition"...


Ten Questions to Ask Your Friendly All-Star Supe

I was in New York this morning to moderate a panel preceding the Broad Prize announcement. I was given the chance to chat with the superintendents of two recent Broad Prize winners: New York's Joel Klein and Wanda Bamberg of Aldine, Texas. I was musing last night on what I'd really like to talk about with these acclaimed district chiefs. A series of chats in recent weeks with supes and state chiefs in a number of locales have got me thinking that we often don't ask the right questions. Here are the ten that I found myself most inclined to ...


'Kinder, Gentler' Kaya Henderson

In D.C., the inevitable post-Rhee lust for consensus and buy-in is in full gear. I said my piece on the lessons of the Fenty-Rhee effort in the Daily News on Friday, so let's turn the page. The standard narrative dictates that Rhee's successor be touted by Mayor-to-be Vincent Gray and heralded by the community as a conciliator. So, news accounts and columnists are prattling about how Rhee's successor and former deputy Kaya Henderson is so much nicer and more reasonable than Michelle and how, as a black woman with deep D.C. roots, she understands the community. George Parker, ...


Proposals for a Cost-Conscious Era: K-12 Spending Accounts

Given today's shrinking budgets and the tough half-decade that looms for K-12 funding, we can no longer afford to remain wedded to "this...and that" reform or to be blasé about whether we're getting sufficient bang for our buck. However, the necessary shift in mindset will not happen on its own. After all, K-12 schooling has long been a place where superintendents and principals earn much grief for making cuts but little recognition for smart savings or boosting cost-effectiveness. What's needed most are politically viable proposals that make it easier for local, state, and national leaders to get serious about ...


Proposals for a Cost-Conscious Era: Turnaround Bonds

Given today's shrinking budgets and the tough half-decade that looms for K-12 funding, we can no longer afford to remain wedded to "this...and that" reform or to be blasé about whether we're getting sufficient bang for our buck. However, the necessary shift in mindset will not happen on its own. After all, K-12 schooling has long been a place where superintendents and principals earn much grief for making cuts but little recognition for smart savings or boosting cost-effectiveness. What's needed most are politically viable proposals that make it easier for local, state, and national leaders to get serious about ...


Proposals for a Cost-Conscious Era: "Gold Star Teachers"

Given today's shrinking budgets and the tough half-decade that looms for K-12 funding, we can no longer afford to remain wedded to "this...and that" reform or to be blasé about whether we're getting sufficient bang for our buck. However, the kind of shift in mindset that's necessary will not happen on its own. After all, for decades, K-12 schooling has been a place where superintendents and principals earn much grief for making cuts but little recognition for smart savings or boosting cost-effectiveness. What's needed most are politically viable proposals that make it easier for local, state, and national leaders ...


Proposals for a Cost-Conscious Era: ROI Accountability

Education reform has long been dominated by "this...and that" reforms, wherein the aim is for districts to keep doing everything they've always done, and then slather more on top. Thus, "reform-minded" teacher contracts include big raises for everyone, with extra money for the real changes. New staffing initiatives, technology investments, or pilot programs bake in existing outlays and rely on new dollars to fund the new efforts. E-Rate or computers in the classroom always entail shoving technology into schools and classrooms alongside all current staff. This is "supplement not supplant" as a mindset, rather than a statutory proviso. For ...


Zuckerberg's $100 Million for Newark...Better Luck Next Time

Whoops. The only condition Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg attached to his $100 million gift to Newark Public Schools was that Governor Chris Christie give control of the schools to Newark Mayor Cory Booker. And now it appears Christie lacks the statutory authority to do so. Times being what they are, Zuckerberg announced the gift on Oprah. When she asked, "Why Newark?" he said he believed that Christie and Booker could make Newark a "symbol of educational excellence." Zuckerberg can take solace. The likelihood that his $100 million was going to make any difference was already negligible. Why? Well, first off, ...


Making Sense of the Midterm Projections

A month out from Election Day, observers are wondering what the new Congress will look like and what that may mean for ESEA reauthorization, the administration's attack on for-profit higher education, and a possible Race to the Top renewal. Over at National Journal last week, the topic drew much discussion. Largely overlooked by those suggesting that Republican gains may lead to a spate of deal-making in education is that the election returns are likely to further polarize Congress. As Andrew Kelly and I explained in a Teachers College Record Commentary last Friday, analysis of contested House seats shows that the ...


The Trouble with "Vocational" Citizenship

At the end of last week and again yesterday, I wrote about grim news from a new study regarding what teachers think students are learning when it comes to citizenship, and how distant our focus on education as the "new civil right" is from traditional concerns about preparing students for the rigors of citizenship. I think this challenge is evident even in many of the schools and districts regarded today as exemplary, and especially in those often lauded precisely for their emphasis on achievement-oriented "citizenship." Even in schools that make forthright efforts to teach students good social skills, there is ...


The Limits of "Transactional" Citizenship

Last week, I talked a bit about the results of the new Farkas-Duffett study High Schools, Civics, and Citizenship: What Social Studies Teachers Think and Do. (Full disclosure: The study was commissioned and published by my shop at AEI). Some of the key findings--particularly the fact that public school teachers feel like social studies have been deemphasized in recent years--are unsurprising. Over the last decade, and especially since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, Americans have come increasingly to speak of education as "the new civil right." This has usefully focused educators, advocates, and policymakers on student ...


Slandering Weingarten Is No Recipe for Reform

In a troubling bit of ad hominem mud-slinging, political blogger Keli Goff penned a Huffington Post piece this week comparing American Federation of Teachers union president Randi Weingarten to Osama bin Laden. In "What Teachers' Unions, the Pope and Osama Bin Laden Have in Common," Goff wrote, "American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten is about to join Osama bin Laden on the list of Most Despised People in America. And if even one tenth of Guggenheim's film is to be believed, then this distinction is well earned and well deserved." Back story: Goff apparently saw the new movie Waiting ...


The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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