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November 2010 Archives

Catch Today's Live Stream Show of The Same Thing Dust-Up

Albert Einstein reportedly once said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." As I note in my new book, The Same Thing Over and Over: How School Reformers Get Stuck in Yesterday's Ideas, apocryphal or not, this line is a devastating assessment of a half century's worth of school reform. To avoid educational insanity, we need to recognize how circumstances have changed and embrace a diverse array of reform efforts suited to the twenty-first century. A year ago, my friend Diane Ravitch raised a furor when she charged in The ...


Challenging the Sacred Status of Special Ed Spending: Voices from the Field

Got some terrific reactions to last week's post, which argued (shockingly) that a dollar spent on special education is one we can't spend on other children--and that policymakers would therefore do well to focus less on "rights" and more on trade-offs. This is doubly true given that the primary challenge for children with special needs today is one of quality rather than access, and that there's good reason to question whether vast special ed outlays are delivering on that score. Three takes particularly worth sharing. The first is from a principal who commented on RHSU: As the principal of a ...


How to Negotiate the Politics of Teacher Pension Reform

The problems with unaffordable, anachronistic teacher pensions have finally started to get the attention they should've gotten years ago. Andy Rotherham recently wrote a terrific column laying the issue out, and some of the new Republican governors—most prominently Rick Snyder, the former Gateway executive who was just elected Michigan's governor—have signaled they're going to confront pensions head-on. Snyder has flat-out said that he doesn't think Michigan's system of public employee compensation is affordable. Newly elected GOP governors John Kasich in Ohio and Scott Walker in Wisconsin have sounded similar notes—making Chris Christie's no-nonsense stance with New Jersey's...


Ahh, the Joys of District-Union Collaboration

A couple months back, I posted a copy of an internal Houston Federation of Teachers (HFT) memorandum which laid out the HFT's hostility towards the Houston Independent School District's (HISD) mentoring proposal. You think the HFT was chastened at all by this going public? Doesn't appear so. Below is another, much more recent HFT communication to its members blasting HISD's effort to revamp its teacher evaluation system in collaboration with the highly regarded organization The New Teacher Project (TNTP). A Houston source was kind enough to send this along. I especially like the calls for secret tapings and the suggestion ...


Even on IDEA's 35th, Special Ed Dollars Aren't Free

Question: What do Arne Duncan, Sarah Palin, Tom Harkin, and Mike Enzi all have in common? Answer: They, along with just about every other figure in education, turn into pandering sops the moment somebody mentions special education or IDEA. They'll dwell on how the feds need to fully fund their share, the rights of these families, and the need to do a better job of identifying and addressing special needs. All fair enough points. The problem is that none of our leaders can then bring themselves to utter the simple truth: "But we have an obligation to serve all our ...


Cathie Black to Head NYC Schools: My Take

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has named former USA Today publisher and Hearst Magazines chief Cathie Black as the next chancellor of the New York City schools. The move prompted the predictable outrage among those who believe that only former teachers should lead schools or districts. Patrick Sullivan, a New York City Board of Education member, wrote to State Education Commissioner David Steiner, slamming Black for lacking teaching and administrative experience, academic credentials in education, public sector experience, and exposure to public schooling. Julie Cavanagh, a special ed. teacher in Brooklyn, said, "To not have an educator at the helm as the ...


Bam! Pow! Whomp! Sec. Duncan Knocks It Out of the Park

Now that was a four-bagger. Lord knows, I've been pretty critical of the Secretary of Education on various counts (see here, here, here... you get the idea). So, let me give him his due. Yesterday, the Secretary weighed in on the pressing need to start spending school dollars smarter in one humdinger of a speech. Duncan touched on every important issue, pulled no punches, and modeled the kind of responsible tough-mindedness that we need from our leaders (full disclosure: the speech was delivered at AEI and I hosted--you can view the speech and subsequent Q&A here). Department wordsmith David ...


The Teacher Residency Question

I've gotten a number of questions and comments regarding NCATE's big Blue Ribbon Panel report, both after my remarks at the National Press Club and in response to yesterday's post. Thought it worth taking a couple moments to expand and explain a bit, especially because teacher residencies are one of our current "everybody loves 'em" enthusiasms. First, let's be clear. I dig the idea of clinical residencies. Something like the Boston Teacher Residency (BTR), or the approach employed in Long Beach, makes all kinds of sense—for those programs, districts, and teachers. I'm all for high-quality clinical residencies when they're...


NCATE's "Transformative" Vision...Not So Much

NCATE's big report "Transforming Teacher Education Through Clinical Practice" is out today, and is likely to get the predictable hosannas. It's scheduled for a morning event at the National Press Club (I'm doing a bit of discussant duty), where the Blue Ribbon Panel's call for "radically" revising teacher prep to focus on practical training and residencies will be hailed as a transformative moment. SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, a co-chair, said, "This is a seismic moment for teacher education." I'm not sold. Now, don't get me wrong. I've got enormous respect for NCATE honcho Jim Cibulka and for the co-chairs of ...


Lean Years Ahead for K-12

The economic picture remains bleak, but there's growing confidence that—so long as nothing untoward happens with Ireland or Portugal...or Italy...or Greece (again)...and so long as the Middle East doesn't implode—the worst is past. In edu-circles, there are hopeful murmurs that "this will all be behind us" in another year. Such notions echo Secretary Duncan's comment last August, while touting Edujobs, that he was "hopeful" things would be looking up by fall 2011. Unfortunately, such hopes are likely to be dashed. My colleague Whitney Downs and I explain why in the just-published analysis K-12 Budget Picture:...


Unbundling the Schoolhouse & PDK's Schizophrenic Response

The new Phi Delta Kappan features a five-article special section* on "unbundled schooling" (Full disclosure: I coordinated it). Featuring contributions by Paul Hill, Jim Spillane, Colorado state senator Mike Johnston, Harvard's Jal Mehta and Liz City, and UPenn's Doug Lynch, and a piece on the "declining significance of place" that I penned with Teachers College's Jeff Henig, the articles extend the effort to reimagine schooling that I've urged in The Same Thing Over and Over and Education Unbound. What is "unbundling"? It's just revisiting assumptions regarding the structure, delivery, and content of schooling with an eye to improving teaching and ...


Aggressive Edu-Oversight on the Horizon?

Yesterday, I talked about a few of the key takeaways from the "making sense of the midterms" event I held here at AEI on Tuesday. I wanted to continue today with a final comment on oversight. It's now clear that House Republicans are going to launch an aggressive series of oversight and investigative hearings. Majority Leader-to-be Eric Cantor and Rep. Darrell Issa, in line to chair the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, have been talking about the forceful hearings schedule they've got in mind. And Rep. John Kline, expected to chair the House Committee on Education and Labor, ...


Making Sense of the Midterms: An NCLB Patch?

We hosted a pretty boisterous "making sense of the midterms" session yesterday at AEI, featuring former NEA policy chief Joel Packer, Senate uber-staffers Lindsay Hunsicker and Bethany Little, key Rep. Kline staffer Amy Jones, AEI edu-politics guru (and RHSU guest blogger) Andrew Kelly, and yours truly. The affair was chaired by my AEI colleague, and former NCES Commissioner, Mark Schneider. You can watch the whole thing or find a summary here. You can also check out Alyson Klein's usual impeccable coverage here at Ed Week's "Politics K-12" blog. Two thoughts I'll share here. First, I'm betting that there won't be ...


Sorry, NAACP, Prisons Aren't a Big Enough Piggy Bank

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of hosting NAACP president Ben Jealous at AEI (you can watch the video or read a summary here). Ben, whip-smart and charming, is the youngest president in the NAACP's illustrious history and is tasked with trying to lead an unwieldy board and generations-old outfit into the 21st century. It's a tough job, especially when it comes to education. On the one hand, he's got aggravated parents eager for choices and frustrated with mediocre teaching. On the other hand, a key NAACP constituency is veteran educators and municipal employees who are bitterly opposed to reforming ...


Obama's Olive Branch to GOP: If You Ever Have an Idea, Let Me Know

So the 2010 election is in the books. There were historic Republican gains in the state legislatures, governorships, and the House. The GOP picked up more than 675 seats in state legislatures and won control of 19 legislative chambers. Tuesday saw more modest gains in the Senate, where Republicans paid a price for nominating Palin-backed mediocrities like Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell. Top to bottom, a huge setback for the Democrats—bigger than 1994 or the post-Watergate results of 1974. And now we're being treated to the mandatory post-election prattle about finding common ground—with our earnest Secretary of Education...


Bipartisanship and the Case of the Missing Moderates

Note: Andrew Kelly, a research fellow in education policy at the American Enterprise Institute, is guest-posting this week. He can be reached at andrew.kelly@aei.org. In the wake of Tuesday's "shellacking," the President and Secretary Duncan have already promised that bipartisanship will be the name of the game in the coming session of Congress. Both identified education policy is a key area in which both parties can find common ground. Secretary Duncan told Kendra Marr of Politico that a bipartisan education agenda was not only possible, but could even help bridge the gulf between liberals and conservatives in ...


Quick Takes on Election Results

Note: Andrew Kelly, a research fellow in education policy at the American Enterprise Institute, is guest-posting this week. He can be reached at andrew.kelly@aei.org. Now that the election results have had a few more hours to percolate, I thought I'd offer some quick reactions (look for a more systematic run-down tomorrow in the AM). 1. Kasich and Scott win, Duncan Shudders Yesterday, I argued that the governor's races in Florida and Ohio could be key to the eventual verdict on Race to the Top. Things got increasingly interesting on this front last night and into this morning, ...


Echoes of 1994

Note: Andrew Kelly, a research fellow in education policy at the American Enterprise Institute, is guest-posting this week. He can be reached at andrew.kelly@aei.org. In the wake of yesterday's remarkable Republican surge, it's hard to resist making the analogy to 1994. The Democrats' situation is not nearly as dire today as it was in 1994, as they will maintain a small majority in the Senate. But there are important parallels: an energized group of challengers swept into office by an enthusiastic and dissatisfied Republican electorate, a new Republican majority with small government on its mind and social ...


Policy Promises and Political Turnover

Note: Andrew Kelly, a research fellow in education policy at the American Enterprise Institute, is guest-posting this week. He can be reached at andrew.kelly@aei.org. Today's the day, folks. Yesterday we talked House and Senate. As of 5:00 pm Monday night, Buck was up 3 points on Bennet in Colorado. In Alaska, Murkowski, Miller, and Democrat Scott McAdams were locked in a close three-way race that became even more volatile over the weekend. Today I'll take a look at some state-level races with an eye toward federal policy and school finance. 1. Promises, Promises: Gubernatorial Turnover and ...


Election 2010: What to Watch For Tomorrow

Note: Andrew Kelly, a research fellow in education policy at the American Enterprise Institute, is guest-posting this week. He can be reached at andrew.kelly@aei.org. Greetings RHSU readers, and thanks for tuning in! I'm thrilled that Rick invited me to guest blog this week. While I can't hope to fill his flip flops, I'll try to add some insights about what the next few days might mean for education policy. The management informs me that there's an election tomorrow, so there's little time for exposition or pleasantries. But before I begin, a few tid-bits about myself: I'm a ...


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

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