June 2011 Archives

How Much Should College Really Cost?

In the past two decades, the cost of a college education has risen steadily. Tuition and fees have increased at twice the rate of inflation, outstripping growth of family incomes or the rate of increase of just about every other good or service on the market. Policymakers and college leaders looking to rein in costs can be flummoxed by the paucity of promising models. Now, Oklahoma State University business school professor Vance Fried has offered up an intriguing take in his new white paper, "Opportunities for Efficiency and Innovation: A Primer on How to Cut College Costs" (full disclosure, the ...


Bad Teacher, Breast Augmentation, and Merit Pay

As I wrote Monday, I dug the new film Bad Teacher. This kind of black comedy (think of Billy Bob Thornton's Bad Santa) scrapes away familiar sentiment and can permit funny, unnerving--and frequently revealing--glimpses of human nature. Take the movie's treatment of merit pay. Cameron Diaz's "bad teacher," having been dumped by her fiancée, decides she needs plastic surgery if she's to land a wealthy husband. Lacking the $10k she needs, she pockets cash from an R-rated middle school car wash and bribes from parents at parent-teacher night. When she learns that there's a $5,700 cash bonus for the ...


What's the NCEE's Problem with Agassi et al.?

Andre Agassi, the former tennis champ and high school dropout, and Canyon Capital Realty Advisors, recently announced the creation of a real estate fund that will spend $500 million to capitalize on and promote the movement for U.S. charter schools. The Canyon-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund plans to develop more than 75 urban campuses with space for about 40,000 students over three to four years, according to a statement from Canyon Capital and Agassi Ventures LLC. The partners already have drawn investments from Citigroup, Intel, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. I had the opportunity to meet Agassi ...


Bad Teacher? A Breath of Fresh Air

On Friday, I finally walked out of an edu-movie without having to scrape off the sanctimony and treacle. Whether heartrending dramas or documentaries, edu-cinema has long gone for the mawkish affectations of ridiculously heroic educators reaching ridiculously noble kids. After decades of watching (and digging) these movies, it was sheer joy to watch the just-released Bad Teacher, starring Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Justin Timberlake, and Molly Shannon. Bad Teacher is rude, profane, frequently mean-spirited, and shockingly cavalier about things we're supposed to speak of in hushed tones. I took my AEI team to see it on Friday, opening day, and ...


Straight Up Conversation: Teacher Eval Guru Charlotte Danielson

There's been a heavy emphasis of late on teacher evaluation, with states and districts making it a pillar of their efforts to rethink tenure, pay, and professional norms. States and districts have adopted systems that rely heavily on observational evaluation to complement or stand in for value-added metrics. In many cases, they are turning to celebrated edu-consultant Charlotte Danielson's "Danielson Framework for Teaching." Just last week, Danielson was in New York City with NYCDOE chief academic officer Shael Polakow-Suransky to discuss NYC's reform efforts (NYC is using Danielson's framework as it designs new teaching standards). The Consortium on Chicago School ...


Charter Schools & Teacher Pensions

U. Missouri's invaluable Mike Podgursky and Fordham's Amanda Olberg have just issued a study of the kind that we'd have been swimming in years ago, if ed reformers were serious about cost structures or charter schools as an opportunity to rethink the industrial school model. In studying the simple and immensely practical question of how charter schools handle teacher retirement when state law allows them to opt out of the state's pension system, Podgursky and Olberg examine just how much rethinking charters are doing when it comes to the familiar, expensive, and binding routines of schooling--and what lessons that holds ...


Straight Up Conversation: KIPP CEO Richard Barth on the College Completion Challenge

Richard Barth is CEO and President of the KIPP Foundation, supporting KIPP schools that now enroll over 27,000 students at 99 campuses. Just recently, KIPP released its long-term study of its earliest cohorts--those students who had completed eighth grade ten or more years ago from its initial Houston and New York City campuses. The report found that 33% had finished college within six years. These results were cheered by some as "a substantial and commendable improvement relative to today's status quo" and a welcome example of transparency. At the same time, the KIPP leadership readily noted that these results ...


Where Teachers and the Public Agree, and Disagree, on Civics Education

The past decade has seen remarkably little attention to citizenship education in American schooling. That, I'd argue, is one factor contributing to the latest, dismal NAEP results in civics and history. What such results don't tell us though is what Americans themselves think about citizenship education. Do they think it's important? Do they think particular topics deserve more attention? Do they have strong feelings about how it's taught? Indeed, the last study to address this question was Public Agenda's 1998 report "A Lot To Be Thankful For;" the annual Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup poll has not asked about this topic ...


Rethinking Special Ed. Spending

Districts are struggling to stretch the school dollar as they deal with current and looming budget shortfalls. Yet, while they know it's a huge cost center, few district leaders know how to effectively or legally pursue cost savings in special ed provision. Between federal statute, court rulings, extensive processes, and sensitive politics, most school boards, supes, and school leaders are content to slink away and try to shave costs elsewhere. Indeed, districts are prohibited from even considering costs when designing student education plans. The result has been a steady increase in spending accompanied by remarkably little attention to efficiency. That's ...


"Waivers" Are Fine...Back-Door Legislating Via "Strings"? Not So Much

There seems to be some confusion about the problem with our earnest Secretary of Education's chest-thumping promise to take things into his own hands if Congress doesn't fix NCLB by August. The problem is not that he's pledging to waive some of the law's goofy provisions. No one is disputing that he's empowered to do so (see, for instance, Mike Petrilli's take here). So, what is the problem? It's that Duncan has said that he plans to attach "strings" to those waivers, so that states will have to adopt his priorities in order to gain flexibility. He has clearly signaled ...


Sec. Duncan Seems to Regard Constitution as so Much Tissue on Bottom of His Shoe

Our earnest Secretary of Education, who famously (and bizarrely) promised Congress a billion-dollar edu-bonus if it reauthorized NCLB by the administration's deadline and to the President's satisfaction, was back at it on Friday. Exhibiting the administration's patented disinterest in the niceties of the U.S. Constitution, he announced that he's getting ready to waive NCLB requirements for states if they agree, as the New York Times put it, "to embrace President Obama's education priorities, a formula the administration used last year in its signature education initiative, the Race to the Top grant competition." Ed Week's Michele McNeil observed, "Any new ...


And the Most Overhyped Edu-Entrepreneur of the Moment Is...?

I'm up here today at UPenn's "NEST" gathering (Networking Ed Entrepreneurs for Social Transformation). Last night, after the opening dinner, a slew of interesting folks headed out for shop talk and Game 5 of Heat-Mavs. Given my knack for annoying my friends, I found myself wondering aloud about a question that a person of discretion really shouldn't ask at a gathering of entrepreneurs: namely, who's the most overhyped edu-entrepreneur of the moment? Now, I always say that you can't much blame the hypee for being overhyped. Any smart entrepreneur is going to take advantage of opportunities to extend their work, ...


Moe v. Meier on Teacher Unions

Yesterday, at AEI, I hosted a lively panel to discuss Stanford University political scientist Terry Moe's new book, Special Interest: Teachers Unions and America's Public Schools. In addition to Moe, the panel featured TFA director of research Heather Harding and Central Park East impresario (and Ed Week blogger) Deborah Meier. You can watch the 90-minute conversation here. Speaking to a full house, the three powerfully elucidated and clarified some of the fault lines in the heated debates about teacher unions. To me, it looked like two key fault lines ran through the discussion. One was the notion of "reform unionism" ...


Lessons for a Biz Community Ready to Step Up

For several years now, I've worked with my friends at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCC) to provide the training and support that can help state and local business leaders become more effective partners in promoting educational improvement. I've frequently given a speech to the USCC's LEADs seminar for local and state business leaders titled "Has Business Been Bold Enough?" The answer has been straightforward: Nope. Today my colleague Whitney Downs and I release a new USCC report that seeks to provide a roadmap for those business and civic leaders tired of genteel gestures, aimless initiatives, and sitting on ...


When "Anti-Bias Education" Feels a Lot Like Political Hardball

I just finished the recently-released second edition of What If All the Kids Are White? Anti-Bias Multicultural Education with Young Children and Families. It reminded me how politicized and stifling edu-world notions of diversity can be. Authors Louise Derman-Sparks and Patricia Ramsey begin by noting that participants in their workshops often exhibit "a narrow definition of diversity [while] ignoring the many kinds of differences that exist even within racially homogeneous groups." It seems obvious that a room full of white children might have different opinions, ideologies, values, experiences, interests, strengths, weaknesses, family situations, moral upbringings, religious orientations, and such. Why ...


Fairfax's Jack Dale on Overhauling the Teaching Profession

Jack Dale has served as superintendent of schools in Fairfax County, Virginia, since 2004. While leading perhaps the nation's largest high-performing system, he's pushed to get serious about teacher leadership and the oft-watery notion of teacher "collaboration." This week, Dale has penned a piece that becomes a must-read contribution to the debates about teacher evaluation and compensation. In "Dangerous Mind Games: Are We Ready to Overhaul the Teaching Profession?" (published as an Education Outlook by my shop at AEI), Dale hits today's teacher quality debates for romanticizing the hunt for great individual teachers while shortchanging the need to use evaluation ...


How Big a Change Are the Common Core Standards?

Recent back-and-forth over the Common Core has focused on the federal role. Receiving less attention is the question of just how big a shift the Common Core standards represent. On that question, UPenn Ed School dean Andy Porter and a trio of grad students have made a signal contribution. In an article in the April Educational Researcher, and then in an exchange in the May issue, they report that the Common Core standards are, for better or worse, pretty dramatically different from what states have in place. Porter et al. analyze the content of the Common Core using a process ...


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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