October 2011 Archives

Breaking News from the Teach Plus T3 Program

Note: Celine Coggins, founder and CEO of Teach Plus, is guest blogging this week. Thanks to Rick and his crew for tapping me as a guest-blogger. I promise to live up to the provocative blogging Rick's known for later in the week. I want to start, though, by discussing one of the programs we run at Teach Plus as an example of what we're all about. The results are in from the first year of our T3: Turnaround Teacher Teams initiative in the Boston Public Schools. I'm breaking the news here first! At Teach Plus, we work to ensure that ...


From Defensive Spending to Effective Spending

Note: Melissa Junge and Sheara Krvaric, lawyers at the Federal Education Group, will be guest posting this week. In this final post, we propose strategies for tackling the compliance rules that interfere with good educational programming. As we explored this week, these rules shape the culture of education organizations because they create compliance fears that discourage effective spending. This makes little sense, especially in an era where every dollar matters. The theme that connects the strategies below is engaging implementers. Policymakers sometimes assume a rule is working when they don't hear examples about the damage it is doing in practice. ...


Implementation Matters

Note: Melissa Junge and Sheara Krvaric, lawyers at the Federal Education Group, will be guest posting this week. Education policies cannot be successful if school districts are required to implement those policies in ineffective ways. While education policymakers passionately discuss the merits or flaws of big picture policy ideas, once policies actually make it into law few look back to see how the policies work in day-to-day practice. This is unfortunate, because overly burdensome or complicated administrative requirements can trip up policy goals. To illustrate this point, consider the "equitable services" requirement. This requirement, which has existed since federal education ...


"Time and Effort" Takes Too Much Time and Effort

Note: Melissa Junge and Sheara Krvaric, lawyers at the Federal Education Group, will be guest posting this week. Yesterday we talked about how the supplement not supplant rule can work against federal policy goals by impeding comprehensive school reform efforts and encouraging poor educational spending decisions. Today we will look at how another rule - known as "time and effort" - also inhibits comprehensive educational approaches. Time and effort, a rule that requires employees paid with federal funds to document the time they spend on specific activities, is not unique to Department of Education (ED) programs. In fact, these rules ...


The Supplement Not Supplant Conundrum

Note: Melissa Junge and Sheara Krvaric, lawyers at the Federal Education Group, will be guest posting this week. In our last post, we introduced the idea that federal compliance rules can have an unintended effect on what goes on in the classroom by encouraging defensive spending, discouraging comprehensive programs, and creating administrative burdens that take away resources from students. Over the next two days we will give examples of how two seemingly unrelated rules - supplement not supplant, and time and effort - interfere with comprehensive school improvement. Policymakers have encouraged states and school districts to use federal funds to ...


The Compliance Culture in Education

Note: Melissa Junge and Sheara Krvaric, lawyers at the Federal Education Group, will be guest posting this week. As education lawyers who work with states and school districts on federal education programs, part of our job is to advise clients on those programs' fiscal and administrative compliance rules. For the most part these compliance rules are largely unknown and rarely discussed among the education policy crowd and other important stakeholders, like parents and teachers. Federal compliance requirements like supplement not supplant or time distribution (also known as time and effort) are not exactly hot topics of conversation. They should be. ...


Introducing Your Guest Stars: Junge & Krvaric, Coggins, and Elden

Hidy, all. So I'm taking one of my quarterly breaks from RHSU for the next few weeks. Happily, once again, I think we've assembled a terrific line-up of guest bloggers. They're all a lot more interesting and accomplished than yours truly, so it should make for a lively stretch. First up, next week, we have Melissa Junge and Sheara Krvaric. Melissa and Sheara are co-founders of the Federal Education Group (FEG) law firm and are my go-to experts when it comes to understanding how federal law impacts states and school systems. Previously, they served as counsel to a number of ...


Getting Moneyball Right

Saw Brad Pitt's new flick Moneyball the other week. Good, not great; thought the book was better. A lot of the interesting stuff gets lost in translation. I've noted the same thing when K-12 thinkers latch onto the "moneyball" analogy. K-12 enthusiasts point out that Billy Beane used sophisticated statistical analysis to build winning teams, and sensibly presume that the same kinds of tools can help drive school improvement. (Back in 2003, when the book was published, the edu-analogies consisted mostly of paeans to data dashboards; today, it's all about "value-added" metrics.) Here's the problem. Author Michael Lewis made it ...


Maybe Parents Aren't Dopes

For nearly two decades, one of the striking findings in school choice research is that parents are hugely positive about schools of choice even when the test results show only modest benefits for their kids. In some circles, particularly among education professors, this has led to various lamentations about what dopes parents are. (Now, I think people are frequently dopey, but it seems to me there are also other viable explanations here.) Charter and school voucher advocates haven't exactly covered themselves in glory when answering these concerns. A big chunk of the charter community has embraced death-grip regulation based on ...


Harkin-Enzi ESEA Madness

Substantively, I don't have a ton to add to what I wrote yesterday. But there were a couple of interesting developments, and various declarations have helped clarify where things stand. Here's my take. The Good: Over the weekend, Harkin and Enzi scrapped the proposal to require states to adopt federally-approved teacher and principal evaluation systems. Instead, they opted to offer federal dollars to support smart state systems as a competitive grant for which states can choose to apply. This happy development marked a big win for Senator Alexander and those concerned about federal overreach. It marked a big setback for ...


My Take on the Harkin-Enzi ESEA Proposal

The horrified shrieking you heard last week was the anguished cry of liberal NCLB enthusiasts denouncing the Harkin-Enzi ESEA proposal as a dreaded retreat into the distant past. They fretted that it would whip us back to the primitive year of 1994--when Bill Clinton was president and the feds didn't mandate school improvement plans based on the performance of racial subgroups. The keening will continue apace, as this is the week for the big mark-up. For my friends at Education Trust and the Center for American Progress, the Harkin-Enzi proposal marks an unfortunate retreat from the Bush-era ambitions of NCLB. ...


The Good Kind of Waiver

It's no secret that I've been displeased with the Obama administration's NCLB waiver strategy. I think the decision to make waiver relief conditional on states embracing provisions that exist nowhere within the statute is a troubling, unsettling course. Anyway, I'm happy to report that the administration has also announced a less-ballyhooed but more promising waiver push; one intended to reduce the burdens of federal red tape. Where the President's NCLB waiver agenda imposes brand-new mandates in return for flexibility, this other effort focuses on finding less onerous, more performance-based ways to report on current spending. At a time when states ...


A Handy 2012 Rolodex Supplement for Edu-Reporters

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the ed press's disconcerting habit of relying almost entirely on professional Democrats or Democratic-leaning academics to provide commentary on Republican education proposals when it comes to the Presidential contest and federal policy. It's obviously appropriate to offer the Democratic take on such matters, but veteran Democrats are often quoted as seemingly nonpartisan "experts." Meanwhile, whole stories are penned with little or no insight from conservatives. And given that most of the familiar edu-professors and major education interest groups--from the NEA and AFT, to the NSBA and AASA, to DFER and the Education Trust--are ...


The Feds' For-Profit Double Standard in Ed

I'm frequently frustrated by our inability to talk sensibly about the role of for-profits in schooling. Most discussion amounts to reflexive demonization, occasionally interspersed with hired-gun salesmanship or protestations of good intentions. Nearly absent is thinking about the role for-profits can play in promoting quality and cost-effectiveness at scale, or what it'll take to make that happen. This black-and-white storyline plays out in education, even as other sensitive areas of domestic public policy (like health care or environmental protection) prove far more comfortable with the role that for-profits play. In an invaluable new analysis, John Bailey of Whiteboard Advisors--and veteran ...


Needed: A Schools Supe with Grit, Not Glitz

Superintendents for large, urban school districts are a hot commodity, moving often and commanding big bucks. This is a topic I've thought about a bunch over the years--hell, it was a question at the heart of my doctoral dissertation and first book, Spinning Wheels. Anyway, Dallas is currently going through a search, and the Dallas Morning News asked if I'd pen a piece offering a few thoughts. It occurred to me that most of the points apply equally well elsewhere. With that in mind, here's a slightly trimmed version of what I had to say (a full version of the ...


The Changing Face of Higher Education

Higher education is paying far too little attention to the needs of adult, nontraditional students. While the quintessential college student leaves home at eighteen to go live on a college campus for four years, that familiar archetype is now the exception. There are 17.6 million undergraduates enrolled in American higher education today. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that just 15 percent of them attend four-year colleges and live on campus. Forty-three percent of them attend two-year institutions. Thirty-seven percent of undergraduates are enrolled part-time and 32 percent work full-time. Of those students enrolled in four-year institutions, just ...


Straight Up Conversation: Math Scholar Hung-Hsi Wu on the Common Core

A few weeks back, I penned a post about the lack of response we'd received regarding our in-the-works Education Next forum on the Common Core math standards. I heard from a number of individuals who offered to defend the standards. One was Hung-Hsi Wu, professor emeritus in mathematics from UC-Berkeley, who has just penned the cover story on this topic for AFT's magazine American Educator. Dr. Wu, who started teaching at Berkeley in 1973, has been actively involved in math education for the past two decades, helping write California's 1999 Mathematics Framework and California's Standards Tests. He was also a ...


Making Sense of the GOP Field & Education

Press interest has been picking up the last couple weeks when it comes to the GOP contenders and education. Here are seven keys to keep in mind when making sense of what the Republican field is (and isn't) saying on that score. First, most of those opining on the edu-thinking of the GOP candidates are committed Democrats (if only because the edu-universe is disproportionately Democratic), so the frequently snide tone of the commentary ought to be interpreted accordingly. This isn't to deny the smarts or insight of media go-to's like Jack Jennings or Charlie Barone. But keep in mind that ...


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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