November 2011 Archives

Occupy UC'ers Profound Plea: "Gimme, Gimme"

As a nation, we've been living beyond our means for decades. Retirees have happily pocketed Medicare and Social Security benefits that far exceeded their contributions, millions of families bought houses they couldn't afford, families lowered their savings rate to zero while piling on the credit card debt, investors "flipped" homes and bought equities with borrowed dollars, and the federal government (under Bush and Obama) cheerfully spent trillions more than it collected in revenues. We need only look across the Atlantic to see what reckoning for all this eventually looks like. My naïve hope was that the Occupy "movement" might ...


An "American" Approach to K-12 School Reform

A recent series in The Atlantic has explored the "secrets of innovation" and asked which nations the U.S. ought to emulate in seeking to regain our competitive edge. As part of it, I was asked to offer my take on the K-12 question. Despite all the preaching by the high priests of international mimicry (see Marc Tucker's new book Surpassing Shanghai or, well, anything by McKinsey & Co.), I counseled that the U.S. would do well to chart our own course. (An earlier version of this piece appeared in The Atlantic, but I thought I'd share a tweaked version ...


The World Conspires to Make Expertise Unreliable

Note: This week, I'm giving RHSU readers a look at my essay in Richard Elmore's recent Harvard Education Press volume I Used to Think...And Now I Think. If you find this stuff at all interesting, I'd definitely encourage you to check the book out. For days one and two, see here and here. Say something smart once and there are huge rewards for spending a career saying it, in increasingly elaborate forms. Academics who own an idea get hired by prestigious universities, deliver keynotes, and get all kinds of attendant perks. Consultants who own an idea become must-haves for ...


Wait a Minute...

Note: This week, I'm giving RHSU readers a look at my essay in Richard Elmore's recent Harvard Education Press volume I Used to Think...And Now I Think. If you find this stuff at all interesting, I'd definitely encourage you to check the book out. For day one, see here. Along my path through academia, I started to doubt whether I'd ever even be able to find a job. I'd ask myself, "Wow, I know so little and all these successful people know so much; how am I ever going to convince anyone to hire me to do anything?" Little ...


I Used to Think...That Experts Understood the World

This summer, Harvard Education Press published Richard Elmore's intriguing volume I Used to Think...And Now I Think. The volume's title and theme draw from a professional development exercise in which participants reflect on how the experience has altered their thinking. The book includes essays from a variety of K-12 thinkers--including Howard Gardner, Sonia Nieto, Larry Cuban, Jeff Henig, Deb Meier, and Mike Smith--discussing how their thinking has changed during their time in education. I had the privilege of contributing to the volume, and the piece captured much of my own underlying biases with regards to the issues that I ...


Making Sense of the Whole "Are Teachers Overpaid?" Thing

A couple weeks ago, Andrew Biggs, an AEI colleague, and Jason Richwine of the Heritage Foundation, authored a controversial study on teacher pay. They used federal wage, benefit, and job-security data, along with measures of cognitive ability, to argue that teachers are overpaid compared to what they'd earn in the private sector. The analysis generated heated reaction, including an unusual, personal attack by Secretary of Education Duncan. In the aftermath, given that I'm director of ed policy studies at AEI, there were a number of inquiries regarding my thoughts on this provocative analysis. My take is threefold. (An earlier version ...


When Good Intentions Make Us Stupid

While I was gone, there were any number of classic examples of well-intentioned folks promoting bad ideas under the guise of "reform." In Tennessee, it turns out that the teacher evaluation system promised in the state's Race to the Top proposal isn't ready for prime time. Fifty percent of teacher evaluations are supposed to be based on evidence of student outcomes, but such measures are in short supply. No matter, the plan is just to plug in for teachers the growth scores for their school. Because the cutting-edge way to gauge a first-grade teacher's performance is apparently by measuring his ...


Questions for GOP Contenders Promising Dept. of Ed Will Be "Gone"

Hidy, all. I'm back. Thanks to Melissa, Sheara, Celine, and Roxanna for three weeks of stellar guest turns. While I was out, in last week's Republican debate, Texas Governor Rick Perry promised (in the course of a major gaffe) that the Department of Education would be "gone" if he's elected President. Rep. Michele Bachmann and others have made similar pledges. While I've some sympathy for the premise, I'm not sure what it actually means to "turn out the lights" at ED. Here are six questions I hope an enterprising reporter asks Perry, Bachmann, et al. on this score: It isn't ...


Five School Reform Sound Bites That Hurt Teacher Buy-In

Note: Roxanna Elden is the author of See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers. She is a National Board Certified high school teacher currently teaching in Miami. There is a growing assumption that education reformers are anti-teacher and teachers are anti-reform. Disagreements between these groups have become so heated and so public recently that this seems like a reasonable conclusion. The real story is more complicated. Over the past year, I've had the chance to speak with many people in the education reform world. I have come to believe that most reformers became reformers for the same reasons ...


Politics Aside--For New Teachers, It's Still November

Note: Roxanna Elden is the author of See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers. She is a National Board Certified high school teacher currently teaching in Miami. November is the month I most often hear from new teachers. This month also brings an uptick in speaking and writing requests from organizations that recruit, train, and support new teachers. The most common concern from organizations is how to reinvest recruits in their overall mission: The achievement gap can't wait. The future is in your hands. This is the most important job in the world, and the kids can't afford ...


The Relationship Status of Teachers and Educational Technology: It's Complicated

Note: Roxanna Elden is the author of See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers. She is a National Board Certified high school teacher currently teaching in Miami. Many thanks to Rick for inviting me to guest blog this week. When I blogged last year, I tried to offer a teacher's point of view to reformers, researchers, and policymakers. This year, I'd like to share our feelings with another sector of the edu-world that has been on our minds lately: Dear educational technology, These days, we run into you everywhere. People who say you're just what we need have ...


A Tale of Haves and Have Nots

Note: Celine Coggins, founder and CEO of Teach Plus, is guest blogging this week. At Teach Plus, we run a selective eighteen-month training for experienced urban teachers called the Teaching Policy Fellows program. It is designed to break down barriers between teachers and the policy leaders who make decisions about their classrooms. The program is one part graduate-level course in the teacher quality research, one part speaker series where teachers meet with top education leaders in a small group, and one part action center with teachers advocating for ideas they believe will help their students. In short, our role in ...


Is it Pro-Teacher or Anti-Teacher to Talk About Problems of Practice?

Note: Celine Coggins, founder and CEO of Teach Plus, is guest blogging this week. There's a fascinating and very worthwhile teacher quality debate that's happening in the blogosphere right now (see Rotherham versus Weingarten and Hanushek versus Ravitch). Hanushek suggests, based on economic analyses of student test score data, that up to 400,000 teachers (up to 10% of a 4-million-person workforce) should be fired. That number is scary and high for anyone who has many individual teachers in their lives whom they care about. Because Hanushek's figure is based only on test score data, it is open to some ...


A Thought Experiment for Union Leaders

Note: Celine Coggins, founder and CEO of Teach Plus, is guest blogging this week. I've had the privilege of meeting with union leaders from around the country to explain what Teach Plus is. Many love it; plenty are skeptics. In every case, I begin with three opening points. First, I describe our mission as very similar to the union's: to retain excellent teachers in the classroom and strengthen the teaching profession. Second, I talk about our belief that leadership opportunities are a key lever to helping promising young teachers extend their commitment to the classroom. Third, I state my personal ...


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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