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December 2011 Archives

Coming Next Week: 2012 RHSU Edu-Scholar Rankings

Just to give readers a head's up, next week we'll be running the 2012 RHSU Edu-Scholar Rankings. The exercise is intended to counter what I think is the academy's unfortunate tendency to discount scholarly contributions that impact public understanding and policy debate. The Edu-Scholar Rankings are intended to recognize university-based scholars, of any discipline or bent, for their contributions to the public square. Impact is understood as encompassing both the corpus of one's scholarly work (how many widely-cited works a scholar has penned, the number of books, etc.) and one's centrality to public discussion in 2011 (appearances in newspaper articles, ...


The Difference Between Insult and Argument

It's the end of the year, and I always get a bit reflective. As a blogger, I've long been intrigued by the "comments." I'm frequently startled by the inchoate fury of so many postings. At an intellectual level I understand this is how many engage online--and it's of a piece with talk radio and so much of cable news--but I find it a little bizarre, and not especially constructive. That said, it poses a bit of a teaching opportunity. On that count, my indefatigable assistant Becky King put on her rubber gloves to grab a few of this year's more ...


Ten Edu-Stories We'll Be Reading in 2012

Here's my best guess at some of the key edu-headlines we'll be reading in 2012. 10] "GOP presidential nominee abandons primary season attacks on Department of Education; talks up education reform in push for moderates." 9] "Aggressive efforts to tackle bullying starting to raise questions and fuel backlash. After a number of elementary-age boys are disciplined or even suspended for 'harassment' that included routine tussling and name-calling, many parents and school board members are asking whether the anti-bullying effort has gone too far." 8] "Relentless attacks by media, Obama administration, and Senator Harkin on for-profit operators in K-12 and higher ...


Steering Clear of "The New Stupid"

Note: This week, I'm giving RHSU readers a look at my essay from Educational Leadership entitled "The New Stupid." For days one and two, see here and here. If you see warning signs of the new stupid, what should you do? There are at least four keys to avoiding the new stupid. First, educators should be wary of allowing data or research to substitute for good judgment. When presented with persuasive findings or promising new programs, it is still vital to ask the simple questions: What are the presumed benefits of adopting this program or reform? What are the costs? ...


More on "The New Stupid"

Note: This week, I'm giving RHSU readers a look at my essay from Educational Leadership entitled "The New Stupid." For day one, see here. The second element of the new stupid is Translating Research Simplistically. For two decades, advocates of class-size reduction have referenced the findings from the Student Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR) project, a class-size experiment conducted in Tennessee in the late 1980s. Researchers found significant achievement gains for students in small kindergarten classes and additional gains in 1st grade, especially for black students. The results seemed to validate a crowd-pleasing reform and were famously embraced in California, where ...


The New Stupid

A little while back, I published a piece titled "The New Stupid" in Educational Leadership. It's a piece that's perhaps more relevant today than when I wrote it, and one that folks continue to ask about. Anyway, given that things have slowed down for the pre-holiday week, I thought I'd share it over the next few days. So, here we go: A decade ago, it was disconcertingly easy to find education leaders who dismissed student achievement data and systematic research as having only limited utility when it came to improving schools or school systems. Today, we have come full circle. ...


The Accountability Plateau, Double-Standards, and the Defense of Sloth

Hey, it's a hectic Friday, so just three quick things that I want to touch upon today. First, Fordham yesterday released Mark Schneider's new paper "The Accountability Plateau." Mark, former NCES Commissioner (and a visiting scholar at AEI), makes a compelling argument that the accountability efforts of the 1990s and early 2000s initially had a significant impact on student achievement but have now hit a wall. It's a good analysis that makes sense. And I think Mark's interpretation makes a lot of sense when we keep in mind that the K-12 response to accountability, along with more productive measures, has ...


The Phantom Menace

When it comes to the question of for-profits and American education, there's often more hysteria than analysis. Just this weekend, the New York Times published an extensive, shall we say, selectively sourced attack of for-profit venture K12 Inc. piling atop a similar piece a few weeks back by the Washington Post and other "the profiteers are coming!" exercises in The Nation and elsewhere. To engage in a bit of poetic license, when they look at for-profits, these journalists (and the experts that they quote) see Darth Vader. Sure, there are valid and sensible concerns about the role of for-profits in ...


I'm Skeptical But Intrigued By AFT Initiative, NEA Report

I'm skeptical when folks who've seemed to drag their heels offer up nifty new proposals and innovations. So, I don't want to sound all "gee, whiz" here. At the same time, it's important that skepticism not morph into reflexive dismissal. With that in mind, we've seen a couple noteworthy developments from the AFT and NEA in recent days. First, in Minnesota, the Minnesota Guild of Public Charter Schools, a non-profit launched by the AFT local, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, has been approved to operate as a charter school authorizer. Supported by the AFT's Innovation Fund, the venture will, in ...


Can We Identify a Principled, Limited Federal Edu-Role?

The Cato Institute's Neal McCluskey has energetically denounced the slimmed-down federal role that Linda Darling-Hammond and I sketched last week, offering a not-unreasonable litany of complaints about federal overreach. (It's amusing that Neal thinks I'm endorsing big government, given that most in education regard me as unduly harsh when it come to federal efforts, but that's a topic for another day.) What's relevant here is that Neal's response also illustrates the problems that bedevil those who want to get Washington "out" of education. The biggest is that even Tea Party sympathizers have shown precious little willingness to get serious about ...


A Couple Thoughts on Tuesday's NYT Op-Ed

On Tuesday, Linda Darling-Hammond and I published an op-ed "How to Rescue Education Reform" in the New York Times. (I take no responsibility for the immodest title; those of you who have written op-eds know how little control authors have on that score.) The piece has generated a number of notes, with several asking how the piece came about. The piece also seemed to raise the ire of various colleagues, including Bellwether's Andy Rotherham and Cato's Neal McCluskey. The background on how the piece came to be is only mildly interesting. Linda and I had no scheme to hatch a ...


When They Denounce You Today & Selectively Quote You Tomorrow

The week before Thanksgiving, I penned "When Good Intentions Make Us Stupid." It garnered some heartening feedback from friends who found it useful. It was also quoted by many who selectively cited me in their ongoing efforts to vilify many folks whom I like and respect (as is routine when I'm critical of poorly conceived merit pay systems, federal overreach, or careless use of value-added metrics). In this case, the AFT-backed "RheeFirst" website (along with similar ventures) selectively quoted me in their ongoing war on Michelle Rhee and her StudentsFirst organization. Now, my typical policy is not to worry about ...


Why Education Innovation Tends to Crash and Burn

Having opined a good bit about "innovation" (check out Ed Unbound for much of my current thinking), I'm sometimes asked about why it's so hard to scale promising programs, models, pilots, and notions. On that note, I just had the chance to spend a few days with a bunch of terrific folks discussing just this topic at a Kauffman Foundation retreat. Kaufmann will be issuing a synthesis with the collected wisdom that emerged. Meanwhile, I figured I'd share my own thinking with you. There are at least two big sets of obstacles when it comes to "scaling" innovation. First, innovative ...


More Than the Mantra of "Mayoral Control"

Yesterday, at the Fordham Institute's big conference on "Rethinking Education Governance in the 21st Century," I had the chance to chat about a new paper "More than the Mantra of 'Mayoral Control'" that I penned with Olivia Meeks. When it comes to district governance, Olivia and I argue that the back-and-forth about mayoral control has too often distracted us from the need to tackle entrenched routines. We walk through the case for mayoral control (which I find fairly convincing when it comes to large urban districts) and the reasons for caution, then point out that the relative merits of elected ...


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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