March 2012 Archives

Introducing Your Special Guest Stars: Plucker, Snowden, Lake, and Kelly

Hi folks. So I'm about to take one of my blog breaks as I start to approach crunch time on my upcoming book on cage-busting leadership. (For a quick intro to what the book holds, see my blog post on it here.) Fortunately, I'm once again psyched to offer up a stellar array of contributors to step in for the next four weeks. First up, next week, is Jonathan Plucker. Jonathan is a professor of educational psychology and cognitive science at Indiana University as well as the director of IU's massive Center for Evaluation and Education Policy. He's an expert ...


AERA Knows It Doesn't Know Enough...But It Knows It Loves Its Post-Foucauldian Nonlinearity

[Note: I coauthored this post with Francesca Pickett. Pickett is the nom de plume of a U.S. Department of Education employee who, for obvious reasons, wishes to remain anonymous.] A little over a year ago, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan responded to the explosive news that even first-timer Shanghai outpaced the U.S. on international assessments by terming the news a "wake-up call" and a "Sputnik moment." Sixteen short months after that impassioned charge, the nation's education researchers will soon trek to their annual confab to share the analyses and findings that can help address this daunting ...


The Fate of the Common Core: The View from 2022

Funny story. A few weeks back, I was out in DC after one of my AEI working groups. It got late and just a few of us were left, including ed tech gurus Jonathan Harber, Larry Berger, and Mick Hewitt. Anyway, walking out of Panache after too many cocktails, we stumbled upon a DeLorean. One thing led to another. Long story short: they built a time machine and I test-drove it. Where'd I go? I hopped forward a decade to 2022, skipped the chance to meet my future self or check out the iPad 13.0, and instead avidly downloaded ...


Educational Leadership for a New Era

I've long thought we have a big problem in how we select, train, and induct educational leaders (see, for instance, my 2003 piece A License to Lead?). We start with folks who started as classroom teachers and have never worked outside K-12, run them through ed admin programs where they interact only with other career educators and ed faculty, have them read lots of Leithwood and Fullan and Sergiovanni and Deal and little from outside K-12, and tell them school leadership is unique and unlike leadership in any other sector. We're then frustrated by the results and berate these same ...


Why Ed Entrepreneurs Need to Be Thought Leaders

I'll offer a bit of free advice today for educational entrepreneurs and those who would be. Generally, good entrepreneurs (e.g. the ones who aren't peddling snake oil) focus on developing a terrific product or service, and on "making a difference." This mindset is pretty much innate in the entrepreneur's DNA. As a consequence, the usual aim is to stay under the radar and deliver. All sensible enough. At the most prosaic level, entrepreneurs who have good stuff usually beat those who don't. Usually, but not always. Evidence that what you're providing is valuable can only help, but it's hard ...


Less Sympathy, More Empathy

Educators and "reformers" have a knack for sympathy. They feel for the kids, decry achievement gaps, and remind us that we need to do better. Champions of reform are intent on building cultures that "put kids first" and that remind everyone "it's about the kids." As one impassioned twenty-something district official told me, "We're doing the right thing and we're doing it for the right reasons--so what the hell is the hold-up?" Another kind of sympathy, one that would-be reformers often radiate, is: "I know those poor teachers are scared of change, but X is the right thing to do." ...


A Little Light Reading

Before I blogged, people who knew my writing generally knew it from my books or essays. Nowadays, though, many seem to know me primarily through RHSU. That's cool, but it means readers sometimes sidle up at conferences or speeches to ask, "How the heck can you be both for X and against Y?" After all, blog columns don't provide a lot of context or nuance. I try to explain how I can be for rewarding excellence and against simple test-based merit pay; or why I believe in the potential of online learning but am skeptical about the impact of the ...


Time to End Public Subsidies of AERA

Last week, I questioned the American Educational Research Association's (of which I am a member) decision to adopt a partisan stance in charged debates over immigration policy and high school classes that promote racial pride. In a public response, the AERA, which bills itself as "the nation's leading scientific and scholarly association...devoted to advancing knowledge about education," doubled down, declaring (in an extended RHSU comment) it stands by its decision to boycott Georgia over the state's immigration policies and to denounce as "educationally indefensible" Arizona's move to limit K-12 ethnic studies offerings. Unable (or unwilling) to distinguish between a ...


Straight Up Conversation: TFA Research Chief Heather Harding

Recently, Education Week's "Living in Dialogue" blog featured a number of provocative posts on Teach For America. Phil Kovacs, an assistant professor at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, penned a guest post that offered a sharp critique of TFA and the research supporting its efforts. There was also an impassioned back-and-forth between two TFA corps members on TFA's "locus of control" concept. Given high interest in TFA, the relevance of research on TFA to the broader teacher quality agenda, and my own long, complicated history with TFA as a critical friend, I thought it worth sitting down with TFA's VP for ...


The Problem with One-Size-Fits-All Approaches to Teacher Quality

Today's debates over teacher evaluation mostly just leave me tired. On the one side, we've got "reformers" who've accurately identified real problems, suggested sensible principles (like we should work to identify teachers who are better and worse at their jobs)... and then rushed to champion crude, inflexible policies that turn good ideas into caricatures. On the other side, we've got teachers and "public school defenders" who aren't content to challenge simple-minded solutions, but who argue that we can't really distinguish good educators from bad ones...and ought to instead spend lots of time worrying about whether teachers are happy. I've ...


AERA Erasing Line Between Scholarship and Partisanship

The American Educational Research Association (of which I am a member) modestly labels itself "the nation's leading scientific and scholarly association...devoted to advancing knowledge about education." Readers may assume that AERA does its best to avoid gratuitous partisan political fights. Ha!! Hah-hah! Silly readers. Indeed, it often seems that ed research is an excuse for AERA's leaders to dress up partisan political leanings in something more impressive than fevered ideology. That said, I don't mind the partisanship and ideology so much as I mind the hypocrisy, misuse of research, and attempt to hijack scholarly institutions. What's up? I recently ...


Straight Up Conversation: Douglas County Supe Liz Fagen

I recently had the chance to sit down and chat with Liz Fagen, superintendent of Douglas County School District in Colorado. Liz is intriguing. She's a superintendent of a fair-sized (60,000 students), suburban, high-performing system who is pushing aggressively forward on controversial efforts around school vouchers and teacher quality. We pay a lot of attention to urban school districts, but much less to high-performing suburbs--where there's typically less interest in much of the current "reform" agenda. All of that makes Liz and Douglas County kind of unique. I thought it worth chatting with Liz a bit about what they're ...


ARPA-ED: A Qualified Thumbs-Up

Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) has proposed an "Education-ARPA," modeled on the famed Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The Obama administration has included a similar proposal, carving the dollars out of i3. Projected funding seems to hover in the $30 to $70 million range. (The proposals are cost neutral, meaning they'd be paid for by off-setting cuts.) The idea intrigues me, but I've been as confused as most others about what ARPA-ED would look like or actually do. To try to get a clearer picture of what Sen. Bennet and the Obama administration have in mind, I invited the Senator ...


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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