April 2012 Archives

The Sorry Stafford Panderfest

Hidy, all. I'm back. Had my head down, crashing away on the Cage-Busting book manuscript. We'll eventually see how that turned out. Meanwhile, I've been blown away by the quality of the guest-blogging, so a special thanks to Jonathan, Chapman, Robin, and Andrew. Anyway, let's get back to it, shall we? I've been typically disheartened by the Obama-inspired, now-bipartisan panderfest that's broken out over Stafford loans. For those who've been otherwise occupied, here's a quick recap. Five years ago, in a piece of cheap political theater, Democrats in Congress wrote an additional sweetener for federally subsidized Stafford loans into the ...


Trend Three: Pulling the (Parent) Trigger

Note: Andrew Kelly, a research fellow at AEI, is guest-posting this week. Unless you've been under a rock for the past year, you've heard about the "parent trigger." In principle, the trigger is a simple and powerful idea: parents in a chronically failing school can band together and petition the district to make radical changes. If the petitioners can get signatures from 51 percent of the parents, the district must respond with dramatic reforms. In California, site of the first-ever trigger law, the menu of options mirrors the four federal turnaround models, including the option to convert to a charter ...


Trend Two: Don't Hate, Vertically Integrate

Note: Andrew Kelly, a research fellow at AEI, is guest-posting this week. On Monday I talked about what the burgeoning of middle-class urban dwellers may mean for charter schools. Today I'm talking about how some charter organizations are actively developing new markets, and what this might mean for school choice and competition more broadly. The topic of the hour: vertical integration in the charter market. In the corporate world, one of the most basic decisions that firms face is the "make or buy" choice. Should we make the component parts and services we need to produce our product in-house? Or ...


Turn and Face the Strange... Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Note: Andrew Kelly, a research fellow at AEI, is guest-posting this week. Greetings devoted RHSU readers! I'm Andrew Kelly, Rick's colleague at AEI. Before I begin, let's first hear it for Robin Lake of CRPE for her prolific and thought-provoking week of guest-blogging. In thinking about what I'd like to write this week, it dawned on me that this coming fall will be 10 years since I first got cooking in education policy research and writing. For those who don't know, I was the Rickster's first research assistant at AEI way back in 2002. No Child Left Behind was still ...


Where's Innovation for Kids Who Need It Most?

Note: Robin Lake, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington, is guest-posting this week. It's been a real pleasure to air some ideas with you this week. Sincere thanks to Rick and the AEI team for lending me the space. Thanks also to my CRPE colleagues whose work and ideas fed these posts. Finally, thanks to readers for all the Star Wars comments! May the force (of evidence) be with you... If you like, follow our work at crpe.org or @crpe_uw. For some final thoughts, I'm turning to an issue that's ...


Teacher Evaluations: We Need Trust, Not Just Tools

Note: Robin Lake, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington, is guest-posting this week. As almost everyone admits, the traditional teacher evaluation system is about as useful as the old Mac Plus buried in my basement. As we work to improve it, we find ourselves immersed in meetings, studies, and nasty political fights. The friction is fine; we need change, and change begets conflict. But all of this talk is missing a critical question. We're so focused on the evaluation tools themselves--mechanical issues, like how to factor in student performance indicators and what ...


Who Will Work in the Schools of the Future?

Note: Robin Lake, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington, is guest-posting this week. Chapman Snowden was really interesting last week, wasn't he? (Plus, he has such a cool name.) I loved that he pushed the tech industry to pay more attention to the needs of end users. But Chapman also mentioned a big problem we have to face up to: "Too often," he wrote, "schools throw tools into the hands of teachers without consideration for the specific conditions needed for success. While these conditions can be policy based, more often than not ...


Premature Praise for Turnaround Schools

Note: Robin Lake, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington, is guest-posting this week. A few weeks ago, CRPE released a study of Washington State's first-year implementation of federal School Improvement Grants (SIG). Unfortunately, in our corner of the world we saw little evidence of the "bold, dramatic" turnarounds that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said he wanted to achieve with the more than $3 billion that have gone into SIG schools. What we saw instead was mostly the same tinkering that public schools have been doing for decades. Typically, schools receiving SIG ...


"Only a Sith Deals in Absolutes"

Note: Robin Lake, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington, is guest-posting this week. When your kids make you watch "Star Wars: Episode III" for the 29th time, your attention can't help but wander, and the characters start to seem like they're talking to you. During a recent viewing, it occurred to me that Obi-Wan's attempt to warn Annakin away from the dark side--"Only a Sith deals in absolutes"--perfectly describes my frustration with the dichotomous thinking that has come to characterize the conversation on education research and policy. Here's a prime ...


Education's Journey Into Space

Note: Chapman Snowden is the founder of Kinobi and an innovator in training at 4.0 Schools. Evidently it's easier to send people to space than it is to fix education reform. At the 2012 SXSW Interactive Conference, Peter Diamandis, CEO of the X Prize Foundation, announced that he was looking to create an X Prize for Education. The X Prize Foundation creates and manages large-scale, high profile, incentivized prize competitions that stimulate investment in research and development worth far more than the prize itself. Diamandis is most famous for his Asari X prize, which awarded a $10 million prize ...


Riders on the Storm

Note: Chapman Snowden is the founder of Kinobi and an innovator in training at 4.0 Schools. So I casually mentioned the entrepreneur's tension between confidence and hubris in yesterday's post. It is not a tension to be taken lightly, as it is an important factor in our success as ed tech entrepreneurs. From day one of existence entrepreneurs are navigating stormy weather. Funders will tell you your idea sucks. Co-founders and employees will screw you. Policymakers will ignore you. And researchers will throw their best practices garbage at you. Confidence will get you through that storm--to be confident is ...


The Devil Went Down to the Details

Note: Chapman Snowden is the founder of Kinobi and an innovator in training at 4.0 Schools. First let's welcome Stew Stout from Kickboard back to the table--he's helped me with this post. Ed tech entrepreneurs need to work with teachers and school leaders to understand their needs. This is what should happen. The bigger question is how ed tech entrepreneurs work with teachers and school leaders, because it certainly is not easy. We can hopefully all agree (yes, that means you too, policy wonks) that the process of getting fully functional tools into the hands of teachers is beyond ...


There Ain't No Such Thing as Halfway Crooks

Note: Chapman Snowden is the founder of Kinobi and an innovator in training at 4.0 Schools. There's no better way to title a post about ed tech than a quote from one of the most underrated hip hop groups of all time, Mobb Deep. I promise it's relevant. Last week a friend forwarded me a fantastic article commenting on the use of technology in education. As I read it, I found myself quickly developing "aggressive head-nodding syndrome." In particular, this section, referencing a report from the Ford Foundation, struck me: ... [there are] gaps between what Federal and state funds ...


Welcome to the Silicon Bayou

Note: Chapman Snowden is the founder of Kinobi and an innovator in training at 4.0 Schools. First of all, thanks to Rick for letting me blog in his absence. I'd also like to thank his readers for allowing me to hopefully entertain and inspire them with my musings over the next five days. Finally, I'd like to thank Stew Stout, the Marketing and Outreach Manager at Kickboard. Stew and I have worked together on this post, so when I say "we" know that I'm not just referring to an imaginary friend. A tip of the cap is due to ...


Urban Ed: Lots of Problems, Not a Lot of Solutions

Note: Jonathan Plucker, a professor at Indiana University and the director of the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, is guest-posting this week. I appreciate having the opportunity to pinch-hit for Rick this week, and thank you to everyone who sent comments and feedback during the week. As we head into the weekend, I thought we'd take a lighter approach and look more closely at a recent book on urban education. If you're anything like me, you have no shortage of books piling up on your desk about America's urban school problems. They seem to cluster into two broad categories: ...


This Time Everything Is Different. No, Really...We Have Data This Time

Note: Jonathan Plucker, a professor at Indiana University and the director of the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, is guest-posting this week. I was recently interviewed for a story on ability grouping in Ohio by a reporter, Charlie Boss. We got into an involved discussion on the difference between tracking and grouping. I recycled a line from a recent talk: "The distinction is pretty easy. Tracking is evil. Grouping is good." And I do see it as being that straightforward. Tracking is the systematic grouping of children by some demographic variable (economic status, gender, but more often than not, ...


Why is the U.S. Prioritizing Minimum Competency?

Note: Jonathan Plucker, a professor at Indiana University and the director of the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, is guest-posting this week. When historians discuss early 21st century American education, I'm convinced they will pinpoint our decision to focus almost exclusively on minimum competency as an educational and economic turning point. And by "turning point," I mean that they will ask, "What on earth were they thinking?" Let me be clear: I'm not saying that getting every third grader to at least a third grade reading level is unimportant. To the contrary, getting 100% of our students to minimal ...


Don't Throw NCLB Waivers Out with the Bathwater

Note: Jonathan Plucker, a professor at Indiana University and the director of the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, is guest-posting this week. As a policy researcher who moonlights as a psychologist, my perspective is often quite different from other education policy researchers and analysts. This policy/psychology perspective is admittedly unique, but it does give me a different angle on policy from time to time. This was starkly apparent as I monitored reactions to the NCLB/ESEA waiver process. The process has been the subject of much eye-rolling and consternation, but I worry that people have been too quick ...


"Look Out, the Russians Japanese Irish British Indians and Chinese are coming!"

Note: Jonathan Plucker, a professor at Indiana University and the director of the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, is guest-posting this week. Everyone has "uh-oh" moments: A flash of insight accompanied by a sense of impending doom. I had one of those moments recently, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start by noting that I am not an international alarmist. As the title of this post implies, Americans love to have a bogey-man, we just don't do well in uni-polar worlds. I've tried to explain to undergraduates what it was like to grow up during the Cold War, ...


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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