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RHSU: Greatest Hits of 2012

It's the time of year when we look back at the year gone by, recall the occasional success, try to learn from our missteps, yada yada. Anyway, in that spirit, the uber-talented Allie Kimmel and I went back to the RHSU archives. With an eye towards reader traffic, Twitter interest, and our own judgment, we've tagged ten of RHSU's highlights from 2012. Curious to hear your takes on these and which ones we might've missed.

10. A Recipe for Mediocrity: Tell Every School to Meet Every Need for Every Kid, February 23, 2012: Inside Schools just published a long story documenting the frustration of some parents that every NYC school isn't prepared to accommodate children with every conceivable special need. I find it unfathomable that anyone thinks every school should or will be able to competently cater to every sort of student need and interest. The question isn't whether we should serve all kids; it's whether we think every school, or every classroom, ought to be expected to meet every need of every student.

9. A Shameless Display on Waivers, February 10, 2012: The Obama administration made its big NCLB "waiver" announcement yesterday. Now, let's just stipulate that President Obama and the folks at the Department of Education are good people who want to help kids. But that doesn't excuse an exercise that struck me as hypocritical, graceless, and troubling. Here are six things about this latest spin of the waiver saga that seemed particularly disconcerting.

8. The Problem with One-Size-Fits-All Approaches to Teacher Quality, March 9, 2012: On one side of today's teacher quality debates, we've got "reformers" who've accurately identified real problems, suggested sensible principles, 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. I think that both camps just get it flat wrong.

7. John Henry Is Not a Role Model, 4 Tips for Edu-Leaders, June 15, 2012: Leaders need to look at John Henry as a cautionary tale--not a role model. Leaders should indeed work hard and lead by example. But way too many K-12 leaders work ridiculous hours, slogging through breaks and weekends. That's self-defeating. Transformative leadership entails setting a vision, managing relationships, clearing obstacles, ensuring accountability, and creating a culture.

6. Rahm Gets Rolled: Chicago's Winners & Losers, September 19, 2012: The Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel reached a tentative agreement yesterday, and it wasn't a good day for Rahmbo or for would-be reformers. Today Democratic ed reformers will be cranking up their spin machines to explain why Rahm didn't really get rolled by the CTU. (And, let's be honest, Democrats account for about 90+ percent of both the education blob and the education reform community.) But, while they get to work spinning this thing, let's take a look at who came out where.

5. What Would a President Romney Do on K-12?, October 24, 2012: The safe bet is that a President Romney would keep much of the same substantive agenda as Obama, but would do so with a lighter touch, less spending, and more emphasis on choice. In particular, a Romney administration is more likely to differ on the appropriate federal role in pushing those policies.

4. The Culture of Can't in America's Schools, May 11, 2012: When it comes to reforming our nation's public schools, we hear a lot about what educational leaders can't do. Contracts, laws, and regulations assuredly handcuff school and system leaders. But the ardent drumbeat for "reform" has obscured the fact that school and system leaders can actually do much that they often complain they can't, if they have the persistence, knowledge, ingenuity, and motivation.

3. Finland's Secret Edu-Sauce: Pricey Booze, Plenty of Saunas, and the Dearth of Pantsless Ducks?, September 6, 2012: I came away from my trip to Finland less convinced than ever that Finnish test scores are inarguably a product of educational brilliance. There are a whole bunch of cultural distinctions that might lead to big differences in youth behavior and test score outcomes--even before we get to talking about schools.

2. Technology as "Hamburger Helper", November 28, 2012: Technology has long been offered as the miraculous balm that will transform and improve teaching and learning. It's more useful to think of technology not as a solution but as "Hamburger Helper." Hamburger Helper isn't an alternative to ground beef; it's something that you stir into the pan so that the beef goes further. The key is to regard technology as the means to the end you'd like to achieve, rather than an end in itself.

1. The Fate of the Common Core: The View from 2022, March 26, 2012: Funny story. A few weeks back, I was out in DC with some friends after one of my AEI working groups, and stumbled upon a DeLorean. Long story short: they built a time machine and I hopped forward a decade to 2022. I found that despite its initial success, only eleven states use a Common Core assessment, less than a third of the states are judged to have made any effort to adhere to the Core, and the phrase "Common Core" remains polarizing and generally unpopular with Republicans, parents, and teachers. So what went wrong?

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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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