Race to the Top, Wasn't

We've just marked the fifth anniversary of Race to the Top, the Obama administration's signature education initiative. When launched, the $4.35 billion competition drew bipartisan cheers and was lauded as an example of getting school reform right. Five years on, I see it more as a monument to paper promises, bureaucratic ineptitude, and federal overreach.


10 School Reform Phrases That Should Trigger Your BS Detector

Education is filled with jargon, buzzwords, and BS. I've had a lot of fun over the years skewering the inanity that gets bandied about in education research and professional development. Education policy and school reform are rife with their own vapid vocabulary. Here are 10 phrases that, when heard, should cause listeners to ask the speaker to explain what he or she means, using words that actually mean something.


Caged Leadership Fuels Policy Overreach

Many of the school and system leaders I teach are frustrated by policy and sense that they're hemmed in by bureaucracy, regulation, and politicians. I find myself trying to explain the insight that motivated Cage-Busting Leadership: caged leadership frustrates policy makers and advocates, leading them to propose new rules and policies as they scramble to force leaders to, well, lead. In this way, caged leadership creates a perverse cycle of growing frustration.


Zen and the Art of Education Research

A few weeks back, Mike Petrilli and I hosted another convening of the AEI-Fordham Emerging Educational Policy Scholars (EEPS) programs. The participants once again reminded me of what a dismal job even prestigious institutions do of preparing talented young scholars to consider the implications of their work, contribute to public debates, or even find joy in what they do every day.


Former Indiana State Chief Tony Bennett and the Politics of Personal Destruction

Readers may recall that, last summer, Tony Bennett resigned the Florida superintendency when slammed with alleged improprieties from his tenure as Indiana state chief. Well, yesterday, a year after the fact, Indiana's Office of the Inspector General finally released its report. On one hand, you might say that the process played out and worked as it should. But observers have now learned that one way to win education policy debates is to smear their opponents.


Teachers Should Just Say No to Cheap Talk & Lip Service

Teachers get lots of lip service, misty-eyed declarations of admiration, and cloying tributes. These platitudes are the junk food of speechmaking. But there's a bigger problem. This isn't how we talk to professionals. Cage-busting teachers don't just get this, they do something about it.


The Detroit Free Press's Crude, Unhelpful Slam on Charter Schooling

Last week, the Detroit Free Press took a long, hard look at charter schooling in Michigan. Hard-nosed education reporting is always welcome. But let me try to respond to the key "findings" pithily and directly.


Gay Marriage and Vergara

School reformers explaining why I should be more enthusiastic about Vergara and the copycat lawsuits being filed in New York and elsewhere have repeatedly drawn a parallel to gay marriage. Without wading into the gay marriage debate, I'll just note three big problems with the analogy.


Somebody Is BS'ing

Some folks in positions of educational import are shading the truth, big time. How do I know this? Because I'm hearing two very different things that can't be reconciled.


DCPS Wisely Presses Pause on IMPACT's Use of Test Scores

Late last week, Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced that the DC Public Schools would be "pressing pause" on using value-added as part of its IMPACT teacher evaluation for one year. There are three things worth noting here.


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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