Recently, I wrote about how turning reasonable discussions about issues like teacher evaluation and pay into polarizing moral crusades yields "reform" victories that amount to self-defeating, ham-handed mandates. The most recent example is the troubling, recently-enacted Florida Senate Bill 736. As you may recall, last April, the Florida legislature passed Senate Bill 6, a serious effort to rethink teacher tenure, evaluation, and pay that then-Governor Charlie Crist ultimately vetoed. Despite my manifold reservations, I supported SB 6. I feared then that the bill's proponents were too eager to base teacher performance on highly imperfect and not-yet-existent value-added metrics, and was ...


DC Schools chief Kaya Henderson has asked DC's inspector general to investigate in response to Monday's USA Today front-page story suggesting that some big DCPS test score gains may have been the product of cheating. Henderson's move was the right one, because the questions raised by the USA Today analysis are real, legitimate, and serious ones. RHSU readers know that I'm unapologetic about defending Henderson's efforts in DCPS (and those of her predecessor, Michelle Rhee) against cheap shots, but the questions raised here are more substantial--and absolutely deserve the kind of careful evaluation that Henderson has endorsed. As the Washington ...


For all the enthusiasm that school turnarounds are generating in some quarters, I've been consistently underwhelmed by the coherence or historical literacy of the would-be turnarounders. While a new bit of jargon--the term "turnaround" (can't you just feel the power?)--and $3.5 billion in designated federal funding for School Improvement Grants is enough to push many an edu-reformer to the brink of hubris, it's fairly clear that no one actually knows what to do. More to the point, it's clear they've mostly ignored what we've learned from previous go-rounds. This all came to mind yesterday while I was over ...


Last week, the Chronicle of Higher Education offered up a forum on what the future holds for Pell Grants. CHE explained, "When Congress proposed last month to cut spending for the Pell Grant program, which was created more than 30 years ago and remains the foundation of federal higher-education support for needy students, the move intensified a national debate over what role, if any, the grants should continue to play in helping low-income students attend college during these tough economic times." It will come as no surprise to RHSU readers that this invitation to rethinking is my favorite way to ...


We're a couple weeks out from the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in New Orleans. AERA's annual meeting is a huge affair that typically draws close to 20,000 participants and features thousands of papers. The work too often involves hiding pedantic argument behind walls of incomprehensible jargon, as well as a dogmatism and quasi-partisan groupthink that I find troubling in a scholarly environment. That said, I believe in keeping one's oar in the water. So I attend every year, and participate in sessions when asked. On a personal level, I like damn near everyone I know ...


One of my least favorite things about education is how eagerly we turn sensible discussions into bizarrely polarizing moral crusades. Aided by competing, mindless invocations of "it's for the kids," we manage to turn otherwise sensible discussions about school accountability, teacher evaluation and pay, school choice, or tracking into incoherent, hysterical morality plays. So, today, I'm just going to vent for a bit. I hope you don't mind. For instance, it strikes me that it's obviously smart, in a 21st century labor market, to pay good educators more than bad ones--and to steer dollars in ways that recognize and reward ...


The Washington Post's Jerry Markon reports today on the Obama administration's decision to file a civil rights lawsuit against a small Chicago-area district for refusing to grant a three-week leave of absence to its only math lab instructor during its end-of-semester marking period. The teacher, 29-year-old Safoorah Khan, a Muslim, had been working at the Berkeley district's MacArthur Middle School for nine months when she requested three weeks off for a pilgrimage to Mecca. Berkeley's administration declined her request, determining it was unrelated to her job, not authorized by the union contract, and represented an "undue hardship" for the district ...


Today, School of One honcho Joel Rose announced that he's departing the New York City Department of Education to launch an independent effort to take the School of One to scale. It's not yet clear what the new organization will be named, but Rose will be founder and CEO. Rose drafted the original proposal for School of One back in summer 2008, while serving as NYCDOE's chief executive for human capital. Running the School of One became Rose's full-time job in February 2009. For those unfamiliar with the School of One, it allows teachers to customize what a student learns ...


You ever see the Us Magazine feature "Just Like Us?" It features pictures of stars taking out their garbage, walking their dogs, and generally looking like the rest of us. I've been thinking how aptly that captures our relationship with our not-so-bold President. As a nation, we're staring at trillion dollar deficits. Unless we address them, we're headed for some ugly times--with the bulk of the lifting to be borne by those kids we're always so eager to claim our fealty to. States are in the same boat, looking at cumulative deficits in the hundreds of billions over the next ...


So, if you're ready to get your geek on, have I got a treat for you. Harvard Education Press has just published Customized Schooling: Beyond Whole-School Reform. The book, edited by Bruno Manno and yours truly, is an attempt to pull together a bunch of sharp thinking on how we get past just trying to "fix" schools--or to merely give families a choice between school A and school B--and how we start to think about using new tools, technologies, and talent to transform the quality of teaching and learning. School turnarounds are a swell idea, and will occasionally work. And ...


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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