Earlier this fall, there was lots of excitement about Waiting For Superman. It was the talk of the town for a bit, prompted NBC to discover education for a week, and made a school reform icon out of director Davis Guggenheim. In the aftermath, though, Guggenheim has taken shots for some questionable factual assertions and a scene in which he apparently inserted a manufactured shot for emotional impact (very Broadcast News). The movie is now finishing its theatrical run, dribbling out of the last few theaters. How big a splash did it make? As of December 13, the flick had ...


The turnaround craze is boiling again, with the excited announcement that lots of districts are taking federal money and spending a lot of it on high schools. The Department of Ed enthusiastically proclaimed that 730 schools have begun implementing a School Improvement Grant turnaround model, and that 48 percent of those are high schools. Whoo-whee! Look at the compliance that $3.5 billion buys. We must be halfway to solving our edu-woes already. For those of a more skeptical bent, it's that time of year to eyeball a sector where organizations have to find savvy, impassioned leaders; recruit a dozen ...


Last week, Mike Petrilli posted in the Education Gadfly an amusing Twitter debate between him and Diane Ravitch. I quite liked it. But, since I don't Tweet, I couldn't go there. And I doubt I'd have the patience anyway. Happily, I realized I could pen a fake Twitter debate--which seems an easy alternative. Herewith: Rick: What's up w all these tchr prep programs jumping on residency bandwagon after NCATE report? First sign of a fad? Fictional Ed School Dean: I'm excited to announce our new teacher residency program, like NCATE commission suggested. Rick: If it's such a great idea, why ...


Boy, I can't decide whether I get more frustrated by the Ravitchian charge that rethinking teacher pay is an attack on schooling or the ludicrous merit pay schemes that masquerade as reform today. My choice, when asked to pick between those two approaches, is "neither." I try to explain why that's a valid choice, and not a dodge, in my new Educational Leadership piece "Spend Money Like It Matters." You can check the full piece out for yourself, but let me try to make this simple: Do you think that employees who are good at their work ought to be ...


States are wrestling with Race to the Top implementation. In Georgia, a superintendent drew attention by announcing that the district would forego more than a million bucks in RTT cash rather than adopt merit pay. Questions abound as to whether D.C., with a new mayor and no permanent state chief, is committed to its plan. Ohio's new governor has indicated he's skeptical about various promises made by his predecessor. D.C. insiders think there's a fair shot that the House will hold hearings looking into concerns about RTT judging, scoring, and spending. In short, the over-the-top hosannas for RTT ...


Yesterday, the Gates Foundation announced that district and charter school leaders in nine cities have embraced a "District-Charter Collaboration Compact," in which the district and local charter schools pledge to collaborate in new ways. The nine cities involved are Baltimore, Denver, Hartford, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, New York City, and Rochester, N.Y. (Full disclosure: I've been involved as an advisor and reviewer on some of these efforts). The Gates Foundation announced that these cities had to "commit to replicating high-performing models of traditional and charter public schools while improving or closing down" lousy schools, and that participating ...


Since my earliest days in teacher preparation, I've been disconcerted by education's appetite for faddism. And I've been confounded by journalistic cheerleading for one fad after another. Yesterday, the Washington Post's story "Montgomery's multi-tasking Little Red Riding Hood"--featured on page one of the Metro section--offered a textbook example of how the press too often encourages the destructive, cringe-inducing pursuit of miracle cures. The WaPo's Michael Birnbaum penned the standard four-element "fan the fad" piece to perfection. He opened with the obligatory "in the classroom" lede: "The Gaithersburg first-grade class was analyzing 'Little Red Riding Hood,' but instead of ...


Note: Over the next few weeks, I'll occasionally be flagging nuggets from my new book, The Same Thing Over and Over, just out from Harvard University Press. For more, check out the book on Amazon. Teacher unions insist that it would be something akin to the end of Western Civilization should we venture to pay history teachers more than gym teachers, or math and science teachers more than history teachers. As Bob Chase, then-president of the NEA, said a few years back in USA Today, "Please don't distract us with ill-considered half measures, such as paying math and science teachers ...


On Tuesday, five of my favorite state education chiefs launched a new outfit called "Chiefs for Change" (CFC) at Jeb Bush's Excellence in Action National Summit. The five: Louisiana's Paul Pastorek, Indiana's Tony Bennett, Florida's Eric Smith, Rhode Island's Deb Gist, and Virginia's Gerard Robinson. In a "Roadmap to Excellent Education" that's being released a bit later today, the five embrace six principles of reform: • Recruit, Reward, and Retain Excellent Teachers and Leaders • Reward Excellence • Replace Failure with Success • High Academic Standards • Transparent and Rigorous Accountability • Viable Options for All Students Nothing here that readers of RHSU haven't seen many ...


Enough already. I'm a big fan of Boston's Pioneer Institute. But Pioneer, abetted by some of Massachusetts's local papers, has gone after Massachusetts's terrific state chief Mitch Chester in a ludicrous, destructive exercise--one that should be called off ASAP. (Full disclosure: I've known Chester for a decade and advised, albeit modestly, on the state's winning Race to the Top application.) What's the story? Boston's Channel 5 reported recently that outside groups, most notably the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and Achieve, Inc., picked up the tab for Chester's business travel for conferences, meetings, and such to places including ...


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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