Given today's shrinking budgets and the tough half-decade that looms for K-12 funding, we can no longer afford to remain wedded to "this...and that" reform or to be blasé about whether we're getting sufficient bang for our buck. However, the kind of shift in mindset that's necessary will not happen on its own. After all, for decades, K-12 schooling has been a place where superintendents and principals earn much grief for making cuts but little recognition for smart savings or boosting cost-effectiveness. What's needed most are politically viable proposals that make it easier for local, state, and national leaders ...


Education reform has long been dominated by "this...and that" reforms, wherein the aim is for districts to keep doing everything they've always done, and then slather more on top. Thus, "reform-minded" teacher contracts include big raises for everyone, with extra money for the real changes. New staffing initiatives, technology investments, or pilot programs bake in existing outlays and rely on new dollars to fund the new efforts. E-Rate or computers in the classroom always entail shoving technology into schools and classrooms alongside all current staff. This is "supplement not supplant" as a mindset, rather than a statutory proviso. For ...


Whoops. The only condition Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg attached to his $100 million gift to Newark Public Schools was that Governor Chris Christie give control of the schools to Newark Mayor Cory Booker. And now it appears Christie lacks the statutory authority to do so. Times being what they are, Zuckerberg announced the gift on Oprah. When she asked, "Why Newark?" he said he believed that Christie and Booker could make Newark a "symbol of educational excellence." Zuckerberg can take solace. The likelihood that his $100 million was going to make any difference was already negligible. Why? Well, first off, ...


A month out from Election Day, observers are wondering what the new Congress will look like and what that may mean for ESEA reauthorization, the administration's attack on for-profit higher education, and a possible Race to the Top renewal. Over at National Journal last week, the topic drew much discussion. Largely overlooked by those suggesting that Republican gains may lead to a spate of deal-making in education is that the election returns are likely to further polarize Congress. As Andrew Kelly and I explained in a Teachers College Record Commentary last Friday, analysis of contested House seats shows that the ...


At the end of last week and again yesterday, I wrote about grim news from a new study regarding what teachers think students are learning when it comes to citizenship, and how distant our focus on education as the "new civil right" is from traditional concerns about preparing students for the rigors of citizenship. I think this challenge is evident even in many of the schools and districts regarded today as exemplary, and especially in those often lauded precisely for their emphasis on achievement-oriented "citizenship." Even in schools that make forthright efforts to teach students good social skills, there is ...


Last week, I talked a bit about the results of the new Farkas-Duffett study High Schools, Civics, and Citizenship: What Social Studies Teachers Think and Do. (Full disclosure: The study was commissioned and published by my shop at AEI). Some of the key findings--particularly the fact that public school teachers feel like social studies have been deemphasized in recent years--are unsurprising. Over the last decade, and especially since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, Americans have come increasingly to speak of education as "the new civil right." This has usefully focused educators, advocates, and policymakers on student ...


In a troubling bit of ad hominem mud-slinging, political blogger Keli Goff penned a Huffington Post piece this week comparing American Federation of Teachers union president Randi Weingarten to Osama bin Laden. In "What Teachers' Unions, the Pope and Osama Bin Laden Have in Common," Goff wrote, "American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten is about to join Osama bin Laden on the list of Most Despised People in America. And if even one tenth of Guggenheim's film is to be believed, then this distinction is well earned and well deserved." Back story: Goff apparently saw the new movie Waiting ...


Remarkably little has been written about the state of citizenship education in our schools. One has to go back to the 1998 Public Agenda study "A Lot To Be Thankful For" to find a serious attempt to examine what parents think public schools should teach children about citizenship. The annual Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup poll on schooling has not asked questions about citizenship since 2000. When these questions were last addressed, respondents chose "prepar[ing] people to become responsible citizens" as the least important purpose of schooling from among those offered. And it's brutally hard to find much on what ...


I generally support proposals to expand school vouchers, tuition tax credits, and charter schools. I do so not because I think they are sure to improve test scores or quickly "fix" schooling, but because they're essential for creating unobstructed opportunities for problem-solvers. That said, for reasons I discussed last week in terms of merit pay, I'm skeptical that research can "settle" arguments regarding complex organizational reforms like school choice. I do think research can help inform claims about the wondrous powers or pernicious effects of choice--and help us pursue smarter, more serious market-based reforms. On that count, last spring, I ...


During his successful campaign to unseat Mayor Adrian Fenty, Mayor-in-waiting Vincent Gray promised he would not turn back the clock on school reform. On election day, he told CNN, "I am going to continue with education reform. I helped to shepherd the legislation through the council in the first place. I'm going to continue with a very strong chancellor." He said that reform wouldn't falter if Chancellor Michelle Rhee left because, "I've said many times that education reform has to be about more than one person." As the mayor-to-be plans to move forward on his pledge, here are a few ...


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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