Albert Einstein reportedly once said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." As I note in my new book, The Same Thing Over and Over: How School Reformers Get Stuck in Yesterday's Ideas, apocryphal or not, this line is a devastating assessment of a half century's worth of school reform. To avoid educational insanity, we need to recognize how circumstances have changed and embrace a diverse array of reform efforts suited to the twenty-first century. A year ago, my friend Diane Ravitch raised a furor when she charged in The ...


Got some terrific reactions to last week's post, which argued (shockingly) that a dollar spent on special education is one we can't spend on other children--and that policymakers would therefore do well to focus less on "rights" and more on trade-offs. This is doubly true given that the primary challenge for children with special needs today is one of quality rather than access, and that there's good reason to question whether vast special ed outlays are delivering on that score. Three takes particularly worth sharing. The first is from a principal who commented on RHSU: As the principal of a ...


The problems with unaffordable, anachronistic teacher pensions have finally started to get the attention they should've gotten years ago. Andy Rotherham recently wrote a terrific column laying the issue out, and some of the new Republican governors—most prominently Rick Snyder, the former Gateway executive who was just elected Michigan's governor—have signaled they're going to confront pensions head-on. Snyder has flat-out said that he doesn't think Michigan's system of public employee compensation is affordable. Newly elected GOP governors John Kasich in Ohio and Scott Walker in Wisconsin have sounded similar notes—making Chris Christie's no-nonsense stance with New Jersey's...


A couple months back, I posted a copy of an internal Houston Federation of Teachers (HFT) memorandum which laid out the HFT's hostility towards the Houston Independent School District's (HISD) mentoring proposal. You think the HFT was chastened at all by this going public? Doesn't appear so. Below is another, much more recent HFT communication to its members blasting HISD's effort to revamp its teacher evaluation system in collaboration with the highly regarded organization The New Teacher Project (TNTP). A Houston source was kind enough to send this along. I especially like the calls for secret tapings and the suggestion ...


Question: What do Arne Duncan, Sarah Palin, Tom Harkin, and Mike Enzi all have in common? Answer: They, along with just about every other figure in education, turn into pandering sops the moment somebody mentions special education or IDEA. They'll dwell on how the feds need to fully fund their share, the rights of these families, and the need to do a better job of identifying and addressing special needs. All fair enough points. The problem is that none of our leaders can then bring themselves to utter the simple truth: "But we have an obligation to serve all our ...


Mayor Michael Bloomberg has named former USA Today publisher and Hearst Magazines chief Cathie Black as the next chancellor of the New York City schools. The move prompted the predictable outrage among those who believe that only former teachers should lead schools or districts. Patrick Sullivan, a New York City Board of Education member, wrote to State Education Commissioner David Steiner, slamming Black for lacking teaching and administrative experience, academic credentials in education, public sector experience, and exposure to public schooling. Julie Cavanagh, a special ed. teacher in Brooklyn, said, "To not have an educator at the helm as the ...


Now that was a four-bagger. Lord knows, I've been pretty critical of the Secretary of Education on various counts (see here, here, here... you get the idea). So, let me give him his due. Yesterday, the Secretary weighed in on the pressing need to start spending school dollars smarter in one humdinger of a speech. Duncan touched on every important issue, pulled no punches, and modeled the kind of responsible tough-mindedness that we need from our leaders (full disclosure: the speech was delivered at AEI and I hosted--you can view the speech and subsequent Q&A here). Department wordsmith David ...


I've gotten a number of questions and comments regarding NCATE's big Blue Ribbon Panel report, both after my remarks at the National Press Club and in response to yesterday's post. Thought it worth taking a couple moments to expand and explain a bit, especially because teacher residencies are one of our current "everybody loves 'em" enthusiasms. First, let's be clear. I dig the idea of clinical residencies. Something like the Boston Teacher Residency (BTR), or the approach employed in Long Beach, makes all kinds of sense—for those programs, districts, and teachers. I'm all for high-quality clinical residencies when they're...


NCATE's big report "Transforming Teacher Education Through Clinical Practice" is out today, and is likely to get the predictable hosannas. It's scheduled for a morning event at the National Press Club (I'm doing a bit of discussant duty), where the Blue Ribbon Panel's call for "radically" revising teacher prep to focus on practical training and residencies will be hailed as a transformative moment. SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, a co-chair, said, "This is a seismic moment for teacher education." I'm not sold. Now, don't get me wrong. I've got enormous respect for NCATE honcho Jim Cibulka and for the co-chairs of ...


The economic picture remains bleak, but there's growing confidence that—so long as nothing untoward happens with Ireland or Portugal...or Italy...or Greece (again)...and so long as the Middle East doesn't implode—the worst is past. In edu-circles, there are hopeful murmurs that "this will all be behind us" in another year. Such notions echo Secretary Duncan's comment last August, while touting Edujobs, that he was "hopeful" things would be looking up by fall 2011. Unfortunately, such hopes are likely to be dashed. My colleague Whitney Downs and I explain why in the just-published analysis K-12 Budget Picture:...


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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