Word on the street is that a cool new venture is rising in New Orleans, which is well on its way to becoming the Silicon Valley of American education (see its top finish in my recent study of America's Best & Worst Cities for School Reform). The newest effort involves taking the Big Easy's "Leading Educators" program national. To take the reins, they've recruited Jonas Chartock, executive director of the SUNY Charter Schools Institute, my fellow NACSA board member, former executive director of TFA Houston, and all-around good guy. Leading Educators is intended to address the problem of high-energy, entrepreneurial teachers ...


A year ago, President Obama's plan to give a back-to-school talk to the nation's students erupted into a tempest when the accompanying materials, issued by the Department of Education, seemed pregnant with politics and hagiography. This year, happily, the Department seems to have learned its lesson--its press release for tomorrow's speech is admirably succinct and on-point, announcing: "The President's Back-to-School Speech is an opportunity to speak directly to students across the country. Last year, President Obama encouraged students to study hard, stay in school, and take responsibility for their education." A bit dry? Perhaps, but a welcome shift from last ...


The "buy-in" tar pit is located adjacent to other similar geographical oddities, like the "consensus-seeking" sinkhole and the "capacity-building" briar patch. These are all easy ways to blame process rather than substance when the complaint is really about substance. So efforts to close lousy schools, trim benefits, or toughen up evaluation are inevitably attacked for a lack of buy-in or stakeholder support, no matter how much time was spent on just those things. (Meanwhile, you hardly ever hear any complaints that across-the-board pay raises were decided with insufficient input.) Right now, the Washington Teachers Union (the AFT's D.C. local) ...


While waiting to go on the Diane Rehm radio show yesterday (with my friend Cindy Brown of CAP and Ed Week's own journo ace Alyson Klein), we listened to our earnest Secretary of Education predicting that education's vaunted legacy of bipartisanship means grand things for NCLB (nee ESEA) reauthorization, Race to the Top implementation, and federal education policy. I'm skeptical whether that tradition will offer the sustenance that Duncan is counting on. First, there is a strong tradition of bipartisanship in education, and splits (like on NCLB accountability) rarely track party lines. Moreover, Obama and Duncan have talked more explicitly ...


I know, I know. I'm always kvetching that schools need to do more with less. That superintendents aren't making the tough cuts. And, when they do, that they aren't cutting smart. When folks press me for specific details or suggestions, they want something more than broad discussions of staffing levels or analogies from other sectors. They want concrete ideas. Because I strive to please, the result is the just-released Harvard Education Press book Stretching the School Dollar: How Schools and Districts Can Save Money While Serving Students Best. Stretching the School Dollar represents the best efforts of coeditor Eric Osberg ...


In D.C., it's looking increasingly like City Council Chairman Vincent Gray is going to beat Mayor Adrian Fenty in the Democratic primary. This is a shocker. Given Fenty's deep pockets, huge 2006 victory, and positive developments on crime and schooling, he was widely thought a lock for re-election when this year began. In edu-circles, the question is what this means for D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee, who's had a tempestuous three years while struggling to transform a broken system that couldn't track personnel records, open schools on time, or provide textbooks to students. When drilling through a tough surface, ...


Despite the nation's tough job market, the news is brighter for those in the education sector. In the last week or so, I've gotten word of four terrific edu-jobs--Dean of the Hunter College School of Education, a program officer with the Walton Family Foundation, a researcher focused on innovation at the Gates Foundation, and a director of research and evaluation at Teach For America (and this doesn't even include the new hiring taking place at Fordham, Bellwether, and Brookings). Check it out: Hunter College is looking for a Dean of the School of Education to fill the huge shoes that ...


My pal Andy "Eduwonk" Rotherham took the time on Tuesday to level a series of charges at me regarding Race to the Top (RTT). Having voiced his own set of concerns about RTT and called for Secretary Duncan to convene a panel to explore what went wrong, Andy would now prefer to discount all prior critiques that fail to meet his standard for gentility. I was amused to see that Andy's newfound concerns largely echo those that I'd raised six months ago but that he tried to soften them by pairing them with an attack on me for not criticizing ...


It's like a bad joke. You're interviewing candidates for an important education job and ask each about their views on using performance-based metrics to evaluate and potentially remove teachers. Who actually answers the question, much less inspires confidence that they're up to snuff? The ex-basketball player who says, "We have to elevate the status of the profession. We can't do enough to recognize great teaching. We can't do enough to shine a spotlight on success. And we have to be willing to challenge the status quo together when it's not working." The union lawyer who says, "I think the issue ...


I'm always surprised at how often teacher unions claiming to be agents of professionalism reflexively slash at measures (like responsibility for results and differentiated pay) that are part and parcel of most professions. Even so, it's not every day that you see a union savaging an effort to promote professional growth as an anti-teacher conspiracy. Welcome to Houston Independent School District, where HISD superintendent Terry Grier is being mauled by the Houston Federation of Teachers... for proposing that principals work with all of their teachers to craft professional growth plans. Yeah, I'm scratching my head too. What's got the HFT ...


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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