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 ...


Last week, as was much remarked, I had some fun expressing my concerns about the cult of Waiting for 'Superman'. A couple folks asked if I might have anything constructive to say about how the attention the movie is generating might be put to good use. Heaven knows I'm skeptical about claims that Waiting for 'Superman' is going to have an outsized impact on school reform. And I'm borderline nauseous from constant urgings to praise and promote the flick. All that aside, though, I think it's a fine movie, a useful contribution, and could do some good—if the short-term...


This week, in light of my posts jabbing the Nashville merit pay study, the irresponsibility of tax cuts unaccompanied by spending cuts, and Waiting for Superman, I've seen a pretty big uptick in my "you're a terrible person" mail quotient. And that's been accompanied by some puzzlement about just "who the hell I think I am" and what my agenda is. In the spirit of being as clear as I possibly can, here are six tenets that I typically find guiding my writing, scholarship, and the rest: 1] Policymakers and policies can't "fix" schools or make teachers into good teachers; ...


In response to Monday's post on the Nashville merit pay study, Gates Foundation research honcho and Harvard professor Tom Kane sent me a really thoughtful, incisive take on the study's limitations. Tom, a good friend and one of the smartest folks in the business, is currently heading up the massive Gates research effort into teacher performance, evaluation, and pay. Tom and I sometimes agree and sometimes have spirited disagreements on these issues, but on this one we're reading from a shared hymnal. In fact, I thought his take so razor-sharp and succinct that I asked if I could share it ...


"In recent years, we've cracked the code. The high-performing charter schools, like KIPP and others, have figured out the system that works for kids in even the toughest neighborhoods." -Davis Guggenheim My pal Mike Petrilli has already ably addressed the hubris, banality, and, well, painful ignorance in that quote. I'll only add that, if Guggenheim or any of today's reformers think they're the first to decide that we've finally "solved" this challenge, they might want to acquaint themselves with the musings of Ron Edmonds or Ellwood Cubberley, or more recent, less-than-inspiring experiences with comprehensive school reform and small high schools. ...


I try to restrict my commentary to education; I don't usually wade into broader policy debates. But the recent contretemps over tax cuts--especially the new Republican proposal announced last week by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell--has major edu-implications. The feds are already spending a trillion dollars a year more than they collect; more than 40 cents of every dollar we're spending is borrowed money. Optimistic scenarios have us cutting this to "only" a half-trillion a year by 2020. Responsible public leadership requires making choices. Promises of freebies and endless goodie bags undermine the resolve to make such choices. Those asking ...


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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