On Monday, the Senate Democratic leadership temporarily pulled the $26 billion kitty for state and local governments (including the $10 billion "teacher bailout"). ED spokesman Massie Ritsch circulated a statement endorsing the proposal on Friday, with no reform quid pro quo, because Secretary Duncan believes that "jobs and reform go hand-in-hand." (I'd no idea that tripling the number of teaching jobs in the past 50 years meant we'd been so busy reforming!). Senate Majority Leader Reid told POLITICO earlier this week that budgets will be tighter going forward, and White House economists have lamented the slack recovery. As part and ...


Last week, Columbia University sociologist Aaron Pallas savaged the DC Public Schools IMPACT teacher evaluation system in the Washington Post's "The Answer Sheet" blog, attacking the teacher evaluation system as "idiotic" and based on "preposterous" assumptions. Pallas asked, "Did DCPS completely botch the calculation of value-added scores for teachers, and then use these erroneous scores to justify firing 26 teachers and lay the groundwork for firing hundreds more next year?" He asserted, "According to the only published account of how these scores were calculated, the answer, shockingly, is yes." At the same time, however, Pallas was forced to concede, "Value-added ...


Lesli Maxwell has a revealing story in Ed Week pointing out that districts are reluctant to take aggressive steps when competing for School Improvement Grant dollars. This is a familiar story to anyone who's paid attention to NCLB-mandated restructuring, but it's important nonetheless. Also worth checking out is Mass Insight's Justin Cohen's deliciously acerbic take on the situation....


Every time our earnest Secretary of Education speaks of late, he seems to unearth new things that Washington can and should do to schools. Earlier this month, he promised the NAACP that the administration would see that NCLB reauthorization required turnaround schools to obtain parent and community input as well as lead an "honest, open discussion." Of course, Duncan is ardently pushing "state-led" national standards and watching his Department of Education flag 19 (!) states as impressive enough to merit being Race to the Top finalists. Earlier in the year he promised Congress a billion dollar bonus if they reauthorized NCLB ...


Just spent the past couple days with a top-shelf group of young researchers that I hosted in a partnership with my good friends at the Fordham Institute. Together, we held the first gathering of the Emerging Education Policy Scholars (EEPS), which brought to D.C. about two dozen young scholars and thinkers to discuss how research does and should impact ed policy. Visiting with the fellows was a pretty neat roster of policy mavens, ed journalists, and reformers that included USA Today's Greg Toppo, Bellwether's Andy Rotherham, DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, Ed Week's Deb Viadero, ace Hill staffer David ...


If you haven't yet read Heather Zavadsky's savvy 2009 Harvard Education Press book Bringing School Reform to Scale, it deserves a careful look. Zavadsky, who helped build out the Broad Prize methodology and spent several years elbow-deep in these districts, has penned a volume that offers up lessons from some of today's most admired systems. (Full disclosure: I've conflicts of interest all over the place here, as the book is part of my HEP series and I sit on the advisory board for the Broad Prize.) Zavadsky argues that, for all the headlines about Race to the Top, those districts ...


During the past week, my pals Checker Finn, Mike Petrilli, and Jay Greene have been sparring over the question of whether conservatives ought to embrace the Common Core standards. Petrilli and Finn have argued in a thoughtful National Review Online column that No Child Left Behind fueled an explosion of mediocre state standards, undermining accountability and reform. Greene has responded that there's good reason to believe that the Common Core won't deliver on its promises and that it will impose real costs. As usual, Joanne Jacobs and Alexander Russo have been all over this. For what it's worth, here's my ...


On Saturday, the Washington Post's Bill Turque reported that D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee used the district's IMPACT evaluation system to terminate 165 teachers based on performance and identified another 737 as "minimally effective," giving them one year to improve. The usual carping is already evident and the Washington Teachers Union is grieving the firings. But, once again, Rhee got it right. As jarring and painful as it may be for those used to the clubby routines of K-12, this is what transformational leadership looks like. And the WaPo editorial board once again got it right too, staunchly backing Rhee ...


Last week, National Governors Association Chair Joe Manchin (a Democrat from West Virginia) announced his "Complete to Compete" initiative, which will enlist "governors, higher education leaders, and other key groups in an effort to boost college completion and attainment rates with existing resources and without compromising the quality of our academic programs." I tend not to read too much into the endless strings of initiatives and programs launched by DC groups. And I don't want to suggest anyone should read too much into this one. That said, I really like the tone of the release they sent and am modestly ...


This week, over on the National Journal "education experts" blog, we're debating our earnest Secretary of Education's declaration to the NAACP last week that the administration wants a reauthorized NCLB (nee ESEA) to "require parent and community input" in turning around persistently low-performing schools. Joanne Jacobs has another quick take here. My two cents: Duncan's sentiment is a fine one. Community and parental involvement are enormously important. And low-performing schools often suffer from a paucity of both. Of course, it's not like others haven't tried to previously address this. I especially love Duncan's pledge that the feds will "require" parent ...


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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