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 ...


Tomorrow, Vanderbilt University's National Center on Performance Incentives will publish the Project on Incentives in Teaching (POINT) study, reporting the results of a major three-year teacher pay experiment in the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. The study examines the effect of merit pay for middle school math teachers who were eligible for bonuses of up to $15,000 per year based on student test score gains. The study will, unfortunately, tell us nothing of value. Actually, it's worse than that. The study will confuse the issue, obscure the actual question of interest, and (depending on the results) lend either simple-minded advocates ...


It's Friday and it's been a long week, so I'll cut to the chase. Four things worth noting about the aftermath of Mayor Adrian Fenty's defeat in D.C. on Tuesday. First, the poaching is already on for the phenomenal staff that Michelle Rhee recruited to D.C. Assuming that Rhee is leaving, sharp-eyed talent hawks across the land are already contacting her team members. Unless they turn downs the outstretched hands en masse, this doesn't bode well for a transition. This means that it would behoove mayor-in-waiting Vincent Gray to move quickly on the leadership question, and to make ...


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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