I've now had the experience several times in the past few months of having one or another friend of long standing ask me something along the lines of, "What the hell?" The "what" in question is me being critical of or asking questions about proposals and programs that "reformers" are supposed to support. If you've been reading this blog, you're aware that I've expressed concerns about Race to the Top, i3, Florida Senate Bill 6, overly enthusiastic claims for the power of value-added teacher evaluation, and so on. Now, don't get me wrong. As I've said in this space multiple ...


Readers who were still beavering away Friday afternoon and checked in at RHSU saw Joel Klein ding me for understating the significance of the new D.C. contract. Klein argued that I was distracted by D.C. having given up on the "red and green" schedules, and that the final agreement represents a dramatic breakthrough, largely because it slays the "three dragons" of tenure, seniority, and lockstep pay. Joel's take prompted reaction from some equally serious folks, including AFT chief Randi Weingarten. Randi shot me a thoughtful note on Saturday, rejecting Joel's take and arguing that it constitutes an effort ...


Regular readers of RHSU know that I like to fancy myself a shrewd analyst of matters political, contractual, and such. But at least one reader would like to offer a second opinion on yesterday's post. My good friend Joel Klein called yesterday after reading my take on the new DC teachers contract to tell me I'd missed the boat. Klein, chancellor of the New York City schools, didn't buy my assertion that, "[DC's] agreement is expensive and less of a radical shift than Rhee's initial vision, but it represents remarkable progress in a city where decades of contracts traded big ...


As states and districts wrestle with strapped budgets, and as advocates push Congress to include this or that pet cause in the reauthorization of NCLB (nee ESEA), it's worth taking a moment to point out the development of new data systems that are increasingly putting districts in a position to track student progress, identify effective and ineffective practices and educators, and give leaders cover to take a firmer line when addressing poor performers. Like a trip to the gym, these steps can feel like drudgery and they don't deliver much immediate gratification--but they can make a big difference in the ...


Members of the Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) officially signed off on the new D.C. collective bargaining agreement yesterday. More than 75 percent approved of the agreement that the union negotiated with D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee. The final vote was 1,412 to 425, and the agreement now goes to the D.C. Council for what is expected to be a rapid final approval. I've previously argued that the deal is a good one, delivering crucial improvements in terms of teacher evaluation, assignment, and compensation. It includes a voluntary, big-dollar pay-for-performance system, one in which teachers could make an ...


I know and like the National School Boards Association. The NSBA's executive director, Anne Bryant, is a good friend who has my respect and admiration. I've had a good, longstanding partnership with the NSBA on various projects and have been an occasional contributor to their terrific American School Board Journal. All of this left me puzzled and disheartened when I read the NSBA's troubling and tone-deaf recommendations regarding the treatment of charter schools in a reauthorized NCLB (or ESEA, for those eager to whitewash the now unpopular law). The NSBA's five recommendations: • "Require federally funded Charter Schools to abide by ...


I can't recall how many times over the years I've heard from school reformers, "We need our own An Inconvenient Truth." You know, a cinematic indictment of the educational status quo jarring enough to stir a lethargic public. Well, all of a sudden, we've got a whole bunch of them, and we're about to see how much they matter. A spate of three-hanky edu-movies are storming the landscape, with some heading to mainstream theaters near you--The Cartel, Waiting for Superman, and The Lottery. Proponents hope that these flicks, which massively one-up Gore's 2006 magnum opus when it comes to raw ...


The AFT and NEA might want to start rethinking their "we're special and should be protected from budget cuts because we're there for the kids" strategy. Kevin Manahan, of the Newark Star-Ledger editorial board, wrote a column last week suggesting that, at least in New Jersey, the union shtick has worn thin. His beat down of the New Jersey Education Association may serve as a useful cautionary flag for teachers unions across the land. (Just check out the raft of reader comments Manahan has attracted; a quick scan seems to suggest they're running strongly anti-union). I'm not in the habit ...


Regular readers know that I'm highly skeptical of the proposed $23 billion bailout championed by Senator Harkin and Secretary Duncan and now being carried forward in the House by Representative David Obey. Happily, the prospects for this ill-conceived proposal seem to be sinking. The legislation ignores the fact that many states flew through two years of stimulus money in the first year, rewards states and districts for the hiring binge they've been on, reduces the impetus for districts to make serious management decisions, violates the President's pledge to embark on a discretionary spending freeze, and merely kicks the can down ...


Yesterday, the Aspen Institute hosted Secretary Duncan and i3 chief Jim Shelton for a lunch conversation on educational innovation. There were maybe 35 or 40 folks in attendance, including hotshot supes Jack Dale and Jerry Weast, a handful of influential wonks, a smattering of reporters, reform studs like Common Core avatar David Coleman and New Leaders honcho Jon Schnur, NEA executive director John Wilson, and other assorted heavyweights. On the whole, I thought it was better than Duncan's formal speeches. He spoke without any evident notes, pretty much steered clear of the "it's for the kids" rhetoric, didn't filibuster, and ...


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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