Much as I'd feared, preparations for round two of Race to the Top (RTT) seem to be impelling states to overshoot the mark when it comes to teacher evaluation and pay. Generally laudable proposals like Florida's Senate Bill 6 and Colorado's Senate Bill 10-191 suffer from the "fix the world in one pass" syndrome. Advocates who are waging an admirable fight to end or dramatically scale back hyper-rigid, industrial-era state policies governing teacher tenure and compensation display a worrisome tendency to mandate that, henceforth, teachers will be evaluated in large part on (thus far) largely nonexistent, hyper-rigid, value-added metrics. This ...


I can't decide whether yesterday's U.S. Department of Education press release on the new "partnership" between twelve foundations and ED's i3 effort is just a painful example of vapid triumphalism or whether it actually sends a worrisome signal. I'm mostly inclined to think it's much ado about nothing. After all, as Ed Week's intrepid Michele McNeil pointed out yesterday, "The new, collaborative effort is not a pooled fund of grants; each foundation will retain control over its contribution...nor is the initiative announced by the U.S. Department of Education April 29 a commitment of additional funding...The $506 ...


Tomorrow, the nation's education researchers, professors, and such will convene in Denver for the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association. If you're going to be in Denver and want to catch up, on Friday and Saturday I'll be at Marlowe's co-hosting the "School Reform Café" from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. with my pal Van Schoales, executive director of Education Reform Now (the non-political counterpart to Democrats for Education Reform). We're expecting pop-ins from an illustrious list of friends like Patrick Wolf, Mark Schneider, Susanna Loeb, Adam Gamoran, Laura LoGerfo, Jeff Henig, Richard Ingersoll, Jal Mehta, ...


Some readers challenged me last week on an intriguing question: Why did I react so differently to the underwhelming findings on the performance of Milwaukee voucher students and to the Ravenswood City school board's effort to shutter the Stanford Graduate School of Education's charter school for mediocre performance? As you may recall, I casually brushed off the Milwaukee voucher results as telling us nothing important but suggested that the performance of Stanford New School raises real questions about the "expertise" of Stanford's big-name pedagogues. A few eagle-eyed commenters asked if this isn't a case of double standards or even blatant ...


Yesterday, I discussed the recent Ed Next forum between Kati Haycock and Rick Hanushek, noting that I agree with Haycock's focus on sensible strategies to get more good teachers into high-poverty schools but that I worry about the casual heavy-handedness with which some advocates tackle the issue. In particular, I suggested that reflexive efforts to shift "effective" teachers from high-performing schools and classrooms to others--such as attempts potentially countenanced in some language proposed for NCLB reauthorization--may actually reduce the pool of effective teachers. This would turn strip mining from an effort to redistribute the pie into a strategy that would ...


In a new forum in the quarterly journal Education Next, Education Trust honcho Kati Haycock and Stanford economist Rick Hanushek address the issue of whether and how to more "equitably" distribute teachers (full disclosure: I'm an executive editor of Ed Next). With characteristic passion, Haycock calls for efforts to focus on attracting good teachers to high-poverty, low-performing schools. I strongly support what Haycock has to say in the exchange, but I worry about the possibility that some of her allies may take her suggestions too far. In Ed Next, Haycock argues, "We know it is possible to bring high-quality teachers ...


Even as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan shills for Senator Tom Harkin's pander-ific, NEA-endorsed $23 billion "Keep Our Educators Working Act of 2010," the costs of his earlier efforts to curry NEA support are accumulating. His support for Harkin's no-strings-attached cash shower is trivializing the relatively puny $3.4 billion he's got left to dole out in round two of Race to the Top (RTT). Meanwhile, there is growing evidence that his earlier efforts to cultivate union support by spotlighting his commitment to buy-in have emboldened state and local unions. On Wednesday, the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) declined state ...


Even as our earnest Secretary of Education Arne Duncan enthusiastically embraces Senator Tom Harkin's pander-refic $23 billion "Keep Our Educators Working Act of 2010" (don't worry, the 2011 version is sure to visit a theater near you in due course), he's insisting that this development won't compromise his credibility or effectiveness as a reformer. Me, I'm skeptical. There's a reason that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny aren't usually regarded as reform-minded icons. The crux of reform is the insistence on changing the way business is done. That's much harder to do when one is proffering gifts with no strings ...


I've been meaning to do a longer postmortem on Florida's Senate Bill 6. As I've noted before, I enthusiastically supported it even though I thought it a deeply flawed bill. The flaw? Its ham-fisted attempt to strip out one set of anachronistic strictures (governing tenure and step-and-lane pay scales) only to replace it with a set of test-driven processes that were almost equally troubling. I'll get to that eventually. But in travels to Boston and Houston yesterday, I had occasion to reflect on the often incautious faith in value-added assessment that underlies many efforts to rethink teacher evaluation and pay. ...


In my recent book Education Unbound, I argue that a big problem with "best practices"-style reform is that good ideas often don't play out as intended. Even pedigreed ideas that are cooked up by big-brained professors and prove successful at hand-picked pilot sites often fail to deliver at scale. Most involved in K-12 schooling, of course, are much more enamored of expertise than I. Those in schools of education, in particular, are generally confident that they can identify the right recipes for professional development, instruction, and curricula--and aren't shy about urging those on policymakers and educators. This is what ...


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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