Since its inception, I've regarded Race to the Top (RTT) as an important and valuable idea, but I also spent much of last fall and winter arguing that the administration's program design was not equal to the weight it was being asked to bear (what with its murky criteria for judge selection, ambiguous scoring system, focus on promises and grant-writing rather than accomplishment, and the remarkable emphasis that Secretary Duncan placed on union "buy-in" in round one). Unfortunately, the bill has come due. I actually feel more than a little sorry for the Secretary now that his big race has ...


While I've my doubts about urging states to launch new initiatives when job one ought to be financial retrenching, I'm happy to see heavy lifts and real accomplishments recognized in places like Rhode Island, D.C., Massachusetts, and Florida. That said, in assessing a process that inexplicably left Louisiana and Colorado out of the winners circle, we need to recognize that Congress and the Department of Education conspired to create a competition that primarily rewarded states for embracing ED-endorsed best practices rather than the more mundane efforts to clear away anachronistic policies and reset the policy environment. As I wrote ...


Nope, I'm not talking about grading the Race to the Top (RTT) winners. Frankly, I don't have much confidence in the elaborate scoring system that the Department of Education jury-rigged--especially not after Ohio, Hawaii, and New York finished in the money while Louisiana and Colorado were ludicrously left out in the cold. As if my skeptical natured needed more cause for worry after the post hoc "norming" of i3 grades and the concerns raised regarding judge selection and training, blatant disregard for application guidelines, and emphasis on airy promises rather than concrete actions already taken. And, given the number of ...


The answer: New Orleans, Washington, D.C., New York City, Denver, and Jacksonville. The question: Which cities are in the mix when it comes to being the "Silicon Valley" of K-12 schooling? Or, more simply: If you're a problem-solver with some successes under your belt, where will you be most welcome? Cities rounding out the top ten include Charlotte, Austin, Houston, Fort Worth, and San Francisco. What's all this about? Check out my new study, America's Best (and Worst) Cities for School Reform: Attracting Entrepreneurs and Change Agents, coauthored with the talented Stafford Palmieri and Janie Scull and published today ...


I spent the tail end of last week out in Portland, Oregon, at the Education Commission of the States annual confab. ECS honcho Roger Sampson quarterbacked an impressive gathering, chock full of state chiefs and key legislators. The chiefs in attendance were buzzing that the Department of Ed was sending word on Friday that governors should expect calls tomorrow morning from Duncan regarding round two Race to the Top (RTT) results (unless ED reprises its not-so-smooth i3 goof and accidentally posts the winners on TMZ this afternoon). On Friday, I had the chance to do a panel on state-federal dynamics ...


Yesterday, I discussed our earnest Secretary of Education's unfortunate proclivity for quick fixes that promise to worsen the budgetary hole districts are in. But that's not all. In the same briefing where he made it clear that he's not a big believer in planning ahead, Duncan also made the fantastical claim, to USA Today's Greg Toppo, that, "The vast majority of districts around the country have literally been cutting for five, six, seven years in a row. And, many of them, you know, are through, you know, fat, through flesh, and into bone." Duncan added, "We want people to be ...


I'm a simple guy. I admit it. Maybe that's why I'm so fond of the first rule of holes. You know: "When you're in one, stop digging." But that's not the way our earnest Secretary of Education likes to do things. Scott Pattison, the executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers, says, "There are so many issues that go way beyond the current downturn...This is an awful time for states fiscally, but they're even more worried about 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014." Lydia Ramos, spokeswoman for L.A. Unified, says, "You've got this herculean task to deal ...


It's been six months since I first stuck a toe into the blogosphere. At a minimum, that got pals like Alexander Russo, Andy Rotherham, Sara Mead, Kevin Carey, and Mike Petrilli to stop ridiculing me for being behind the times (though they're now telling me my posts are too long, too removed from the blog v. blog fray, and insufficiently linky. Sometimes, you just can't win...). Anyway, as I told former Ed Week honcho Caroline Hendrie when she suggested that I try my hand at blogging, I wasn't sure how it would turn out. I had a notion of wanting ...


On Sunday, the L.A. Times ran its controversial analysis of teacher value-added scores in L.A. Unified School District (LAUSD). The paper used seven years of reading and math scores to calculate performance for individual teachers who've taught grades three through five, and plans to publish the effectiveness ratings with the teacher's names. The actual analysis was handled for the paper by RAND analyst Richard Buddin. If you want to get quickly up to speed on this, check out Joanne Jacobs' stellar summary here and Stephen Sawchuck's take here. The story has triggered an avalanche of comment, including cheers ...


I thought I'd been pretty clear about my view of the Edujobs bill, but a flurry of interviews last week made it plain that reporters had trouble believing that I really thought the $10 billion Edujobs bill was flat-out bad for K-12 schooling. So, I want to be crystal clear. I think that Edujobs was not just wasteful but was positively harmful. And, yes, I think this even though ED promised to streamline its normal processes so that states will "receive funding as quickly as possible" and whipped up some calculations touting the number of jobs it's claiming to save ...


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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