I was struck recently by the degree to which we're having two distinct, contrary conversations about technology and schooling. I was up in Boston last week for a three-day symposium on "Personalized Learning" (hosted by the Software & Information Industry Association, ASCD, and CCSSO) and felt like I was witness to two completely unrelated visions of education technology. The romanticist camp traces its roots to Rousseau's Emile and its radical "progressive" vision of the unchained learner. This stance, voiced by so many educational administrators and pedagogues talking of the "tyranny of testing," celebrates the need to let "imagination blossom" and recoils ...


For the past year, our earnest Secretary of Education has been banging the drum for mayoral control. As I've noted many times, I'm very sympathetic to the argument that mayoral control, done smart, can be a useful step in turning around troubled school systems. But I've been concerned about the tendency to romanticize its promise and to overlook its potential problems--especially the likelihood that mayoral control will limit access to independent metrics and performance data. Over at Flypaper, my good pal Mike Petrilli voiced some second thoughts about mayoral control earlier this week after reading a WaPo column from a ...


In a new Teachers College Record commentary, Penn State professors Kathleen M. Collins and Joseph Valente make an impressive contribution to the ranks of incomprehensible edu-babble. The abstract of "[Dis]ableing the Race to the Top" is all you really need (or may want) to read. It begins, "The authors present the notion of [dis]ableing as way of making visible the presence and limiting effects of ability-normative thinking." It concludes, "In this commentary they briefly introduce [dis]ableing and demonstrate its usefulness in uncovering the influences of ability-normative thinking through a snapshot analysis of discourses pertaining to the Race ...


A few weeks ago I suggested that ed reformers should take care not to rely too heavily on the filmmakers of the new wave of edu-agitprop flicks. For one thing, it'd be a shame if lots of time, money, and energy were spent building them up and featuring them as spokespeople--only for them to do what documentarians do, which is move on to a new project in a new area of interest. So, I was amused last week when the news broke that new school reform icon Davis Guggenheim, director of Waiting for Superman, was in negotiations to direct Paramount's ...


In its inimitable style, the New York Times yesterday featured a page one ed story celebrating an aimless new district policy and the superintendent responsible. In a story headlined "Little as They Try, Students Can't Get a D Here," NYT's Winnie Hu enthusiastically hailed the new "no D's" policy adopted by New Jersey's Mount Olive school district. The notion is that, well, the district will no longer issue D's. "D's are simply not useful in society," explained superintendent Larrie Reynbolds. While Mount Olive students could previously pass a class with a 65, and earn a D, they will now pass ...


I see I wasn't the only observer disappointed by how the administration's overhyped i3 program played out. When winners were leaked Wednesday, savvy analysts including Alexander Russo and Mike Petrilli remarked upon what they saw as the disappointing and "been there, done that" nature of so many "innovative" winners. While I have enormous regard for a number of the winners, the reality is that most (with a few exceptions, such as NYC's "School of One") are built more on elbow grease and aggressive recruiting of talent than on new technologies or obviously scalable innovations. That's fantastic when it comes to ...


This morning, Columbia University professor Aaron Pallas sounded a responsible (if hasty) retreat from last week's attack on DCPS. After writing last week that DCPS had seemingly used "preposterous" assumptions to adopt an "idiotic" teacher evaluation policy, Pallas wrote this morning in the Washington Post's "Answer Sheet" blog that, "I'm happy to hear that DCPS seems not to have botched the calculation of the value-added scores [by doing simple-minded subtraction]...even if this is what DCPS is telling teachers it's doing." Pallas also did a little legwork, reaching out to DCPS technical advisor Rick Hanushek and talking to DCPS data ...


In response to the mail I've received since Monday's column critiquing Aaron Pallas's attack on the DCPS teacher firings, I think it's useful for me to weigh in on the live-wire question of value-added systems. Monday's column was not meant to be a simple-minded defense of value-added systems, but rather an attempt to defend a smart, careful effort against an unfair attack. The truth is that value-added systems (including DCPS's IMPACT) are more an art than a science, and the slew of decisions involved in designing them can be reasonably questioned and ought to be subject to responsible public scrutiny. "Responsible...


The folks at the Department of Ed were no doubt pleased to see that the Senate voted 61-38 to end debate on a spending bill that had been in limbo just a couple days ago. This means the bill will pass the Senate in short order and will in all likelihood pass the House in mid-September. Included in this bill was $10 billion to help school districts and states avoid making tough calls on staffing for another 12 months. (The new spending was technically offset by gimmicks such as promising to end stimulus-expanded food stamp benefits in 2014 rather than ...


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 ...


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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