Florida Governor Charlie Crist, already desperately trying to claw his way back into the Senate GOP primary that he once dominated, has found himself in the middle of another maelstrom. Sitting on his desk, awaiting his signature or veto, is the most ambitious teacher quality legislation any state has yet contemplated. If he signs off, those teachers hired after June 30, 2010, will no longer receive tenure. Instead, they will receive a series of one-year contracts. To receive a contract after their fifth year, teachers will have to be rated "effective" or "highly effective" in two of the previous three ...


It's one thing for unions to be dominated by veteran teachers skeptical of change; it's a problem of a whole different kind when they're dominated by non-teachers and retirees. Yet, in the New York City's United Federation of Teachers (UFT) elections last week, just 40% of votes were cast by active classroom teachers. How is that possible? Read on. First off, note that less than one in three UFT members voted at all. In any election, low turnout gives an exaggerated voice to the most disgruntled and ideological. In union elections, where veterans have more at stake, low turnout also ...


The University of Arkansas School of Education, home to my good friends Patrick Wolf and Jay Greene, yesterday released new research showing that students in Milwaukee's two-decade old voucher program (the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program) "scored at similar levels as their peers not participating in the school choice program." Wolf, who has led this effort as well as the federally-endorsed evaluation of the DC voucher program, summarized, "Voucher students are showing average rates of achievement gain similar to their public school peers." Translation: when it comes to test scores, students with vouchers are performing no differently than other kids. (It ...


Yesterday, DCPS and the Washington Teachers Union announced that they had agreed upon a new contract for DC teachers. After two years of stop-and-go negotiations, punctuated by occasional rifts between outsized personalities Michelle Rhee and Randi Weingarten, they settled upon a five-year agreement (with a couple of the years retroactive). Bill Turque has reported the salient details and the Washington Post editorial page has offered an enthusiastic endorsement. A couple of thoughts on all this. First, the salaries we're talking about are really eye-popping. Starting teachers will potentially be able to earn more than $72,000, as compared to the ...


I favor a more expansive role for for-profits in schooling. Not because I think folks in for-profits are smarter or more capable than people in public agencies or non-profits (hell, I work in a non-profit!), but because for-profits have some unique and useful features. Their selfish pursuit of profit gives them cause to be more aggressive about expansion, more nimble about abandoning failed efforts and seeking new niches, and more energetic about rooting out inefficiency. Anyway, I've more to say on all this in Education Unbound. Now, believe me, I know for-profits also have their share of unique flaws, and ...


It's April, and I was just starting to muse on the approaching AERA annual conference when a wonderful note arrived reminding me that the theme of this year's AERA meeting is "Understanding Complex Ecologies in a Changing World" (nope, I don't have any idea what that means either). The note announced a series of working groups to explore this topic. Personally, I'm hopeful one group will focus on explaining what the hell the theme means. Anyway, as a public service message to readers who will be in Denver for AERA (and because it's kind of amusing for everyone else), I ...


The evidentiary standards for i3 have stirred much conversation. On those standards, I've mixed feelings. On the one hand, the i3 criteria have healthfully prompted would-be applicants to think much more seriously about evaluation than has been the norm. Just in the past few weeks, I've heard from a number of outfits that have suddenly gotten religion on this question. This has the potential to weed out so many of the cruddy fly-by-night operators in the space and to foster a culture of performance. At the same time, if foundations wind up mimicking federal decisions, standards of evidence could become ...


I've been hard on Secretary Duncan and the administration, especially on the subject of Race to the Top (RTT). No two ways about it. This has prompted some in the administration to ask whether I'm just a reflexive contrarian. I don't intend to be. As I've said before, I like and respect many in the administration, count many as friends, and think they've been trying to push in the right direction. That I've been semi-scathing is in no small part a reaction to how ED has communicated its efforts and the coverage they've received. There's not much that ED can ...


It's good that the Department of Education held the line in naming just two round one Race to the Top (RTT) winners. After the dismal decision to name 16 finalists, this was an important corrective (even if I've doubts about the signal sent by the two winners that emerged). Perhaps going from 16 to two was the plan all along, or perhaps public reaction usefully stiffened ED's spine. Either way, the outcome was better than I had feared. I've conflicting reactions to the round one result. Not only do I think RTT is a good idea in principle, but I ...


Who would've thought it? If you'd told me a week ago that Secretary Duncan would've named just two Race to the Top (RTT) round one winners, I would have thought it a triumph and a really important marker. Now, less than 24 hours later, I can't help but view the announcement as an enormous disappointment. Secretary Duncan yesterday set the unfortunate precedent that nothing matters for RTT applicants so much as the ability to beg, wheedle, and cajole lots of signatures of support from school boards, superintendents, and union locals. States like Florida and Louisiana, which had bold and action-packed ...


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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