A year ago, I penned a piece asking then-new Secretary of Education Arne Duncan ten questions about the challenges of promoting the administration's reform agenda and spending stimulus dollars wisely. With more than $100 billion in stimulus funds and a slew of promises about transformative change and increased transparency, the queries were intended to help observers figure out how much stock to put in the Secretary's bold talk. I looked back the other day, curious to see how he'd fared. I'll just say that I was not impressed. But I'm less interested in my take and more curious in how ...


For all my concerns about No Child Left Behind's grandiose ambitions and misguided hyper-prescriptiveness, its profound contribution was the wealth of information that's now available on graduation rates and student achievement. Given that, it's striking that Uncle Sam spends vastly more on higher education than K-12 but that higher ed now desperately lags when it comes to even minimal, user-friendly transparency. If students or parents want to know how graduates from this college or that one fare, or even where students are more likely to graduate, it's ridiculously hard to find good information. Fortunately, a handful of analysts have taken ...


It's been almost twenty years since I taught in a K-12 classroom and more than a dozen years since I last supervised student teachers. So, readers probably appreciate that I tend not to have a lot to say when it comes to classroom instruction. But I recently picked up a new book, Roxanna Elden's See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers, which I wish had been around when I started teaching. Elden, a teacher down in Miami-Dade, skips the treacle and talks straight, with a heavy dose of practicality, a dash of cynicism, and wry humor. I dug ...


A few weeks back, I wrote about Kansas City superintendent John Covington. Having inherited a district plagued by a $50 million budget shortfall, half-filled schools, and lousy performance, Covington rejected the familiar "muddle through" strategy and proposed radical surgery. He urged the board to shut-down half the district's 61 schools and cut a quarter of the staff. Last week, in a 5-4 vote, the board backed his proposal to shutter close to 30 schools, sell the district's downtown central office, eliminate 700 out of 3000 positions, and require teachers at six low-performing schools to reapply for their jobs. For more ...


When the Obama administration released its proposal for the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind on Saturday, I had two immediate, conflicting reactions. The first was that the administration deserves kudos for sketching a vastly more modest conception of Uncle Sam's role and for dramatically scaling back NCLB's attempts to fix K-12 schooling from Washington. Indeed, I'd have expected this sensible stance to be a bitter pill for Kati Haycock and the champions of "the feds should fix it" legislation (more on that in a moment). The second reaction was puzzlement at what seems a schizophrenic vision of the federal ...


This week, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers released the draft English Language Arts (ELA) and math standards they've developed in their Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI). I don't have much to say on the standards themselves, though I am a big fan of the thoughtful folks who spearheaded this effort. Even when I was in the classroom or writing about instructional practice, I was never all that confident I could distinguish good standards from bad (it's pretty much the same reaction I have to rubrics for professional assessment). That said, I had ...


Yesterday, I had the honor of hosting my dear friend and esteemed colleague Diane Ravitch at AEI for the first forum on her new book. Those interested can read about and watch the event here later today. As readers are likely aware, Diane's book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, has created quite a stir--due largely to her argument that accountability and school choice, two ideas with which she had long been associated, have been "hijacked" by MBAs and foundation types and have served as ineffective, destructive distractions. On her Bridging Differences blog and elsewhere, Diane ...


Race to the Top (RTT) finalists have been issued instructions for their big upcoming trip to Washington, the one where they'll put on their dog-and-pony shows for reviewers and Department of Education staff. The instructions raise fresh grounds for concern about how much care Department officials have devoted to bolstering the credibility of this $4 billion grant competition and buffering it from political considerations. Department officials reviewed the instructions with finalists in a hush-hush phone call last Friday, but a couple of sources who were on the call and who share the commitment to "maximum integrity and transparency" that our ...


A couple weeks ago I pointed out that one could predict with 77% accuracy the amount that states asked for in Race to the Top (RTT) funding by looking at only two things, neither of them related to the state's RTT application. The first is state student enrollment, and the second is the size of a state's reported 2010 budget shortfall. At the time, I expressed doubts about what this might mean regarding RTT's ability to change the way the federal government and the states do business and for President Obama's State of the Union promise that, under RTT, "Instead ...


I was inclined to tag this post, "How intellectual conformity stifles 'diverse' thinking." But that seemed a bit long-winded. Anyway, here's the deal. The Politics of Education Association has decided on a theme for its special Education Politics Series issue of Vanderbilt University's Peabody Journal of Education. The theme? "Post-Racialism in the K-12 and Higher Education Arenas: The Politics of Education in the Obama Administration Era." An interesting topic--though the editors quickly try to fix that. Editors Enrique Aleman, Andrea Rorrer, and Laurence Parker laboriously seek to explain the special issue's purpose (as only three jargon-besotted academics can). They write: "As...


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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