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 ...


Perhaps they should have called it the "Race to Consensus" or the "Race to Stakeholder Buy-In." Upon hearing there were only two round one Race to the Top (RTT) winners, I thought Duncan deserved some credit for recovering his footing after the fiasco of naming 16 round one finalists. Then, when I heard the two were Delaware and Tennessee, I had second thoughts. And they brought to mind my observation from a few months back (and restated this morning) that the numerical marker was a terrific tool for Duncan. All he had to do to get laurels was limit the ...


Like the Energizer Bunny, our earnest Secretary of Education just keeps going. The Race to the Top (RTT) winners are slated to be announced this afternoon, and a rumor from a reliable source has it that there will be just three winners. That would be good news. Given his unfortunate penchant for talking bigger than he delivers, and all the ink already spilled on RTT, you'd think Duncan might let the results speak for themselves. After all, just about everybody--other than his flacks, love-struck media types, and state officials eager to curry favor--thought his decision to name 16 round one ...


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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