Yesterday, I offered three thoughts that had struck me regarding Race to the Top (RTT) as I flit around the country talking about my new book, Education Unbound. For what it's worth, here are a few more thoughts. I'm increasingly convinced that the energy devoted to RTT has focused state reform communities on dreaming up plans that demand more resources and new investments. Even in the most far-sighted locales (and perhaps especially in these) one result has been a massive distraction from asking how to use the bleak budgetary environment that looms into the middle of the next decade as ...


Andy Smarick's dazzling new "AEI Education Stimulus Watch," bringing readers up to speed on all things edu-stimulus, is out today. It provides a vivid look at the Race to the Top (RTT) landscape; in particular, combining Andy's principled enthusiasm for RTT with his careful attention to how the program is playing out. Readers will find especially useful his attention to the challenges of program design, ED execution, and political gamesmanship. (Full disclosure: As the report's title implies, it is written for and published by my AEI Education shop). I found Andy's piece especially thought-provoking, as I've been on the road ...


I am among those (including, apparently, Rep. David Obey) warning that failure to sensibly insulate Race to the Top (RTT) from political officials and pressure poses risks to the credibility and sustainability of the centerpiece of the Obama administration's ed reform agenda. Now, in a development ripe with irony, Chicago Breaking News has raised a ruckus in Chicago with its report that then-Superintendent Arne Duncan's staff kept a list of politicians' school requests. The report has raised concerns about political favoritism and lack of transparency. Chicago Breaking News reports: "While many Chicago parents took formal routes to land their children ...


I eased up on Race to the Top (RTT) a bit last week, but the aftermath of Nancy Pelosi's weekend healthcare porkfest has resurfaced all of the concerns I have previously raised (such as here and here) about the failure to concretize criteria for evaluation and review or to adequately insulate the judging and awarding from political appointees. As Terry Ryan points out, emerging specifics about all the healthcare dealing that the administration did last week raise unnecessary and unfortunate questions about whether some of the $4.35 billion in taxpayer funds devoted to RTT may have helped buy votes ...


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 ...


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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