I've been meaning to do a longer postmortem on Florida's Senate Bill 6. As I've noted before, I enthusiastically supported it even though I thought it a deeply flawed bill. The flaw? Its ham-fisted attempt to strip out one set of anachronistic strictures (governing tenure and step-and-lane pay scales) only to replace it with a set of test-driven processes that were almost equally troubling. I'll get to that eventually. But in travels to Boston and Houston yesterday, I had occasion to reflect on the often incautious faith in value-added assessment that underlies many efforts to rethink teacher evaluation and pay. ...


In my recent book Education Unbound, I argue that a big problem with "best practices"-style reform is that good ideas often don't play out as intended. Even pedigreed ideas that are cooked up by big-brained professors and prove successful at hand-picked pilot sites often fail to deliver at scale. Most involved in K-12 schooling, of course, are much more enamored of expertise than I. Those in schools of education, in particular, are generally confident that they can identify the right recipes for professional development, instruction, and curricula--and aren't shy about urging those on policymakers and educators. This is what ...


This morning, I hit on the week's first big win for the teachers unions: Florida Governor Charlie Crist vetoing an important teacher pay bill. The week's second big win for the unions was our earnest Secretary of Education's craven decision to curry favor with Senator Tom Harkin and the "Deficits? I don't care about no stinkin' deficits" crowd by endorsing Harkin's $23 billion scheme to ladle out new, borrowed dollars so that our nation's educational leaders might kick the can on tough choices down the road another twelve months. Because it would be "emergency" spending, Harkin sees no need to ...


I almost titled this one "Red Letter Day for the NEA," which would have been just as apropos. This week both Florida Governor Charlie Crist and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan put on undistinguished displays of craven opportunism when, at telling moments, they wilted and opted to preen for easy applause from the cheap seats. The result: Two big wins for the NEA and two substantial setbacks for those who believe we need to rethink teacher tenure, evaluation, and pay, or those who believe K-12 schooling needs to stop beggaring bucks from the kids we're supposed to serve. The big ...


As I noted yesterday, I think my good friend Kevin Carey is mistaken in arguing that vouchers in and of themselves are a recipe for dramatically changing the incentives in education. Look, to take just one example, recognize that non-profits unable to offer discounts to families really have little or no cause to focus on squeezing down the cost of their services. Choice-based reform (vouchers, charters, what-have-you) certainly can help to profoundly change the incentives in schooling, but that depends entirely upon questions of program design, regulation, and context. It's a mistake to imagine that choice creates a self-executing change ...


The piece I penned last week on the new University of Arkansas findings on the Milwaukee voucher program has drawn a fair bit of reaction in the blogosphere. I observed that the unimpressive results from the Milwaukee voucher evaluation (touted as the most ambitious evaluation of a U.S. voucher program yet conducted) are not all that surprising and that the bleak results ought not be taken as evidence that vouchers don't "work," but as a reminder of how little attention choice proponents have devoted to creating the kinds of oxygenated ecosystems that can support dynamic markets. (For a lengthier ...


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 ...


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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