Showing the taste for power that has led Sen. Lamar Alexander to accuse him of thinking he runs a national school board, yesterday Secretary of Education Arne Duncan yanked Washington state's "waiver" from the No Child Left Behind Act. In his letter, Duncan expressed his disappointment in the failure of Washington state's legislature to heed his instruction "to put in place teacher and principal evaluation and support systems that take into account information on student learning growth based on high-quality college- and career-ready (CCR) State assessments as a significant factor in determining teacher and principal performance levels."

Blogger John Thompson and Gates research honcho Steve Cantrell ultimately had an extended, robust exchange of views. They didn't "solve" anything but I think this kind of honest, civil disagreement makes it a helluva lot easier to think about finding workable ways forward. So, when they offered to share their takes on the whole deal, I was game. Here's what they had to say.

Many in education will bewail the Supreme Court's Schuette decision. I think that's misguided. For what it's worth, here's my take.

A couple years ago I observed, "I see great potential value in states choosing to embrace common, high-caliber reading and math standards... That said, seems to me there's a huge chance that the whole exercise will go south, with many states implementing the Common Core half-heartedly, while screwing with existing reforms and standards. Such an outcome would ultimately do more harm than good." Last Friday, two columns reminded me why I fear the entire Common Core enterprise is likely to have disquieting results.

Common Core critics in each state need to devise their own version of "repeal and replace."

Regular readers are familiar with Neerav Kingsland, who's penned some of the more popular RHSU guest posts. Two years ago, I did a Straight Up conversation with Neerav when he took the reins from Sarah Usdin at New Schools for New Orleans. We've now come full circle, with Neerav recently announcing the he is stepping down at NSNO to aid other cities and districts seeking to pursue New Orleans-style education reform. It seemed an opportune time to catch up with Neerav, take stock of where things are in New Orleans, and hear his thoughts on what's ahead.

Today, in a highly personal guest post, Katherine Bassett, a gentle 26-year middle school librarian, former New Jersey Teacher of the Year, and CEO of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, offers a classic cage-busting take. She points out how the innocuous, admirable proclivity to be "hopeful" can leave teachers trapped in cages of their own design. All I have to say is, "Amen!"

Reform critics dismiss efforts to rethink leadership practice, recruitment, and training as an effort to import "business" thinking into K-12. Meanwhile, it's easy for reformers to sound as if they're just saying we need "better" school and system leaders. In reality, today's leaders struggle with professional norms, training, and circumstances that aren't of their making--and which offer precious little calculated to help forge great schools and systems.

For those interested in schooling, a potential Jeb Bush candidacy is an altogether good thing. Keep in mind that, for more than a decade, Jeb Bush has been the Right's unquestioned champion of school reform. During his two terms as Florida's governor, he earned a reputation for his ambitious, transformative education agenda. Since leaving office in 2007, Bush has extended his legacy. He launched the influential Foundation for Excellence in Education. He has been the go-to mentor for GOP governors on education and a leading proselytizer for digital learning. Bush's knowledge of education dwarfs that of anyone else in the ...

Yesterday, PISA released its newest report on the results of a "first-of-its-kind" assessment that sought to measure "creative problem-solving skills" of 15-year-olds. U.S. students scored above average, thought they fared worse than ten of the "44 countries and economies" (now there's an awkward phrase). Thankfully, the exercise hasn't occasioned the same spasm of hyperventilation that greeted the release of PISA's math, science, and reading results a few months back.

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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