Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled 7 to 1 in Fisher v. U. Texas that affirmative action is constitutional, but only within tight constraints. The Court remanded the case to a lower court and instructed it to apply "strict scrutiny" in deciding whether UT's race-conscious admissions policy met the constitutional standard. The Supremes largely punted here, refusing to ban race-conscious policies but also insisting that courts need to do a more scrupulous job of ensuring that affirmative action is narrowly tailored. Justice Anthony Kennedy explained in the majority opinion, "A university must make a showing that its plan is narrowly tailored ...


In a new Hudson Institute white paper "Beyond Retrofitting," Andrew Kelly and I try to explain what it'll take to rethink and redesign higher education. If the current wave of "innovation" and breathless enthusiasm for MOOCs are to amount to more than one more faddish interlude, it'll require sustained attention to the institutions, incentives, and policies that govern higher ed. (Quick note: If this is a topic of interest, check out the livestream for the all-day conference on reinventing the financial aid system that Andrew and U. Wisconsin's Sara Goldrick-Rab are hosting today at AEI. You can find the collected ...


On Tuesday, I tried to explain how Common Core enthusiasts have gotten themselves into their current fix, where their dazzling, Race to the Top-fueled victories of 2010 and 2011 have given way to a divisive, frustrating slog. Today, the Common Core'ites have some serious challenges. Among these: 1] They have no one who seems able to credibly address concerns on the Tea Party right; 2] are dismissive of practical questions, like whether the technology will actually support glitch-free assessments; 3] lean on the boilerplate language of educational competition rather than addressing specific concerns; 4] and keep repeating the same tone-deaf ...


I've long said that the Common Core strikes me as an intriguing effort that could do much good. So, why am I not on board? Because I think the effort has a good chance of stalling out over the next four or five years. And, because standards and assessments are the backbone of pretty much everything else in K-12 schooling, that could tear down all manner of promising efforts on teacher quality, school improvement, and the rest. This all leaves me feeling a lot like a kid watching a scary movie through crossed fingers. The past couple weeks, I've been ...


Was recently sent a slender new book by 2009 California Teacher of the Year Alex Kajitani (a hugely interesting guy who is well worth getting to know). Kajitani's The Teacher of the Year Handbook spells it all out in the subtitle: "The ultimate guide to making the most of your teacher-leader role." Katijani takes the unusual step of providing a wealth of concrete, practical advice on how teachers can go about making their voice heard beyond the walls of the schoolhouse. While there are plenty of books calling for teachers to have more influence on policy, offering collections of classroom ...


Hey, so I stumbled across an interesting paper by SuHua Huang, Phillip Jeffrey Blacklock, and Matthew Capps, of Texas's Midwestern State University: "Reading Habits of College Students in the United States." (A good write-up is available here in the Chronicle of Higher Education.) They find that college students are spending less than eight hours a week on academic reading, and that nearly half of their "reading" time consists of perusing Facebook updates...or devouring 140 characters at a time. Huang and her colleagues asked 1,265 students at a four-year liberal arts college (presumably theirs) to fill out surveys describing ...


I spend a lot of time at various national, state, and local edu-conferences. It seems that that, no matter how thoughtful the organizers and no matter the gathering's politics or point of view, they all tend to feature a lot of really long stretches of tedium. Now, let me make three things abundantly clear. First, I'm confident that most conferences in most fields are tedious. Second, I admittedly have an awful attention span and get bored way too easily. Third, I'm as guilty of putting together boring conferences as anyone else, so this is intended more as a public service ...


Late last week, in conjunction with the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, my shop at AEI released briefs by eight of the most interesting thinkers around when it comes to rethinking the contours of K-12 schooling (you can find them all here). In these pieces, which together offer up a bold, interlocking strategy, the authors sketch out the practical system design suggestions that often get set aside as we focus alternately on big concepts or on implementation tactics. The pieces all embrace a "sector agnostic" approach; they focus on figuring out how educational, municipal, and state leaders can support schools, cultivate ...


So, looks like we're getting back into NCLB reauthorization mode. I laid out some of the broad context on Monday. While nobody is thrilled with NCLB, there are concerns that the Senate Republicans are going to go too far in "retreating" from the appropriate federal role. Today, I want to set aside for the moment philosophical arguments about the federal role, and talk about the design problems of NCLB, and why it's essential that any vision for reauth steer clear of repeating those. Checker Finn and I argued six years ago in Education Next that NCLB's critical flaw was its ...


Word has it that the Democrats on the Senate HELP Committee will be bringing forth their proposal for NCLB/ESEA reauthorization this week. Thus we'll return to a favorite Beltway edu-pastime: discussing whether reauthorization will pass, whether there will be a bipartisan bill, and what might change. The bottom line: There will be no reauthorization in 2013 or 2014. There will be no bipartisan Senate bill. Expect the majority Democratic bill to look a lot like the 2011 Harkin-Enzi bill that made it out of committee, and Republicans to sketch a far more modest federal role. The longer version: There ...


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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