I'm getting close to finishing up my Cage-Busting Leadership book for Harvard Ed Press (it'll be available this coming February). One point that comes up again and again as I work on the text and talk to school and system leaders is the degree to which we've encouraged a leadership culture where leaders have felt they demonstrate their mettle by the number of hours they work and the number of meetings they take. This comes, I'm convinced, at a big cost to their ability to think, reflect, and learn. In talking to these leaders, I find myself thinking of the ...


It's the time of year when lots of high school seniors start thinking about starting college, while their parents gulp at the tuition bills. As often as not, students and parents have navigated the selection process with the aid of popular college guides like US News and World Report or Barron's Profiles of American Colleges. High rankings boost an institution's reputation and attract applicants, encouraging parents and students to pony up extra tuition dollars rather than settle for less prestigious alternatives. What gets lost is higher education's dirty little secret: these rankings mean a lot less than you might think. ...


The whip-smart and polished David Coleman has been the quiet architect behind the Common Core. With no formal position, he's played a pivotal role in shepherding and selling the work coordinated by the NGA and CCSSO. Of late, he's been spending most of his time as the founding partner of Student Achievement Partners, the nonprofit that's received a substantial investment from the GE Foundation (among others) to implement the Common Core. Well, in one of the more intriguing edu-job changes in recent memory, David was recently named the next president of the College Board, the $800 million a year outfit ...


Fact 1: Teachers feel like they're getting a bad rap in the public discourse. Fact 2: I've long since stopped reading the comments proffered on RHSU. What in the world do these two statements have to do with each other? I think it's simple. Self-proclaimed advocates of educators and public education have become so vitriolic, mean-spirited, arrogant, and unreasoning that it's becoming inane to anyone who's not a fellow true believer. This means that they're poorly positioned to convince Americans, and painfully uninteresting to anyone who doesn't agree with them already. I was reminded by this yesterday. Seeing that a ...


Yesterday, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker triumphed in his bare-knuckles recall rematch with Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett. The result serves, fairly or not, to validate Walker's push to dial back the scope of collective bargaining for public employees in Wisconsin. In the blue-tinged cradle of American Progressivism, Walker held off a ferocious labor onslaught. He did so with the aid of more than $40 million raised from conservatives who saw Wisconsin as their must-win battle in the effort to tame the reach of public unions. Walker's win comes on the heels of Republican success in blunting last summer's Democratic attempt to ...


I'm occasionally asked by district officials for a few words of advice on how to proceed when dealing with providers plying their turnaround wares. Given the priority attached to turnarounds nowadays, and the School Improvement Grant funds that districts have to spend, this is no small question. In policy circles, there's plenty of debate about whether this effort to improve low-performing schools will work as hoped or will go down as an expensive failure. On this count, history counsels caution. In the 1970s, millions of dollars were spent on "effective schools research" to find out what made good schools click. ...


You may recall the kerfuffle a couple of weeks back involving The Chronicle of Higher Education's decision to fire blogger Naomi Schaefer Riley for her criticism of black-studies programs. Many critics insisted it wasn't about her point of view but her harsh language. Indeed, Chronicle editor Liz McMillen felt compelled to apologize for Riley, writing, "Several thousand of you spoke out in outrage and disappointment that The Chronicle had published an article that did not conform to the journalistic standards and civil tone that you expect from us." Well, what does the record suggest? Was Riley targeted for her views, ...


Last week, I kvetched about the problems with RTT-District. I'll just say a bit more today. There are four things that particularly struck me about this $400 million exercise: 1. ED anticipates giving out 15 to 20 grants, with amounts tied to district size. Big districts, serving 10,000 kids or more, can get all of $20-$25 million. Smaller districts are eligible for less. In a small urban like Washington, DC, or Newark, we're talking about a total award equal to something like two to three percent of one year's outlays. In the nation's bigger districts, like Houston, Fairfax, ...


Just this week, ED announced the creation of (yet) another RTT, this time for school districts. My only reaction to reading the info on this new Race to the Top-District was, "You have...got...to...be...kidding." It's like they read all their admiring press clips from RTT, strenuously tuned out any criticism or lessons learned from the, um, uneven track record when it comes to implementation, and wanted to see whether they could take the hubris meter up to 11 (with apologies to Spinal Tap). Look, I feel for the folks at ED. I like them and I know ...


Yesterday, presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney unveiled his education program in a speech at the Latino Coalition's Annual Economic Summit. The plan's themes are good ones: school choice, innovation, transparency, focusing on bang-for-the-buck, and welcoming new quality providers (including for-profit ventures). In a happy development, the plan turns the page on the Bush-era romance with NCLB-style federal overreach (it's no surprise that former Bush Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings is no longer listed as a Romney education advisor). To be fair, it's easy for candidates to look good at this stage. After all, at this point in 2008, Barack Obama ...


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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