Last week, I had an exchange with the Fordham Institute's "school choice czar" Adam Emerson, in which I argued that Emerson showed an unfortunate disregard for the legitimate concerns of parents and taxpayers in Zachary, Louisiana, in upbraiding them for not opening their schools to the state's new voucher program. I didn't mean to pick on Emerson in particular. I fear that too often even putatively "conservative" advocates for school choice slip into self-righteous rhetoric that dismisses or denigrates the concerns of middle-class or suburban households. Indeed, the most telling reaction to the back-and-forth was over at the Daily Kos, ...


I recently had a chance to chat with Neerav Kingsland, recently named CEO of New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO). NSNO has been a pivotal player in New Orleans' post-Katrina reform landscape. A Tulane and Yale Law School alum, Neerav previously served as the chief strategy officer for NSNO. You may also recall him as a former guest star at RHSU. Neerav is taking the reins from Sarah Usdin, the founder of NSNO who is stepping back after a half-dozen years at the helm. Given the centrality of New Orleans to various reform debates, including those over charter schooling and "recovery...


The other day, the Fordham Institute's Adam Emerson attacked Louisiana's Zachary school district for having the temerity to not participate in the state's new voucher program. After expressing initial interest, Zachary opted not to partake. The voucher program, championed by Governor Bobby Jindal, would allow students who attend Louisiana public schools earning a C, D, or F on the state's accountability system to attend a private or another public school. Emerson denounced Zachary for "erect[ing] a fence around its public schools" and thundered at "those who make 'sacrifices' for the best [but] want to keep their investment exclusive." (I'm ...


Given concerns about the economy, jobs, and health care, education policy isn't likely to be a make-or-break issue in November's presidential election. But it matters a great deal, nonetheless. As was the case for George W. Bush in 2000 and Barack Obama in 2008, Mitt Romney's stance on education will powerfully color how Americans view his broader domestic agenda. Romney's been largely silent on the issue. But now's the time for him to speak. A good place for Romney to start is by explaining what Obama has gotten right during the past four years--and then pointing out precisely where the ...


A number of years ago, in my 2005 book With the Best of Intentions: How Philanthropy is Reshaping K-12 Education, I pointed out that media coverage of education foundations tended to be wide-eyed and sycophantic. At that time, I analyzed the coverage of the five leading edu-foundations by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Newsweek, and The Associated Press between 1995 and early 2005. Researchers coded each story on K-12 giving as positive, negative, factual, or balanced. Of the 146 articles identified, just five were critical, while nearly half were laudatory. On the one hand, ...


When it comes to reforming our nation's public schools, we hear a lot about what educational leaders can't do. Contracts, laws, and regulations assuredly handcuff school and system leaders. But the ardent drumbeat for "reform" has obscured the fact that school and system leaders can actually do much that they often complain they can't, if they have the persistence, knowledge, ingenuity, and motivation. In truth, it's tough to know how much blame should be apportioned to contracts and laws and how much to timid school boards and leaders who prize consensus and stakeholder buy-in. There are genuine legal and bureaucratic ...


Last week, the Chronicle of Higher Education blogger Naomi Schaefer Riley posted a tough, skewering (dare we say "mean-spirited") item blasting what she sees as a lack of academic rigor in black studies departments (hardly an earth-shattering observation, given that similar complaints have been made about all sorts of race and gender studies programs). For her trouble, on Monday she was fired from her gig as a paid columnist for the Chronicle. Given that the Chronicle is routinely filled with enthusiastic defenses of ethnic studies and casual attacks on "conservatives," you'd think they'd welcome the occasional touch of intellectual diversity. ...


I recently wrote a piece for Phi Delta Kappan exploring a couple of the key developments in edu-giving since 2005. That's the year I published With the Best of Intentions: How Philanthropy is Reshaping K-12 Education, in which I (in my usual mean-spirited fashion) used the dismal experience of the then-recently concluded $1.1 billion Annenberg Challenge as a jumping-off point. Today, a lot has changed. Back in 2005, Gates Foundation officials were, for the first time, seriously considering whether to play an active role in shaping public policy. Race to the Top, the Common Core, Democrats for Education Reform, ...


I was tasked with emcee'ing an open mike night a couple nights ago for the annual New Schools Venture Fund summit. Good time. Great people, lots of friends, terrific conversation. Anyway, I took the opportunity to share a few school reform slogans that folks have dreamed up over time, but that didn't quite make the grade. I always find that kind of glimpse behind the curtain an interesting exercise. If you're of like mind, read on. The National Education Association almost rolled out a whole national campaign around the inspiring phrase "You can teach some of the children some of ...


Readers may know that I'm currently finishing the manuscript of my Cage-Busting Leadership book for Harvard Education Press, with the crack assistance of Whitney Downs (who coauthored this post). Writing the book has made it clear that one major problem with leaders failing to take advantage of the operational freedoms they already enjoy is that it forces advocates and policymakers to try to compensate with the crude tools at their disposal. Absent bold leadership, reformers feel they have little recourse but to resort to crude policy proposals that often fail to address real chokepoints and let timid boards and superintendents ...


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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