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 ...


Hidy, all. I'm back. Had my head down, crashing away on the Cage-Busting book manuscript. We'll eventually see how that turned out. Meanwhile, I've been blown away by the quality of the guest-blogging, so a special thanks to Jonathan, Chapman, Robin, and Andrew. Anyway, let's get back to it, shall we? I've been typically disheartened by the Obama-inspired, now-bipartisan panderfest that's broken out over Stafford loans. For those who've been otherwise occupied, here's a quick recap. Five years ago, in a piece of cheap political theater, Democrats in Congress wrote an additional sweetener for federally subsidized Stafford loans into the ...


Note: Andrew Kelly, a research fellow at AEI, is guest-posting this week. Unless you've been under a rock for the past year, you've heard about the "parent trigger." In principle, the trigger is a simple and powerful idea: parents in a chronically failing school can band together and petition the district to make radical changes. If the petitioners can get signatures from 51 percent of the parents, the district must respond with dramatic reforms. In California, site of the first-ever trigger law, the menu of options mirrors the four federal turnaround models, including the option to convert to a charter ...


Note: Andrew Kelly, a research fellow at AEI, is guest-posting this week. On Monday I talked about what the burgeoning of middle-class urban dwellers may mean for charter schools. Today I'm talking about how some charter organizations are actively developing new markets, and what this might mean for school choice and competition more broadly. The topic of the hour: vertical integration in the charter market. In the corporate world, one of the most basic decisions that firms face is the "make or buy" choice. Should we make the component parts and services we need to produce our product in-house? Or ...


Note: Andrew Kelly, a research fellow at AEI, is guest-posting this week. Greetings devoted RHSU readers! I'm Andrew Kelly, Rick's colleague at AEI. Before I begin, let's first hear it for Robin Lake of CRPE for her prolific and thought-provoking week of guest-blogging. In thinking about what I'd like to write this week, it dawned on me that this coming fall will be 10 years since I first got cooking in education policy research and writing. For those who don't know, I was the Rickster's first research assistant at AEI way back in 2002. No Child Left Behind was still ...


Note: Robin Lake, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington, is guest-posting this week. It's been a real pleasure to air some ideas with you this week. Sincere thanks to Rick and the AEI team for lending me the space. Thanks also to my CRPE colleagues whose work and ideas fed these posts. Finally, thanks to readers for all the Star Wars comments! May the force (of evidence) be with you... If you like, follow our work at crpe.org or @crpe_uw. For some final thoughts, I'm turning to an issue that's ...


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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