Today's debates over teacher evaluation mostly just leave me tired. On the one side, we've got "reformers" who've accurately identified real problems, suggested sensible principles (like we should work to identify teachers who are better and worse at their jobs)... and then rushed to champion crude, inflexible policies that turn good ideas into caricatures. On the other side, we've got teachers and "public school defenders" who aren't content to challenge simple-minded solutions, but who argue that we can't really distinguish good educators from bad ones...and ought to instead spend lots of time worrying about whether teachers are happy. I've ...


The American Educational Research Association (of which I am a member) modestly labels itself "the nation's leading scientific and scholarly association...devoted to advancing knowledge about education." Readers may assume that AERA does its best to avoid gratuitous partisan political fights. Ha!! Hah-hah! Silly readers. Indeed, it often seems that ed research is an excuse for AERA's leaders to dress up partisan political leanings in something more impressive than fevered ideology. That said, I don't mind the partisanship and ideology so much as I mind the hypocrisy, misuse of research, and attempt to hijack scholarly institutions. What's up? I recently ...


I recently had the chance to sit down and chat with Liz Fagen, superintendent of Douglas County School District in Colorado. Liz is intriguing. She's a superintendent of a fair-sized (60,000 students), suburban, high-performing system who is pushing aggressively forward on controversial efforts around school vouchers and teacher quality. We pay a lot of attention to urban school districts, but much less to high-performing suburbs--where there's typically less interest in much of the current "reform" agenda. All of that makes Liz and Douglas County kind of unique. I thought it worth chatting with Liz a bit about what they're ...


Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) has proposed an "Education-ARPA," modeled on the famed Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The Obama administration has included a similar proposal, carving the dollars out of i3. Projected funding seems to hover in the $30 to $70 million range. (The proposals are cost neutral, meaning they'd be paid for by off-setting cuts.) The idea intrigues me, but I've been as confused as most others about what ARPA-ED would look like or actually do. To try to get a clearer picture of what Sen. Bennet and the Obama administration have in mind, I invited the Senator ...


As some readers may know, I'm well along on my next book. Tentatively titled Cage-Busting Leadership, it's due to Harvard Ed Press in July and you can expect to see it out early next year. The title may be a bit weird, but the premise is simple: I believe that two things are true. It is true, as would-be reformers often argue, that statutes, policies, rules, regulations, contracts, and case law make it tougher than it should be for school and system leaders to drive improvement and, well, lead. At the same time, however, it is also true that these ...


Hi All, You know I dig you, and that I've long regarded many of you as friends, mentors, kindred spirits, and inspirations. But, right now, I'm feeling compelled to add a new tag: enablers. We just recently watched the end of round one of the ludicrous "waiver" spectacle. The Obama administration turned the modest authority to waive provisions of NCLB into a license to require that states adopt a raft of preferred measures, or else label most of their schools as failing. Of course, the administration had presented it very differently. Last fall, the Secretary of Education made grand promises ...


Inside Schools, which bills itself as "your independent guide to NYC public schools," just published a long story documenting the frustration of some parents that every NYC school isn't prepared to accommodate children with every conceivable special need. The lede really was touching. The story opened: "'Special needs children need not apply.' There was no sign hanging on the main office at PS 289 in Bedford-Stuyvesant last week, but there may as well have been. Essence Louis says she was told Friday that she couldn't register her son Michael for kindergarten because next year the school won't have the ...


Last week offered a classic illustration of edu-hype, courtesy of the New York Times. Fortunately, it also featured a trifecta of that much rarer edu-commodity--tough-minded, skeptical scrutiny--courtesy of the Brookings Institution's Tom Loveless (a man who may be allergic to edu-faddism). Let's start with the NYT's latest contribution to the edufad spin machine. In 700 overwrought words, credulous columnist Nicholas Kristof penned a tardy Valentine's Day card to Randi Weingarten. Kristof apparently paid a visit to New Haven, got spun by the local p.r. machine, and wound up wowed by the sweet talk and the sterling sentiments of the ...


As regular readers know, much of my writing on value-added dings would-be reformers for getting waaaay ahead of themselves. They're busy trying to build whole systems around tools that are crude, limited, and relevant for only a portion of what teachers and schools do. That's why I find it troubling that "reformers" are in a headlong dash to use these primitive systems to measure everything they can, or to validate everything else (observations, student feedback, etc.). But--and here's the crucial "but"--value-added is a tool for measuring performance that may be useful in holding adults accountable for how well they ...


The eagle-eyed Daniel Lautzenheiser reminded me that today marks exactly two years since we launched RHSU. I've enjoyed it more than I might've expected, and hugely appreciate the various folks who have been kind enough to share tips, information, and reactions. Anyway, RHSU readership is up pretty substantially even since this time last year, leading me to think that some new readers might be interested to hear a bit more about where I'm coming from. So, without further ado, here's the inaugural column from two years ago: Hi there. Or, in the phrasing of Christian Slater's homicidal but quirkily charming ...


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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