Before I blogged, people who knew my writing generally knew it from my books or essays. Nowadays, though, many seem to know me primarily through RHSU. That's cool, but it means readers sometimes sidle up at conferences or speeches to ask, "How the heck can you be both for X and against Y?" After all, blog columns don't provide a lot of context or nuance. I try to explain how I can be for rewarding excellence and against simple test-based merit pay; or why I believe in the potential of online learning but am skeptical about the impact of the ...


Last week, I questioned the American Educational Research Association's (of which I am a member) decision to adopt a partisan stance in charged debates over immigration policy and high school classes that promote racial pride. In a public response, the AERA, which bills itself as "the nation's leading scientific and scholarly association...devoted to advancing knowledge about education," doubled down, declaring (in an extended RHSU comment) it stands by its decision to boycott Georgia over the state's immigration policies and to denounce as "educationally indefensible" Arizona's move to limit K-12 ethnic studies offerings. Unable (or unwilling) to distinguish between a ...


Recently, Education Week's "Living in Dialogue" blog featured a number of provocative posts on Teach For America. Phil Kovacs, an assistant professor at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, penned a guest post that offered a sharp critique of TFA and the research supporting its efforts. There was also an impassioned back-and-forth between two TFA corps members on TFA's "locus of control" concept. Given high interest in TFA, the relevance of research on TFA to the broader teacher quality agenda, and my own long, complicated history with TFA as a critical friend, I thought it worth sitting down with TFA's VP for ...


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 ...


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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