When it comes to the question of for-profits and American education, there's often more hysteria than analysis. Just this weekend, the New York Times published an extensive, shall we say, selectively sourced attack of for-profit venture K12 Inc. piling atop a similar piece a few weeks back by the Washington Post and other "the profiteers are coming!" exercises in The Nation and elsewhere. To engage in a bit of poetic license, when they look at for-profits, these journalists (and the experts that they quote) see Darth Vader. Sure, there are valid and sensible concerns about the role of for-profits in ...


I'm skeptical when folks who've seemed to drag their heels offer up nifty new proposals and innovations. So, I don't want to sound all "gee, whiz" here. At the same time, it's important that skepticism not morph into reflexive dismissal. With that in mind, we've seen a couple noteworthy developments from the AFT and NEA in recent days. First, in Minnesota, the Minnesota Guild of Public Charter Schools, a non-profit launched by the AFT local, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, has been approved to operate as a charter school authorizer. Supported by the AFT's Innovation Fund, the venture will, in ...


The Cato Institute's Neal McCluskey has energetically denounced the slimmed-down federal role that Linda Darling-Hammond and I sketched last week, offering a not-unreasonable litany of complaints about federal overreach. (It's amusing that Neal thinks I'm endorsing big government, given that most in education regard me as unduly harsh when it come to federal efforts, but that's a topic for another day.) What's relevant here is that Neal's response also illustrates the problems that bedevil those who want to get Washington "out" of education. The biggest is that even Tea Party sympathizers have shown precious little willingness to get serious about ...


On Tuesday, Linda Darling-Hammond and I published an op-ed "How to Rescue Education Reform" in the New York Times. (I take no responsibility for the immodest title; those of you who have written op-eds know how little control authors have on that score.) The piece has generated a number of notes, with several asking how the piece came about. The piece also seemed to raise the ire of various colleagues, including Bellwether's Andy Rotherham and Cato's Neal McCluskey. The background on how the piece came to be is only mildly interesting. Linda and I had no scheme to hatch a ...


The week before Thanksgiving, I penned "When Good Intentions Make Us Stupid." It garnered some heartening feedback from friends who found it useful. It was also quoted by many who selectively cited me in their ongoing efforts to vilify many folks whom I like and respect (as is routine when I'm critical of poorly conceived merit pay systems, federal overreach, or careless use of value-added metrics). In this case, the AFT-backed "RheeFirst" website (along with similar ventures) selectively quoted me in their ongoing war on Michelle Rhee and her StudentsFirst organization. Now, my typical policy is not to worry about ...


Having opined a good bit about "innovation" (check out Ed Unbound for much of my current thinking), I'm sometimes asked about why it's so hard to scale promising programs, models, pilots, and notions. On that note, I just had the chance to spend a few days with a bunch of terrific folks discussing just this topic at a Kauffman Foundation retreat. Kaufmann will be issuing a synthesis with the collected wisdom that emerged. Meanwhile, I figured I'd share my own thinking with you. There are at least two big sets of obstacles when it comes to "scaling" innovation. First, innovative ...


Yesterday, at the Fordham Institute's big conference on "Rethinking Education Governance in the 21st Century," I had the chance to chat about a new paper "More than the Mantra of 'Mayoral Control'" that I penned with Olivia Meeks. When it comes to district governance, Olivia and I argue that the back-and-forth about mayoral control has too often distracted us from the need to tackle entrenched routines. We walk through the case for mayoral control (which I find fairly convincing when it comes to large urban districts) and the reasons for caution, then point out that the relative merits of elected ...


As a nation, we've been living beyond our means for decades. Retirees have happily pocketed Medicare and Social Security benefits that far exceeded their contributions, millions of families bought houses they couldn't afford, families lowered their savings rate to zero while piling on the credit card debt, investors "flipped" homes and bought equities with borrowed dollars, and the federal government (under Bush and Obama) cheerfully spent trillions more than it collected in revenues. We need only look across the Atlantic to see what reckoning for all this eventually looks like. My naïve hope was that the Occupy "movement" might ...


A recent series in The Atlantic has explored the "secrets of innovation" and asked which nations the U.S. ought to emulate in seeking to regain our competitive edge. As part of it, I was asked to offer my take on the K-12 question. Despite all the preaching by the high priests of international mimicry (see Marc Tucker's new book Surpassing Shanghai or, well, anything by McKinsey & Co.), I counseled that the U.S. would do well to chart our own course. (An earlier version of this piece appeared in The Atlantic, but I thought I'd share a tweaked version ...


Note: This week, I'm giving RHSU readers a look at my essay in Richard Elmore's recent Harvard Education Press volume I Used to Think...And Now I Think. If you find this stuff at all interesting, I'd definitely encourage you to check the book out. For days one and two, see here and here. Say something smart once and there are huge rewards for spending a career saying it, in increasingly elaborate forms. Academics who own an idea get hired by prestigious universities, deliver keynotes, and get all kinds of attendant perks. Consultants who own an idea become must-haves for ...


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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