Am out in Seattle, where I had the honor last night of emceeing the first inaugural Eddies! Awards for the Policy Innovators in Education Network. It was a terrific time with a bunch of smart and inspiring people. With social media playing an increasingly noteworthy role in the school reform effort, I thought I'd share one of the invaluable contributions from my emceeing gig--my list of the top ten school reform tweets of 2011. 10: @Brilldude- Unions bad. Reformers good. I heart Jon Schnur. Buy my book. 9: @DFERboss- Unions bad. LIFO bad. But not as bad as GOP governors. ...


Last week, RiShawn Biddle penned an energetic critique of "Our Achievement Gap Mania" for his e-newsletter Dropout Nation. The impassioned attack echoed some of the more visceral reactions that the article has generated. I'm a fan of robust debate, but I do want to make sure that critics understand what I'm arguing and why I'm arguing it. In that light, it seemed useful to elaborate on three particular counts. First, Biddle claims that I argue in National Affairs that "the achievement gap is a matter not worthy of addressing." That's simply false. Any reader of the piece knows I never ...


As I noted yesterday, my National Affairs essay "Our Achievement Gap Mania" has stirred some conversation. Let's take a moment to address those who've asked, "Rick, why are you trying to stir up trouble? There are no losers here!" Proponents of the gap-closing gospel cheerfully assure us that everybody wins. Education Trust vice president Amy Wilkins has rejected as a "false choice" the notion "that we have to make a choice as a country between equity and excellence. Our policies need to marry both." That's a swell aspiration. Unfortunately, I think the evidence suggests that focusing our attention and finite ...


Yesterday, the quarterly journal National Affairs published my essay "Our Achievement Gap Mania." As I'd suspected it might, the piece seems to have angered a number of educators and reformers who I like and respect. So, I thought I'd try over the next couple days to explain what the fuss is about and why I felt compelled to challenge a well-intentioned, deeply ingrained consensus. A decade ago, the No Child Left Behind Act ushered in an era of federal educational accountability marked by relentless focus on closing race- and income-based "achievement gaps" in test scores and graduation rates. The language ...


Turnarounds are all the rage. Under the guiding hand of its stellar state chief, Tony Bennett, Indiana has recently tried out an interesting spin in its approach to tackling consistently low-performing schools. Due partly to necessity and partly to calculation, the plan includes a wrinkle or two I thought worth noting. Recently, I had the chance to chat with Dale Chu, Bennett's assistant superintendent for innovation and improvement, about what's going on. A few weeks back, the Indiana Department of Ed opted to intervene in seven schools across Indiana. Six of the schools are in Indianapolis and one is in ...


L.A.'s straight-talking mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, a former teacher union organizer, one of the nation's most influential Hispanic officials, and very likely a future governor of California, visited AEI yesterday to discuss the challenges of urban school reform. I thought it to be exceptionally good stuff; he was vague on key particulars, but I thought he gave admirably honest answers and did a terrific job of modeling how state and local leaders can push past the ideological slogans that soak up most of the oxygen in DC. You can see his remarks here. What most impressed me was the ...


This afternoon, at AEI, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is visiting to discuss the challenges of urban school reform, how to drive school improvement in a time of shrinking revenues, and the lessons he's learned in office. Villaraigosa, a longtime union organizer and former speaker of the California Assembly, was first elected mayor in 2005 and is now midway through his second term. As mayor, he's broken some china and earned some scars--and I'm curious to hear what he has to say about all of it. Villaraigosa has been named the "charter dude of the year" by the National Alliance ...


President Obama is passionately committed to improving higher education, but seems mightily confused about how he plans to do so. Putting a fine point on his dilemma, just last month, Obama's Justice Department filed a multibillion-dollar fraud suit against the Education Management Corp., the nation's second-largest for-profit college company, charging that it was not eligible for the $11 billion in state and federal aid. For the first time ever, the federal government sued a company based on claims that it violated federal law by paying recruiters based on students enrolled. On the one hand, the president has told Congress, "Every ...


Yesterday, several key Senate Republicans announced a five-bill package laying out their vision for overhauling No Child Left Behind (nee ESEA). The proposals offered by Senators Lamar Alexander, Richard Burr, Johnny Isakson, and Mark Kirk sketch a dramatically leaner federal role than does the Obama administration's "ESEA blueprint" (which itself represented a big step back from NCLB circa 2001). The GOP proposals would retain strong federal requirements regarding transparency, annual assessment, and disaggregation of data; that Title I dollars be used to serve low-income children; and that states take steps to address their worst-performing Title I schools. But they would ...


There's been a surge in attention paid to edu-philanthropy of late, especially with Sam Dillon's piece in the New York Times in May and Bill Gates' WSJ interview this summer. The condemnations of "corporate philanthropy" and of philanthropists giving away tens of millions as "MBAs run amok" fly hot and heavy. I think the critics are mistaken and way too quick to hurl accusations here. I don't remember them raising concerns about the pernicious influence of grantors when the Ford Foundation bankrolled litigation to boost edu-spending or when the Annenberg Challenge pumped $500 million into a mash-up of ineffectual mid-1990s ...


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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