Monday, at AEI, we hosted one of our major conferences, on "Carrots, Sticks, and the Bully Pulpit: Sobering Lessons from a Half Century of Federal Efforts to Improve America's Schools" (you can watch it here). The conference featured eleven new papers by authors including Mike Smith, Checker Finn, Maris Vinovskis, Mark Schneider, Jane Hannaway, Paul Manna, and Mike Casserly (you can find copies of all of the papers here), and reactions from discussants including DC Chancellor Kaya Henderson, L.A. supe John Deasy, ED chief of staff (and former RTT chief) Joanne Weiss, former Congressman Mike Castle, RI state supe ...


I had the privilege of visiting with Rhode Island's superintendents and district business officers the other day, to discuss the fiscal crunch and how to stretch the school dollar. One of the things we touched on was the recent Phi Delta Kappan piece "Leading Through a Fiscal Nightmare." I used it to suggest how not to respond to a budget crunch, and to flag some tics common to superintendents and principals that are misguided and likely to alienate supporters. The winning course, given that families (e.g. taxpayers) across America have lost jobs and homes, and had to tighten their ...


I'm an advocate for charter schooling. Regular readers of RHSU know that this is not because I'm convinced they're the answer to the "achievement gap" or to driving up math and reading scores, but because chartering offers an opportunity to rethink how we go about teaching, learning, and schooling. In that context, I've long been concerned that our rethinking is almost entirely focused on reading and math scores and graduation rates and the result can yield a reflexive, frail conception of schooling. If we're going to reinvent schools, I'd like us to do so in a manner that respects the ...


One of the funniest developments of the past six months has been watching self-confident individuals at the Department of Education and at various advocacy outfits (especially putatively "conservative" ones) explain to newly committed small-government Republicans what Republicans are "supposed" to favor. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is trying to convince the Republicans that they're supposed to embrace a supersized, amped-up version of NCLB. The Fordham Foundation that they should embrace the Common Core, efforts to develop common curricula, and the rest. Reform-minded Dems that they're supposed to embrace federal direction on "highly effective teachers," ED's anti-bullying crusade, federally-mandated school ...


Houston superintendent Terry Grier has been making some impressive, controversial moves--albeit mostly out of the spotlight. It's a peculiar truism that giant districts like Houston or Clark County, Nevada, attract far less notice than much smaller districts like Washington, DC, Boston, and Newark. Anyway, last Friday, the Houston Independent School Board endorsed, 7-2, Grier's ambitious new teacher evaluation system for the nation's seventh-largest district. (For a terrific news account, check out Ericka Mellon's Houston Chronicle story here.) The new system replaces HISD's familiar "everybody's-doing-swell" pro forma evaluation system which, one high-ranking HISD insider told me, "rated nearly all teachers satisfactory ...


During the health care debate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked in October 2009: "Madam Speaker, where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate?" Pelosi responded: "Are you serious? Are you serious?" Her press spokesman, Nadeam Elshami, later codified the dismissal, saying, "You can put this on the record. That is not a serious question. That is not a serious question." Pelosi Dems regarded conservative qualms about an expansive federal role as strange and insincere. Well, now here we are again. This time the issue is budding unrest over the federal role ...


For several years now, would-be reformers have gotten away with claiming that there's a goopy, groupthink "reform consensus." They depict the edu-debates as a simple-minded morality play between a "reform" phalanx and "adult interests." This line has been sold most assiduously by Democrat for Ed Reform-types and NCLB enthusiasts who think conservatives are supposed to quietly, cheerfully sign on to the grand schemes crafted by their betters. These reformers imagine broad sentiment that anyone who's not a union toadie agrees to a whole host of "reformy" things, including the Common Core, sanctity of value-added measures, race-based accountability metrics, niftiness of ...


It was almost fifteen years ago now that I was sharing my Harvard dissertation, on the dynamics of school reform in fifty-seven urban districts, with a few potential publishers. The three presses I talked to--Teachers College Press, Harvard University Press, and the Brookings Institution--all sent the manuscript out for review. Brookings sent it to policy and political science professors. TCP and HUP sent it to education professors. The Brookings reviews were broadly positive, with assorted smart criticism and caveats. The policy scholars deemed the research and the argument fresh and interesting, but sensibly noted that the manuscript needed a lot ...


The other day, I expressed the hope that Monday's hard-hitting anti-Common Core manifesto would prompt the Common Core-ites to elevate their game and start to more seriously address concerns about their efforts. I hoped that proponents would stop regarding the Common Core as something that "right-thinking" people must reflexively embrace and more diligently seek to make a coherent case for what they are doing and why critics need not fear overreach. Happily, things are already looking up. Within hours of Monday's post, Mitch Chester, board chair of PARCC (one of the two Common Core assessment consortia) and the Massachusetts Commissioner ...


Nationally, until just the past couple years, nominal per pupil spending increased every year for three generations. Now, for the first time in memory, public educational leaders are being asked to do what their counterparts in any number of public, non-profit, and for-profit organizations do routinely--cut back and make do with less. A few K-12 leaders seem to accept that public schools, which have added staff at twice the rate they've added students in the past decade, need to shoulder their share of the burden as states confront budget shortfalls. A few even see a bracing opportunity to deliver stern ...


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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