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 ...


A few months back, I noted that the impressive early success of the Common Core effort risked breeding overconfidence, complacency, and inattention to how the effort would play out in practice. I warned that many who signed onto common assessments might be alienated by an effort that pushed too far or too fast. Well, as of this morning, the Common Core battle has been officially joined. The notion that something this potentially momentous would unfold with no more than a bit of carping was always unlikely. Today, the anti-Common Core-ites fired their first organized response, in a manifesto titled, "Closing ...


In the past month, new superintendents have taken the reins of the nation's three biggest school systems, in New York, L.A., and Chicago. These three friends--Dennis Walcott, John Deasy, and J.C. Brizard--have the chance to become the face of the next half-decade of school reform in the same way that Arne Duncan, Joel Klein, and Michelle Rhee helped shape the past half-decade. What notes they hit, especially in an era of tight budgets and rapidly evolving teacher policies, will have an outsized impact. Yesterday, John Deasy, LAUSD's new supe, visited AEI to deliver an address on his hopes ...


On Wednesday, I stirred a bit of a hornet's nest when I wrote, "I think that...many people teaching today probably shouldn't be." Given the charged response from readers demanding that I justify this assertion, I'll say a few more words. First, it strikes me as a banal, unremarkable statement, one that I've uttered regarding attorneys, professors, journalists, salesmen, federal bureaucrats, think tankers, and district administrators. In this context it wasn't intended as an attack on educators, which is what made the heated response so noteworthy. People vary in talent, energy, and performance, and this means there are poor performers ...


Yesterday, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels gave an education speech to a packed house at AEI that included CNN, C-SPAN, and a slew of breathless political press (they were hoping he'd signal whether he's going to run for President). You can watch the speech, and check out an interview by AEI's Nick Schulz, here. I actually had to miss the talk because, after having extended the invitation, turned out I had to be on the road in Jacksonville yesterday. Ah, well. Brief aside: I was intrigued by the opportunities around the 120,000 student Duval County system. Jacksonville finished fifth last ...


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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