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November 13, 2013

From 'Hard' and 'Soft' to 'Thick' and 'Thin'

Jal Mehta wrtes: One problem with the school reform debate today is the way we cut the debate. One common way of pitching the problem is as "hard" versus "soft." In this telling, valor is awarded to those willing to make "hard" decisions: these people support merit pay, firing bad teachers, holding schools accountable, and closing failing schools. On the other side, from this point of view, are those who are "soft": people who are opposed to measuring outcomes, who in theory want to empower teachers but in practice want to support a failing status quo. Alternative certification and charter providers are good; traditional preparation and traditional public schools are bad. ... I think we should see the problem in a different way - the key difference is between "thin" and "thick" theories of change.

November 12, 2013

Replacing the "Bad Man" With the "Good Woman"

Jal Mehta writes: I was at a conference last spring sponsored by a group of foundations seeking to chart a new path for educational improvement. During that conference, a law professor who I deeply respect suggested that our reform efforts needed to remember the "Bad Man" theory. What's that, a number of us asked? It's a principle of jurisprudence, he explained, invented by Oliver Wendell Holmes that says that when making policy we should always be cognizant of the "bad man." The bad man is the man who always seeks to circumvent the policymakers' intent, looking for loopholes or other ways around the law. A good policy, the law professor averred, seeks to anticipate what the "bad man" might do, and create additional regulations that would cover any contingency he might seek to exploit.

November 12, 2013

Why Our Reach Exceeds Our Grasp in Ed Reform

Jal Mehta writes: The American school system assumed its contemporary form a little more than a century ago in the Progressive Era. In one generation, between 1890 and 1920, the modern school system was created by a group of civic elites, who transformed a nation of one-room schoolhouses into a set of district school systems. Influenced by prevailing Taylorist models of business organization, superintendents (mostly male) were empowered as CEOs of the school system, and teachers (mostly female) were expected to follow the rules and programs their superiors chose. In this hierarchical model, teachers possessed little power to formally resist dicta from above, although the "loose coupling" of the system permitted them considerable control over what happened inside their classroom walls.

November 08, 2013

Education's User Revolution: A Participatory Curriculum

Eric Westendorf writes: Done thoughtfully, professional development and curriculum are two sides of the same coin. The curriculum is the external facing side; the set of organized resources and lessons that a teacher can use with students. Professional development is the internal side; the deep practice that teachers participate in to adjust, improve, and test new adaptations, the best of which get pushed to the external. As a result, the curriculum can evolve as quickly as possible to meet the needs of the environment.

November 06, 2013

EdTech's Secret Power (It's Not What You Think)

Eric Westendorf writes: Much of the current buzz around EdTech in K-12 focuses on personalization, adaptation, gamification and self-directed learning. I think these ideas have great potential, but miss EdTech's greatest benefit. Given the siloed world in which teachers have historically worked, I believe EdTech's greatest contribution will come from connecting teachers, enabling them to build from best practices, collaborate with colleagues, and share with the world. In so doing, technology will bolster the most powerful lever we have for school improvement -- the talent of our teachers.

November 04, 2013

Professional Development Is Broken. Let's Fix It.

Guest blogger Eric Westendorf writes: As schools and districts across the country implement the Common Core State Standards, the need to provide high quality professional development for teachers has never been greater. Yet, despite the more than $3 billion invested annually in teacher PD, few in our industry would say the money is well spent. If you've ever observed a typical PD session, it's obvious why: undifferentiated "sit and listen" sessions abound, requiring little engagement from teachers and generating few personal insights as a result. To improve teacher PD, we need to shift to a talent development model

November 01, 2013

Introducing Your Special Guest Stars: Westendorf, Mehta, and Kingsland

Whew! It's been a hectic couple months in Washington. Shutdowns, massive web glitches, WWII veterans storming memorials. I need a bit of a breather. More to the point, I've got a new book out and am due to spend a good chunk of the month running around and talking to folks about Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age. The upshot: I'm going to take a few weeks respite from blogging. We'll have three weeks of guest blogs and then return to regularly scheduled programming during Thanksgiving week.

August 30, 2013

Feeding Back Motivation

Note: Michael Bromley, founder and president of School4schools.com, is guest posting this week. In an earlier post this week on PD, I proposed four core teacher functions of planning, application, assessment, and feedback. Today I'd like to focus on teacher feedback to students. Of all the core tea...

August 28, 2013

PD Stands for 'Perverse Incentives'

Note: Michael Bromley, founder and president of School4schools.com, is guest posting this week. Every year that I taught high school social studies was my best year ever. Even after my first, which I wrapped up as, "it can't possibly be any worse," I pledged to do better the next. Things got better...

August 27, 2013

Bad Dogs or Bad Owners?

Note: Michael Bromley, founder and president of School4schools.com, is guest posting this week. Had a New York moment this holiday. Trying to find some green, or at least brown, space in Midtown Manhattan for our two suburban pups, my wife and I came upon a doggie section in Madison Square Park. W...

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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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