December 2010 Archives

I'm about to take a few weeks hiatus. I'll be departing the pulse-quickening rhythms of D.C. (just kidding, just kidding) for more tranquil, reflective environs. Anyway, the good news for you is that, while I'm gone, I'm going to hand over the RHSU keys to a few special guests. This means you get to trade my jaded prose for a chance to spend a little time with three of the most interesting education thinkers around. First up, next week you'll have the chance to check out the musings of economist extraordinaire Dan Goldhaber. Dan is the author of influential ...


Somewhat to my surprise, especially given the slow time of year, the RHSU 2010 Public Presence Rankings seem to have struck quite a chord. I mostly noticed this due to the rash of questions about how I could have omitted scholar X or Y. I'd indicated in the initial post that the list was intended as an illustrative cross-section of faculty "from various disciplines, institutions, generations, and areas of inquiry," but that didn't seem to fully satisfy. So, given my accommodating nature and interest in seeing how some of the additional folks would score out, we've supersized the rankings. Click ...


Today, RHSU unveils its first annual edu-scholar "Public Presence" rankings. The metrics, as I explained yesterday, seek to capture many of the various ways in which academics contribute to public discourse. My hope is that this exercise helps spur conversation about which university-based academics are contributing most substantially to public debates over education and ed policy, and how they do so. The scoring rubric reflects a given scholar's body of academic work—encompassing books, articles, and the degree to which these are cited—as well as their footprint on the public discourse in 2010. Click chart for larger view, with...


Tomorrow in this space, I'll be publishing the first annual RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Presence Rankings. Today, I want to take a few moments to explain what those ratings are about and how they were generated. I start from a simple premise: recognition matters. I think people tend to devote more time and energy to those activities which are acknowledged and lauded. The academy today does a passable job of recognizing good disciplinary scholarship but a pretty mediocre job of recognizing scholars with the full range of skills that enables them to really contribute to the policy debate. This may have ...


I'm going to miss Joel Klein. Love him or hate him (and I love him, especially when we disagree on something), the New York City chancellor has cut a huge swath in K-12 schooling for nearly a decade. My friend Diane Ravitch thinks he exemplifies what's wrong with 21st century schooling. Me? I think he's been a principled, relentless, and creative champion of school improvement and that he has had an enormously salutary effect on American education. Anyway, a source was kind enough to share Klein's final weekly memo to NYC's principals. It's classic Klein and makes clear that there's ...


Recently, I keynoted a state Teacher of the Year banquet and said what I tend to say at such affairs, which is that I don't romanticize teaching because--while I believe that most teachers mean well--the reality, I think, is that many or most benefit more from their role than do their students. (By the way, it's typically not advised to have me speak at those kinds of affairs; such addresses require a certain sweet, sentimental sensibility that I generally lack.) I told them that I was honored and delighted to be with them not because they were "teachers" but because ...


I'm sure my friends at the Department of Education were thrilled to read in the Raleigh-based News & Observer that North Carolina school districts are using their Race to the Top funds to advance structural reform by... purchasing iPads. Durham, N.C. is spending $3.5 million in RTT funds to "put Apple iPads in the hands of students and teachers at two low-performing schools." Durham Public Schools Superintendent Eric Becoats said, "Our kids are telling us, 'This is how we learn. This is what we want.'" Ah-ha, yes, this is the change we've been waiting for. Look, I own ...


On Friday, Andrew Kelly and I penned an Inside Higher Ed column that called out the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for the fact that its influential and scathing report on for-profit colleges turns out to be riddled with errors. Even worse, the GAO did its damndest to keep it under the radar--quietly posting an errata online on November 30, without so much as a press release to document the changes. Senator Mike Enzi expressed concerns in a December 7 letter to the GAO, and then it took enterprising journalists like the Washington Post's Nick Anderson to bring the issue to ...


I'm a big fan of Prince George's County Superintendent Bill Hite. And I'm not the only one. Just the other week, our earnest Secretary of Education and NEA honcho Dennis Van Roekel visited PGC in nearby Maryland to fawn over some of Hite's turnaround efforts. So it brings me no joy to note that PGC's just-issued budget is the latest poster child for fiscal management that just doesn't get it. The Washington Post reported this morning, in a story headlined "Pr. George's schools' dismal fiscal 2012 plan," that PGC is proposing a $1.69 billion budget. That figure actually represents ...


Note: Over the next few weeks, I'll occasionally be flagging nuggets from my new book, The Same Thing Over and Over, just out from Harvard University Press. For more, check out the book on Amazon. With NCLB's goal of 100% proficiency by 2014 having crashed and burned, we've settled upon a grand new aim: President Obama wants us to be sure that every high school graduate is "college and career ready" by 2020. One of the great things about this new goal, I've noted, is that it's much easier to meet, since no one really knows what it means. (I ...


Earlier this fall, there was lots of excitement about Waiting For Superman. It was the talk of the town for a bit, prompted NBC to discover education for a week, and made a school reform icon out of director Davis Guggenheim. In the aftermath, though, Guggenheim has taken shots for some questionable factual assertions and a scene in which he apparently inserted a manufactured shot for emotional impact (very Broadcast News). The movie is now finishing its theatrical run, dribbling out of the last few theaters. How big a splash did it make? As of December 13, the flick had ...


The turnaround craze is boiling again, with the excited announcement that lots of districts are taking federal money and spending a lot of it on high schools. The Department of Ed enthusiastically proclaimed that 730 schools have begun implementing a School Improvement Grant turnaround model, and that 48 percent of those are high schools. Whoo-whee! Look at the compliance that $3.5 billion buys. We must be halfway to solving our edu-woes already. For those of a more skeptical bent, it's that time of year to eyeball a sector where organizations have to find savvy, impassioned leaders; recruit a dozen ...


Last week, Mike Petrilli posted in the Education Gadfly an amusing Twitter debate between him and Diane Ravitch. I quite liked it. But, since I don't Tweet, I couldn't go there. And I doubt I'd have the patience anyway. Happily, I realized I could pen a fake Twitter debate--which seems an easy alternative. Herewith: Rick: What's up w all these tchr prep programs jumping on residency bandwagon after NCATE report? First sign of a fad? Fictional Ed School Dean: I'm excited to announce our new teacher residency program, like NCATE commission suggested. Rick: If it's such a great idea, why ...


Boy, I can't decide whether I get more frustrated by the Ravitchian charge that rethinking teacher pay is an attack on schooling or the ludicrous merit pay schemes that masquerade as reform today. My choice, when asked to pick between those two approaches, is "neither." I try to explain why that's a valid choice, and not a dodge, in my new Educational Leadership piece "Spend Money Like It Matters." You can check the full piece out for yourself, but let me try to make this simple: Do you think that employees who are good at their work ought to be ...


States are wrestling with Race to the Top implementation. In Georgia, a superintendent drew attention by announcing that the district would forego more than a million bucks in RTT cash rather than adopt merit pay. Questions abound as to whether D.C., with a new mayor and no permanent state chief, is committed to its plan. Ohio's new governor has indicated he's skeptical about various promises made by his predecessor. D.C. insiders think there's a fair shot that the House will hold hearings looking into concerns about RTT judging, scoring, and spending. In short, the over-the-top hosannas for RTT ...


Yesterday, the Gates Foundation announced that district and charter school leaders in nine cities have embraced a "District-Charter Collaboration Compact," in which the district and local charter schools pledge to collaborate in new ways. The nine cities involved are Baltimore, Denver, Hartford, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, New York City, and Rochester, N.Y. (Full disclosure: I've been involved as an advisor and reviewer on some of these efforts). The Gates Foundation announced that these cities had to "commit to replicating high-performing models of traditional and charter public schools while improving or closing down" lousy schools, and that participating ...


Since my earliest days in teacher preparation, I've been disconcerted by education's appetite for faddism. And I've been confounded by journalistic cheerleading for one fad after another. Yesterday, the Washington Post's story "Montgomery's multi-tasking Little Red Riding Hood"--featured on page one of the Metro section--offered a textbook example of how the press too often encourages the destructive, cringe-inducing pursuit of miracle cures. The WaPo's Michael Birnbaum penned the standard four-element "fan the fad" piece to perfection. He opened with the obligatory "in the classroom" lede: "The Gaithersburg first-grade class was analyzing 'Little Red Riding Hood,' but instead of ...


Note: Over the next few weeks, I'll occasionally be flagging nuggets from my new book, The Same Thing Over and Over, just out from Harvard University Press. For more, check out the book on Amazon. Teacher unions insist that it would be something akin to the end of Western Civilization should we venture to pay history teachers more than gym teachers, or math and science teachers more than history teachers. As Bob Chase, then-president of the NEA, said a few years back in USA Today, "Please don't distract us with ill-considered half measures, such as paying math and science teachers ...


On Tuesday, five of my favorite state education chiefs launched a new outfit called "Chiefs for Change" (CFC) at Jeb Bush's Excellence in Action National Summit. The five: Louisiana's Paul Pastorek, Indiana's Tony Bennett, Florida's Eric Smith, Rhode Island's Deb Gist, and Virginia's Gerard Robinson. In a "Roadmap to Excellent Education" that's being released a bit later today, the five embrace six principles of reform: • Recruit, Reward, and Retain Excellent Teachers and Leaders • Reward Excellence • Replace Failure with Success • High Academic Standards • Transparent and Rigorous Accountability • Viable Options for All Students Nothing here that readers of RHSU haven't seen many ...


Enough already. I'm a big fan of Boston's Pioneer Institute. But Pioneer, abetted by some of Massachusetts's local papers, has gone after Massachusetts's terrific state chief Mitch Chester in a ludicrous, destructive exercise--one that should be called off ASAP. (Full disclosure: I've known Chester for a decade and advised, albeit modestly, on the state's winning Race to the Top application.) What's the story? Boston's Channel 5 reported recently that outside groups, most notably the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and Achieve, Inc., picked up the tab for Chester's business travel for conferences, meetings, and such to places including ...


Well, official word came Monday that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has stumbled into a truly ludicrous solution to the "who will succeed Joel Klein" question. He put forward publishing executive Cathie Black--without ever really explaining why her skills or experience equip her to run NYC's hyper-political $20 billion-a-year school system--only to get slammed by community backlash and doubts about her suitability. State law required that Black, given her lack of credentials, get a waiver from New York State Commissioner David Steiner if she was to head the school system. Steiner used the opportunity to convene an advisory panel, ...


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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