February 2011 Archives

When I wrote last week that I stand foursquare behind Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's proposals to curb public employee benefits and the collective bargaining, my friend Diane Ravitch lamented, "Rick, that's very sad. Someday you'll see the error of having more brains than heart." I won't argue the point, but I will say a bit more about just why Walker's controversial stance speaks to my brain. As the University of Arkansas's Robert Costrell calculated out last week, Wisconsin's public employees collect 74 cents in benefits for every dollar in salary, more than triple the rate for their private sector counterparts. ...


In an interesting column over at the Huffington Post, blogger John Thompson offers some thoughts regarding my book Education Unbound. He has much to say, not all of which I found compelling, but one thread of his discussion struck home. Thompson observes, "Rick Hess...makes a fair point when explaining why a charter school would not want to be burdened by regulations that had developed over 353 years of bureaucratic politics...I can understand why educational entrepreneurs would seek to liberate themselves by destroying 'the status quo.' The problem is that... [it's] not the students or the educators in ...


My friend Diane Ravitch wrote the other day on her "Bridging Differences" blog: "I Stand With the Teachers of Wisconsin." I'd be happy to "stand with" Wisconsin's teachers if it entailed promoting a dynamic, rewarding teaching profession. But that's not what Diane is referring to. Rather, she's talking about "standing" behind public employee collective bargaining, while denouncing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's efforts to reel in unaffordable benefits and check union influence. On that score, I suspect few RHSU readers will be surprised to hear I stand with Governor Walker. For my take on Wisconsin, and the problems with public sector ...


A new USA Today/Gallup poll reports that Americans think their states are in budget crises, but are opposed to doing anything about it. This is hardly a recipe calculated to bring forth or to reward political courage. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said their states are in a budget crisis (most of the others apparently don't follow the news), but a majority opposed every conceivable solution. Respondents were dead-set against boosting taxes, with just 27% in favor and 71% opposed. That means, presumably, officials need to cut spending. But just 47% of respondents supported proposals to "cut or eliminate certain ...


Aww, gee. The Obama administration's effort to back the Harkin-GAO witch hunt of for-profit colleges seems to have hit a wall. On Friday, the U.S. House voted 289-136 to block the Department of Education's plan to impose "gainful employment" regulations on trade schools and for-profit colleges. In addition to the support of all but four Republicans, the proposal also drew the backing of 58 House Democrats--including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The proposal drew the ire of the Congressional Black Caucus, which voiced concerns that it would stifle opportunities for nontraditional students. (Correction: the passage should have read, "The proposal ...


Yesterday, I noted a few worrisome signs that the Common Core effort is moving forward with a lack of attention to how it may clash with other practical considerations or improvement strategies. The risk here is aggravated by the fact that the Common Core effort has now largely been handed off to state assessment directors, test developers, psychometricians, and overworked staff at a few national organizations--and these well-meaning people aren't necessarily interested in or sensitive to the broader impact of their handiwork. A particularly compelling example is posed by the looming collision that might occur when the unfolding effort comes ...


Like I've said before, I've mixed feelings on the whole Common Core enterprise--largely because I find it easy to envision scenarios where it fails in ways that undermine promising improvement efforts. But the effort also has real promise, which is why I trust my friends on the Common Core train will take the following not as reflecting ill wishes but as a big ol' yellow caution flag. I haven't written much about Common Core to date, though I've grown concerned about the amount of amped-up groupthink cheerleading (fueled by a bonanza of federal and philanthropic cash). As best I've been ...


Last fall, Vincent Gray upset incumbent DC mayor Adrian Fenty in a momentous election. The outcome was denounced by champions of tough-minded reform as a crushing setback--especially after the resignation of Chancellor Michelle Rhee. However, when Gray promised to stay the course on DC's promising reform efforts and welcomed Fenty's decision to name Rhee's deputy Kaya Henderson as interim Chancellor, reformers crossed their fingers and hoped (especially since Gray knows that any serious retreat from the DC reform agenda risks tens of millions in philanthropic support, and an equal amount in federal Race to the Top funds). Well, Gray's hand-picked ...


The eagle-eyed Daniel Lautzenheiser reminded me that today marks exactly a year since I started RHSU. I've enjoyed it more than I might've expected, and hugely appreciate the various folks who have been kind enough to share tips, information, and thoughts. Anyway, RHSU readership is up pretty substantially since we started, and I thought some readers who've joined over time might be interested to learn a bit more about where I'm coming from. So, without further ado, here's the inaugural column that ran one year ago: Hi there. Or, in the phrasing of Christian Slater's homicidal but quirkily charming high ...


I think the Washington Post editorial page said it best. "The President punted. Having been given the chance, the cover and the push by the fiscal commission he created to take bold steps to raise revenue and curb entitlement spending, President Obama, in his fiscal 2012 budget proposal, chose instead to duck." To me, it seems that anyone serious about "investment," "winning the future," and doing right by our kids and grandkids has to be serious about getting the budget into rough balance over the next several years. Otherwise, unrestrained entitlement spending and a rapidly expanding public debt threaten to ...


Last week, I had the chance to talk with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Tea Party favorite, about his views on education policy. Paul, a fierce critic of deficit spending and expansive government, has called for abolishing the federal Department of Education. His recent appointment to the U.S. Senate committee charged with education has boosted interest in his views on schooling. Here's what Sen. Paul had to say on ESEA/NCLB, Race to the Top, abolishing the Department of Ed, DC vouchers, the Common Core, for-profit higher ed, and related subjects. Rick Hess: Your appointment to HELP has generated a ...


Last summer, the Los Angeles Times created a furor with its hotly debated decision to post the value-added scores for thousands of Los Angeles teachers and to identify individual teachers, by name, as more or less effective. This week, the situation roared back to life when University of Colorado professor Derek Briggs, and coauthor Ben Domingue, issued a report titled "Due Diligence and the Evaluation of Teachers" which charged that the L.A. Times analysis was "based on unreliable and invalid research" and that the use of an alternative value-added model might have changed how half of 3,300 fifth-grade ...


Regular readers know that I'm no great fan of simple-minded value-added systems. As we've seen just this week with the L.A. Times value-added brouhaha (which I hope to address in the next couple days), it's easy for would-be reformers to overreach or oversell (see "Pyrrhic Victories?" for a more extended take). For the moment, though, let's set all that aside. Michelle Rhee has been zipping around the country touting value-added metrics and merit pay. While we're friends, I've some differences with Rhee's unbridled enthusiasm on this question, but none of that justifies the bizarre hatchet job on Rhee that ...


Last week, my colleague Olivia Meeks and I issued a new study examining the state of America's school boards. (For a terrific take, check out Christina Samuels' Ed Week story here). Partnering with the NSBA, the Iowa School Boards Association, and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, we surveyed more than 900 school board members and 120 superintendents in over 500 school districts. The results update those in a study I authored back in 2002, also with the NSBA. Given that those results came at a time when NCLB was just being enacted, and now we're a decade into the "accountability ...


Well, the football season is over. I have nothing to add regarding the Packers' victory, the mediocre slate of commercials, or on the implications of the impending lockout. Before we turn the page, though, there's one lesson worth drawing with an eye to turnarounds. Last week, New England coach Bill Belichick won his third NFL coach of the year award. Owners desperately seeking to turn around their teams are wondering how they get their own version of Belichick or another successful coach. The most popular answer is to get a chip off the old block; NFL teams love to hire ...


Last year, in Education Unbound, I addressed the critical role of smart approaches to identifying and nurturing problem-solvers. One of the initiatives I lauded was Indianapolis's terrific The Mind Trust, a nonprofit that does just this. I think that TMT is one of the neatest enterprises going today, and worth checking out. Though, more to the point, if you're an educator, reformer, or problem-solver and you've got the gumption and the know-how, The Mind Trust is now seeking you out. The Mind Trust is now accepting applications for its Education Entrepreneur Fellowship, a unique opportunity designed to attract entrepreneurs and ...


New York City Chancellor Joel Klein announced late last year that he'd be stepping down from his post and taking up a newly created position as CEO of the Education Division at News Corp. On Tuesday, I had the chance to chat with Joel about his tenure, his takeaways, and changes in the reform landscape during the past decade. Rick Hess: As you look back on your years as Chancellor, what comes to mind when you think of your most successful efforts? Joel Klein: I'm not a guy who likes to spend a lot of time looking backward, but there ...


New York City Chancellor Joel Klein announced late last year that he'd be stepping down from his post and taking up a newly created position as CEO of the Education Division at News Corp. Yesterday, I had the chance to chat with Joel about his new job and the promise of educational innovation. Rick Hess: Joel, what can you tell us about the new job? Joel Klein: I'll be the CEO of the Education Division at News Corp. It's a just-launched division in which we'll be looking at a variety of possible acquisitions and opportunities. I've only been in place ...


Proponents of accountability, charter schooling, merit pay, value-added metrics, and the "reform" agenda are cheered by the strides they've made in recent years. Given President Obama's support, the fuss raised by Waiting for Superman, the emergence of Democrats for Education Reform, and so on, would-be reformers have seemingly captured the high ground in the edu-debate--even winning the approval of zeitgeist queen Oprah Winfrey. Yet, in a just-published Education Next forum piece entitled "Pyrrhic Victories?," Harvard's Marty West, Fordham's Mike Petrilli, and I ask whether these victories might not ultimately yield bitter fruit. Marty, Mike, and I are ardent champions of ...


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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