August 2012 Archives

As I wrote on Wednesday, practitioners and entrepreneurs are seeking to launch new schools, deliver high-quality instruction, and provide new services to educators. We shouldn't be wowed by jargon and good intentions, much less assume that any of these efforts will deliver--but we should ensure that smart, talented problem-solvers have the opportunity to succeed. Now, I'm no entrepreneur, but I'm occasionally asked for advice by aspiring entrepreneurs and I do have a few suggestions I sometimes share. To that end, here are some thoughts that may be useful. First, understand that success is not launching a nifty one-off, but requires ...


We throw around the phrase "innovation" a lot in education. When talking about new sector providers, new school models, or education technology, there's a tendency to use "innovation" as a lazy, all-purpose label. Of late, I feel like I've been pitched a wave of "innovations" by would-be reformers thrilled by their visions of new school models, community programs, professional development strategies, or ed tech applications. This has all served to remind me of something I noted a couple years ago in Education Unbound: not all innovations are created equal. Rather, their value depends on the degree to which they promote ...


From the "unintended consequences" file: State and district officials are well-acquainted with the manifold restrictions attached to federal funds. One of the most pervasive of these is the "supplement not supplant" requirement, which has generally been interpreted as requiring that federal dollars be spent "on top of" whatever states, districts, and schools were already going to spend when serving the kids in question. It's generally been presumed that, if states have committed to doing something as a matter of policy or statute, then it'd be a violation to use federal funds to pay for it (since they've already committed to ...


There's been a lot of talk lately about the "parent trigger" and its import for school reform. With the first successful "trigger" effort having played out in California a few weeks back, and the impending release of the Hollywood edu-drama "Won't Back Down" on the horizon, I thought I'd subject you all to a few thoughts I recently shared on this topic in The Daily: "These parents did it," Ben Austin, director of Los Angeles-based Parent Revolution, said of the parents at Desert Trails Elementary in Adelanto, Calif. "They are the first parents in America to win a parent trigger ...


Today, Phi Delta Kappan releases its annual survey of attitudes towards education. As always, the results are loaded with intriguing stuff. The long-term trends of how the public grades its schools didn't change, with the public modestly more positive about their local schools than they were in the 1990s, but no evident change in public attitudes towards the nation's schools writ large. Anyway, let's take a moment to highlight some of the more interesting findings. Though I'd encourage you to take a look for yourself; you can find the whole thing here. Obama's Down, but Dems Still Lead on Schooling: ...


A crippling problem in K-12 schooling is the sequential, enthusiastic embrace of "innovations"... that... never... quite... pan... out. One legacy is the justified skepticism that greets the over-the-top promises for each new advance and new generation of devices. The problem, though, is not with technology itself. It's with the simple-minded, reflexive, and generally inept way in which we've failed to use technology to rethink teaching and learning. In fact, I'd argue, the last ed tech innovation to be seamlessly and widely integrated into classrooms in a way that dramatically allowed teachers and students to make better use of their time ...


I recently moderated a fascinating discussion about parent engagement -- and not the kind that has to do with supervising field trips and providing extra classroom supplies. The focus was on how new organizations like DFER and 50CAN are seeking to mobilize parents when it comes to policy debates over school reform. This "parent power" trend is provoking some real questions about how these new efforts will play out on the ground. The conversation focused on twin new studies penned by two authors, my AEI colleague Andrew Kelly and Drew University Professor Pat McGuinn, examining parent power and reform advocacy. ...


The arrival of the BASIS charter school in DC has drawn a slew of barbs. BASIS, which currently runs eight schools in Arizona, seeks to offer an enriching, accelerated liberal arts education to its students. The results thus far are impressive, with two BASIS schools consistently ranked in the Top 10 nationally, and many of its students taking 10+ AP tests before graduation. For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, critics have suggested that the incredibly rigorous BASIS model with its emphasis on love of learning, mastery in STEM subjects, and preparing students to compete in the global ...


When it comes to the Common Core, I see great potential value in states choosing to embrace common, high-caliber reading and math standards, if these are implemented with conviction and attention to how they will interact with current reforms. That said, seems to me there's a huge chance that the whole exercise will go south, with many states implementing the Common Core half-heartedly, while screwing with existing reforms and standards. Such an outcome would ultimately do more harm than good. After all, the easiest course for states that have adopted Common Core standards but have second thoughts is to leave ...


On Saturday, Mitt Romney announced Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate. Ryan, chair of the House Budget Committee, has been perhaps the leading voice among House Republicans pushing for a smaller, more disciplined federal government. What's Romney's choice mean for education? First, let's keep in mind that the importance of VP picks is always overrated. That said, the Ryan selection is important because of what it signals about Romney and the kind of race we're likely to see this fall. Ryan was the most ideologically compelling running mate that Romney could have selected. In choosing Ryan, Romney passed ...


Over at This Week in Education, the sharp-penned John Thompson offered his take on Monday's RHSU post (in which I advised educators to get over their policy allergies). Thompson wrote, "When 'smart, talented leaders complain about ill-conceived accountability systems,' Hess tells them to, 'get over themselves.'" He's got that partly right--but not entirely. I'm not telling educators to meekly accept ill-conceived accountability systems. What I'm telling them to do is stop complaining that policymakers want to hold schools accountable. As I noted Wednesday, I'm hugely in favor of educators offering up concrete, workable approaches to school and educator ...


On Tuesday, my pal Mike Petrilli penned one of those blog posts seemingly designed to woo the taste-makers at the New York Times and NPR. He offered up an enthusiastic defense of federal funding for PBS, arguing: "I used to agree with George Will and other small-government conservatives that Uncle Sam has no business subsidizing children's television on PBS. But no longer. If anything, I've come to believe that is a sweet spot for federal involvement in education." The highlight for me, though, was not Mike's argument (with which I disagree), but a bit of the email banter that followed. ...


As I wrote on Monday, edu-leaders need to get over their distaste for policy. Let me say it again: edu-leaders are spending the public's money to serve the public's kids in public institutions. Educators are in the policy business, like it or not. This means, practically speaking, the only real question is whether leaders are addressing policy in smart ways... or not. On that score, reflecting on what leaders tend to ask when we're wading into the subject of policy, let me offer a couple tips. First, understand that policymakers are not seeking to make your life difficult. They're responsible ...


Hidy, all. I'm back. I've been away teaching at UPenn and Rice, working with Clark County and the folks at UVA's turnaround program, and generally trying to catch up on writing that got stacked up while I was scrambling to finish Cage-Busting Leadership. Happily, I could once again turn RHSU over to an all-star cast--with Daniel, Trenton, Maddie, Sydney, and Evan penning a slew of compelling stuff that lit up my inbox and provoked a whole bunch of interesting conversations. So, many thanks. Anyway, thought I'd write today about something that struck me while teaching at UPenn and Rice. At ...


Note: Sydney Morris and Evan Stone, co-founders and co-CEOs of Educators for Excellence, are guest posting this week. E4E is a national teacher-led organization working to ensure that teachers have a meaningful voice in the creation of policies that impact their classrooms and careers. If there was one thing we could have asked for in our elementary classrooms in the Bronx, it wouldn't have been computers for every student in the class. It wouldn't have been unlimited copy paper (and trust us, copy paper is the equivalent of gold for classroom teachers.) It wouldn't have been smaller class sizes, or ...


Note: Sydney Morris and Evan Stone, co-founders and co-CEOs of Educators for Excellence, are guest posting this week. E4E is a national teacher-led organization working to ensure that teachers have a meaningful voice in the creation of policies that impact their classrooms and careers. We saw a lot to get excited about from the recent Education Sector survey, "Trending Toward Reform: Teachers Speak on Unions and the Future of the Profession." The findings confirmed something we've been saying since we started E4E two years ago: Teachers overwhelmingly want a strong union. It's what they want from their union that's evolving. ...


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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