Frederick Hess

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    Author Bio:
    Frederick Hess, AEI's director of education policy studies, is an educator, political scientist, author, and popular speaker and commentator. He has authored such influential books as Spinning Wheels, Revolution at the Margins, and Common Sense School Reform. A former public high school social studies teacher, he has also taught education and policy at universities including Georgetown, Harvard, Rice, the University of Virginia, and the University of Pennsylvania. He is executive editor of Education Next, a faculty associate with Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance, and serves on the board of directors for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and on the review board for the Broad Prize in Urban Education. At AEI, Mr. Hess addresses a range of K-12 and higher education issues.


A Blueprint for Back to School

What will it take to get schools ready?

Where Left and Right Agree on Civics Education, and Where They Don’t

“One participant told the story of a high school teacher enthusiastically hosting a debate on abortion on the second day of the school year.”

A Voice of the “Resistance,” Breathless and Crude

A review of “Slaying Goliath” by Diane Ravitch

What Social and Emotional Learning Needs to Succeed and Survive

Seven suggestions for SEL advocates and funders as they seek to deliver on its promise and avoid its pitfalls

Education Reform’s Deep Blue Hue

Are school reformers right-wingers or centrists — or neither?

Is Career and Technical Education Just Enjoying Its 15 Minutes of Fame?

Is the boom in career and technical education one more fad, or does it reflect something more substantial?

A Novel Take on K–12 Schooling

A review of Roxanna Elden’s Adequate Yearly Progress

SPRING 2019 / VOL. 19, NO. 2

Reflections on the Legacy of Bush-Obama School Reform

Why did initially promising, seemingly popular efforts at federal leadership lose their luster?

How Did Major Newspapers Cover the 2018 Teacher Strikes?

Tens of thousands of teachers in six states walked out of their schools, attracting media attention across the country.

Arne Duncan’s Unlearned Lessons

A review of “How Schools Work” by Arne Duncan

WINTER 2019 / VOL. 19, NO. 1

Reform is a State of Mind

An excerpt from Letters to a Young Education Reformer

The Long Path to ESSA

An excerpt from “The Every Student Succeeds Act: What It Means for Schools, Systems, and States”

What Did Race to the Top Accomplish?

Education Next talks with Joanne Weiss and Frederick M. Hess

FALL 2015 / VOL. 15, NO. 4

Lofty Promises But Little Change for America’s Schools

In July 2009, it wasn’t just about the money. The $4 billion (to be spent over four years) amounted to less than 1 percent of what K‒12 schooling spends each year.

FALL 2015 / VOL. 15, NO. 4

A Breakout Role for Teachers

Excerpts from The Cage-Busting Teacher

Schooling Rebooted

Turning educators into learning engineers

SPRING 2014 / VOL. 14, NO. 2

The 2013 Edu-Scholar Public Presence Rankings

The Edu-Scholar Rankings seek to recognize those university-based academics who are contributing most substantially to public debates about K–12 and higher education

SUMMER 2013 / VOL. 13, NO. 3

Combating the ‘Culture of Can’t’

When it comes to reforming American education, school officials have far more freedom to transform, reimagine, and invigorate teaching, learning, and schooling than is widely believed.

SPRING 2013 / VOL. 13, NO. 2

Creating a Corps of Change Agents

What explains the success of Teach For America?

Summer 2011 / Vol. 11, No. 3

Pyrrhic Victories?

The following essay is part of a forum, written in honor of Education Next’s 10th anniversary, in which the editors assessed the school reform movement’s victories and challenges to see just how successful reform efforts have been. For the other side of the debate, please see A Battle Begun, Not Won by Paul E. Peterson, […]

Spring 2011 / Vol. 11, No. 2

Fueling the Engine

Smarter, better ways to fund education innovators

Summer 2010 / Vol. 10, No. 3

The Accidental Principal

What doesn’t get taught at ed schools?

Summer 2005 / Vol. 5, No. 3

Few States Set World-Class Standards

In fact, most render the notion of proficiency meaningless

Summer 2008 / Vol. 8, No. 3

How to Get the Teachers We Want

Specialization would lead to better teaching and higher salaries

Summer 2009 / Vol. 9, No. 3

The Accreditation Game

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (known broadly as NCATE, pronounced “en kate”) was launched in 1954 by a coalition of professional organizations from across the education community. Previously, teacher-training programs had been accredited by states, regional accrediting bodies, or an association of teacher colleges, each equipped with its own benchmarks and methods […]

Fall 2002 / Vol. 2, No. 3

Crash Course

NCLB is driven by education politics

Fall 2007 / Vol. 7, No. 4

What Innovators Can, and Cannot, Do

Squeezing into local markets and cutting deals

Spring 2007 / Vol. 7, No. 2

The Work Ahead

Does school choice push public schools to improve?

Winter 2001 / Vol. 1, No. 4

Lifting the Barrier

Eliminating the state-mandated licensure of principles and superintendents is the first step in recruiting and training a generation of leaders capable of transforming America’s schools

Fall 2003 / Vol. 3, No. 4

Technical Difficulties

Information technology could help schools do more with less. If only educators knew how to use it

Fall 2004 / Vol. 4, No. 4

Johnny Can Read…in Some States

Assessing the rigor of state assessment systems

Summer 2005 / Vol. 5, No. 3

Strike Phobia

School boards need to drive a harder bargain

Summer 2006 / Vol. 6, No. 3

Keeping an Eye on State Standards

A race to the bottom?

Summer 2006 / Vol. 6, No. 3

Blog Posts/Multimedia

Senator Lamar Alexander on the Response to the Coronavirus

“Washington usually messes it up if they get involved, the way they did with Common Core.”


Iconic Teacher Leader on Coronavirus Response

“Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”


“Preparing for a Second Wave of Shutdowns in the Fall”

“Video games are an amazing tool for education,” Microsoft education executive says


Superintendent Floats Fall Scenario of “Hybrid” Reopening

Students would “attend school certain days of the week and learn from home on others.”


“Existential Fear and Constant Worry”

Stockton, California, school superintendent John Deasy on the Covid-19 crisis: “The daily death rates and new case announcements are very difficult to wrap your head around. It is like the shock of 9/11 every week.”


AP Classes Move to YouTube with Unannounced Celebrity Guests

Trevor Packer, head of the Advanced Placement Program at the College Board, on offering tests and education amid the Coronavirus crisis.


“The Decision To Reopen Will Be Much More Difficult”

Former Montgomery County Superintendent Josh Starr on the “hurry up and wait” coronavirus reality for school leaders.


In School Response to Coronavirus, States Lead the Way

“From Illinois, recommendations for minimum and maximum learning time per day, based on students’ ages.”


Coronavirus Could Spur Shift to Year-Round School Schedule

“Consider calling it summer at this point and adjust to a new calendar.”


Chiefs for Change COO Weighs in on Challenges of Coronavirus

“The decision to reopen school facilities is a public-health decision that is out of our hands.”


During Coronavirus Crisis, How Can State Leaders Help Schools?

“Should schools run longer school days or summer school to catch students up, or should they call a mulligan on this year and start afresh in the fall?”


Betsy DeVos on Coronavirus: What Are the Feds Doing to Help Schools?

“Students who never anticipated being distance learners, and educators who are only used to teaching in a classroom, are now having to figure out ways to keep learning going.”


How to Deliver Deeper Learning During the Coronavirus Shutdown

“When I asked him to name the school at the end of the week, he named it ‘Happy School.'”


Tracking 82 Districts’ Responses to Coronavirus School Closures

Only four districts say they are providing formal curriculum, online instruction, and student progress monitoring, but that group does include Miami-Dade Public Schools and the New York City Department of Education.


Great City Schools Chief Mike Casserly on the Urban Response to Covid-19

“There is just no substitute for students being with teachers as lessons are being taught.”


Former Superintendent Terry Grier on the Challenges of School Closures and Distance Learning

“Most of the country’s school districts do not have enough laptops for students and teachers to use at home and school.”


Sal Khan on Teaching 40 Million Kids at Home

As schools across the country closed, Khan Academy, with the support of Bank of America, pushed to create daily learning schedules for students age 4-18 and expand access to its online resources for millions.


Secretary DeVos, It’s Time to Scratch the 2020 State Tests

It’s time to waive the assessment requirements, everywhere and for everyone.


Straight Up Conversation: Panorama CEO on Measuring College, Career, and Life Readiness

Rick talks with the CEO of Panorama Education, an ed-tech company whose college- and career-readiness tools are currently used each year in 11,500 schools.


Four Things You Need to Know About Education Policymaking

Before expecting to effectively shape policy in a world full of complexity and honest disagreement, learn about the world you want to change.


Bernie, Bloomberg, Booker, and the New Politics of Education

For three decades, there was a quiet assumption that education’s growing economic import was pushing education politics toward the pragmatic middle—it turns out that this dynamic was surprisingly fragile.


Straight Up Conversation: A Kelley Blue Book for College Costs

Rick talks with the CEO of TuitionFit, a venture that aggregates data on the actual price of college to help the public make more informed choices and influence the price of college the way they can in a normal marketplace.


Florida Teachers Seeking Pay Boost Have a Big Opportunity

Hard-working teachers deserve a big raise and talented teachers are profoundly underpaid. But teachers ought not overplay their hand, or they’re likely to face a backlash of their own.


2020 Edu-Scholar Public Influence: Top Tens

For the 2020 Public Influence finale, we reveal the top 10 finishers for various academic disciplines, as well as the top junior faculty in the country.


The 2020 Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings

Here are the 2020 Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings. Also see who penned the top best-sellers and which universities produced the most ranked scholars.


The 2020 Edu-Scholar Public Influence Scoring Rubric

In the spirit of full transparency, here’s the detailed methodology for the 2020 Public Influence Rankings, as well as answers to FAQ.


The Five-Tool Scholar

I’ll soon be publishing the 2020 Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings, so I want to take a few moments today to explain the purpose of those rankings.


Straight Up Conversation: First American to Win WISE Prize for Education Innovation

Rick talks with Larry Rosenstock, education icon, the founder and CEO of High Tech High, and recent recipient of the WISE Prize for Education, about what he’s learned after a half century in education.


Straight Up Conversation: A Community College and a University Rolled Into One

Utah Valley University offers career and technical education, associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and master’s degrees under one roof, all for the average out-of-pocket tuition of $1,700.


How To Make the Case For School Choice

A powerful opportunity to strengthen the human connection between student and school, and to boost the power of teachers to improve their practice.


Straight Up Conversation: A Tuition-Free, Purpose-Driven, Coat-and-Tie Trade School

Williamson College of the Trades is a character-driven trade school enrolling 260 students, all of whom graduate debt-free. Rick talks with President Michael Rounds about how it works.


Straight Up Conversation: Can Technology Help Districts Improve Teacher Hiring?

Rick talks with the CEO of Nimble, a venture that uses tech-based solutions to help about 50 school districts (with nearly half a million students) find the teachers they want.


Five Signs Your Reform Has Become Another Education Fad

Eager vendors, early-adopting educators, and media adulation can be taken as evidence that a reform is going swimmingly—but these signs are frequently misread.


Straight Up Conversation: Can Outschool Bring the Gig Economy to K-12?

Rick talks with the CEO of Outschool, which is a marketplace for live online classes connecting over 30,000 students with over 1,000 teachers in 50 U.S. states and 35 countries.


Straight Up Conversation: Microsoft Chief Talks Augmented Reality in Schools

Dan Ayoub, who helms Microsoft’s education team after a decade leading the famed Halo gaming franchise, discusses the possibilities and pitfalls of bringing augmented and virtual reality to the classroom.


4 Poll Results That’ll Shape the 2020 Election Education Debates

Parents prize academics, strict discipline.


Straight Up Conversation: The Woman Who’s Trying to Reimagine Testing

Rebecca Kantar leads Imbellus, which has raised more than $24 million to build simulation-based assessments.


No, “Personal Responsibility” Is Not Inherently a Racist, Classist Construct

An encounter at Columbia University Teachers College tells a story.


Straight Up Conversation: Bridge in Nigeria Chief Oladapo Olarinmoye

Bridge in Nigeria is upskilling the teachers of around 300,000 children in 1,500 schools over four years, a rate of scaling which may be unprecedented in African history.


The Parable of the Teacher and the Experts

It’s the dawn of a new school year. As I sat down to write about it, I got a premonition of how this school year will once again go for so many.


Robots Are Teaching Language Skills, But Are They Any Good?

Robots may work well sometimes. Here’s what we know about why, when, and for whom.


The Moral Implications of Social and Emotional Learning

Jay Greene argues that SEL’s moral and religious dimensions are essential, and that efforts to downplay those are likely to render SEL ineffective.


Straight Up Conversation: Digital Pioneers Academy CEO Mashea Ashton

Mashea Ashton is the founder and CEO of Digital Pioneers Academy, a computer science-focused charter school that launched last fall in Washington, D.C.


Four Surprising Truths About U.S. Schooling

A lot of our fevered education debates are fueled by assumptions which can be off-base, or flat wrong.


Some Practical Advice for School Leaders Facing Familiar Challenges

Kristyn Klei Borrero offers some concrete advice based on what she learned as a school and school system leader.


School Choices for Rural America

School choice leaves many small town denizens and suburbanites cold. So here’s an idea for what rural school reform should look like.


The Secret Source of Lost Learning and Educator Burnout

Teachers spend more than a third of their instructional time on tasks other than instruction. And that’s before we add in paperwork done outside the classroom.


Straight Up Conversation: LEAP Innovations CEO Phyllis Lockett

LEAP Innovations runs an 18-month program training educators in 140 Chicago schools how to implement personalized learning.


Straight Up Conversation: Emily Krone Phillips on Chicago’s ‘Freshman OnTrack’

In Chicago, the metric Freshman OnTrack is more predictive of high school graduation than 8th grade test scores, neighborhood, race, or family income.


Straight Up Conversation: Trade School Impresario Sarah Turner

Sarah Turner is president of North Bennet Street School, a 138-year-old trade school serving 150 students each year in Boston.


How Changes in U.S. Reading Instruction Compare Internationally

Four interesting takeaways from “Measuring Innovation in Education 2019.”


Straight Up Conversation: CEO Benjamin Heuston provides a publicly funded, home-based kindergarten readiness program to 15,000 children in Utah annually.


Making Sense of the Lousy Test Results in Louisiana’s Voucher Program

Recent Louisiana Scholarship Program test scores look pretty grim. But there are three important caveats to keep in mind.


The Problem With Education Research Fixated on ‘What Works?’

Our relentless focus on “what works?” has rewarded programs designed to yield short-term bumps in test scores while distracting attention from more fundamental and complex efforts.


Aspen’s Newest Social-Emotional Learning Offering Gives Cause for Pause

We see a danger that social-emotional learning could wind up compromising academic instruction or serving to advance ideological causes and agendas.


Straight Up Conversation: Braven CEO Aimée Eubanks Davis

Braven partners with three universities to help over 1,600 low-income, first-generation students transition from college to career.


Straight Up Conversation: My Tech High CEO Matt Bowman

My Tech High partners with innovative public school districts to offer tuition-free, home-centered education programs to 5,000 students, primarily in Utah.


Three Thoughts on the Special Olympics Fiasco

On occasion, policymakers have won through on once-unpopular proposals. But this requires diligence, constancy, and principle—traits the Trump administration seems to lack.


Straight Up Conversation: Teaching Matters CEO Lynette Guastaferro

Lynette Guastaferro is the CEO of Teaching Matters, which currently serves 237 urban schools. Their programs include Early Reading Matters, which coaches teachers on how to better teach reading skills.


When Did Good Parenting Become a Problem?

The felonious conduct in the college admissions scandal is distinctly different from good parents trying to help their kids.


The Bizarre Disdain for High School Sports

Why is such short shrift given to the role athletics can play when it comes to supporting academic success and forging character?


Straight Up Conversation: Columbia’s Liz Chu Talks Research and Leadership

Liz Chu is executive director of Columbia Law School’s Center for Public Research and Leadership, which trains graduate students from over 26 different professional schools for careers in education reform.


Politically Speaking, ‘School Reform’ Has Gone Left

Why reform’s progressive uniformity is a practical problem for school improvement.


Straight Up Conversation: AltSchool Chief Impact Officer Devin Vodicka

AltSchool partners with 25 districts and schools to implement technology-enabled personalized learning. It also operates four tuition-funded lab schools in San Francisco and New York City.


Be Wary of School Reform’s Pivot to ‘Practice’

Advocates are shifting away from education policy to focus on education practice.


Los Angeles Teachers Strike a Deal, But Miss an Opportunity

Every California teacher could see an immediate pay boost of $10,250 per year, if not for the state’s massive pension debt. Yet the Los Angeles teacher strike deal kicks the can on that crucial issue.


Social and Emotional Learning is Easy to Love, Which Should Make Us Nervous

When reforms seem intuitive, it’s natural for supporters to focus on scale and implementation rather than consider what could possibly go wrong.


Straight Up Conversation: RAND Education Chief Darleen Opfer

Darleen Opfer serves as director of RAND Education and Labor, heading a 200-person staff that conducts research for major government agencies and private foundations.


2019 Edu-Scholar Public Influence: Top Tens

For the 2019 Public Influence finale, the top ten finishers for various academic disciplines, as well as the top junior faculty.


The 2019 Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings

Here are the 2019 Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings, ranking the scholars who did the most last year to shape educational practice and policy


The 2019 Edu-Scholar Public Influence Scoring Rubric

Here’s the detailed methodology used to generate rankings of the scholars who had the biggest influence on educational practice and policy last year.


The Five-Tool Scholar

Coming Thursday: The Rick Hess Straight Up Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings, which honor the 200 education scholars who had the biggest influence on the nation’s education discourse last year.


Ten Education Stories We’ll Be Reading in 2019

As we bid adieu to 2018 and look forward to another year of tranquility and comity, it’s time for my annual prognostications.


A Cut-and-Paste End-of-Year Letter for Education Advocates

Every year around this time, my inbox overflows with highly similar holiday missives from advocacy organizations. So, in the spirit of the holidays, I thought I’d offer up a time-saving alternative.


Why Education Policy’s Big Listening Moment Doesn’t Involve Much Listening

The same advocates and funders who were exhorting us to embrace a pretty specific slate of reforms are now eager to listen and are busy exhorting others to join them


Straight Up Conversation: Seton Education Partners’ Stephanie Saroki de García

Seton Education Partners supports blended learning in 14 urban Catholic schools and operates three virtue-based charter schools in the South Bronx.


When Quality Charter School Authorizing Jumps the Shark

Greg Richmond of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers urges authorizers to resist the temptations of red tape and regulation.


Straight Up Conversation: CEO Charles Best

The website has been used by teachers in 80 percent of American public schools to raise $760 million to fund 1.2 million different classroom projects.


21st-Century Education Policy Enters Its Afternoon Rerun Stage

After more than 15 years of “meh” results, viewers have tuned out.


Voters Care Less About Education This Year Than Reports Suggest

There’s little to suggest that education will drive voter decisions — especially in a polarized election cycle dominated by anti-Trump sentiment, a humming economy, and the Kavanaugh aftermath.


Sketching a Workable Way Forward on Teacher Pay

There’s a win-win solution to teacher compensation. But it requires a willingness to rethink how teachers are paid and how school dollars are spent.


Straight Up Conversation: IBM Foundation Chief Jen Crozier on P-TECH Schools

P-TECH is a grades 9-to-14 school model that seeks to integrate high school with community college and workplace learning.


Be Wary of Reformers Peddling ‘Model’ School Districts

Too often, districts get heralded as islands of possibility, superintendents are honored as paragons of leadership, and hard questions wind up going unasked.


Straight Up Conversation: The Grade’s Alexander Russo on Media Coverage of Education

A conversation about how media coverage of education has changed, what education journalists do especially well, and where the coverage needs improvement.


What Exactly Is Teacher Professionalism, Anyway?

“Teacher professionalism” can mean profoundly different things to different people. Fordham’s Robert Pondiscio argues that the key to professionalizing teaching is to ask, “What do the kids do all day?”


Straight Up Conversation: Teachers Who Pray Founder Marilyn Rhames

Teachers Who Pray is a network of educators who believe in the power of God to transform all schools—public or private—from the inside out.


Lessons for State-Level Reformers in the ESSA Era

Most lessons learned during the Bush-Obama years are as relevant to state education reforms as to their federal counterparts.


Straight Up Conversation: Chiefs for Change COO Julia Rafal-Baer

Chiefs for Change is a nonprofit, bipartisan network of state and district education chiefs


When Education Research Training Is Like Giving a Power Saw to a 5th Grader

Education policy researchers today are often rewarded for using cool tools to study big data sets. But competent researchers need expertise in both methods and the substance of education.


Straight Up Conversation: Scholar Jay Greene on the Importance of Field Trips

Jay Greene, chair of the University of Arkansas department of education reform, has a famously eclectic set of research interests, ranging from school choice to field trips to the effect of schools on civic values.


The Perils of Narrow Training in Education Research

We risk raising a generation of education policy experts with a thin grasp of education.


Four Hard Questions That Will Dictate the Future of Career and Technical Education

Tony Bennett, the former state superintendent of Indiana and Florida, shares four practical questions that help gauge whether today’s embrace of CTE is serious.


A Timeless, Timely Challenge to Schools at 9/11’s Anniversary

In a popular novel, Joe Klein once explained the need for greater civility and respect in society. It’s a plea that’s especially relevant for schools as we remember the tragedy of September 11.


Straight Up Conversation: Roxanna Elden on Her New Book ‘Adequate Yearly Progress’

Veteran educator Roxanna Elden is out with her first novel, Adequate Yearly Progress, which follows teachers at an urban high school as their professional lives impact their personal lives and vice versa.


Ten Questions for Educators to Chew On

These questions can help parents get a read on school culture and values (and not just buzzwords) and can also help educators think deeply about how they want their schools to work.


Straight Up Conversation: Leading Educators Departing CEO Jonas Chartock

Leading Educators is a nonprofit working with over 700 teacher leaders to transform professional learning for over 2,400 teachers.


Straight Up Conversation: Nat Malkus on What’s Next for Teachers’ Unions After Janus

Nat Malkus is a resident scholar in education policy at AEI.


Why We Get Tech-Enabled Personalized Learning Wrong

Steve Peha explains why digital representations and skill mappings can’t account for the varied ways kids learn


How Education Philanthropy Can Accidentally Promote Groupthink and Bandwagonism

When ambitious foundation efforts go south in ways that cause headaches and problems for the rest of us, it can be hard to tell if anyone is ever held accountable.


Straight Up Conversation: New Harvard Ed School Dean Bridget Terry Long

Bridget Terry Long, recently named dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, on the strengths and opportunities of HGSE and what she hopes to accomplish in the role.


Four Things I Wish Incredibles 2 Had Asked About Gifted Kids

The first film was spot-on when it came to exploring adolescent angst, giftedness, and how parents wrestle with simultaneously protecting their kids and pushing them out into the world.


Straight Up Conversation: TalkingPoints Founder Heejae Lim

TalkingPoints is a messaging app used by 150,000 families and teachers in over 3,000 schools that aims to improve parent-teacher communication—especially for parents who are non-English speakers.


My Uber Driver Takes Me to School on the Teacher Walkouts

I hopped into an Uber while jabbering into my phone about this spring’s teacher walkouts. The driver must’ve been listening a bit because, when I hung up, she abruptly asked, “What did you think about those teacher strikes?”


Straight Up Conversation: KIPP Chief of Policy and Public Affairs Richard Buery

Before joining KIPP, Richard served as Deputy Mayor to Bill de Blasio in New York City.


Education Reforms Should Obey Campbell’s Law

When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.


Straight Up Conversation: AVID CEO Sandy Husk

Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) is one of the nation’s largest programs working to close the opportunity gap by training over 70,000 teachers a year on instructional strategies.


No, Educators and Policymakers Shouldn’t Just ‘Do What the Research Shows’

Research should inform education policy and practice, but it shouldn’t dictate it.


Asking the Wrong Question About Personalized Learning

We have a moral obligation to prepare our students to succeed in the world they’re going to actually encounter.


Straight Up Conversation: Prepare U Founder Ryan Beale

Prepare U is a new health curriculum for 13- to 18-year-old students designed to address mental-health awareness and help users navigate the challenges of adolescence.


Of Teacher Strikes, Inigo Montoya, and Claims of ‘Justice’

When everyone starts hitching their competing agendas to the siren call of “justice,” public decisions morph into a carnival of clashing absolutes. This makes it harder to find common ground.


Educational ‘Innovation’ Is Only as Good as the Execution

It’s the boring stuff that determines whether “innovative,” “ambitious” ideas deliver, says Chad Vignola of the Literacy Design Collaborative.


Is Media Coverage of School Choice Biased?

When reporting on similar studies, does the media pay more attention to those that are more negative about school choice?


Straight Up Conversation: Playworks CEO and Founder Jill Vialet

Playworks is a nonprofit that partners with schools to use recess and play to improve children’s social-emotional learning and experience in school.


Teacher Strikes Morph from Pocketbook Clash to Partisan Street Theater

The teacher strikes have quickly gone from a plucky fight over paychecks to an increasingly polarizing progressive crusade over tax and spending policy.


Straight Up Conversation: Skyrocket Founder Michael Sonbert

Michael Sonbert, founder of Skyrocket Educator Training, trains teachers and leaders in 300 urban and turnaround schools.


Of School Reform, Pyrrhic Victories, and Warning Signs

Some of the frustrations that have bedeviled reforms were foreseeable. If would-be reformers can find ways to engage with discordant voices, they just might have a shot at keeping today’s big victories from turning into tomorrow’s Pyrrhic ones.


Personalized Learning and Ensuring That Students Learn the Tedious Stuff

How do we ensure that students in self-directed, customized environments still master skills and content that we think critical, but that they may deem tedious, pointless, and unnecessary?


The Problem With Seeking an ‘Innovative’ Schools Chief

When weighing options for new educational leaders, don’t focus on what they’re going to do, focus on how they’re going to do it.


Straight Up Conversation: Math Guru Richard Rusczyk

Richard Rusczyk is the founder of the Art of Problem Solving (AoPS), a math curriculum and online learning community that supports students who excel in math.


Three Reflections on the NAEP 2017 Talkfest

What the pundits skip over when divining the grand significance of NAEP results.


Straight Up Conversation: Grom Social Founder Zach Marks

Zach Marks is the founder of Grom Social, an anti-bullying social media platform for kids that has 13 million users across 200 countries.


5 Thoughts on the Teacher Strikes

Ten weeks ago, hardly anyone saw West Virginia and Oklahoma coming.


A Response to Larry Berger’s ‘Confession’ on Personalized Learning

Joel Rose of New Classrooms responds to the concerns about personalized learning expressed by Larry Berger of Amplify.


The Great Education Pendulum Swing of 2018

Eager to seize on their “moment,” reformers tend to make the same mistakes time and again.


Has Evaluation Reform Chased Away Competent Would-Be Teachers?

Teacher evaluation reforms seem to have dissuaded new teachers—promising and less so—in equal measure.


A Confession and a Question on Personalized Learning

Personalized learning, most people think, starts with a map of all the things that kids need to learn.


Straight Up Conversation: American Federation for Children President John Schilling

John Schilling is the president of the AFC, one of the nation’s most influential organizations advocating for school choice.


Straight Up Conversation: Build UP Founder Mark Martin

Build UP is a workforce development model that provides low-income youth with career-ready skills through paid apprenticeships coupled with appropriate academic coursework.


Straight Up Conversation: EMERGE Founder Rick Cruz

EMERGE works with high-performing students from underserved backgrounds to prepare them to attend and graduate from selective colleges and universities.


Warren Buffett, Ping-Pong, and School Reform

Our natural, admirable enthusiasm and yearning for “best practices” can turn destructive.


Straight Up Conversation: Urban Assembly CEO Kristin Kearns-Jordan

The Urban Assembly is a family of 21 district middle and high schools throughout New York City, plus one start-up charter school.


2018 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence: Top Tens

Who are the top edu-scholars when it comes to particular fields or disciplines?


Bush-Obama School Reform: Lessons Learned

Some takeaways from a conference that examined an array of issues, including lessons learned on accountability, standards, school turnarounds, teacher quality, research, state capacity, and more.


The 2018 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings

Today we identify the university-based scholars in the U.S. who are doing the most to shape educational practice and policy.


The 2018 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Scoring Rubric

Tomorrow, I’ll be unveiling the rankings. Today, I want to run through the methodology used to generate those rankings.


RHSU Exclusive: The Five-Tool Scholar

The purpose of the Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings


8 Education Stories We’ll Be Reading in 2018

As we wade into 2018, I thought I’d give my not-so-famed prognostication skills a spin.


My Education Resolution for 2018

We’re swimming in noise. There’s a yawning need for reflection and a willingness to listen to one another.


The Top 10 RHSU Columns of 2017

With 2017 about to go in the books, it seems a propitious time to take a moment and reflect on the “best” of RHSU from the past year.


Santa’s 2017 Naughty and Nice List for Education

Santa rang the other night in a state of frustration; the rubric just isn’t all that clear about how to tell naughty from nice.


Three Cheers for Impostor Syndrome

I’d love to see more of us show less certainty when it comes to the analyses and prescriptions we so confidently offer.


Plain Talk and School Reform

We’ve discouraged practitioners from talking plainly about practical challenges—and made it hard for them to be heard when they do


Some Advice for Champions of Social and Emotional Learning

If using a phrase like “social and emotional learning” is what it takes to remind policymakers, reformers, and superintendents that schools are educating real human beings, it’s a price worth paying.


The Elusive Goldilocks Model of School Accountability

States face many practical challenges when it comes to accountability, such as the need to strike a balance between being supportive without simply being squishy.


How Cheap Talk Fuels Bad School Accountability

The scrutiny given to the documents states drafted to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act may be pulling us further away from responsible accountability systems and public leadership.


A Few More Questions for the National History Teacher of the Year

Sara Ziemnik answers some practical questions from teachers about how she teaches history.


When Classroom Technology Impedes Student Learning

Today’s frenzied enthusiasm for computer-assisted “personalized learning” could lead us to charge into some all-too-predictable pitfalls.


Straight Up Conversation: 2017 National History Teacher of the Year Sara Ziemnik

A chat with Sara Ziemnik about teaching history and how to nurture open and respectful debate in an era of polarization and general nastiness.


5 School-Improvement Tips for Civic and Community Leaders

In many places, perhaps the most important mission for civic leaders is to provide the persistence, patience, and maturity that can help turn a vicious cycle into a virtuous one.


About That ‘White Supremacist’ Bedsheet Which Greeted Betsy DeVos’ Speech at Harvard

Today, let’s set aside the Beltway stuff to talk a bit about that sign and what lately strikes me as the remarkably promiscuous use of that term—white supremacist—in education circles.


Education Philanthropists Should Walk the Walk on Accountability

The other week, I called out teachers unions for failing to “walk the walk”; I think the same admonition can be applied to education funders, big time.


Secretary DeVos’ Harvard Speech on School Choice

DeVos delivered a strong speech, articulating points that aren’t made often or forcefully enough.


Five Thoughts on Dan Koretz’s The Testing Charade

Harvard’s Dan Koretz is just out with a thoughtful, immensely readable book that takes dead aim at test-based accountability.


Teachers Unions Blow an Easy Chance to Walk the Walk

Why are the unions not more concerned about a new study finding that 28% of district teachers miss more than ten days of school for personal and sick leave?


What We’ve Forgotten About School Reform: Courtesy of Messrs. Tyack, Cuban, and Payne

There’s a lot of wisdom in Tinkering Toward Utopia and So Much Reform, So Little Change.


Straight Up Conversation: Teach to One CEO Joel Rose

An interview with Joel Rose, co-founder and CEO of Teach to One, a venture that helps schools redesign classrooms and curricula to customize teaching and learning.


The Problem with Those Who Cried “Wolf!” on Trump’s Education Budget

The hyperbole that greeted the nothingburger of Trump’s budget swamped the chance to discuss whether some federal education spending should be cut.


Educators’ Time Loss and the Invisible Cost of Reform

A survey of school leaders that found they were spending 19 days a year on superfluous paperwork due to the state’s new teacher-evaluation system.


Straight Up Conversation: U.S. Organizer Eric Kalenze Explains researchED

researchED is a professional development organization that aims to build the research literacy of educators.


Straight Up Conversation: Abl CEO Adam Pisoni & Impact Guru Chris Walsh

An interview with two leaders from Abl, a new San Francisco-based venture seeking to help schools rethink how they use time.


Charter Authorizing, Kludgeocracy, and a Principled Middle Ground

Can responsible authorizing entail less bloat, bureaucracy, and paperwork?


ESSA’s Eerie Parallels: Bureaucratic Déjà vu

The response of the DeVos Department of Education to Delawares ESSA plan has provoked a full-fledged kerfluffle


Would David Duke Really Say That?

Mainstream, time-tested, once uncontroversial conservative sentiments have been labeled offensive by the same voices who wonder what happened to the responsible right.


Godspeed, Mitchell Chester

Mitchell Chester, the longtime Massachusetts Commissioner of Education, a good man, and a true friend, passed away Monday evening.


For Best Results, Temper Passion With Professionalism

Education reform is hard. Doing it well is at least as much about discipline and precision as it is about passion.


Straight-Up Conversation: Outgoing New Mexico State Chief Hanna Skandera

This week, Hanna Skandera wrapped up her final day after nearly seven years in office. She was one of the nation’s longest-serving state chiefs,


Reading and Math Scores: ‘Handle with Care’

Just how much do gains on reading and math gains on state tests tell us about school quality?


Portents of Success

I wouldn’t have expected it, but events of the last 24 hours have got me in a surprisingly chipper mood.


Picturing Trump as the School Choice Guy

Maybe it’s just me, but I suspect that Trump’s energetic support is one of the worst things that could happen to school choice


It’s Easy to Become ‘The Man’

Reformers are increasingly inclined to behave as proud stewards of a new establishment.


Of ESSA Plans and TPS Reports

State ESSA plans are the kind of pointless paper exercise demanded by 21st century bureaucracy. The only thing that matters is what states and districts actually do after they’ve submitted their plans.


Mixed Emotions on Trump’s Education Budget

I had a three-part reaction: it’s not that big a deal; the cuts are generally reasonable and some are even brave; but the budget as a whole is so problematic that I’ve no desire to defend it.


Trump Happened, Part Deux

Wondering about federal education policy in the midst of all this can feel like playing wiffle ball in the middle of a hurricane.


Stone Soup and School Reform

Pilot programs invariably benefit from enthusiastic leadership, foundation support, intense hand-holding from experts, waivers from contracts and district regulations, teachers and families excited about the program, and more.


Education Policy: Props, Paper Plans, and Pyrrhic Victories

Too often we focus on symbols and dramatic-sounding narratives which ultimately reduce the chance of delivering better schools.


Hard Lessons in Education Reform: The 1,000 Flowers Question

We must strike the right balance between promoting coherent teaching and learning and inadvertently creating smothering bureaucracies along the way.


Why School “Empowerment” Is Tough: United Edition

In too many schools and systems, empowerment tends to feel like an empty phrase.


When It Comes to Schooling, Does the Public Trust Red or Blue?

When an unpopular president (Trump) pushes a popular idea (school choice), where does the public come out?


Letters to a Young Education Reformer

Yesterday, Harvard Education Press released my new book, Letters to a Young Education Reformer.


The Fast, the Furious, and School Reform

Test scores and graduation rates have become the wild car crashes and crazy stunts of school reform. They’re what the movie is about.


Talking To, Not Past, One Another About Race, Schooling, and Reform

As education has gotten ensnared in national politics, it’s become all too easy for those passionate about educational improvement to lose sight of what unites them. What can we do about that?


How Not to Argue for School Choice

The enthusiasm of some school choice advocates is leading them to make their case in ways that are tone-deaf or counterproductive.


School Choice, Bureaucracy, and American Airlines

We all want schools to be filled with professionals who exhibit a passion for doing their job well.


A Cage-Busting Curriculum for Teachers

How teachers can navigate bureaucracy and the shoals of policy in order to make schools and systems more supportive of their work.


Making ESSA Work in the States

States and school districts may find it tricky to navigate what is required and how money can be spent, which can lead to funds being used in “safe” and “permissible” ways rather than the ways that educators deem most useful.


A Rorschach Test for Bias in Education Scholarship

Education scholarship marginalizes itself when it seems to treat the more conservative half of the nation with casual contempt.


Making Sense of ESSA’s New ‘Direct Student Services’

Direct Student Services gives states new leeway to use some of their federal Title I dollars to expand instructional choice for students.


To Be an ‘Enemy of Public Education’

The hard-and-fast lines we have drawn between “public” and “private” are a lot blurrier and a lot less useful than we pretend.


The Patriots and the ‘Unpopular Stuff’ of Excellence

Belichick is doing the hard, unpleasant work of addressing ineptitude and setting a high bar for performance.


School Choiceniks: Think “Common Core” and Be Careful What You Wish For

As someone who favors choice, I can’t think of anything less helpful than making this broad-based effort feel more like a creature of Washington.


Race, Social Justice, and School Reform

An array of education leaders had a hard-hitting but remarkably civil conversation about race and school reform at AEI this week.


Strange Days, My Friend

I don’t know what comes next, but we’ll all be well-served to keep our wits about us.


The Patriots, Texans, and School Reform

Among the Patriots, there’s a belief that excellence means focusing on what went wrong and how to do better.


2017 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence: Top Tens

Today we will report on the top ten finishers for five disciplinary categories, as well as the top ten junior faculty.


The 2017 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings

These rankings are a serious but inevitably imperfect attempt to nudge academe to do more to encourage and recognize scholarship that impacts the real world.


Betsy DeVos and the Manichean Impulse

The attacks on Betsy DeVos feel like a natural but unfortunate extension of the overheated rhetoric around things like the Common Core and teacher accountability.


The 2017 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Scoring Rubric

Here are the details on how the Edu-Scholar rankings are calculated.


The Five-Tool Scholar

On Wednesday in this space, I’ll be publishing the 2017 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings. Today, I want to take a few moments to explain the purpose of those rankings.


10 New Year’s Resolutions for Those Taking Charge at U.S. Department of Ed

Donald Trump’s political appointees at the U.S. Department of Education should keep these in mind.


Seven Reflections on School Reform in 2017

Here are a few musings as I survey the school reform landscape at the dawn of a new year.


The Top Ten 2016 RHSU Columns

It seems a propitious time to take a moment and reflect on the year gone by.


Three Thoughts on the Ugly New PISA Results

Everyone would be well-served if they spent less time claiming this or that test result proved that a grand federal agenda was the right one.


Education Is So Far Left, It Can’t Really See the Right

For those readers willing to concede that the liberal tilt in the education space has perhaps created some blind spots, here are some thoughts that may be helpful in making sense of the political landscape and the implications of the election.


Filling the Dozen Top Jobs in Trump’s Department of Education

Here are some of the names I’d love to see considered for a dozen of the top jobs.


Trump Happened

What does this mean for education? We’ll have to see who gets named to key policy positions in the White House and the Department of Education.


Mastery, Expertise, and the Limits of Experts

Many people who get presented as experts in education policy are not really “experts” in any substantive sense.


When Cultivating Expertise, Here’s How Technology Can Help

The areas of practice, demonstration, and feedback are where technology really supports learning.


The False Dichotomy Between Memorization and Conceptual Understanding

Experts tend to forget just how much they’ve absorbed into long-term memory, so when they train novices, they tend to leave out a large amount of important information.


Working Memory is the Path to Expertise

Experts at parallel parking, like experts at everything, have converted large chunks of critical, conscious mastery into their long-term memory.


Of Deliberate Practice, Memory, and Expertise

Experts work fast, they get specific tasks right, they know how to improve, and they’re better than the rest of us at tackling new challenges in their area of expertise.


Newark Superintendent Chris Cerf on System Reform

Cerf says that reforming a school system is difficult, but the evidence suggests that it can pay off.


The Cost of Winner-Take-All Presidential Politics

The stakes seem to get higher and higher as presidents and their appointees tear away at the moorings meant to constrain them.


The Intriguing Possibilities of Catholic School Reform

Seton Catholic Schools is helping schools in its network rethink leadership and tackle challenges like recruiting and technology.


Why You Should Learn to Love Educational Productivity

Technologies today offer the promise of extending the impact of the instruction, tutoring, and mentoring of a terrific teacher so that she can coach, tutor, or instruct hundreds with the same energy she once expended reaching only five or twenty-five.


No College Left Behind?

Higher education reform increasingly feels like a rerun of the past two decades of K-12 reform—only on a 15 year time delay.


5 Thoughts on the Trump-Clinton Debate: Education Edition

Education has mostly stayed on the sidelines of this race. That hints at what’s ahead for education, but it also says even more about this race and the state of American politics today.


Education Takes 11th in ‘16

Education is clearly not a top-tier issue for the public right now, but it’s also nowhere near the bottom.


As an Education Prez, Trump Would be Obama’s Spiritual Heir

Trump has spent at least half his adult life as a Democrat, has been on every side of every major issue, and seems wholly unacquainted with the Constitution.


My Mixed Feelings on XQ’s ‘Super Schools’

Last week, the organizers of “XQ: The Super School Project” announced the ten winners of its competition to reimagine the American high school. Each winner took home $10 million to help turn its design into reality.


Talking HBO and School Reform

What HBO host John Oliver says about charter schools is not what education reformers should be worried about.


Trump’s Big ‘Education Week’

Last week was billed as the Trump campaign’s big “education week.” If you didn’t notice, that’s okay. I don’t think Trump did either.


Four Lessons That Brexit Can Offer School Reform

As I watched the coverage and read the analysis, it did strike me that there are four cautions to pull from the fray that America’s school reformers would do well to heed.


Of Big ‘R’ and Little ‘r’ School Reform

For all the passion, though, I’m not sure that we actually have all that clear an idea of what it means to be a “reformer.”


School Reform Is the New Ed. School

Both communities are bound by a stifling orthodoxy so ingrained that it’s invisible to its adherents.


Gates’ Common-Core Mea Culpa and the School Reform Divide

Given that the problems with Common Core were predictable, why did they catch so many advocates off-guard?


Is The Press Fair and Balanced on Charter Schooling?

A new AEI study analyzes the 2015 charter school coverage from a number of influential media outlets.


Mr. Duncan’s Sad Legacy

On Monday, former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan returned to Washington DC to speak at a Georgetown University conference.


Why I’m Not Outraged by the Vergara Reversal

Courts are useful guardians of access to schooling but poorly suited to monitor the quality of policy or practice.


What Frustrates Me About AERA

Over the past few days, nearly 20,000 education researchers descended on the nation’s capital for the American Educational Research Association’s (AERA) 100th annual conference.


What Teachers of the Year Have to Say About Federal Education Policy

Teachers of the Year offer the kind of practical advice from seasoned professionals that administrators and policymakers sorely need—and need to treat very seriously.


A Trick for Attracting Science, Math, and Special Ed Teachers

Schools should spend funds with an eye to providing the best possible teaching and learning for students. That’s not happening if schools are simply ignoring supply and demand when it comes to teacher pay.


Could Well-Meaning New Labor Rule Hurt Charter Schools, Preschools, & Tutoring Programs?

The Obama administration’s Department of Labor is moving to revamp the “overtime rule” under the Fair Labor Standards Act. This could have a big impact on programs that depend on the passionate commitment of small staffs.


When Fancy New Teacher-Evaluation Systems Don’t Make a Difference

A new study looks at teacher evaluation results in 19 states that have adopted new evaluation systems since 2009.


What Would a President Trump Mean for Education?

One reason that Trump makes political veteran observers so nervous is that he could very well be elected President of the United States, and yet no one has any idea of what he’d attempt to do in office.


The 2016 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings

This list recognizes university-based scholars in the U.S. who are doing the most to influence educational policy and practice.


5 Thoughts on ESSA

The new law retains NCLB’s federal framework for testing while getting the federal government out of the business of trying to judge teacher or school quality or how to “fix” schools.


Straight-Up Conversation: DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson

D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson has just finished her fifth year in the role. I recently had the chance to chat with her about the highlights of her tenure and the evolution of school reform.


Scoring the New Every Student Succeeds Act

ESSA doesn’t come close to getting it all right, but it’s a vast improvement on NCLB and the status quo.


What the 2016 Race May Hold for Education

We might see some significant education action in DC come 2017, but it’s unlikely to get much of a preview on the 2016 trail.


Actually, Boehner’s Resignation Doesn’t Change the Odds on ESEA

The odds of ESEA reauthorization weren’t good before Boehner’s announcement. After Boehner’s announcement, not a lot has changed.


More Than A Slogan

Five good reasons federalism is so important in education


A Few Lessons That AP U.S. History Can Teach the Common Core

Yesterday the College Board released its newly revised version of the AP U.S. History framework.


A Checklist for Fixing ESEA

Things are moving rapidly here in DC. Yesterday, on a 218-213 vote, the House narrowly passed the Student Success Act.


Beware of Superintendents Who Push for Too Much Reform

New superintendents routinely propose agendas that are full to bursting. As a result, local educators get deluged with new proposals.


Reflections on an Extraordinary Decade of New Orleans School Reform

The story of New Orleans’ success entails two parts: a disaster that created room to reinvent a deeply troubled urban school system and an energetic commitment to seize that opportunity.


What “The Cage-Busting Teacher” Means For School Reformers

Four ways for policymakers and reformers to create the conditions whereby cage-busting teachers can thrive


Creativity, Cartels, and the Supply Side of Choice-Based Reform

Both the pro- and the anti-school choice crowds tend to ignore what should be the central issue when it comes to markets, which is their immense creative potential and the way they can shatter comfortable cartels.


Why Can’t Politicians Get Out of Schooling?

The reason education policy today feels more invasive is because policymakers have been convinced that the old rules and regulations weren’t getting the job done.


Thinking About “What Works”

What works in one place, at one time, for a certain community, will often turn out differently elsewhere.


It’s Not Looking Good for ESEA Reauthorization

It’s looking increasingly like Secretary Duncan is going get to keep on enjoying his waivers through January 2017.


The Problem With NCLB-Style ‘Political Cover’

As Congress debates the reauthorization of ESEA, those arguing for keeping NCLB-style mandates claim that reform-minded leaders in the states require “political cover” from Washington.


Yong Zhao’s Biting Critique of the Chinese Edu-Miracle

Zhao’s writing flags the stifling nature of regulation and celebrates the creative power of entrepreneur-oriented education.


A Better Path Than ‘Blowing Up’ Schools of Education

Given their steady revenues, credentialing authority, political relationships, and millions of alumni not much interested in major change, “blowing up” the existing schools of education is just not a viable option. It’s not even a desirable one.


Cami Anderson and the Forces of Unreason

Newark superintendent Cami Anderson came to AEI to give a talk, but the talk had to be relocated and the logistics modified because a busload of Anderson critics pledging to disrupt the event followed her from Newark.


Ten Facts About What the Candidates Are Saying on Education

What candidates running for governor and the U.S. Senate have to say on K-12, higher ed, and pre-K.


What the 2014 Senate Elections Might Mean for Education

If the Republicans take the Senate, Senator Lamar Alexander would take the helm of the Senate HELP Committee, which is a big deal.


Broadening the Discussion of Good Schooling

These measures help to offer a more holistic take on the quality of a state’s school system.


K-12 Leaders & Laggards Circa 2014: How the States Are Doing

Leaders & Laggards grades each state on how it’s doing in 11 areas, using an A to F scale.


10 School Reform Phrases That Should Trigger Your BS Detector

Left unchallenged, pat phrases allow wishful thinking to stand in for messy realities.


Why Do “Anti-Corporatists” Defend Factory-Style School Leadership?

There’s little reason to expect that century-old assumptions about how to organize and deliver schooling are the smartest way forward.


Race to the Top Wasn’t

What President Obama termed “the most meaningful education reform in a generation” has proven to be more a cautionary tale than a model.


Former Indiana State Chief Tony Bennett and the Politics of Personal Destruction

Last summer, Tony Bennett resigned the Florida superintendency when slammed with alleged improprieties from his tenure as Indiana state chief. Last week, he was cleared of all but one very minor charge.


Five Thoughts on Randi Weingarten’s AEI Remarks

Why teachers unions and school reformers distrust each other and where they might find common ground.


YES Prep Steps Up

Houston-based YES Prep charter schools has released a probing analysis of its graduates’ postsecondary performance and the strategies it’s using to improve that performance.


Life Is an Implementation Problem

What matters in education is what actually happens in 100,000 schools educating 50 million kids. That’s all implementation, and that means it matters a lot that some reforms are much more likely to suffer bumps, distortions, and problems than are others.


Aftermath: My Note to the Gates Foundation

A researcher and a skeptic engage in a candid discussion of what happens when value-added analysis is used to evaluate teachers.


Superintendent Duncan Yanks Washington’s Waiver

Duncan is punishing Washington state and re-imposing provisions of a law that he has termed “broken” because its legislature failed to heed his mandate


Common-Core Critics Can’t Just Say No

It’s important to offer solutions, not just complaints.


Jeb Bush, the Common Core, and 2016

In a crowded 2016 field, education could and should be a critical asset for a potential Bush candidacy. What happens with Common Core over the next 24 months will determine whether it is.


Focus on the Opportunities Ed Tech Brings, Not the Hype

When we talk educational technology, there’s far too much excited talk about big purchases of tablets or assessment systems and far too little about just what educators and students are supposed to actually do with these.


Common Core and the Midterms

It won’t be a huge issue in the fall, but it will have repercussions thereafter.


Common Core: Teachers’ Unions Think Again

As implementation nears, they aren’t liking what they see.


The Big Apple’s Chance to Course-Correct on Testing

Those who follow New York City schools have been witnessing a time-honored ritual — pro-testing school reformers have mightily overreached, inviting pushback that’s now poised to dismantle much of their useful handiwork.


Successful ‘Edupreneurs’ Reignite For-Profit Debate

Critics often accuse school reformers of “privatizing” public education. When for-profits enter the conversation, those same critics level more serious charges and often accuse those companies of having one motive: making money off of the backs of kids.


2014 Rick Hess Straight Up (RHSU) Edu-Scholar Public Influence: Top Tens

How did scholars fare when it comes to particular fields or disciplines?


The 2014 Rick Hess Straight Up (RHSU) Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings

These rankings recognize university-based scholars in the U.S. who are contributing most substantially to public debates about education.


The Five-Tool Policy Scholar

Scholars who do policy-relevant research require a range of skills to excel, but university promotion, pay, and prestige tend to reward a very narrow range of activity and accomplishment


NNSTOY’s Report on Teacher ‘Career Pathways’

It’s vital that teachers help shape new systems that will give them opportunities for growth, impact, and professional responsibility


Quick Thoughts on the Screwed Up DC IMPACT Ratings

Teacher evaluation systems are nascent and fragile. Proponents need to do everything they can to show that these will be fair, reliable, and workable.


The World’s Most Successful Ed Tech…

The one learning technology that has actually transformed teaching and learning is … the book!


Common Core and the Food Pyramid

The idea that the Common Core might be a “game-changer” has little to do with the Common Core standards themselves and everything to do with stuff attached to them, especially the adoption of common tests that make it possible to readily compare schools, programs, districts, and states.


ClassDojo and How Tech Can Help With Soft Skills

ClassDojo has developed digital tools that can help teachers, parents, and students improve classroom behavior, develop good learning habits, and support character development.


Uncle Sam Shouldn’t Try to Manage School Staffing

The desire to more evenly distribute effective teachers is laudable, but the feds should take care not to accidentally undermine successful schools, compromise teacher effectiveness, or drive good teachers from the profession.


Arne the Octopus

While Arne Duncan continues to champion ideas that enjoy bipartisan support, his methods have become increasingly imperious.


Douglas County: The Most Interesting School District in America?

Douglas County suggests that the familiar paradigm of urban reform, which has driven so much of the K-12 agenda in the past decade, may be an uncomfortable or problematic fit in suburban districts.


The Trouble With Economists

It turns out that preschool programs are hard to replicate with fidelity or in such a way that each additional preschool student gets the anticipated benefit.


The Import of the CREDO Charter School Study

The new national charter school study by Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) has attracted enormous, well-deserved attention.


A Playbook for the Common Core'ites: Part 2

Five suggestions that can help Common Core advocates get their popular and political fortunes back on track


A Playbook for the Common Core'ites: Part I

I”ve long said that the Common Core strikes me as an intriguing effort that could do much good. The past couple weeks, I”ve been struck by how fragile the effort is starting to seem and how clumsily the Common Core”ites seem to be responding to challenges. In the spirit of public service, here”s some advice.


NCLB’s Critical Design Flaw and the Lesson to Take

A decision to focus NCLB reauthorization on promoting transparency, honest measurements of spending and achievement, and on ensuring that constitutional protections are respected ought not be seen as a retreat from NCLB but as an attempt to have the feds do what they can do sensibly and well.


‘More Professional Development’: The Easy (But Ineffectual) Answer

We spend a lot on professional development, yet hardly any of it actually appears to make teachers better.


Putting the Poli Sci Back in the Politics of Ed … & Three New Books That Continue a Heartening Trend

Spurred by the experiences of No Child Left Behind and all that followed, there’s been a resurgence of political scientists studying education


Straight Up Conversation: Common Core Guru Jason Zimba

My interview with Jason Zimba, Jazon Zimba, founding principal of Student Achievement Partners (SAP) and lead writer on the Common Core mathematics standards


2013 RHSU Edu-Scholar Bonus Round

Three new tools make it possible to tinker with the Edu-Scholar rankings in cool new ways.


2013 RHSU Edu-Scholar Top 10 Lists

Which professors topped the charts in different disciplines?


The 2013 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Presence Rankings

Which university-based academics are contributing most substantially to public debates about K-12 and higher education?


The 2013 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Presence Scoring Rubric

The metric described here is used to rank 168 university-based edu-scholars who are widely regarded as having some public presence.


The Five-Tool Policy Scholar

Scholars who do policy-relevant research contribute most fully when they put a broad array of relevant skills to use.


Straight Up Conversation: New Florida Commissioner Tony Bennett

Indiana’s loss turned out to be Florida’s gain, as the State Board voted unanimously last Wednesday to select Bennett as Florida’s new education commissioner.


Technology as ‘Hamburger Helper’

In most sectors, technology has indeed yielded huge savings and delivered massive increases in productivity. In education, though, it’s been a different story.


Making Civics Count

This new book features an all-star lineup of experts shining a spotlight on civic education to help policymakers, educators, parents, and voters better understand the state of civic ed.


Obama the Education Spending Hawk

It’s a safe bet that an Obama victory will mean more federal funding for education than would a Romney victory. But, either way, federal edu-spending is going to be on a lean diet for a good, long while.


What Would a President Romney Do on K-12?

Romney would keep much of the same substantive agenda as Obama, but would do so with a lighter touch, less spending, and more emphasis on choice.


Obama Administration and K-12: The Good and the Bad

We’re rolling into the final sprint to the election; this makes it a good time to look back at what the Obama administration has done with its time in office.


Checking Out ClassDojo

Currently boasting more than four million teacher and student users, ClassDojo enables teachers to easily monitor and track student behaviors in real time.


Daily News Twists Evaluation Into Cheap Shot at School of One

The New York Daily News did an awful job of conveying what we know about School of One thus far.


Parent Power and Education Advocacy

Despite conventional assumptions that “choice” parents would be easier to mobilize, choice doesn’t necessarily equal activism.


BASIS and DC: Achievement Gap Mania Strikes Again

Arguing that DC should only welcome charters that have the mission of boosting proficiency in reading and math seems a surefire way of shortchanging kids who are capable of much more.


Thinking Policy: Four Tips for Educators

If you explain how you can solve a problem by making smart use of existing tools, talent, and resources, you’ll be surprised at how helpful policymakers can be


Edu-Leaders: Get Over Your Policy Allergies

If you’re wondering why people who aren’t experts on schooling get to make policy, it’s simple: they’re elected to do that.


Straight Up Conversation: New National Charter Alliance Chief Nina Rees

The new head of the national organization for the country’s charter schools talks about her goals for the group and for charter schools.


The ‘Successful’ Failure of ED in ’08?

Examining an effort that is generally recalled as a major Gates-Broad partnership that flopped, Alexander Russo argues that the whole exercise was more impactful, significant, and instructive than is widely recognized.


Straight Up Conversation: Common Core Architect and New College Board President David Coleman

Given the news and heated debate around the Common Core, it seemed a good time to chat with David about the new job.


Gov. Walker’s Recall Win Is Good News for Schooling

Walker is about to skyrocket to prominence in the conservative firmament, and several Republican governors are about to discover a new appetite for challenging public employee unions.


RTT for Districts: Four Things I Don’t Love

No matter how distracting and misguided the exercise, no matter how much energy is wasted on grant-writing and meetings, and no matter how trivial the actual dollar amounts, we’re going to see scores or hundreds of applicants spending hundreds of hours leaping through the requisite hoops.


The Big Philanthropic Shift: Now What?

New philanthropists are much more receptive to the notion that the problem is the inhospitable cultures, systems, and policy environments in which scale-ups were being attempted.


The Fate of the Common Core: The View from 2022

The Core is still with us, of course, but it remains a shadow of what its more optimistic proponents envisioned a decade ago.


Educational Leadership for a New Era

The basic premise of Rice University’s Education Entrepreneurship Program is that key leadership and management skills are universal, regardless of one’s field of endeavor, and that aspiring K-12 leaders can actually become more adept at these skills by learning with and from peers and faculty who have diverse expertise and experiences.


Straight Up Conversation: TFA Research Chief Heather Harding

Recently, Education Week’s “Living in Dialogue” blog featured a number of provocative posts on Teach For America. Phil Kovacs penned a guest post that offered a sharp critique of TFA and the research supporting its efforts.


The Problem with One-Size-Fits-All Approaches to Teacher Quality

The world is a complex place and adopting mechanistic, one-size-fits-all solutions, like so many of the statewide teacher evaluation and pay systems being championed today, make it likely that thousands of schools and millions of teachers and students will be snared by systems that are a poor match for their needs.


Cage-Busting Leadership

Leaders have far more freedom to transform, reimagine, and invigorate teaching, learning, and schooling than is widely believed.


Straight Up Conversation: Douglas County Supe Liz Fagen

We pay a lot of attention to urban school districts, but much less to high-performing suburbs–where there’s typically less interest in much of the current “reform” agenda. All of that makes Liz and Douglas County kind of unique. I thought it worth chatting with Liz a bit about what they’re up to.


ARPA-ED: A Qualified Thumbs-Up

Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) has proposed an “Education-ARPA,” modeled on the famed Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The Obama administration has included a similar proposal, carving the dollars out of i3.


Straight Up Conversation: New Louisiana Schools Chief John White

In January, 36-year-old John White took the reins as the state superintendent of education in Louisiana. He was appointed by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on a 9-1 vote, inheriting the ambitious reform legacy of his predecessor, Paul Pastorek. White had moved to Louisiana in 2011 to take over as head of […]


A Shameless Display on Waivers

The Obama administration made its big NCLB “waiver” announcement last week , getting the predictable, fawning edu-coverage. Here are six things about this latest spin of the waiver saga that seemed particularly disconcerting.


Carrots, Sticks, & the Bully Pulpit

This new book examines what we’ve learned about what Uncle Sam does and doesn’t do well when it comes to education innovation, accountability, equity, and research.


Straight Up Conversation: Departing Kasich Edu-Advisor Bob Sommers on Reform in Ohio

For the past year, Bob Sommers served as newly elected Ohio Governor John Kasich’s education advisor and helped to spearhead the Governor’s reform efforts.


The 2012 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Presence Rankings

Here are the 2012 Edu-Scholar Public Presence rankings, which are designed to recognize those university-based academics who are contributing most substantially to public debates about schools and schooling.


The Five-Tool Policy Scholar

Tomorrow I’ll be publishing the 2012 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Presence Rankings. Today, just like last year, I want to take a few moments to explain what those ratings are about and how they were generated.


Ten Edu-Stories We’ll Be Reading in 2012

Here’s my best guess at some of the key edu-headlines we’ll be reading in 2012.


The World Conspires to Make Expertise Unreliable

Note: This week, I’m giving readers a look at my essay in Richard Elmore’s recent Harvard Education Press volume I Used to Think…And Now I Think. If you find this stuff at all interesting, I’d definitely encourage you to check the book out. For days one and two, see here and here. Say something smart […]


Wait a Minute…

Note: This week, I’m giving readers a look at my essay in Richard Elmore’s recent Harvard Education Press volume I Used to Think…And Now I Think. If you find this stuff at all interesting, I’d definitely encourage you to check the book out. For day one, see here. Along my path through academia, I started […]


I Used to Think…That Experts Understood the World

This summer, Harvard Education Press published Richard Elmore’s intriguing volume I Used to Think…And Now I Think. The volume’s title and theme draw from a professional development exercise in which participants reflect on how the experience has altered their thinking.


I’m Skeptical But Intrigued By AFT Initiative, NEA Report

We’ve seen a couple noteworthy developments from the AFT and NEA in recent days.


A Couple Thoughts on Tuesday’s NYT Op-Ed

On Tuesday, Linda Darling-Hammond and I published an op-ed “How to Rescue Education Reform” in the New York Times. (I take no responsibility for the immodest title; those of you who have written op-eds know how little control authors have on that score.) The piece has generated a number of notes, with several asking how the piece came about.


Getting Moneyball Right

I fear that the value-added enthusiasts who imagine they’re right now gearing up to play moneyball in K-12 are actually going to find, to their chagrin, that they’re the potbellied scouts hoping to sign an overpriced free agent because the guy drove in 100 runs for the Yankees last year.


An “American” Approach to K-12 School Reform

A recent series in The Atlantic has explored the “secrets of innovation” and asked which nations the U.S. ought to emulate in seeking to regain our competitive edge. As part of it, I was asked to offer my take on the K-12 question.


Making Sense of the Whole “Are Teachers Overpaid?” Thing

I’m much more interested in the broader issue of how we can rethink the profession, make fuller use of talented teachers, and wisely spend the dollars we do have than in debating what the “right” wage level should be.


Maybe Parents Aren’t Dopes

For nearly two decades, one of the striking findings in school choice research is that parents are hugely positive about schools of choice even when the test results show only modest benefits for their kids. In some circles, particularly among education professors, this has led to various lamentations about what dopes parents are.


The Feds’ For-Profit Double Standard in Ed

I’m frequently frustrated by our inability to talk sensibly about the role of for-profits in schooling. Most discussion amounts to reflexive demonization, occasionally interspersed with hired-gun salesmanship or protestations of good intentions. Nearly absent is thinking about the role for-profits can play in promoting quality and cost-effectiveness at scale, or what it’ll take to make that happen.


I’m No Contrarian

Last week, RiShawn Biddle penned an energetic critique of “Our Achievement Gap Mania” for his e-newsletter Dropout Nation. The impassioned attack echoed some of the more visceral reactions that the article has generated. I’m a fan of robust debate, but I do want to make sure that critics understand what I’m arguing and why I’m arguing it.


Why Achievement Gap Mania Isn’t Cost-Free

As I noted earlier, my National Affairs essay “Our Achievement Gap Mania” has stirred some conversation. Let’s take a moment to address those who’ve asked, “Rick, why are you trying to stir up trouble? There are no losers here!”


Our Achievement Gap Mania

The real problem has been the unwillingness of gap-closers to acknowledge the costs of their agenda or its implications.


Indiana’s Phased Turnaround Model

Turnarounds are all the rage. Under the guiding hand of its stellar state chief, Tony Bennett, Indiana has recently tried out an interesting spin in its approach to tackling consistently low-performing schools.


Want a 3.8 GPA? Major in Education

University of Missouri economist Cory Koedel has provided some new, clear, and pretty troubling evidence about the lack of rigor in teacher preparation.


Straight Up Conversation: Texas Chief Robert Scott

With Texas Governor Rick Perry now drawing attention as the newly installed favorite in the Republican presidential field, including some harsh words from the Secretary of Education, I thought it’d be a good time to chat with Robert Scott about his take on things.


Is Anybody Up for Defending the Common Core Math Standards?

Over the past three months, we’ve now asked six individuals involved in the Common Core math standards to pen a piece making the case for their rigor and quality, and each has declined in turn. This is, quite literally, unprecedented.


Kudos to ED for Gutsy Call on Special Ed

I’ve long griped that the Obama administration has talked too often about more school spending and not enough about smarter school spending, and I was particularly disenchanted to hear the President go back to talking this week about pumping more borrowed federal funds into school facilities and salaries.


Randi and I Argue, Earth Rumbles

You can judge for yourself, but I’d like to think that Randi and I managed to have a serious but civil debate about whether teachers are under attack, teacher pensions and health care, the new unionism, teacher evaluation, teacher pay, and the rest.


PDK Finds Public Likes Teachers, Down on Teacher Unions, Mixed on Obama

Phi Delta Kappan released its 43rd annual poll on public schools. As always, there’s much to chew on.


Straight Up Conversation: Former New York Commissioner David Steiner

As he returns to Hunter College, I thought it timely to chat with David Steiner about a few of his takeaways and lessons learned from his time running the New York state education agency.


After the Debt Deal: It Gets Tougher From Here

Last week the President and Congress topped off months of increasing rancor by cobbling together a last minute debt deal. There are several key edu-world takeaways that can too easily get lost amidst the languid summer heat. So, let’s take a moment to flag them.


Duncan’s “Backdoor Blueprint” Strategy

I see two ways this can play out: Hard-pressed states are thankful for any relief, and Congress is too distracted to pay attention or frustrated governors or irate Tea Partiers start to raise a fuss about this novel strategy for extending Uncle Sam’s reach, and it becomes a talking point for Bachmann and Perry during the GOP primaries.


Beach Listenin’

Mike Petrilli has been conducting a series of provocative audio interviews for Education Next with authors of hot edu-books. The interviewees are a who’s who of edu-authors. Edu-geeks and grad students will find ’em full of insights and insider tidbits, and a great way to catch up on noteworthy volumes.


Straight Up Conversation: Teacher Eval Guru Charlotte Danielson

Some of the ins and outs of teacher evaluation and what cautions or advice she might have for practitioners or policymakers.


What’s the NCEE’s Problem with Agassi et al.?

NCEE is hustling, alongside McKinsey, to corner the market on “big” ideas that can still be peddled as safe. That’s their right. I just wish the press and policy community would evince a little more independence or skepticism when reacting to and reporting on this stuff.


Straight Up Conversation: KIPP CEO Richard Barth on the College Completion Challenge

I had the chance to chat with Richard about what KIPP is learning about getting its kids through college and the risks and rewards of this kind of transparency.


Charter Schools & Teacher Pensions

In studying the simple and immensely practical question of how charter schools handle teacher retirement when state law allows them to opt out of the state’s pension system, Podgursky and Olberg examine just how much rethinking charters are doing when it comes to the familiar, expensive, and binding routines of schooling.


Rethinking Special Ed. Spending

Districts are struggling to stretch the school dollar as they deal with current and looming budget shortfalls. Yet, while they know it’s a huge cost center, few district leaders know how to effectively or legally pursue cost savings in special ed provision.


Moe v. Meier on Teacher Unions

Two key fault lines ran through the lively panel discussion of Terry Moe’s new book, Special Interest: Teachers Unions and America’s Public Schools. One was the notion of “reform unionism” and professional voice. The second was how to judge whether schools or teachers were doing well.


Lessons for a Biz Community Ready to Step Up

I’ve frequently given a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s LEADs seminar for local and state business leaders titled “Has Business Been Bold Enough?” The answer has been straightforward: Nope.


Fairfax’s Jack Dale on Overhauling the Teaching Profession

While leading perhaps the nation’s largest high-performing system, Jack Dale has pushed to get serious about teacher leadership and the oft-watery notion of teacher “collaboration.”


How Big a Change Are the Common Core Standards?

The Common Core standards are, for better or worse, pretty dramatically different from what states have in place.


What Subjects Does Edu-World Track?

For the first four months of 2011, we tallied the average monthly page visits to each of the Ed Week subject matter blogs. Here are the results.


How Supes & Principals Should Not Respond to Tight Budgets

I had the privilege of visiting with Rhode Island’s superintendents and district business officers the other day to discuss how to stretch the school dollar. One of the things we touched on was the recent Phi Delta Kappan piece “Leading Through a Fiscal Nightmare.” I used it to suggest how not to respond to a budget crunch.


Charter Schooling & Citizenship

As part of our ongoing effort to explore and promote citizenship education at AEI, we had the pleasure of convening an array of terrific charter school leaders and teachers. The topic: how they approach citizenship education and gauge their performance, and what steps might help to encourage or support such efforts. A bunch of intriguing issues arose. For the moment, five particular points stuck with me.


Nothing, Absolutely Nothing, to See Here, Folks…

The insistence of ed school cognoscenti that I’ve nothing much to say, despite some occasional evidence to the contrary, has long puzzled me. I’m not sure what to make of it, but there it is.


Common Core: Now It Gets Interesting

The Common Core battle has been officially joined. The anti-Common Core-ites fired their first organized response, in a manifesto titled, “Closing the Door on Innovation.”


Value-Added: Two Things Are True

First, teachers vary widely in ability and performance, and many people teaching today probably shouldn’t be. Second, teaching is complex, and no simple score or algorithm usefully captures that variation in ability and performance, or reveals which teachers shouldn’t be teaching.


Value-Added Evaluation & Those Pesky Collateralized Debt Obligations

Last week Brookings released “Passing Muster: Evaluating Teacher Evaluation Systems.” The aim is to tell state and federal officials how to “achieve a uniform standard for dispensing funds to school districts for the recognition of exceptional teachers without imposing a uniform evaluation system.” The paper is clever, and fine as far as it goes, but leaves me concerned about the direction of teacher evaluation policy.


Déjà Vu on the Whole “Turnaround” Thing?

While a new bit of jargon – the term “turnaround” – and $3.5 billion in designated federal funding for School Improvement Grants is enough to push many an edu-reformer to the brink of hubris, it’s fairly clear that no one actually knows what to do. More to the point, it’s clear they’ve mostly ignored what we’ve learned from previous go-rounds.


School of One Leaving the Nest

School of One honcho Joel Rose announced that he’s departing the New York City Department of Education to launch an independent effort to take the School of One to scale.


Tightening Up Title I

Last Friday I co-hosted a conference on “Tightening Up Title I.” The papers waded into the regulatory and operational questions of NCLB (aka ESEA) that too often get overlooked.


Breakfast at Arne’s

As Michele McNeil reported, a few of us wandered over to 400 Maryland yesterday morning for croissants and chit-chat with the Secretary of Education. I thought I’d just briefly offer a few Duncan comments that might be of particular interest to Education Next readers.


Common Core vs. Charter Schooling?!! Waving That Yellow Flag

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. A particularly compelling example is posed by the looming collision that might occur when the unfolding effort comes to the attention of charter schoolers and school choice enthusiasts.


Is Common Core Running Off the Rails Already? Waving the Caution Flag

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.


Joel Klein on His New Gig & Ed Innovation

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. Last week I had the chance to chat with Joel about his new job and the promise of educational innovation.


My Take on the L.A. Times Reanalysis

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.


Risk of Pyrrhic Victories

Advocates drive good ideas to extremes when they oversell their promise and undermine their integrity. Unfortunately, this pattern is all too common.


Supersized!! RHSU’s 2010 Edu-Scholar Public Presence Rankings

The rankings are now bigger and badder than ever (or at least bigger and badder than they were on Tuesday), with 35 additional scholars rated.


RHSU’s 2010 Edu-Scholar Public Presence Rankings

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 Five-Tool Policy Scholar

Later today I’ll be publishing the first annual RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Presence Rankings. First, I want to take a few moments to explain what those ratings are about and how they were generated.


Klein’s Private Farewell to NYC Principals

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.


When “Digital Natives” Discover the Encyclopedia

I remember my own long-ago days in high school, when we could manage the tricky feat of talking on the phone for hours while playing Atari. Yet, happily, nobody mistook these happy pursuits for learning or thought we had mastered new, invaluable skills.


Waiting For Superman: A Postmortem

The movie is now finishing its theatrical run, dribbling out of the last few theaters. How big a splash did it make?


RHSU Faux News: Fake Twitter Debate on Teacher Residency Programs

Last week, Mike Petrilli posted 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.


The Double-Edged Politics of RTT

The over-the-top hosannas for RTT have given way to serious doubts about how it will ultimately play out.


Straight Up Conversation: Gates’s Shalvey on District-Charter “Compact” Initiative

Yesterday, the Gates Foundation announced that district and charter school leaders in nine cities have embraced a “District-Charter Collaboration Compact.” How significant is this? And what do these compacts actually mean? I put those questions to Don Shalvey, Deputy Director of States, Districts, and Networks for the Gates Foundation.


Republicans, Quote this Schools Speech

The week before Thanksgiving, Secretary Duncan sang the praises of productivity in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute titled “The New Normal: Doing More With Less.” We’re not sure if the Secretary of Education had a conversion experience, had a secret plan to woo the ed establishment and then hit it with tough love, or is simply reading the Tea Party leaves.


Catch Today’s Live Stream Show of The Same Thing Dust-Up

The event will feature Indiana state chief Tony Bennett, Louisiana chief Paul Pastorek, Gates Foundation policy chieftain Stephanie Sanford, and yours truly tussling over what “reformers” are getting right, what they’re getting wrong, and how to avoid repeating a half-century’s worth of familiar missteps.


The Teacher Residency Question

I’ve gotten a number of questions and comments regarding NCATE’s big Blue Ribbon Panel report, both after my remarks at the National Press Club and in response to yesterday’s post. Thought it worth taking a couple moments to expand and explain a bit, especially because teacher residencies are one of our current “everybody loves ’em” enthusiasms.


NCATE’s “Transformative” Vision…Not So Much

NCATE’s big report is out today. It’s scheduled for a morning event, where the Blue Ribbon Panel’s call for “radically” revising teacher prep to focus on practical training and residencies will be hailed as a transformative moment. I’m not sold.


Unbundling the Schoolhouse & PDK’s Schizophrenic Response

The new Phi Delta Kappan features a five-article special section on “unbundled schooling.” Featuring contributions by Paul Hill, Jim Spillane, Colorado state senator Mike Johnston, Harvard’s Jal Mehta and Liz City, and UPenn’s Doug Lynch, and a piece that I penned with Teachers College’s Jeff Henig.


Sorry, NAACP, Prisons Aren’t a Big Enough Piggy Bank

For all the energetic rhetoric, there’s just not that much money in corrections. We could slash corrections spending by half and put all those dollars into K-12 and it just wouldn’t much matter.


New Hill Republicans Will Be Mixed on Federal Support for Charters

Many friends in the charter school world figure that Congressional Republicans and the administration will be looking for places they can do business, that education will be a natural fit–and that charter schooling is the easiest piece of that puzzle. I think these folks ought to avoid getting their hopes up overmuch.


ED’s “All Hat, No Cattle” Stance on the Unions

I’d vastly prefer that Duncan spent less time talking tough and more time showing some steel when it counts.


An Awkward Moment for School Reformers

Yesterday, Gwinnett County, Georgia, claimed the Broad Prize in a classy awards ceremony at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. The event featured New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NBC anchor Brian Williams talking about the vital role of school reform, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan naming the winner. Unmentioned by all, and for good reason, was that Gwinnett is in the middle of a very unreformish attempt to prohibit the Georgia Charter Schools Commission from approving or funding charter schools.


Proposals for a Cost-Conscious Era: K-12 Spending Accounts

The power of price-sensitive consumers to squeeze costs is untapped in K-12. Parents currently gain nothing from choosing a more cost-effective district school or charter school. K-12 Spending Accounts would leverage the insights of school choice in a way that begins to foster cost-awareness and widens the applicability of choice in a world of home schooling and online learning.


Proposals for a Cost-Conscious Era: Gold Star Teachers

The Gold Star program offers teachers who are at least reasonably effective the opportunity, should they so choose, to teach more kids per class and to be rewarded for taking on a larger workload. Such a state-level program would offer a chance to reshuffle the incentives and create a productivity-enhancing dynamic.


The Trouble with “Vocational” Citizenship

I think this challenge is evident even in many of the schools and districts regarded today as exemplary, and especially in those often lauded precisely for their emphasis on achievement-oriented “citizenship.”


High Schools, Civics, and Citizenship: What Social Studies Teachers Think and Do

Remarkably little has been written about the state of citizenship education in our schools. Pollsters/analysts Steve Farkas and Ann Duffett have delivered an invaluable service in their new study “High Schools, Civics, and Citizenship: What Social Studies Teachers Think and Do.”


Does School Choice “Work”?

Last spring, I agreed to tackle the question of “does school choice ‘work’?” for National Affairs. My essay, published yesterday, offers my take on what we know and where advocates have gone off the rails in debating, researching, and designing choice-based reforms. Bottom line: the key is to stop fixating on “choice” and start talking about “deregulation.


Gates R&D Chief Tom Kane on the Nashville Merit Pay Study

In response to my post on the Nashville merit pay study, Gates Foundation research honcho and Harvard professor Tom Kane sent me a really thoughtful, incisive take on the study’s limitations. I thought his take so razor-sharp and succinct that I asked if I could share it, and he genially agreed.


Aftershocks from DC’s Mayoral Election

It’s Friday and it’s been a long week, so I’ll cut to the chase. Four things worth noting about the aftermath of Mayor Adrian Fenty’s defeat in D.C. on Tuesday.


Breaking News: “Leading Educators” in the Big Easy

Word on the street is that a cool new venture is rising in New Orleans. The newest effort involves taking the Big Easy’s “Leading Educators” program national. To take the reins, they’ve recruited Jonas Chartock, executive director of the SUNY Charter Schools Institute, my fellow NACSA board member, former executive director of TFA Houston, and all-around good guy.


The “Buy-In” Tar Pit

The problem is we’ve a sector full of educational experts who claim to love kids, are sure that everyone wants to do the right thing, and can’t imagine that buy-in and consensus won’t yield solutions. Unfortunately, the kumbaya approach only works in schools or systems that are already doing fairly well–and where, therefore, change won’t involve too much disruption or produce too many losers. When it comes to troubled systems, even a thousand meetings, get-to-know-me sessions, and stakeholder buy-in roundtables won’t suffice.


Stretching the School Dollar

I know, I know. I’m always kvetching that schools need to do more with less. When folks press me for specific details or suggestions, they want something more than broad discussions of staffing levels or analogies from other sectors. They want concrete ideas. Stretching the School Dollar represents the best efforts of coeditor Eric Osberg and myself to craft a book packed with practical ideas for cutting school spending, in both the short- and long-term.


The HFT Is All About Professional Growth… Not

I’m always surprised at how often teacher unions claiming to be agents of professionalism reflexively slash at measures that are part and parcel of most professions. Even so, it’s not every day that you see a union savaging an effort to promote professional growth as an anti-teacher conspiracy.


Even Its Fans Are Having Second Thoughts About Race to the Top

Last Tuesday, Secretary Duncan announced round-two winners in the Race to the Top program. By Tuesday night, there was outrage that admired reform states had lost while won. By Thursday, there was grumbling that some judges had savaged Colorado for failing to attach a copy of Senate Bill 10-191. By Friday, the big story was not the contest but New Jersey Governor Christie’s decision to fire his commissioner of education. It all brings to mind something I noted last winter: that RTT was a good idea that could all-too-easily go south.


Why I’m Feeling Sorry for Sec. Duncan

Faced with bizarre round two RTT results that identified New York as the second-most accomplished reform state and Hawaii as the third–and that found Louisiana and Colorado out of the money altogether–Duncan had two bad choices. He could either take the scores at face value or he could override them and deal with an ensuing firestorm. This is what we call a lose-lose proposition.


The Nation’s Best (and Worst) Cities for School Reform

The answer: New Orleans, Washington, D.C., New York City, Denver, and Jacksonville. The question: Which cities are in the mix when it comes to being the “Silicon Valley” of K-12 schooling? Or, more simply: If you’re a problem-solver with some successes under your belt, where will you be most welcome?


LAT on Teacher Value-Added: A Disheartening Replay

On Sunday, the L.A. Times ran its controversial analysis of teacher value-added scores in L.A. Unified School District. Given my taste for mean-spirited measures, and the impressive journalistic moxie it showed, I really wanted to endorse the LAT’s effort. But I can’t. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for using student achievement to evaluate and reward teachers and for using transparency to recognize excellence and shame mediocrity. But I have three serious problems with what the LAT did.


My Final Word on “Edujobs”: Harmful, Not Just Wasteful

I want to be crystal clear. I think that Edujobs was not just wasteful but was positively harmful. And, yes, I think this even though ED promised to streamline its normal processes so that states will “receive funding as quickly as possible” and whipped up some calculations touting the number of jobs it’s claiming to save in each state.


Two Camps on Ed Tech

I was struck recently by the degree to which we’re having two distinct, contrary conversations about technology and schooling. The romanticist camp traces its roots to Rousseau’s Emile and its radical “progressive” vision of the unchained learner. The productivity camp has more faith in pedestrian notions of essential knowledge and the teacher’s central role.


School Boards as a Symptom, Not the Cause

I’m very sympathetic to the argument that mayoral control, done smart, can be a useful step in turning around troubled school systems. But I’ve been concerned about the tendency to romanticize its promise and to overlook its potential problems.


Sunday NYT Celebrates a -ubious New Policy

In its inimitable style, the New York Times yesterday featured a page one ed story celebrating an aimless new district policy and the superintendent responsible.


Value-Added: The Devil’s in the Details

In response to the mail I’ve received since Monday’s column critiquing Aaron Pallas’s attack on the DCPS teacher firings, I think it’s useful for me to weigh in on the live-wire question of value-added systems.


Professor Pallas’s Inept, Irresponsible Attack on DCPS

Last week, Aaron Pallas savaged the DC Public Schools IMPACT teacher evaluation system in the Washington Post’s “The Answer Sheet” blog, attacking the teacher evaluation system as “idiotic” and based on “preposterous” assumptions. There are three egregious problems with Pallas’s critique.


Liking the NGA’s Tune on “Complete to Compete”

I really like the tone of the release they sent and am modestly hopeful (perhaps foolishly so) that it reflects a more serious tenor brought about by pinched pocketbooks and an awareness that grand plans can backfire.


It’s the Legislation, Stupid

In their terrific new article, teacher quality savants Emily Cohen and Kate Walsh instruct would-be reformers intent on boosting teacher quality not to fixate on contracts or nifty new data analysis techniques. Why? Because, they argue, the first order of business should be fixing state legislation that stifles creative efforts to adopt smarter practices when it comes to pay, evaluation, and dismissal.


Bleak Omens for Obama’s Ed Agenda on the Hill

Congressional Quarterly reported yesterday that House Democratic leaders will accept the Senate’s plan to pass a stripped-down supplemental spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and seek another way to funnel $10 billion in edu-aid to the states. Before turning the page on the Obey-Obama defense supplemental imbroglio, however, a postmortem is in order–especially given some worrisome portents for the administration’s school reform agenda.


“What the Hell, Dude?” Team Players and Edu-Reform

I’ve now had the experience several times in the past few months of having one or another friend of long standing ask me something along the lines of, “What the hell?” The “what” in question is me being critical of or asking questions about proposals and programs that “reformers” are supposed to support.


Lesson from the New D.C. Teacher Contract: How Tight Budgets Can Aid Teacher Quality Reform

One big lesson of the D.C. contract is that context matters.


$23 Billion Equals How Many Jobs?

Consider that the $23 billion is being touted for its ability to save as many as 300,000 education jobs and then do the math. That works out to $76,700 per job preserved.


What the Gulf Oil Spill Can Teach Us About School Spending

Now, analogies are always a tricky business because they depend on one’s angle of vision. But, if you’re standing where I am, this looks like a disheartening parallel to the world of school spending.


Straight Up Conversation: RI Chief Deb Gist on the Central Falls Deal

The success of the Central Falls deal rested significantly on Rhode Island super-chief Deb Gist’s aggressive moves last fall, in which she interpreted the basic education program to mean that seniority would no longer be a factor in school staffing. Yesterday, Gist took a little time to answer a few questions about what to make of the deal.


The Hard-Hitting Pondiscio on Edutopia

Edutopia’s doing some neat stuff. And I’m all in favor of anyone who’s pushing forward on thinking about how to better use technology. But there’s a difference between creative minds at work and claiming to have discovered “what works.”


Budgetpalooza…Or, Mr. Mulgrew, Have I Got a Speechwriter for You

Between the National Journal debate over Senator Tom Harkin’s $23 billion bailout, the European Union ponying up a cool $1 trillion to stanch the bleeding in Greece, Mike Petrilli getting frisky on teacher firing, and my own dalliances in NYC teacher policy, this is turning out to be quite the week for bailout mania.


Watering Greenfield

The lifeblood of efforts to rethink schooling or devise new solutions is the money it takes to make them work. These dollars can come from three sources: profit-seeking investors, philanthropy, or government. To date, the lion’s share of the bucks have come from philanthropy.


Venture Philanthropy and Investing in Innovation

Video: Frederick Hess talks with Education Next about the best and worst ways to fund innovation.


Making the Most of the First Day at AERA

Tomorrow, the nation’s education researchers, professors, and such will convene in Denver for the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association. For those folks, I’m happy to provide the following cheat sheet to help flag the must-see sessions for Friday, AERA’s first day.


Why Strip Mining Might Shrink the Pie

Yesterday, I suggested that reflexive efforts to shift “effective” teachers from high-performing schools and classrooms to others may actually reduce the pool of effective teachers. This would turn strip mining from an effort to redistribute the pie into a strategy that would actually shrink the size of the “good teaching” piece. Why might that be?


Strip Miners in Our Schools

In a new forum in Education Next, Education Trust honcho Kati Haycock and Stanford economist Rick Hanushek address the issue of whether and how to more “equitably” distribute teachers. With characteristic passion, Haycock calls for efforts to focus on attracting good teachers to high-poverty, low-performing schools. I strongly support what Haycock has to say in the exchange, but I worry about the possibility that some of her allies may take her suggestions too far.


Racing to the Jargon: Finalist’s Edition

Whereas greenfield-style measures tend to be cut-and-dry–states either did or did not enact certain legislation–the prescriptive bulk of RTT is about promising to do things. Since this kind of compliance is about plans and intentions rather than actions, it’s harder to demonstrate. The usual result: proving commitment by piling up consultant-provided buzzwords and jargon. And the RTT apps are no exception.


Go New York

Secretary Duncan has repeatedly told us to watch what he does, not what he says. So, I’m watching, but so far I’m not impressed.


A Pernicious Parlor Game

So, the announcement of the round one Race to the Top finalists is upon us. In the run-up, a pernicious parlor game in edu-policy circles has been “name the RTT finalists.” Thankfully, it’s about to come to a close. Unfortunately, it’ll be followed by “name the RTT winners.”


That Darn Constitution

If Congress reauthorizes No Child Left Behind this year and does so “consistent with the President’s plan,” the Obama administration announced this week that it is going to make an extra $1 billion available for edu-spending. The problem with this clever carrot? If you’ll recall your high school civics, it’s the legislative branch that writes the federal budget.


It Depends on What the Meaning of “Transparency” Is

Yesterday, on his Eduwonk blog, Andy Rotherham weighed in on the brewing controversy over the Race to the Top review process. Rotherham suggests that Duncan try a variation of the “it depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is” defense, explaining, “‘Transparent’ is not synonymous with contemporaneous. In other words, a process can be transparent while it is going on or it can be transparent after the fact.” It’ll be amusing to see whether Duncan tries that defense; somehow, I don’t think it’ll play that well.


Shhhhh…Duncan’s Secret Edu-Judges

Late last week, Education Week’s Michele McNeil reported that the Obama administration has secretly selected the reviewers for state grant applications to its $4.35 billion Race to the Top (RTT) fund, but has no intention of publicly revealing who these 60 judges are. Whether the department delivered 60 “disinterested superstars,” as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan promised last September, is unclear.


The WSJ Steps Up on Race to the Top: Scrutinizing the “Selectivity” Standard

For awhile now, there has been some cause for concern that the famously tough-minded Wall Street Journal editorial page seemed to be drinking the Kool-Aid when it came to the much-discussed Race to the Top (RTT) grant program. So, it gives much satisfaction to note that this week’s WSJ featured perhaps the savviest editorial yet penned by any major newspaper on RTT.


Book Alert: Unlearned Lessons

Testing impresario W. James Popham has penned a volume that mixes anecdote, personal experience, and scholarly analysis to ask why American schooling has had such a terrible time designing, adopting, or employing good assessment.


Teacher Specialization

Video: Frederick Hess talks with Education Next about reading specialists, den mothers, and teacher pay in the 21st century.

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