rick hess

Cynthia G. Brown

Editor's note: This post appears in response to Michael J. Petrilli and Frederick M. Hess's earlier article.

I was appalled to read the attack of Jonah Edelman by my colleagues Mike Petrilli and Rick Hess for supposedly playing the “race card” on the ESEA reauthorization in his recent Daily Beast column. Hey guys, why the cheap shot? Jonah was citing historical facts that even today’s schoolchildren study. He talks mostly about groups of disadvantaged students, particularly those living in poverty, and uses the term “racism” once. And if you knew Jonah and each of his parents as I do, you would know that Jonah’s views have evolved way past his parents’ views from different times.

I won’t argue the strengths and weaknesses of NCLB. They both exist and are being vigorously debated. But to assert that states will do the right thing flies in the face of many current practices nationwide, not just history. How can Rick and Mike deny that most states have been insensitive to inequity in schooling and elsewhere? There is ample documentation that states choose to fund high-poverty schools at lesser rates than low-poverty schools, unlike most every other advanced country. Or that...

In AEI’s latest Vision Talks video, Arthur Brooks, its president and the happiest man in the think-tank world, argues that public-policy advocates need to make a better case: one that is moral, about people, and to the point. This talk could not be better suited for conservatives, especially as presidential hopefuls are (sigh) already campaigning. Many acknowledge that conservatives must talk about issues in a better way if they plan on expanding their base to young voters and minorities. But Arthur Brooks would have made a better case for conservatives if he hadn’t used education reform as his example.

Brooks makes some very valid points: Public policy advocates should discuss moral (not a materialistic or economic) goals; public policy is about helping people; and ideas should be communicated quickly. (And he adds in some the nifty fact that communicators have seven seconds to win someone over before the listener’s brain tells him move on.) But this doesn’t work with ed reform because, for the most part, we’re already there. From “A Nation at Risk” to “content, character, and choice” to having the “right to rise,” politicians have...

DIFFERENTIATED STROKES FOR HETEROGENEOUSLY GROUPED FOLKS
In a must-read piece in Education Week, James R. Delisle takes aim at one of the biggest trends in education: differentiated instruction. The method is meant to reach students learning at drastically different levels, but Delisle charges that it complicates the work of teachers by forcing them to prepare separate materials and is almost impossible to put into practice. Fordham President Emeritus Chester Finn once asked if differentiated instruction was a hollow promise. Delisle and the Gadfly give a resounding yes.

BUT WHEN WILL WE GET A PLAYOFF SYSTEM?
You know it’s January when Rick Hess reveals his annual RHSU Edu-Scholar Rankings, a rock-’em, sock-’em power poll of the biggest, baddest wonks in academia. Check out the post to discover the biggest risers and hottest newcomers, along with the perennial champions making up the top ten. (And note the presence of peeps who were EEPS.) Of course, any list of influential education voices that doesn’t include a certain winged, anthropomorphized insect is notably incomplete.

GRADE-LEVEL TEXTS
In a dramatic victory for both restive pupils and the Apple Store, New York Mayor Bill...

Perhaps the highest praise you can heap on another writer’s work is to acknowledge a tinge of professional jealousy. You read a blog post, column, or piece of reporting and think, “Damn, I wish I’d written that.” Here are some of the pieces—about Common Core and education at large—I wish I’d written in 2014.

Tim Shanahan of the University of Illinois at Chicago has long been indispensible on literacy—and never more so than in the era of Common Core. In November, he waded into the “close reading” thicket with a pair of clear-eyed posts on the importance of prior knowledge in reading. The second of Tim’s two-part post offered particularly useful guidance for teachers on dealing with knowledge deficits when teaching reading comprehension. A third installment is promised and hopefully coming soon. 

As long as I’m casting a jealous eye at posts about reading: I also wish I’d written this one, by my Fordham colleague Kathleen Porter-Magee, on how reading standards mislead teachers. I’ve said more or less the same thing for years, but Kathleen said it far better.

Math educator Barry Garelick is no fan of the Common Core. I simply...

BUSHWACKED
In a bout of unforeseen excitement at AEI, a routine guest lecture by controversial Newark Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson turned to pandemonium when dozens of furious protesters bused down from the Gateway City to disrupt the talk. Over at Education Week, event organizer Rick Hess lambasted the activists as “rabble-rousers” and “enemies of free speech,” also apparently taking offense to their repeated use of train whistles.

BETTER LEARNING THROUGH VIDEO GAMES
A recent study has found that playing high-action video games may accelerate student learning. According to the Rochester Center for Brain Imaging, students who played these games were faster at learning new sensory-motor skills than their non-gaming peers. As it turns out, high-action video games may enhance a student’s attention, perception, and ability to switch tasks and mentally rotate objects—skills that contribute heavily to a student’s ability to succeed in math and geometry.

IMPOSSIBLE DREAM?
When long-serving former Boston Mayor Tom Menino died last month, the occasion spawned countless panegyrics to the most powerful leader the city had ever known. Even while honoring his many accomplishments, however, supporters had to concede that his record on education failed to astound. Now his...

On September 9th, the Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli participated in an Intelligence Squared U.S. debate on the Common Core, along with Carmel Martin, Carol Burris, and Rick Hess. These are his opening comments, as prepared for delivery. Or watch the video, embedded below, starting at minute 07:15.

Let me tell you a bit about the game plan that Carmel and I have sketched out.

First, I’m going to talk about the motion. What does it mean to “embrace the Common Core”?

Then I’m going to discuss the problems that the Common Core is designed to address—the problems with our education system and, frankly, with some of our previous education reform efforts.

Carmel will take up the potential of the Common Core to help narrow the achievement gaps in this country; the role that evidence and educators played in the development of the standards; and the issue of implementation—how it’s going and how we can help...

In NRO today, Rick Hess explores “five half-truths” that he says supporters of the Common Core like to propagate. These spurred five questions of my own:

  1. You dispute that the Common Core standards are “evidenced based” because “what the Common Core’s authors did falls well short of what ‘evidence-based’ typically means.” By your definition, would any set of standards be considered evidence-based? Such as those previously in place in the states? Or any set of education standards one might develop in the future? (Or, for that matter, in myriad other fields?) If no, then what’s your point? Do you think we should abandon standards-based reform?
  2. Relatedly, would you consider elements of the Common Core to be evidence-based? Such as their focus on scientifically-based reading instruction in the early grades, or the demand for fluency in arithmetic, or the admonition to delay calculator use? Would you disagree that those decisions were based on evidence? Do you think states should go back to standards that don’t include these evidence-based expectations?
  3. You complain that the Common Core standards don’t include calculus. Do you think states should expect all students to learn calculus? If not, where would you set the bar for “college and
  4. ...

The other week, School Choice Ohio sued the Cincinnati and Springfield school districts for their failure to comply with a public-records request. School Choice Ohio works to inform eligible families about the state’s EdChoice (voucher) program—that is, it seeks to tell students who attend Ohio’s worst schools that they have the opportunity to escape. To do this, the organization asks for student directory information from the districts, who are required by law to comply. Cincinnati and Springfield have refused, perhaps because they don’t want families to know that they have other options. Imagine the ruckus that liberals would make if public agencies opted to not inform folks who are eligible for food stamps, subsidized housing, or ObamaCare. This is no different.

On May 22, the school board for the Dallas Independent School District endorsed Superintendent Mike Miles’s Teacher Excellence Initiative (TEI), which will revamp the district’s teacher evaluations and implement performance pay, effective in 2014–15. Under the new plan, 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation will be based on performance, as gauged by observations; 35 percent will come from student data; and 15 percent will be drawn from student surveys. The plan mimics the one Miles put...

The holiday season has come to end, and mostly likely, you’re starting 2014 off with some New Year’s resolutions. Maybe you’re still trying to figure out how to program your Fitbit. Or maybe you’re waking up an hour earlier to make it to the gym. If your fitness, diet, dating, and money-saving resolutions don’t quite pan out (only 8 percent of us are successful), focus on these education-policy resolutions:

  1. Really publicize those Next Generation Science Standards hearings. Really. Three years from now, when the conservative backlash over these standards begins, you don’t want the Rick Hess–Mike McShane duo to claim there was no public discussion (as they’ve claimed for the Common Core).
  2. Understand how collective bargaining, pensions, and strikes work before you write about them. (That goes for the Netflix writers, too.) If you need a Pensions 101 primer, check out this video featuring Fordham’s Dara Zeehandelaar.
  3. Don’t ever let go of the serial comma.
  4. Don’t hold your breath on new education initiatives in the State of the Union. Or reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. Or a preschool-policy overhaul. I just don’t want you to get your hopes up.
  5. Stretch that dollar! Even with a $700
  6. ...

Recently, 2013 NAEP results were made public, and, as is typical for such bi-annual releases, there was lots of excitement, somberness, and everything in between. Enter the always smart, always temperamentally sound Tom Loveless, who sought to simmer down the hyping of some states’ scores. Talk of statistical significance and p-values is Greek to some, but Loveless’ accessible explanation and color-coded charts will have you saying both, “A-ha!” and “Well, that’s not what I’d been told.” Here’s the upshot: Yes, some states did quite well, but both the number of such states and the extent of their gains have been oversold. (And, no, Tom, we don’t think you’re a skunk at a picnic.)

Emily Richmond from The Educated Reporter writes up an excellent summary of TBFI’s new report on teacher effective vs. class size. In short, getting kids in front of more effective teachers is valuable even if it means making those classrooms more crowded. Sad finding: Schools are not currently putting more kids in the best teachers’ classrooms; instead, they just evenly distribute the number of students among teachers. This report is classic Fordham: Ask an interesting question, the...

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