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Education policy maven Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute think tank offers straight talk on matters of policy, politics, research, and reform. Read more from this blog.

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Introducing Your Special Guest Stars: Jones, Esdal, Scott, Sutter, and Coggins

By Rick Hess — February 24, 2017 3 min read
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We’re not even two months into 2017, and I’m mentally exhausted already. I can’t tell if it’s due to having a five-month old at my age or to the goings-on of Donald Trump, but I need a break. Fortunately, the imminent release of my new book, Letters to a Young Education Reformer, gives me just the excuse I need to take a blogging break. Letters won’t be officially published until late April, but I’m going to be off talking about it (hopefully at a venue or on a radio station near you). Meanwhile, I managed to convince a handful of colleagues who are vastly more knowledgeable and interesting than me to take the reins while I’m away.

One of the things I’ve asked our guests to do is share some lessons they’ve learned over time and offer up some advice for young (and not-so-young) reformers. I think it’ll make for some interesting reading. Here’s who we have on tap.

We’ll kick off with the dynamic Ed Jones. Ed leads Ohio’s Hackable High Schools initiative, a statewide experiment in student-driven learning that uses Ohio’s Credit Flex law to test new, open-sourced curricula in 830 high schools across the state. Ed has tackled massively complex software challenges, working along the way with the US. Army and a bunch of government agencies. He’s currently penning the book Hacking High School: Making School Work for All Teens. In his posts, Ed promises that he’s going to cover “why and how #coursechoice may help both teachers and teens as public schools move into the future.”

Next up will be Lars Esdal. Lars is the executive director of Education Evolving, a small state policy shop in Minnesota that has played an outsized role when it comes to innovative thinking on new school models. Lars originally started working with EE fourteen years ago as its teenager-webmaster—only a few months after graduating high school. Lars and his colleagues tend to view the problems facing K-12 as problems of design, and see the answers as requiring efforts to empower teachers and open state policy to student-centered school designs. He’ll be writing on teacher leadership and how state policy can encourage innovation.

Taking over the week of March 13 will be Irvin Scott, Senior Lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. A veteran educator, Irvin taught for 15 years as a high school English teacher and choir director before moving on to other roles, including as a high school principal and later Chief Academic Officer for Boston Public Schools. Before joining Harvard, Irvin was the Deputy Director of Education for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where he headed up efforts to improve teacher evaluation and support systems, seeking to empower educators. Irvin will be writing on some key takeaways from his experiences and what makes him so hopeful about what lies ahead.

Week four will feature Jessica Sutter, President of EdPro Consulting and a doctoral candidate at the University of Maryland, College Park. As a consultant, Jessica’s work tends to focus on challenges in charter schooling. Her dissertation examines efforts to close and restart charter schools. She began her career as a middle school teacher, and went on to work for both the Office of the State Superintendent of Education and the Deputy Mayor for Education in Washington, DC. Jessica’s posts will consider the increasing polarization in education reform and explore some opportunities to find common ground on issues of school choice.

Rounding things out will be the always-engaging Celine Coggins, CEO of Teach Plus and an Entrepreneur in Residence at Harvard University. Celine founded Teach Plus in 2007 to empower excellent, experienced teachers to take leadership over key issues that affect their students’ success. She came to that work after starting her career as a middle school teacher in Worcester, Massachusetts and later serving as a special assistant to the Massachusetts Commissioner of Education. She’ll be writing on teacher leadership and voice and sharing concepts from her upcoming book, How to Be Heard: Ten Lessons Teachers Need to Advocate for Their Students and Profession.

We’ve got all that and more coming up, so stay tuned. I’ll think we’ll all learn a few lessons and glean some useful advice. Enjoy, and I’ll see you in April.

The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.