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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.

Education Opinion

Introducing Your Special Guest Stars: Miller, Fennell, Sanchez, & the YES Prep Crew

By Rick Hess — August 01, 2014 2 min read
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I hope everyone is having a groovy summer. I’ve been enjoying it, but I’m afraid I’ve gotten a bit in arrears while trying to deal with bubbly little Grayson, explain why I’ve long been south on Race to the Top and am trending that way on Common Core, talk cage-busting with anyone who’ll listen, teach at UPenn and Rice, plan my Georgetown courses, agree to become a contributor for The Hill, and push hard on The Cage-Busting Teacher (which is due in early September). So, as I try to get caught up, I’m turning RHSU over to a stellar lineup of guest stars.

First up, for the week of August 4, is Raegen Miller. The vice president for research partnerships at Teach For America, Raegen previously worked on issues of teacher quality and fiscal equity at the Center for American Progress. Raegen’s got an intriguing bio, which involves ten years of teaching high school math and, later, data analysis at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, as well as serving as a trustee of a Massachusetts charter school and as president of a California teachers’ union. Given all this, it’s perhaps no surprise that Raegen consistently approaches the issues in challenging, illuminating ways.

The next week, fan favorite Maddie Fennell returns. Maddie, a literacy coach for the Omaha Public Schools, has spent much of her summer “on the road” participating in various activities due to her involvement in the Network of National Teachers of the Year, the U.S. Department of Ed’s Teacher Ambassadors program, the NEA, and everything else you can name. Maddie is deeply involved with the U.S. Department of Ed’s Teach To Lead initiative, but, in an amusing twist, she was also a delegate to the NEA annual meeting last month that called for Secretary Duncan’s ouster. Maddie always has something worth sharing, as a practitioner with a foot in two “opposing” camps.

Elliot Sanchez, the founder and CEO of mSchool, will take the helm for the week of August 18. mSchool is a new venture that works to simplify personalized learning. In 2014, Elliot was named to Forbes’s list of “30 Under 30" and to Education Week’s “9 People Who Will Shape Education in the Next 10 Years.” Elliot started out teaching seventh and eighth grade math at Booker T. Washington Alternative Middle School in New Orleans. He has also worked for Louisiana’s Recovery School District and for the state’s education agency, where he managed STEM programs. Oh, and in 2001, Elliot was named the New Orleans Young Magician of the Year. Seriously. I think you’ll find him interesting.

Finally, for week four, various members of YES Prep will stop by. Founded in 1998, YES Prep is a Houston charter school network of 13 schools serving 9,000 students in grades 6-12. YES Prep won the inaugural Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools in 2012 and is working hard to demonstrate that all students, regardless of background, can achieve at the highest levels. YES Prep students are not only doing terrific work on state tests, but also surpassing national averages on metrics like Advanced Placement passing rates and college graduation rates. In fall 2015, YES will take its first steps beyond Texas and begin serving students in Memphis. I’m hoping they’ll share some insights on what they’re up to and what’s ahead.

I trust you’ll find all these folks as terrific as I do, and I’ll look forward to seeing you all at the end of the month.

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.