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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: Pondiscio, Buery, Harding, Sutter, Baron, Junge, and Krvaric

By Rick Hess — July 18, 2019 4 min read
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Hi all,

I’m about to take my regular summer sabbatical. You know, to drink deeply from the rivers of reflection in order to unearth deep, new thoughts to share. (Okay, okay. Who am I kidding? I’ll settle for stumbling a single lightly used insight—but you get the idea.) In any event, while I’m away, we’ve got a stellar lineup of guests who’ve kindly agreed to step in.

First up, the week of July 22, is Robert Pondiscio, veteran educator and now an executive VP with the Fordham Institute. Readers may know him from the terrific guest letters he’s penned for RHSU (see here and here). Back in 2002, after twenty years in journalism, Robert left a senior position at Business Week to teach fifth grade in the South Bronx, before eventually making his way to Fordham. He writes about school improvement with an eye to the practical classroom implications, and has an eagerly awaited book coming out in September about New York City’s remarkable, controversial Success Academy. He’ll be writing about anti-charter school activism, the problems with searching for the New Big Thing, and why we’re unlikely to reach consensus on what schools should teach—and why that’s okay.

Starting on July 29 will be Richard Buery, KIPP’s chief of policy and public affairs. At KIPP, Richard oversees the organization’s efforts to grow the charter school’s influential network, to get more students to and through college, and to weigh in on issues of public concern. Before joining KIPP, Richard served as deputy mayor for New York City mayor (and presidential aspirant) Bill de Blasio. In that role, he led New York City’s “Pre-K for All” initiative. Richard has also founded the Children’s Aid College Prep Charter School in the South Bronx. He will be writing about why charter schools are most essential to minority families, why charters can help solve segregation, and why career and technical education matters.

Heather Harding, director of policy and public understanding at the Charles Schusterman Family Foundation, will be back with us during the week of August 5. One of RHSU’s most consistently popular guest bloggers, Heather began her career in education with Teach for America, starting as a teacher in the 1992 corps before eventually working as the senior vice president of community partnerships. Along the way, she earned a doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and went on to serve in a senior role at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, before joining Schusterman. Heather will talk about her experience as an education reformer and charter school parent, and why she’s found herself evolving into a reform moderate and an accountability hawk.

Taking over on August 12 will be Jessica Sutter, a former teacher and a policy scholar who was elected to the Washington, DC, Board of Education just last year. Jessica started her career as an educator, teaching first at a Catholic school in Chicago and, subsequently, at public schools in Los Angeles and Washington, DC. From there, she went on to found EdPro Consulting, where she advised clients like the DC Public Charter School Board and the School District of Philadelphia with challenges such as school closure and consolidation, special education, and federal grant applications. Jessica will be writing about her experience as an elected member of the DC Board and what it’s like to be a policy wonk navigating the political arena.

Next, the week of August 19, we’ll be joined by Loren Baron, the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma program coordinator at Millbrook High School in Raleigh, North Carolina. Loren started his teaching career in Beijing, then taught core IB and AP courses for a decade in Maryland’s Montgomery County, before serving the past 15 years as IB coordinator at Millbrook High. He’s served as president of IB Schools of North Carolina for the past three years, while teaching IB workshops and consulting for IB programs from Shanghai, China, to Wilmington, North Carolina. Loren will be writing about the tradeoffs of running an open access diploma program, why it’s a mistake to bail out struggling students, and how parents and teachers can unintentionally enable students’ damaging chase for perfection.

Closing us out, the week of August 26, are Melissa Junge and Sheara Krvaric. A pair of eagle-eyed attorneys, they’re the co-founders of the law and consulting firm Federal Education Group. They work with school systems to leverage federal grants, find ways to do things that are permitted under federal law but not well understood, and help states and school systems avoid getting buried under federal reporting and compliance requirements. Those who’ve read Cage-Busting Leadership will recall their bracing, no-nonsense insights and savvy advice for state, school, and system leaders. They’ll be writing about three changes that would make ESSA programs work better for students.

I trust that you’ll enjoy their thinking as much as I always do, and I’ll look forward to being back with you after Labor Day.

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.