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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: Schoales, Rhames, Sonbert, Saultz, and Sattin-Bajaj

By Rick Hess — November 01, 2019 3 min read
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Hi all,

I’m about to take a blog break, so that I can concentrate on some writing that runs more than 800 words a pop. Mostly, I’ll be trying to finish up a volume on getting more bang for the education buck (look for it from Teachers College Press next year) and an essay sketching some alternative ideas for the education agenda (which should be out with National Affairs in early 2020). While I’m away, we’ve got a stellar lineup of guests who’ve agreed to step in. Here’s who you can look forward to reading over the next several weeks:

First up, the week of Nov. 4, is Van Schoales, the go-to on Colorado education policy and politics. He’ll be writing about Denver’s heated, closely-watched, and very expensive school board election and what the results may mean for schools in Denver and across the land, as well as education standards and whether early childhood education programs deliver. Van boasts more than 30 years of experience in education advocacy and analysis and is the president of A+ Colorado, which uses data and research to advocate for district- and systems-level policy change. Previously, he taught high school science and founded a number of nonprofits, including the Odyssey School, the Denver School of Science and Technology, and Democrats for Education Reform Colorado. You’ll see Van regularly quoted in outlets including The New York Times, NPR, Education Week, and Fox News.

On Nov. 11, we’ll turn things over to frequent guest and reader favorite Marilyn Rhames. Marilyn taught for 14 years in the Chicago public schools, after spending her early professional career as a journalist for outlets including People, Time, and Newsday. She is the founder and CEO of Teachers Who Pray, a faith-based nonprofit that now has more than 100 chapters nationwide; the author of the book The Master Teacher; and a member of the design team for Harvard University’s Leaders’ Institute for Faith and Education (LIFE). Marilyn will be discussing the intersection of faith and education, the need for school choice in light of the Chicago public schools strike, and how her recent experience running a marathon connects to the way we do education in America.

Michael Sonbert will take the wheel during the week of November 18. He is the founder of Skyrocket Educator Training, an organization that trains teachers and leaders in 300 urban and turnaround schools. Unlike most of his counterparts in the teacher/leader training field, Michael is frank enough to say stuff like, “You’re right, most of these are a waste of time and money. Because the model is confusing or there’s no model at all.” Skyrocket is different, but if you’re not familiar with his work, you can get up to speed in Michael’s “Straight Up Conversation” here. Before all of this, he was a teacher, director of strategic partnerships for Mastery Charter Schools, a head-banging singer, and an author of dystopian fiction. Michael will give his fresh and no-nonsense takes on school leadership, teaching, instructional coaching, and teacher development.

Taking over on Nov. 25 will be Pacific University professor Andy Saultz, who will be taking a brief break from the campaign trail (where he’s busy running for the Oregon state legislature) to be with us. Andy is running in part to revise the Oregon tax code to create a sustainable source of revenue for schools. Andy traces his political bug back to the 2nd grade, when his teacher sent him to the office for advocating on a ballot measure too close to the school’s polling station. After this early career as a political activist, Andy spent several years as a social studies teacher. Andy will be discussing how education policy has shifted in Oregon and why that matters, and how we should expand the scope of what we mean by “education policy.”

And, finally, back by popular demand, UC-Santa Barbara professor Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj will close us out the week of Dec. 2. Readers may remember her from her fascinating Australia-themed guest blogging this spring or from her terrific book Unaccompanied Minors. Before academe, Carolyn worked on secondary schools at the New York City Department of Education. Her research on topics like high school admissions and educational access has been featured in popular outlets like The New York Times and HuffPost. She’ll be writing about how transportation policies influence the equity potential of school choice programs and how immigration enforcement and xenophobia in U.S. schools could have educational implications.

I trust that you’ll enjoy their thinking as much as I always do, and I look forward to being back with you to close out the year.

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.