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Common Sense School Reform 1st Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1403963536
ISBN-10: 1403963533
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Common Sense School Reform delivers exactly what it promises: a no-holds-barred, sensible approach to school reform, stripped bare of the utopian rhetoric and pie-in-the-sky promises that so many school reformers prefer. School leaders should read this book!"--Diane Ravitch, author of The Language Police and Research Professor, New York University

"This is a refreshingly direct and stimulating look at competing visions of educational reform and a passionate argument for radical change. Informed by Hess' experience as a teacher, teacher educator, and scholar, this book will help crystallize key disputes while it unapologetically calls some questionable assumptions out into the open for debate."--Andrew J. Rotherham, Director, 21st Century Schools Project, Progressive Policy Institute

"[Hess'] ideas on how to improve schools are welcome relief from the romantics and ideologues who dominate the national education debate."--Tom Loveless, Senior Fellow and Director, Brown Center on Education Policy, Brookings Institution

"Rick Hess has brought a rare intellectual gift to the subject of school reform: plain common sense. He knows American education, he knows how effective organizations work, and that knowledge has shaped a radical vision of the fundamental structural change that real school improvement demands. Common Sense School Reform is a gem. It should become a handbook for all who are seriously committed to educating America's children."--Abigail Thernstrom, co-author, No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning

"Common Sense School Reform prescribes with unblinking realism what must happen for public education to give children the education they need instead of adults the employment they want. This is a book no one concerned with American education should miss. Absent common sense reforms, urban public education as we know it today is bound to disappear."--Alan D. Bersin, Secretary of Education for the State of California

"An important contribution that will challenge school reformers."--Ronald F. Ferguson, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

"With an insider's knowledge, and an outsider's vantage point, Hess questions old assumptions and prods the conventional wisdom on school reform. His arguments for radical change may leave some feeling uncomfortable, but you needn't agree with all of his characterizations to find his provocative observations an important contribution to the dialogue on public school improvement."--Kim Smith, Co-Founder and CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund

". . . he is a forceful and effective writer whose views challenge the education establishment. A parent or teacher who wants to know why our schools are in such bad shape should find 'Common Sense School Reform' an excellent guide to the problems that American education faces today."--Martin Morse Wooster, Sunday Times

From the Inside Flap

"Common Sense School Reform delivers exactly what it promises: a no-holds-barred, sensible approach to school reform, stripped bare of the utopian rhetoric and pie-in-the-sky promises that so many school reformers prefer. School leaders should read this book!"--Diane Ravitch, author of The Language Police and Research Professor, New York University

"This is a refreshingly direct and stimulating look at competing visions of educational reform and a passionate argument for radical change. Informed by Hess' experience as a teacher, teacher educator, and scholar, this book will help crystallize key disputes while it unapologetically calls some questionable assumptions out into the open for debate."--Andrew J. Rotherham, Director, 21st Century Schools Project, Progressive Policy Institute

"In this book, Rick Hess performs a valuable public service. His analysis of school reform is both thoughtful and provocative. His ideas on how to improve schools are welcome relief from the romantics and ideologues who dominate the national education debate."--Tom Loveless, Senior Fellow and Director, Brown Center on Education Policy, Brookings Institution

"Rick Hess has brought a rare intellectual gift to the subject of school reform: plain common sense. He knows American education, he knows how effective organizations work, and that knowledge has shaped a radical vision of the fundamental structural change that real school improvement demands. Common Sense School Reform is a gem. It should become a handbook for all who are seriously committed to educating America's children."--Abigail Thernstrom, co-author, No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning

"With an insider's knowledge, and an outsider's vantage point, Hess questions old assumptions and prods the conventional wisdom on school reform. His arguments for radical change may leave some feeling uncomfortable, but you needn't agree with all of his characterizations to find his provocative observations an important contribution to the dialogue on public school improvement."--Kim Smith, Co-Founder and CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund

"Common Sense School Reform prescribes with unblinking realism what must happen for public education to give children the education they need instead of adults the employment they want. Hess details deftly how our public schools can succeed by embracing accountability, incentives, flexibility and competition. This is a book no one concerned with American education should miss. Absent common sense reforms, public education as we know it today is bound to disappear."--Alan D. Bersin, Superintendent of Public Education, San Diego City Schools

"Few will agree with everything that Frederick Hess asserts in this book. Many, like I, will think he is too hard on what he calls 'status quo reformers.' Nonetheless, the burden of proof is now shifted to those who would disagree with his main point: that widespread improvement in U.S. schools will remain a pipedream without painful adjustments. An important contribution that will challenge school reformers."--Ronald F. Ferguson, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; 1st edition (April 5, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1403963533
  • ISBN-13: 978-1403963536
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,878,942 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Henry Cate III on June 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book makes a number of good points about the basic problems of public education in America today. It is easy for school reformers to get distracted from what they have influence over. Many school reformers point to factors outside their control, "education will get better with better nutrition, or better families, etc..." Frederick Hess says this approach lets teachers and administrators off the hook.
Frederick Hess talks about some specifics of the problems with education in public schools, for example: teachers are hired with very little attention to merit, or principals can't deny pay raises to ineffective teachers.
In talking about reform Frederick Hess makes the distinction between two types of school reformers. First are those who want cosmetic reform, without changing anything fundamental. He calls this "status quo" reformers, for they want to preserve the status quo. The second type of reformer he calls the "common sense" reformers, those who recognize that to truly fix public education we need to make major changes.

According to Frederick, who I agree with, two major components of the needed change have to deal with: 1) accountability, 2) flexibility. He spend a lot of time talking about why we need to have both.
The book is good; there is a lot of insight into the problems with education in America. For anyone interested in learning about the problems of public educations, and way to help make things better, this is a good book to read.
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Format: Hardcover
As a teacher, I have often been frustrated by structural impediments that force some students to contend with subpar instruction. Although I don't know if all of Dr. Hess's suggestions will improve this situation in a timely fashion, I am heartened to know that there are people out there thinking outside the box and offering different answers. The problems we encounter cannot be chalked up to lack of funding or parental support. It is time to move beyond those excuses and consider options like those offered in this book to improve our school systems today even without the ideal conditions we would like.
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Format: Hardcover
It's amazing that the dichotomy Frederick Hess offers in his book between those who can truly help our public schools serve children better and those who are too self-interested to take such steps has never been clearly elucidated before. He underscores the simple first steps that can be taken to school improvement and I would love see some of his suggestions implemented. Hess's insights would be a cost-effective means of providing the quality schooling our nation needs to ensure our children can be competitive in a global marketplace.
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Format: Hardcover
Early in the book, Hess sets forth his two main "common sense" ideas for reforming schools: Flexibility and Accountability. Addressing the latter, he states, "Centuries of experience in fields from architecture to zoology tell us that people work harder, smarter, and more efficiently when they are rewarded for doing so; that people do their best work when goals are clear and they know how they'll be evaluated [...]" The only problem with this statement is that it's completely and utterly untrue. He fails to provide any specific examples to support this baseless claim, probably because no such studies exist. That rewards and threats are effective is a widely-held incorrect view on human behavior, but that doesn't make it true. Research and logic has proven overwise, overwhelmingly and beyond any reasonable doubt (see Kohn's "Punished by Rewards"). The rest of this book is based on this untrue assertion.

Let us not forget that Hess works for conservative think tank AEI and he is an advocate for dissolving unions and infusing public schooling with business principals. It's not wonder that he takes blatant falsehoods and presents them as "common sense" to support his agenda.

This rubbish is exactly what is killing public education. That several state and city chancellor's offered praise for this book is something to be feared (well, only if you care about children).
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