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The Same Thing Over and Over: How School Reformers Get Stuck in Yesterday's Ideas Hardcover – September 27, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Half the time I'm agreeing with every word Rick Hess says, and wishing I had said it myself. The other half the time I'm provoked, stimulated, and arguing with him. He's got it both all right and all wrong. Read him, argue with him, take him very seriously. (Deborah Meier, author of In Schools We Trust)

Rick Hess is one of the most provocative people now writing about public education. Sooner or later he challenges everyone's assumptions. You probably won't agree with everything he has to say, but this book will surprise you into thinking in completely new ways about what schools could be. (Richard Barth, CEO and President, KIPP Foundation)

To say the book is thought provoking is an understatement. Each paragraph entices and envelopes the reader in both the philosophical issues as well as the value issues related to teaching and education...Not knowing about the history of education, and the past philosophies of education will impact our choices and decisions. This book will go a long way in terms of rectifying this situation. (Michael F. Shaughnessy EducationNews.org 2010-12-12)

Frederick M. Hess has written an important book that seeks to bring sobriety to an education-policy realm too often besotted with the panacean, the faddish, the naive, and the antiquated. (Liam Julian Commentary 2011-02-01)

Most education books focus on a single aspect of education--pedagogy or school funding--or build an argument around a central theme, such as vouchers or No Child Left Behind. Hess cuts a broader swath, taking a sweeping historical look at the big issues that have shaped education...Hess, an education policy scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, offers an extensive policy primer on the great achievement of American education--and the challenges its success has created. (Phil Brand Washington Times 2011-02-16)

As close as the feverishly productive Hess is ever likely to get to a genuine magnum opus. No one will be shocked that a scholar at [the American Enterprise Institute] has a lot to say that will infuriate liberal defenders of the educational status quo. The book's real surprise is that he is perfectly willing to take on the sacred doctrines of conservative education reformers, arguing that some of them may actually be hampering the process of educational innovation...Hess is a refreshing change from many other analysts who hold forth on the subject of education. He is unafraid to take on flaws even in policies he largely supports...The most critical lesson from the book is Hess's powerful theory about what makes schools succeed or fail. That theory, simply put, is that the basic components of schooling--parents, children, school leaders, and teachers--are irreducibly diverse...Rather than aggressively imposing a single set of best practices on all schools, then, Hess argues for narrowing the scope of choices that are made by majorities, and increasing those made by smaller, self-chosen groups of common sentiment. (Steven M. Teles Washington Monthly 2011-03-01)

Hess takes on virtually every convention of K-12 schooling, including grouping students in age-defined classrooms taught by teachers prepared in traditional schools of education and remunerated in highly standardized ways over long-term careers. He concludes that the current system of K-12 education is wholly inappropriate for the 21st century and argues that the system can probably not be improved to any significant degree by contemporary reforms such as experiments in merit pay, school-based decision-making, and/or mayoral control. Hess is no centrist and has little interest in compromise. Rather, he argues for a transformational reform in which new models replace, not modify, K-12 practices. He supports extended school days only if what occurs in schools radically changes from present practices. He makes a bold but controversial argument that educators need to be honest about the distribution of academic ability. Not all students, he argues, can achieve all subjects at high levels. This is a very-well-done book with rich descriptions of contemporary efforts at school reform and some initial suggestions about the paths toward transformative change. (S. H. Miner Choice 2011-07-01)

In this wide-ranging discussion, Hess, an education analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, argues that education reform must be about finding a new path, not just arguing about today's educational arrangements. He chides educators for failing to look outside the sector for fresh ideas and approaches. Agree or disagree with his remedies, he's spot on about how frustratingly insular education remains in such a rapidly changing world. (Andrew J. Rotherham Time.com 2011-07-14)

About the Author

Frederick M. Hess is Resident Scholar and Director of Education Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute and executive editor of Education Next.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (November 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674055829
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674055827
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,229,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mark Nadel on November 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In this book, Rick Hess clearly and concisely offers two sets of observations: (1) he identifies all of the most problematic practices of the current US system of education and exposes their origins - how most were designed to serve needs that are no longer important; (2) he reviews the most significant proposals for addressing those problems and reveals the often impressive historical support that exists for some "reforms" that many regard as risky and unprecedented.
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The author traces the history of important configurations of schooling such as teacher licensure, school calendar, local control, etc. as well as the notions of what schooling is about that undergird the establishment and evolution of those configurations. Based on this historical narrative, Hess argues that the current schools were designed for the past purposes and suitable for the old social and economical context, but no longer fit for the new purposes and today's challenges. The whole argument is based on the premise that what has worked for the past no longer works for now. Without offering a concrete solution, he calls for diversification of our approach to reforms. Rather than promoting one method or strategy, we should encourage educators to employ methods and strategies that work for their own context. That is, don't ideologizing reform initiatives such as school vouchers, mayor control, and merit pay, but treat them as measures that have both merits and issues.

While the proposal makes sense, much remains undone about how it can be carried out. At times, the author explicitly or implicitly calls for an overhaul of the current system. This seems to be in line with the argument of what has worked for the past no longer works for now. However, it is inconsistent with his message that diversified approaches to reforms are needed. Arguably, some of what has worked for the past might still work for now. Some of the new configurations might work better than the old ones in some contexts. But they might be less effective than the old configurations in other contexts.
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Much of the current coverage of education issues tends to be infuriatingly one-sided, and therefore easily dismissed.

Hess does a great job putting the entire debate in perspective by grounding it in history. The book is readable and well-researched. It provides both interesting ed-history trivia and a much-needed foundation for future education discussions. Plus it has good one-liners that call out political talking points on all sides.

I'm glad I read it... and I'll be even gladder if the next person I talk to about a controversial education issue has read it also.

Roxanna Elden
Author
"See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers"
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Our comfort level has been at the expense of our students. This book shows us how we need to rethink our traditional look at schools that has existed for over 200 years. The school of today is operating on a system designed for a completely different era.
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