Edu-Profs: Hot or Not?

University professors used to be held to the old adage, publish or perish.  But things may be a little different for those in the education policy space, thanks to an interesting new ranking from the always provocative Rick Hess.  Last week, Hess offered up his RHSU 2010 Edu-Scholar Public Presence Rankings.

The premise is simple.  Take a pool of university-affiliated academics and researchers, track the number of times they appear in the education media, newspapers, blogs, and the Congressional Record.  Sprinkle in extra points for the books they publish and the rankings they secure with booksellers like Amazon.  And let the fun begin.  It’s like the Roman gladiators, only with Blackberrys and standard deviations.
What does Hess find?  Stanford and Harvard Universities are the top breeding grounds for edu-scholars.  Stanford takes four of the top 10 spots, with Linda Darling-Hammond at number one and Rick Hanushek at number two (Nel Noddings and Anthony Bryk also made the top 10).  Harvard offers three in the top 10 — Paul Peterson, Dick Elmore, and Roland Fryer.  
Private institutions do much better at turning out the edu-scholars than their public brethren.  Only six of the top 20 come from public universities (Wisconsin with two, U.Va., Arizona, Michigan, and Washington). 
It is always interesting to see the civil war that is Stanford University ed policy play out in these sorts of rankings.  For every Stanford University School of Education’s Darling-Hammond, we have a Hoover Institution’s Hanushek.  Guess that means there is room for all thinkers out on the Farm.  And it is surprising to see how well many of the edu-scholars affiliated with the National Education Policy Center did on the rankings.
How do the scholars do in the individual breakdowns?  Darling-Hammond is tops on Google Scholar scores, followed closely by Hanushek.  Peterson is tops for Book Points, with Noddings on his heels.  Colorado University-Boulder’s Kevin Welner (with NEPC) gets tops for Highest Amazon Ranking, with Darling-Hammond and Elmore close by.  Darling-Hammond is queen of the Education Press Mentions, but Hanushek is close to storming the castle.  Fryer gets top marks from the Blog Mentions.  Hanushek is tops for Newspaper mentions (though Darling-Hammond is just a fraction behind).  And Darling-Hammond, Harvard’s Thomas Kane, UPENN’s Richard Ingersoll, Vanderbilt’s Camilla Benbow, and Arkansas’ Patrick Wolf win bragging rights for Congressional Record Mentions.
Of course, Hess has to be onto something when he faced some criticism out of the gate during a holiday week for his rankings.  Diane Ravitch seemed upset that she wasn’t included (since she isn’t affiliated with an academic institution).  And other “scholars” with think tanks, advocacy groups, research organizations, and the like are likely to share her frustration.  Perhaps Hess can offer up an affiliates rankings, where all the non-academic academics can square off for bragging rights.  (But can Hess put himself in the mix, or does he need to step out, as unofficial commish?)
Personally, Eduflack would like to see these edu-scholars actively campaign for higher scores in 2011.  With the change in political landscape and the focus of Congress, I think Hanushek has a chance to take the top spot, particularly with the Hoover PR machine helping his campaign.  And it would be great to see the “ivory tower” edu-scholars (measured mostly by the book numbers) separated from the “main street” edu-scholars (measured by blogs and newspaper appearances).  And, of course, it would be terrific for someone to spring for the VMS data so Hess can include radio and television appearances in the scoring.
And while I’d prefer to see the metrics work out to a nice 100-point scale instead of a system that best looks like NFL quarterback rankings, I understand you just can’t always take the research out of the researcher.  So I’ll let that go.
Kudos to Hess for the 2010 Edu-Scholar Public Presence Rankings, and congrats to this year’s winners!   

Waiting for ESEA Reauth?

New year, same fight.  As we begin the first school week of 2011, EdSec Arne Duncan renews the call for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in today’s Washington Post.  By painting ESEA as the latest and greatest tool in the national push for ed reform, Duncan seems to say that while everyone is waiting for Superman, the Man of Steel is simply waiting for ESEA reauth to take hold.

Duncan’s points are not new, but they are worth reiterating as we head into the latest round of ed policy fights.  
1) Republicans and Democrats have been hard at work on ESEA reauth for the past year (isn’t it more like the past five?), and ESEA is truly a bipartisan issue
2) No one likes failing schools
3) Transparency and data use are good
4) Bubble sheet exams are bad
5) Nine years later, our teachers still aren’t highly qualified
6) We are now facing a sense of urgency to do something about our schools
Perhaps most interesting are Duncan’s insights into what “reform” currently looks like and how it will be embodied in ESEA:
School districts and their local partners in inner cities and rural communities are overcoming poverty and family breakdown to create high-performing schools, including charters and traditional public schools.  They are taking bold steps to turn around low-performing schools by investing in teachers, rebuilding school staff, lengthening the school day and changing curricula.

In partnership with local teacher unions, districts are finding new ways to evaluate and compensate their teachers and staff their schools.  Some districts have reshaped labor agreements around student success — and teachers have strongly supported these groundbreaking agreements. 
If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought these words were written by incoming House Education Committee Chairman John Kline (MN) or perhaps some of the holdovers from George W. Bush’s presidential administration.  Rural ed is back in the discussion, and we are refocused on the achievement gap.  Charters are again central to fixin’ what ails us.  And we have to remind all those involved that we do indeed work with teachers and the teachers unions.
The EdSec is also quick to remind his critics (and those new Tea Partiers arriving in DC this week) that he is not a creature of Washington, noting: “Since coming to Washington, I’ve been told that partisan politics inevitably trumps bipartisan governing.  But if I have learned anything as education secretary, it is that conventional wisdom serves to prop up the status quo — and is often wrong.”
Duncan definitely earns an A for putting forward the sort of rhetoric we need to see at the start of a new, Republican congress.  There is no talk of the need for additional funding or increased budgets.  There is no mention of new programs such as Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation and edujobs.  We are “fixing” NCLB, not overhauling it.  Common Core is barely referenced, and is done so in such a way that most won’t recognize it.  Flexibility and localities are finally to play a greater role in the great ESEA fight.
But the grade for moving such rhetoric into action remains incomplete.  Is the Blueprint being revised to meet some of these new rhetorical priorities?  Is a draft of ESEA ready to be dropped in the legislative hopper as of Wednesday?  What ed programs will ultimately face cuts in the President’s budget next month?  And what regulatory changes can be made now to make ESEA tolerable for the coming year (or years)?
A new year provides Team Duncan with a fresh start to approach an issue Maryland Avenue has been trying to tackle for many years now.  Will ESEA hold the same level of priority on Capitol Hill as it seems to at ED?  Only time will tell.  Today, Duncan signaled a desire to work with the new Republican Congress.  It is a start.