Why fixing education policy isn't enough: The "culture of can't" in K–12
Bradley Lecture by Frederick Hess
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About This Event

Post Event Summary
When it comes to reforming America's public schools, we hear a lot about what educational leaders cannot do. Indeed, contracts, laws, and regulations assuredly handcuff school and system leaders, and, claimed Rick Hess of AEI during his Bradley Lecture on Tuesday night, education reformers often respond with policy fixes.

Hess argued that rather than focusing exclusively on using education policy to achieve meaningful and sustainable improvement in US education, we should dramatically rethink leadership in K–12. He explained that leaders actually have far more freedom to transform teaching, learning, and schooling — without legislative action — than is widely believed. As Hess has stated in his new book "Cage-Busting Leadership," the "culture of can't" in K–12 — in which leaders do not take advantage of existing opportunities to better serve students — is a product of structures and substantial incentives to avoid creating conflict or triggering lawsuits; little exposure to the world beyond K–12 education; and preparation, training, and culture that is almost entirely focused on instructional leadership rather than transforming organizations.

To equip leaders and encourage what Hess calls "cage-busting leadership," education reformers should welcome the know-how and ingenuity of "lawyers for education reform," the business and philanthropic communities, and new leadership preparation programs.

Event Description
When it comes to reforming America’s public schools, there is a lot of discussion over what educational leaders cannot do. Much of the policy debate revolves around the contracts, laws, and regulations that make it hard to reward excellence and address mediocrity.

Equally significant is the failure of system leaders to take advantage of existing opportunities. Rick Hess, AEI education policy scholar and author of the forthcoming “Cage-Busting Leadership” (Harvard Education Press, 2013), believes the problem stems from K–12 training and culture, incentives to avoid conflict and lawsuits, and the pervasive “culture of can’t” that fails to serve kids well.

In this Bradley Lecture, Hess will suggest how reformers should complement their focus on policy with a careful attention to the successes and shortfalls in K–12 leadership, and how to tackle the “culture of can’t.”
Copies of “Cage-Busting Leadership” will be available for purchase at the event.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.

Agenda

5:30 PM
Introduction:
Karlyn Bowman, AEI

5:35 PM
Lecture:
Frederick M. Hess, AEI

7:00 PM
Adjournment and reception

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Lauren Aronson at [email protected], 202.862.5904

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.

Karlyn Bowman is a senior fellow at AEI. She researches and analyzes American public opinion using available polling data on a variety of subjects, including the economy, taxes, the state of workers in America, the environment and global warming, attitudes about homosexuality and gay marriage, the North American Free Trade Agreement and free trade, the war in Iraq, and women's attitudes. In addition, Bowman has studied and spoken about the evolution of American politics resulting from key demographic and geographic changes. She has often lectured on the role of think tanks in the US and writes a weekly column for Forbes.com.

Frederick M. Hess is a resident scholar and the director of education policy studies at AEI. He has authored several influential books on education including “The Same Thing Over and Over” (Harvard University Press, 2010), “Education Unbound” (ASCD, 2010), “Common Sense School Reform” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), “Revolution at the Margins” (Brookings Institution Press, 2002), “Spinning Wheels” (Brookings Institution Press, 1998), and the forthcoming “Cage-Busting Leadership” (Harvard Education Press, 2013). He is also the author of the popular Education Week blog Rick Hess Straight Up. Hess’s work has appeared in scholarly and popular outlets such as Teachers College Record, Harvard Education Review, Social Science Quarterly, Urban Affairs Review, American Politics Quarterly, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Phi Delta Kappan, Educational Leadership, US News & World Report, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and National Review. He has edited widely cited volumes on education philanthropy, stretching the education dollar, the impact of educational research, education entrepreneurship, and the No Child Left Behind Act. Hess serves as the executive editor of Education Next, as a lead faculty member for the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program, and on the review boards for the Broad Prize in Urban Education and the Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. He also serves on the board of directors for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, 4.0 Schools, and the American Board for the Certification of Teaching Excellence. A former high-school social studies teacher, he has taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Rice University, and Harvard University.

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