Letters to a Young Education Reformer

Letters to a Young Education Reformer

Frederick M. Hess
Paper, 184 Pages
Pub. Date: April 2017
ISBN-13: 978-1-68253-022-1
Price: $31.00

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Pub. Date: April 2014
ISBN-13: 978-1-68253-024-5
In Letters to a Young Education Reformer, Frederick M. Hess distills knowledge from twenty-five years of working in and around school reform. Inspired by his conversations with young, would-be reformers who are passionate about transforming education, the book offers a window into Hess’s thinking about what education reform is and should be.


Every prospective teacher, education advocate, and education journalist ought to read Letters to a Young Education Reformer, the latest wise and evenhanded book by Rick Hess, one of the few true iconoclasts in education reform. I always learn something from his work, and this book—informed by his decades of experience as an educator, policy expert, and also as a parent—is no exception. — Dana Goldstein, author, The Teacher Wars: A History of America's Most Embattled Profession

Regardless of their political views and commitments, readers will learn much about reform in this important book. It stimulates deep thinking and will surely ignite productive conversations with others who are concerned about a range of school improvement imperatives. Hess offers an impressive array of ideas and policy strategies. — Shaun R. Harper, Clifford and Betty Allen Professor, University of Southern California Rossier School of Education

Hess’s ability to address complex ideas in simple, conversational language is on full display in this collection of engaging, sometimes poignant personal reflections. Whether his missives usually leave you cheering or fuming, Letters to a Young Education Reformer is timely and worth the read, especially his chapter on talking with those who disagree. — Stacey Childress, CEO, NewSchools Venture Fund

Over the years, there have been many educational issues on which Rick Hess and I have disagreed, but we share a commitment to critically examining issues without being constrained by ideology. In Letters to a Young Education Reformer, Hess displays this characteristic openness, offering refreshing insights into controversial policy debates. In this politically polarized climate, his analysis forces readers to consider a range of evidence and opinions as they seek to make a difference in schools today. — Pedro A. Noguera, distinguished professor of education, Graduate School of Education and Information Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles

I can always count on Rick Hess to make me think, and this book is no exception. It will be an important source of insight and motivation for the next generation of scholar-activists in education. — Sara Goldrick-Rab, author of Paying the Price, and professor of higher education policy, Temple University

As both a history lesson and a warning against hubris, Letters to a Young Education Reformer reminds the school reform community that the effort is older than the latest group of youthful reformers to join it. Ultimately, it asks reformers of differing motivations and political stripes to come together in the pursuit of great schooling for all of America’s children. — Derrell Bradford, executive vice president, 50CAN

Reading Letters to a Young Education Reformer is so many things: encouraging, sobering, affirming, even inspiring. Hess uses what my father calls ‘straight talk’ to remind educators and those who advocate on their behalf that we must model those basic behaviors that we expect our students to exhibit: respect for the individual, assuming the best, and good listening. His sage and accessible advice is timely as a new generation of leaders moves into position to make a difference in the lives of young Americans and their communities. Practitioners, researchers, policy makers, community leaders, and parents can all benefit from reading this book, discussing it together, and reflecting on what it means for America’s children. — Irvin Scott, senior lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Education, and former deputy director, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

These thought-provoking letters are full of valuable insights for those truly passionate about transforming education. Hess’s book is relevant for educators across the political spectrum. — Campbell Brown, founder, The 74

Current education policy discussions are rarely lacking references to evidence, but they are quite often lacking in wisdom. In Letters to a Young Education Reformer, Rick Hess offers readers the wisdom we need to make sense of evidence and use it to improve education. Drawing on his quarter-century of hard experience with education research and practice, the volume offers lessons on a broad range of topics from the Common Core to court-driven reform to the perils of passion. Young and old reformers alike can benefit from his insights. — Jay P. Greene, distinguished professor of education policy and department head, Department of Education Reform, University of Arkansas, College of Education and Health Professions

In Letters to a Young Education Reformer, Rick Hess reminds us that there is no 'one way' to fix education in America. Rather, by sharing his wisdom, practical perspective, and lessons learned, he challenges each of us to talk less, listen more, and open our minds to the new ideas that could help shape education and learning in our world of tomorrow. I absolutely love this book! — Kevin P. Chavous, education reform leader and author of Building a Learning Culture in America

In the decades-long battle of ideas and programs among reformers, this is a refreshing call for greater humility among those trying to improve schools. A former teacher, current policy maven, and parent, Hess offers a personal take on reform and pleads for more collaboration across the political spectrum and a thorough vetting of the ‘how’ of reform rather than the ‘what.’ I found Letters to a Young Education Reformer to be one of the best reads of the year. — Larry Cuban, professor emeritus of education, Stanford University

A must-read for millennials getting ready to make their mark on education. Hess has spent decades working with practitioners, policy makers, and scholars from all sides of the education reform debate. In this book, his personal stories and frank reflections remind us that passion alone will not solve the challenges we face in education. He urges young people to combine their enthusiasm with discipline, thoughtfulness, and humility—a reminder that is relevant to all of us in the education policy world. — Michelle Reininger, assistant professor and executive director, Center for Education Policy Analysis, Stanford University

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An educator, political scientist, and author, Frederick M. Hess studies K–12 and higher education issues as director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. His books include The Cage Busting Teacher, Cage-Busting Leadership, Education Unbound, The Same Thing Over and Over, Common Sense School Reform, Revolution at the Margins, and Spinning Wheels. He authors the popular Education Week blog Rick Hess Straight Up and is a regular contributor to The Hill. His 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, Chronicle of Higher Education, Phi Delta Kappan, Educational Leadership, U.S. News & World Report, The Atlantic, National Affairs, National Review, USA Today, Washington Post, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal. He has edited influential volumes on topics including the Common Core, education philanthropy, the impact of education research, school spending, and No Child Left Behind.

He serves as executive editor of Education Next, as senior fellow for the Leadership Institute of Nevada, and on the review board for the Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. He also serves on the boards of directors of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and 4.0 SCHOOLS. has taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Rice University and Harvard University. He holds an MA and PhD in government, as well as an MEd in teaching and curriculum, from Harvard University.

He lives in Arlington, Virginia, with his wife, Joleen, and their two sons.