Frederick Hess sparks conversation on education

By Sean McDonnell

Feb. 5, 2018

Dr. Frederick Hess, a leading education reform scholar, came to the Union Club of Cleveland Jan. 19 to discuss current challenges in education reform.

The event was co-hosted by Cleveland State University’s Center for Educational Leadership (CEL), along with the Greater Cleveland School Superintendents’ Association.

Hess’ discussion centered on the ways reformers try to fix large problems with too broad of solutions, and how they can easily lose sight of the actual goal of reform programs.

“We write about these things in capital letters,” Hess said. “We’re convinced that they’re going to mark a fork in the road, and then they don’t.”

Hess said reformers overwhelm educators with the number of programs they try to start, which makes teachers skeptical and unresponsive whenever new reforms are introduced.

“I fear that what we have done through sacking one reform upon the other, is we’ve managed to create reform resistant schools,” Hess said.

Dr. Deborah Morin, director of the CEL, said that when they bring in people like Hess to speak at these events, they’re trying to bring in speakers with different perspectives to help spark conversation.

“We never bring in people who would echo what we already think and say,” Morin said.

Rene Molenaur, a policy analyst at CEL, said Hess was a great example of the organization trying to avoid having an echo chamber of ideas.

“We knew that many people in our audience were already aware of his work,” Molenaur said. “and many people were expecting to disagree with him.”

Molenaur said that so far, they have received an overwhelming positive response from the talk.
Morin said events like this help the CEL meet their goal as an organization.

“Our goal is to build leadership capacity across Northeast Ohio,” Morin said. “This is an opportunity for us to bring everyone together in a way that satisfies their own intellectual curiosity, and their professional needs.”

A big focus of this event was the Education Policy Fellowship Program, which is a program offered by CEL designed to transform people’s thinking and perspective on leadership, networking and education policy.

Morin said CEL allows them to positively engage with the community through their programs as well as events they organize for the community.

“The more positively and productively that we engage in the community, then people in the community view CSU as a place where good things can happen,” Morin said. “They see it as a positive place where there’s access to learning.”



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