The Top 10 RHSU Columns of 2021

Frederick M. Hess
3 min readDec 21, 2021


I see 2022 just ahead. As we prepare to leave behind the highs (Vaccinations! School reopenings!) and lows (Delta! Inflation! Omicron!) of 2021, it’s worth taking a moment to ruminate on where we’ve been. While this wasn’t quite as bizarre a year as 2020, which featured a once-a-century pandemic, a president who refused to acknowledge his election defeat, an impeachment, and a summer of protests and riots, 2021 was no picnic. And one thing both years shared was the way our culture clashes made their way into schooling, whether the issue was school closures, masking, vaccination, or critical race theory. Given all that, it seems especially appropriate to take a quick trip to the vault to revisit some of the most popular RHSU posts from the past year.

As invariably happens when we conduct this exercise, there were a few posts that didn’t make our final cut but merit a mention. They included What Conservatives Should Be for When It Comes to Education (January 14, 2021), Civics Roadmap’s Designers Would Do Well to Heed Their Critics (April 12, 2021), and What Do Parents Look for When Choosing a School? (September 7, 2021). Now, without further ado, here are the top 10 RHSU columns of 2021.

10. Education Outlets Owe Readers More Than the Narratives They Want to Hear (June 2, 2021): It’s vital that serious news organizations challenge runaway narratives and help readers avoid going down ideological rabbit holes.

9. It’s Not Just the NSBA That’s Out of Touch. There’s a Bigger Problem (November 1, 2021): Those who influence educational policy or practice would do well to care about what parents and the public actually want — not just what they think parents should want.

8. The Consequence of Public-Health Officials Racing to Shutter Schools (September 20, 2021): Public-health officials’ seeming lack of concern for the risks of shuttering schools can help explain why so many Americans have grown skeptical of their directives.

7. After All That Commotion, Was the Common Core a Big Nothingburger? (April 26, 2021): The Common Core State Standards may not have had an impact on student outcomes, but they did make school improvement tougher and more ideological.

6. Social Media’s Performative, Poisonous Impact on Education (March 11, 2021): The ways in which Twitter distorts normal conversation have become so familiar that they’re easy to overlook.

5. When Does Educational Equity Become Educationally Unethical? (April 5, 2021): Equity stumbles into a truly gruesome place when educators are directed to shortchange students based on how they look or where they live.

4. How to Improve Teaching After the Pandemic (July 7, 2021): Figuring out how to let individual teachers do more of what they’re already good at is a powerful place to start the improvement process.

3. A Search for Common Ground in Schooling (March 8, 2021): Why writing my new book with Pedro Noguera was one of the most heartening, inspiring experiences I’ve had in years.

2. The Right and Wrong Way to Address Concerns About Critical Race Theory (June 16, 2021): Legislators should consciously echo provisions of the Civil Rights Act brushed aside in the excesses of anti-racist education — not ban ideas.

1. Let’s Make Transparency the Pandemic’s Educational Legacy (August 4, 2021): Transparency can strengthen school communities, allow parents to see what’s happening, and provide students more of the support they need.

There you go. With that, let’s wipe the slate clean and turn to what lies ahead in 2022.

This post originally appeared on Rick Hess Straight Up.



Frederick M. Hess

Direct Ed Policy Studies at AEI. Teach a bit at Rice, UPenn, Harvard. Author of books like Cage-Busting Leadership and Spinning Wheels. Pen Ed Week's RHSU blog.