Articles tagged with Michelle Rhee

The week in blogs

My favorite response to the Heritage Foundation’s controversial study that teachers just aren’t as, well, smart as your typical college grad and, therefore, are way overpaid is this Modest Proposal from a reader of Jonathan Chait’s New York Magazine blog:

“How about we just don’t pay teachers anything at all and hope for the best possible outcome. That’s my kind of public policy.”

Ours too! And we have a think tank we want you to join.

Seriously, it’s fairly well known that education majors don’t score as highly on standardized tests, on average, as graduates in other fields. So, while some may consider such a study offensive and counterproductive, one could argue that there’s a certain logic in trying to compare wages by cognitive ability.

On the other hand, there’s a lot more that goes into teaching than test scores, many teachers enter the field from other majors; and cutting teacher salaries, as the report’s authors suggest, seems to be the last thing you’d want to do improve the profession. Finally, after an unprecedented year of public employee — and, especially, teacher — bashing, it’s disturbing to see teachers as targets once again.

For other views on the study, see Time magazine; former Washington D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee (via Politico), and a response by report co-author Andrew Biggs.

A lot of grand ideas come out of Washington, emanating from think tanks such as Heritage and, of course, from government itself. Right now, Congress is taking a critical look at one of the biggest “grand ideas” — No Child Left Behind — struggling to preserve its goal of higher achievement for all while revising or abolishing its more onerous mandates.

That’s what’s happening here; for a view of what it was like in the trenches, read Mandy Newport, a former teacher, NSBA Center for Public Education intern, and graduate student in education policy at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., as she describes the real-world impact of NCLB.

“No chalkboard space was left in classrooms because we were required to use that space to hang standards and essential questions. Science and social studies were taken away for the younger grades and replaced with test taking skills for an hour a day … Lesson plans had to be a certain font and size and were on a template given to teachers by the district.”

But if we just paid teachers less…..

Finally, read Newport’s evenhanded — and largely positive — review of Denver’s ProComp Pay for Performance plan.

Lawrence Hardy|November 4th, 2011|Categories: Curriculum, Teachers, Week in Blogs, Center for Public Education, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Educational Research|Tags: , , , , , |

Children often come last in the battle of special interests

Across education circles and news media yesterday all everyone talked about and is still talking about is Michelle Rhee’s new venture.  I have to laud one of my collegues for guessing the former D.C. schools chief would ultimately end up at a national organization. Though, I’d suspected much the same move, as her now oversized persona would be too small to fit comfortably in another school district and heading to Florida  to become state commissioner, as been rumored, would hardly be smart given her engagement to former professional basketball player and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

I’m slightly surprised, however, that she has chosen to wade into the one  area she seemed so dismissive of: politics. Because even though Students First aims to continue education reform by tackling issues like teacher recruitment, merit pay, and school choice, Rhee makes no bones that her new organization will put its clout and money behind candidates vying for large and small offices that support her ideas. Fascinating. So, Rhee now heads a lobbying group. How ironic. And unfortunate.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Michelle Rhee
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election March to Keep Fear Alive


Naomi Dillon|December 8th, 2010|Categories: Governance, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , , |

Putting school reform in context

1377-1245004138PKaRThe opinion piece in Sunday’s Washington Post by Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee and 13 other school leaders was titled “manifesto,” a word I find a little unnerving.  It suggests certain arrogance, a we-know-what-you-need-even-if-you-don’t kind of attitude. Plus, it’s inevitably colored by the work of two 19th century German theorists, who got some things right about capitalism but a lot more wrong.

So it didn’t’ strike me as a particularly stellar PR move. However, it turns out the name “manifesto,” might have been attached by some Post editors because other papers that picked up the piece called it something different. Still, judging by it’s tone, you couldn’t quite title it “All Together Now: Let’s Improve our Schools.”

No, the piece is an argument against the status quo and the power of teacher unions. And I must say I agree with much of it; personally, I believe principals should be able to hire – and fire – pretty much whomever they please, without having their hands tied with cumbersome seniority rules. What if a principal has a bias against a certain teacher and treats him unfairly? you ask. My answer: The same thing that happens in the private sector: if he’s good, he’ll go somewhere else, with a better boss.

The problem with the “manifesto” is it suggests that personnel rules are the only problem, that little else is holding students back in poor urban schools, and this is simply not the case.

Naomi Dillon|October 19th, 2010|Categories: Governance, Teachers, Student Achievement, Dropout Prevention, Policy Formation, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , , , , |

Rhee to step down but questions still abound about her, D.C. schools future

Michelle_RheeIt’s a wrap. Michelle Rhee is leaving her post as D.C. schools chancellor. Though it dispelled weeks of speculation, her announcment is hardly a surprise.

After all, she made it very clear—from her active campaigning for Mayor Adrian Fenty to her public lamenting after his defeat— that her tenure was dependent, motivated, shaped by the absolute control she enjoyed under Fenty- — and likely wouldn’t under political victor Vincent Gray.

No, her ouster is not news to me— though I find her departure timeline a bit surprising. But what really intrigues me about Rhee is how she became news in the first place.

How and why did she garner so much attention? She’s not the first mayor-appointed schools chief, a phenomenon that began two decades ago with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino who scored big when he nabbed  former U.S. Secretary of Education Tom Payzant as city superintendent.

Though Rhee and Fenty’s no-holds barred approach has ruffled many feathers, they were hardly the most controversial duo. As a former Chicago reporter, I can assure you Mayor Richard M. Daley and city budget director-turned schools chief Paul Vallas are hardly the warm and fuzzy type … then again, that is Chicago.

Naomi Dillon|October 13th, 2010|Categories: Governance, Urban Schools, American School Board Journal|Tags: , |

Rhee’s departure from D.C. schools almost certain (public domain image)There were numerous stories to follow in last week’s primary elections, but the big story was that D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee is now near-certain to leave her post after her boss, Mayor Adrian Fenty, lost his bid for reelection in the Democratic primary.

Rhee has attracted national attention for her tough reforms and clashes with D.C. teachers, and she became a central and polarizing figure in the mayoral race. But assuming she does leave—and finds another job as schools chief or in the education reform arena—she may take with her a valuable lesson from her experience in D.C. That is, communications—and the community–matters.

Rhee was grilled about her plans at a D.C. preview of the new “Waiting for Superman” documentary on Sept. 22, taking the spotlight away from other education notables who attended. (Rhee is a central figure in the film, which promotes charter schools and will be discussed in the cover story of ASBJ‘s November issue).

Rhee called the election results “devastating for the schoolchildren of Washington, D.C.,” then later sent a letter to the Post stating that, by the way, she had not meant to imply that Vincent Gray, the presumed winner in November, was devastating.

Naomi Dillon|September 20th, 2010|Categories: Governance, American School Board Journal|Tags: , |

Fenty’s loss puts urban school reform in limbo

Yesterday’s unsuccessful bid for reelection by D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty was hardly a surprise. For months, there had been signs Fenty’s hard-charging style, insular politics, and perceived aloofness had rubbed Washingtonians the wrong way— much like his appointed schools chief, Michelle Rhee.

In the three years she’s been in D.C., Rhee has alienated many, whether it was with her now infamous Time magazine cover, her decision to shutter dozens of schools, or her mass firing of hundreds of teachers. Still, it wasn’t so much what Rhee has done that’s been so polarizing, but what she hasn’t: included stakeholders in these decisions.


Naomi Dillon|September 15th, 2010|Categories: Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , , , |

DC schools chief approval ratings down, but customer satisfaction is up

Photo courtesy of Stockvault

Photo courtesy of Stockvault

What am I to make of a recent Washington Post poll that says D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s popularity has fallen—yet people are happier with the state of their schools?

It makes no sense to me that her “performance rating” has fallen from 59 percent last year to 43 percent this year. Or that her disapproval rating is 62 percent among African-Americans.

Test scores are up. Violence and crime are down. The quality of textbooks and other instructional materials has improved. Bad teachers are being taken out of the classroom.

This is exactly the progress that Washington, D.C., residents have wanted to see for the past 30 years, a period when a revolving door of superintendents and a variety of school governance models ensured that every step toward improvement was disrupted by political infighting and a sharp turn in policy direction.

Certainly Rhee is no saint. She’s made some questionable decisions. She’s also made her share of public relations blunders. She’s challenged the politically powerful teachers union and annoyed some parents with her willingness to make unpopular decisions, like closing their low-performing neighborhood schools.

But if concrete results are being seen, do people have to approve of how she’s doing things?

Naomi Dillon|February 4th, 2010|Categories: Governance, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |

Two female education power brokers; a battle or a deal ahead?

It’s a clash of education titans, and definitely worth watching if you have any interest in teacher contracts or union negotiations.

D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee has made national headlines, recently appearing on the cover of Time magazine, and she’s been profiled by major news outlets. Her no-holds-barred approach to reforming the D.C. schools system—undoubtedly one of the most broken in the nation—has piqued the interest of not only educators but the public at large.

While I’m very happy to see Rhee clean house and get serious about education reform, I’ve been concerned her personality, or lack of personality, may stifle many of her efforts. She’s clearly not a team player, and so far her actions have not gone over well with the Washington teachers’ union (which has had its own issues) or some of the players she needs to be engaging.

Enter Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers and another woman who’s watched nationally for her efforts to reform urban schools. While Weingarten’s first interest is protecting the interest of her members, she’s also widely regarded as a reformer in the mold of AFT founder Al Shanker.

Now, Weingarten is coming to Washington to take on Rhee and her proposal to suspend tenure and protections for teachers in exchange for massive salary increases.

“Randi is the most important teachers’ union figure in the country today,” Thomas Toch, co-director of Education Sector, tells the Washington Post. “She’s a pivotal figure in this conversation. The stakes are very high for her in D.C.”

Naomi Dillon|February 4th, 2009|Categories: Governance, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , , |
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