Michelle Rhee: devil incarnate or savior of education?

Ok, a little hyperbolic on the title, but not many lukewarm opinions flying around on the current Chancellor of the Washington DC school systems.

http://www.newsweek.com/id/154901

http://www.washingtonian.com/articles/pe ople/5222.html

This is quite an interesting issue for the left to discuss, as the Teachers Union has been a bedrock of the left for generations.  But, being a parent, knowing lots of parents, and having a best friends wife who is waist deep in local Washington State School politics, I think we are heading for a confrontation between the Union and those wanting reform of the Public School systems.

Rhee is nothing if not controversial, and right now, she is heading for her biggest battle, a new contract that could become a kind of prototype for those who want to see a change in the power triad of the Union, Tenure and Teacher Pay.

The contract battle is looming, and recently Rhee wrote an editorial that some see as either an attempt to cover her backside or an actual softening of her position:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/con tent/article/2009/02/08/AR2009020801711. html

It's hard to separate her from the overall discussion of what she is proposing, but it would be fascinating to know how our new Education Secretary is looking at the coming battle going on right in his new front yard.

Tags: Michelle Rhee, public education, Teachers Union (all tags)

Comments

4 Comments

Re: Michelle Rhee

I'd like to see the actual contract: the editorial is all rhetoric.  Or almost all rhetoric.

But there are certain things that make me worry, like this:

· Measuring excellence. We cannot rely on test scores alone. Good evaluations of teaching practices must be well rounded. Only some of our teachers work in grades or subjects in which tests are given, so we must use many assessments to measure student growth.

Having several teachers in the family, including one parent, it's an open secret that most education beaurocracies place the most incompetent people in the middle echelons of administration.  That's where you go if you're a total fuckup but can't be fired - you become vice-Principle of something-or-other.  So assurances that teachers won't be measured on test scores alone aside, there aren't very many school systems where you could implement merit-based pay or performance measurements and not have it abused from the word "go".

by Jess81 2009-02-10 08:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Michelle Rhee

Broad brush on administrators is unfair, even if generally accurate. There are competent administrators, even outstanding ones, despite the overwhelming odds against such people making it through the political gauntlet. Just sayin'.

Teachers are burned out of the profession by a number of factors. Parents in many situations present big problems to their kids and hence the system. Micromanagers at all levels of government pile on huge time-wasting distractions. Understaffing and over-sized classroom populations make the task almost impossible to start with. Low pay and low-esteem for jobs which require alot of education and ridiculous continuing ed, re-licensing, the most inane meetings (travel often required), and a dwindling benefits package ALL contribute to extreme stress, resentment, burnout, and apathy.

To offset all that, teachers are universally praised by any politician giving a speech.

by QTG 2009-02-11 03:26AM | 0 recs
Cool diary, WSB.

It's interesting,  Time did a big piece on her fairly recently and I wasn't sure what to make of it; it certainly hinted at all the drama your hyperbolic title suggests.

I gave the article to my Dad, who was a public school educator for 35 years (history, government, and economics -- shocking right?)  When he retired, he was elected to the school board.  I'm eager to hear what he has to say about Rhee.

I'm not sure her often harsh approach is the best course, but there's no denying the need to repair our neglected public school system(s).

by fogiv 2009-02-10 08:55PM | 0 recs
I am a forty year

veteran of public schools.

And frankly, the bs put out by the Reagan administration, A Nation at RiskA was just that ...bs.  

There are bad teachers to be sure.  There are bad nurses, bad cops, bad doctors.....it is a fact.  But the spin that bad teachers cannot be fired is an urban myth.  They can and have been. I helped get a fellow teacher fired.....and I am a strong union member.   But it takes work, it takes competent administration; it takes documentation and DUE PROCESS.  Everyone deserves due process.

DOCUMENTATION is needed. And that is what many on the administration fail to do. DOCUMENT, OBSERVE, DOCUMENT. It can't be because parent X doesn't like that the teacher made her child cry; or failed his child.  

Teaching is an art, not a science.  Not all things work for all children.  There is no magic bullet, no scientific method that works for all kids.
Students are developmentally at different stages even if the share the same chronological year of birth.  

I don't know too much about Michelle Rhee but I do know that poverty impacts children in many ways, including educationally.  And while the right is fond of "just throwing money at the problem has failed", money is needed. Incentives (monetary ones) for teachers committing to crime ridden inner city, poverty ridden schools in the rural areas, would help.  Make it competitive for teachers to commit to long term (at least five years) to those schools. DO NOT MAKE IT ABOUT TEST SCORES.  SMALL CLASSES DO MATTER AND they cost money.  

Great teachers have an innate talent that cannot be measured but mediocre teachers with time, mentoring, support and incentives can become excellent.  

I would love to discuss this more but I have to head out to substitute.  Good topic.

by Jjc2008 2009-02-11 04:26AM | 0 recs

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