Rhee-Inventing D.C. Schools

WaPo breaks the news that New Teacher Project head Michelle Rhee is Washington Mayor Fenty’s choice to lead the D.C. Public Schools…so pretty soon that will be Chancellor Rhee to you. WaPo ed board pretty on board with the pick, too. Couple of thoughts in no particular order, and I should point out that I’ve known and worked with Rhee for a while:

First, Rhee is one of the most impressive people in education today, she’s an effective manager, keen intellect, and very much on the leading edge. This is a strong and creative choice. She sees the whole picture and isn’t overly enamored of one discrete reform or another.

Second, she’s a former teacher, via TFA*, which at once takes some low-hanging fruit off the table in terms of criticism and also shows again how the folks who have come through TFA are creating a revolution. This is a big day for them, too. And, Rhee gets that people are (almost) everything here and that’s one thing that makes this pick especially exciting.

Third, Rhee has a huge challenge ahead. The people who tried and failed before her were not bereft of talent. There are two key differences though: She has a mayor who supports her and can support her through the new governance arrangement and she understands the system, wants it to work for kids, but is not of it, she’s a reformer. D.C. has had folks who are one, or the other, rarely both and never, obviously, in this governing arrangment. And it’s impossible to look at the state of affairs in the D.C. Public Schools and not conclude that substantial reform is what it needs. The status quo literally kills kids. Rhee’s work to date has been about changing that and while the D.C. Council should exercise it’s responsibility to confirm the mayor’s choice, let’s hope they keep the politics to a minimum and get Michelle into this job as soon as possible.

*Those damn TFAers, they never stay in education! Ha ha.

Update: Over at DFER, Joe Williams is fired-up!

Posted on Jun 12, 2007 @ 8:03am

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