Oh Please…

I’ll be the first one to say that Michelle Rhee’s style carries some backfire potential, but to compare her challenge in turning around almost the entire D.C. school system, demonstrably one of the nation’s most broken and with all the politics that go with that, to the challenge of turning around one school in affluent Montgomery County as a WaPo columnist does today is preposterous.

7 thoughts on “Oh Please…

  1. john thompson

    I can’t disagree, except in your characterization of Pondiscio who is the most level-headed of education thinkers.

    Here’s where you guys could benefit the most from people like Robert with practical experience. If we stopped the clock on Rhee after her first or second wave of firings, then you’d have to say that she did far more good than evil. But her goal has to be more than defeating enemies. Under any imaginable scenario for helping students following her approach, “you can’t get there from here.” She’s setting a huge array of bad precedents, and there is no reasonable scenario for her rebuilding schools. Then if her “culture of accountability” was spread to other districts the harm would be profound.

    But, what if more moderate and balanced people step in and force her to compromise? If D.C. got a deal like in Denver, with all of the extra resources available to her, they should make improvements.

    Systems like D.C. and NYC, because of its size, are outliers. If most of the other districts were to be deluged in all of the EXTRA resources deluged on those systems to prove that accountability could work, virtually any other district could spend the money in a much much more cost effective manner. Take an objective look at the “bang for the buck” that comes from such extreme aggression and accountability advocates would be terribly embarrassed.

    But if you don’t listen to Pondiscio’s wisdom, you are wasting an incredible resource. The same applies to the wisdom of the teachers unions. Education can not continue to take its most valuable asset, the practical and professional expereince of veteran educators, and flush it down the toilet.

  2. john thompson

    Confused,

    I’m sorry. I was responding to the full day’s Eduwonk posts in general and in specific the new post and the update that were posted at the end of the day. I had mostly agreed with Eduwonk’s arguments of the full day, but not his charecterization of Robert Pondiscio’s response to “Oh Please.”

    Eduwonk’s argument Friday on Montgomery County success was basically the mirror image of my arguments. Success in a few outliers is not comparable to the type of success required to turnaround the toughest schools and systems. He made that argument to defend Rhee. I make that argument to defend teachers.

    There was a reason, however, why my comments were rougher than normal. Its always shocking to see how many new and traumatized and abandoned kids walk through the door for the second semester, and how much worst the violence gets over Christmas. The first week in January is always a shock, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this week in the hood. There was no violence. Mental illness, cancer, drug abuse, incarceration, domestic violence occurs everywhere. Its still stunning, however, to experience its effects when you have such a disproportionate numbers of suffering kids in one building.

    Then just as I should have been rereading my comment, my daughter came in from her week in the elementary school in the barrio. She’s come from some of the worst poverty that Black Americans have endured and she’s taught in the projects in Bed Stuy, but her week was just as incredible.

    We both had great weeks if you look at what we accomplished, but if you could look at our worlds through the eyes of veteran inner city teachers, you would understand our exhaustion. The recession hasn’t really hit here yet, so our schools shouldn’t yet be as challenging as Detroit or Baltimore.

    Our problem is that society has chosen to provide such a full range of educational choices that “cream” off the less challenging students. Then, we allow charters like KIPP that don’t really cream that much to be freed of the policies that neighborhood schools must follow. I don’t have a problem with those policies, hence my agreements with Eudwonk on a lot of the day’s posts.

    But, if KIPP had to follow the rules we have to follow, they wouldn’t have any more success than we have. But, those policies are designed to protect the most vulnerable of those kids, so we can’t just deregulate all schools. Look at the world I see, and I don’t believe you would think that teachers can transform schools under the rules that we much follow.

    And the same applies to neighborhood school principals, and the central offices of our poor districts. No single group of educators can transform our toughest schools under today’s systems. That’s why we must move beyond the blame game and collaboratively work out new systems.

    And we better move now. If we face the economic conditions of 1983 (which at least in Oklahoma was closer to a depression than a recession and which lasted for 15 years), I don’t see how our neighborhood schools can survive.

  3. john thompson

    Still confused. I’ll try again. Robert Pondiscio has nothing to do with this post. Robert Pondiscio was mentioned in “KIPPed.” As I thought I explained, I was addressing the related posts made by Eduwonk on Friday. Eduwonk made a series of points on that day that were related to each other. I addressed those points, as well as voicing support for Robert. If I had the technical ability to do it, I would cut my referfence to Robert, and paste it in the comments section that is a few inches below the section where it is posted.

    I’m sorry for the confusion. If that was the worst mistake I made last week, I’d be a saint.

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