Forget NAEP…

…this is what’s gonna have tongues wagging today:  New Michelle Rhee profile (by veteran journo June Kronholz) in Ed Next.   And no swords to plowshares here…rather brooms to swords! And you also don’t want to miss Richard Whitmire’s look at Rhee in WaPo.

2 Replies to “Forget NAEP…”

  1. Today there were several great stories on Rhee. The DC Wire asks 15 key questions and Coutland Milloy asks the best question of all, “Can you raise an academic bar if you don’t have an ethical leg to stand on?”

    June Kronholz hit the same notes as the previous portraits, but she also hit the key point that has been overlooked. As previously described, Rhee and her supporters are convinced of their righteousness, and they are taking on a horrible mess. They reason through analogy based on their personal experiences. Based on two years of elementary TFA experience, Rhee devises a cure for the nation’s educational ills. If her management style worked for TFA, extend it to a school district. If certain methods of business methods worked for some digital pioneers, extend it to the schools. If methods work for charters or low poverty schools, extend them to neighborhood schools that don’t have the luxury of selectivity. If you are reforming a system that “has more money than god,” and you can leverage amazing amounts of additional money, then those methods will work in schools with 1/3rd of the money as long as they have “high expectations.”

    Life is too short to worry whether the DC superintendent is a hypocrite, as Malloy wrote, were she not a threat to my students. Why should I care if Rhee attracted amazing resources for DC students and fired hundreds of teachers, even an unknown number of good ones, if she did so in a way that is not illegal? After all, her firings would be illegal in my state and presumably in almost all states who don’t have the district’s unique circumstances.

    Why would I worry if about Rhee if she wasn’t trying to split the union? In fact, why would I worry about a two-tiered contract in DC as long as she didn’t try to spread the concept nationally? But when the TNTP brings the divide and conquer strategy to a district 90 miles from mine as they just did, then they become a threat to my students. In fact, why would I worry too much about a two-tiered system if it wasn’t financed by people who might use divide and conquer to destroy unions and who haven’t repudiated Rhee’s pushing the envelope and violating the spirit if not the letter of the law? If “reformers” would repudiate Rhee’s excesses, maybe we could negotiate innovations that now are just too dangerous in the hands of people who believe their righteous ends justify their means.

    Why would I care about Rhee’s style if she had not tried to nationalize her beliefs?

    Why would the national press be writing about Rhee is she hadn’t tried to nationalize the fight?

    I’m not going on a national crusade against educators who want to build their own classrooms or schools around standardized tests. It is only when they try to impose those policies on my kids that I fight like a mother bear.

    I also support Richard Rothstein’s appraisal that it is too soon to judge Secretary Duncan based on the sales job he’s been making recently. Duncan is not Rhee, even if he appointed a lot of Rhee supporters. But neither should we assume that Rhee supporters and Rhee are the same.

    Being an old-fashioned liberal I’m suspicious of the arguments of local control, but as Randi Weingarten said yesterday, when local districts demonstrate good faith, a lot of innovations are possible. For instance, VAMS in the hands of administrators for evaluation purposes represent an existential threat to teachers and unions. But as explained in The Grand Bargain, the same flawed VAMs in the hands of peer review committees of teachers, or teachers and administrators, may work. And if a local district in negotiating in good faith and the test-driven accountability produces unintended negative effects, then we can roll back the harm. After all, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, democracy, and public education. But to replace our profound heritage of liberal arts and the beliefs in a humane public education for all with “a culture of accountability,” even if it produced a few gains for some, would be obscene.

    The saddest thing, however, is that we are having this conversation at a time when President Obama has created such an opportunity. We don’t see Geoffrey Canada going national telling everyone that they must embrace non-stop test prep.

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