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Posted at 1:02 PM ET, 09/21/2010

Oprah and her warrior woman, Michelle Rhee

By Valerie Strauss

superman.jpg

Oprah Winfrey may imagine that she runs a serious policy forum on her television show. You know, the one on which she routinely features: celebrities; hoarders (Aug. 5,6); dieters; people facing unusual crisis, such as a woman who had a tumor that covered half of her face (Aug. 2), and a woman who discovered her dead husband’s mistresses (July 30).

But she doesn’t. Shows recently aired include:

09/14/2010 Exclusive - How Wynonna Judd Survived the Ultimate Betrayal
09/13/2010 Oprah’s Farewell Season Premiere with Special Guest John Travolta
09/08/2010 Harpo Hookups - Cher, Justin Timberlake, will.i.am, Usher
09/07/2010 Women Who Claim They Were Child Brides in the USA
09/06/2010 Stars of Reality TV: Fantasia’s Comeback and Ruby’s Revelations
09/02/2010 Oprah’s Make Over My Man Crew Strikes Again
09/01/2010 The Most Talented Kids with Justin Bieber and Charice
08/31/2010 Oprah Says Goodbye to Nate Berkus: The Grand Finale
08/30/2010 Oprah and Simon Cowell: The Farewell Interview
08/25/2010 Inside Sex Addiction Rehab

So yesterday when she aired the show called “Waiting For Superman - The Movie That Can Transform America’s Schools,” her viewers should have known that they were watching an entertainment show with a show woman -- not an educator -- as host.

Anybody expecting a serious policy discussion -- even with Bill Gates, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, and film maker Davis Guggenheim as guests -- was sorely disappointed, though some people may have been fooled.

The tone of the show was set when Oprah, with her vast background in education reform, kept calling Rhee a “warrior woman” as if that were a good thing.

For those who don’t know, Rhee stormed into Washington D.C. three years ago, vowing to fix the long troubled system with a brand of reform that in fact resembled battle. Rhee listened to no one but herself and made no effort to explain her decisions to the people who were supposed to carry them out. Even the U.S. military knows that victory often requires winning the hearts and minds of the people.

She also sometimes found herself in trouble by saying things in public that she later had to take back, such as when she said she had fired teachers who had physically or sexually abused students, leaving the impression that the number was more than what the record reflected.

The defeat of Rhee’s patron, Mayor Adrian Fenty, last week in the city’s Democratic primary was in large part a referendum on Rhee and her reforms. The Oprah show was taped before the vote, and one can’t help but wonder whether the discussion would have been different if had been taped afterward.

On the show with Rhee were Gates, whose foundation has spent a few billion dollars trying to reform schools, with little so far to show for it, and Davis Guggenheim, the man behind “Waiting for Superman,” a tendentious documentary that casts Rhee as an angel and public charter schools as wonderful.

Funny that Rhee’s job is to improve the traditional public schools, not the charter schools (which educate fewer than 5 percent of the kids in the country), though the whole discussion of the show was about the joy of charters. Rhee did not raise her voice one time to defend the schools that it is her job to fix.

There was a lot of other silliness about schools and teachers on the show that went unchallenged. For example, the issue of teacher tenure was raised and Guggenheim declared that all teachers get tenure after two years and can’t be fired.

That’s ridiculous, as noted by teacher Anthony Cody in this post on the Teacher Magazine website, entitled "OprahPaganda?" You can read here about the myth of teacher tenure, , which, in fact, is hardly a guarantee of lifetime

And, as my colleague Bill Turque wrote in this post about the Oprah episode, Rhee said some other things about teachers that don’t seem to square with reality.

Rhee, during a discussion of how to deal with ineffective teachers, minimized the significance of professional development, saying that it was not fair to ask parents to put their children in the classrooms of educators who might be better in a year or two. She noted that she was a parent, and said, "There is no way I would put up with that.” She got big applause.

Rhee the warrior.

But Rhee the chancellor set up a system that does exactly that.

Her IMPACT teacher evaluation system gives teachers the chance to improve, and that is what is happening with more than 700 D.C. teachers judged "minimally effective" on last year’s IMPACT evaluations. They’ll be given a year to improve or face dismissal.

And, as Turque points out, she did not attack teacher development in the city’s successful application for $75 million in Race to the Top money; rather, she promised to establish “a wide and deep array of of rigorous professional development opportunities" for teachers.

Perhaps, Turque wrote, even more puzzling was Rhee’s answer when Oprah asked about the difficulty in firing teachers. "You have to meet literally a criminal standard," she said, which is true when pursuing cases of sexual misconduct or corporal punishment.

But firing teachers for poor performance -- next to impossible in DCPS for years -- is now an option through IMPACT if their scores are low. That’s how 126 teachers were dismissed this past summer.

Let’s not forget Winfrey’s own personal involvement in school reform. She funded and established a $40 million school for girls in South Africa. Why, she was asked several years ago, did she not help schools in her own country? Here was her response:

"Say what you will about the American educational system—it does work. If you are a child in the United States, you can get an education."

And then she said this:

“I became so frustrated with visiting inner-city schools that I just stopped going. The sense that you need to learn just isn’t there. If you ask the kids what they want or need, they will say an iPod or some sneakers. In South Africa, they don’t ask for money or toys. They ask for uniforms so they can go to school.”

It should be noted that earlier this year, Winfrey settled a defamation lawsuit that had been filed by a headmistress at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. Winfrey had accused her of performing poorly at her South African girls school after the 2007 sex abuse scandal in which a dorm matron parent was charged with abusing six student.

At the end of yesterday’s show, Oprah announced that she was ending her Angel Network with six $1 million grants -- all charter school networks.

I wish Rhee had asked her for some of that money for the D.C. schools that she is supposed to fix.


Follow my blog every day by bookmarking washingtonpost.com/answersheet. And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our Higher Education page at washingtonpost.com/higher-ed Bookmark it!

By Valerie Strauss  | September 21, 2010; 1:02 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. Schools  | Tags:  bill gates, bill gates and oprah, d.c. schools, davis guggenheim, guggenheim film, michelle rhee, michelle rhee and oprah winfrey, oprah, oprah and gates and rhee, oprah and rhee, oprah show, oprah winfrey, rhee on oprah, school reform and rhee, waiting for superman, waiting for superman and rhee, will rhee go?, will rhee stay?  
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Comments

Funny....none of those people on the show know anything about education.

In school districts like Fairfax County and Montgomery County, you have to get graduate degrees in school administration and education leadership. Principals and administrators not only know how to be a leader but also know about teaching. Many of them have EdD or Phd.

Here we have people know nothing about education think they know all the solutions. That's so ridiculous. Michelle Rhee went to Cornell. Bill Gates went to Harvard. Guggenheim went to Brown. What do they know about inner city schools? What makes them experts on this issue?

What a joke!

Posted by: salukiindc | September 21, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Valerie,
The reqal question is whether you have any skin in the game: do you have kids and, if so, are they being educated in DC public schools? My guess, from your snarky attacks on Chancellor Rhee, is that you don't have kids or that they are being educated in private school.

Posted by: TL67 | September 21, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Correction:
In school districts like Fairfax County and Montgomery County, you have to get graduate degrees in school administration and education leadership in order to be a leader such as a principal or superintendent.


These people on the show grew up in wealthy families and went to Ivy League schools and never studied education research. What do they know?

Posted by: salukiindc | September 21, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Michele Rhee is battling for better schools . . please get out of her way and let her fix our schools. She gets it that the current system is broken. Why do so many defend a failing status quo?

Posted by: sarno | September 21, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

@TL67:
Michelle Rhee was attacked because she isn't qualified and experienced to do her job. She's not innocent.

Of course I want my kids to be educated in a good school. But I don't want his/her school to be led by someone who has no idea what education is about...by someone who lies to defend her mistakes.

Posted by: salukiindc | September 21, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

@ Sarno:

Please. No one is defending a failing system. We all know DC public schools are bad and many teachers need to be fired.

But the work needs to be done by somoeone who is qualified and experienced. Michelle Rhee has no credentials whatsoever. She has very limited teaching experiences and had no management/administration experiences AT ALL.

And Bill Gates? All he got is money. One of the schools he opened closed. Some are struggling. Do you know why? Because he has no idea what he's doing. He thinks he knows it all, but he doesn't.

Posted by: salukiindc | September 21, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

United States is a country that has a lot of talents. Someone who has knowledge, experiences and communication skills needs to be hired to fix DC schools. Not someone who went to Harvard and Cornell but has no clue about education...never even ran 'one' school, let alone the whole system.

Posted by: salukiindc | September 21, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for this. I was so disheartened watching that yesterday. They tossed around so many horrible generalities about teachers and our schools. Bill Gates couldn't even come up with a number of how many schools are succeeding. He brushed off Oprah's one decent question with some comment about how it's hard to say because the data looks good from high achievers but not all students. And the comments about how students are tracked and classes in lower tracks have worse teachers? What? There are no teachers at my school who only teach high level kids. The classes are split evenly. And what does that say about special education teachers or ESOL teachers or reading specialists who dedicate their lives to working with some of the toughest kids out there?

I was never a huge Oprah fan, but she just lost my support for any future plans.

Posted by: rrap1 | September 21, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

So Oprah isn't qualified to have a conversation on inner-city education even though she was raised in the inner-city and educated in inner-city schools and attended an inner city university?

2 Billionaires, a millionaire, and an educator all of him went to college aren't qualified to have a conversation on education even though they have become what many parents aspire their children to be?

You should find new work. You are not good at your job. You are much too busy throwing spit-balls at Michelle Rhee. You are not a professional journalist.

Posted by: ProfessorWrightBSU | September 21, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

What have the supposed "experts in education" done for the system? What have they proposed?

Posted by: moebius22 | September 21, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

@salukiindc

If, as you say, Chancellor Rhee is unqualified, then the real problem is with the qualifications, not Ms. Rhee; for, we have had many people with advanced degrees in education who have tolerated failure in DC public schools for decades. Chancellor Rhee has done more for the schools than any of her more-pedigreed predecessors.

Try again.

Posted by: TL67 | September 21, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Well stated column.

Vince Gray needs to get rid of Rhee quickly and move on. There are some really good Education Reformers out there who could continue education reform in the District.

I know that Education Reform is supported strongly by Vince Gray.

Posted by: peterdc | September 21, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

We need more district leaders like Rhee. A persona like hers is necessary to get a massive district like DCPS out the rut of low scores and high dropouts.

I worked in Chicago Public Schools and was completely disheartened by the tenure policies. Over 90% of teachers that received ratings were rated as "Excellent" or "Superior", and less than 100 of the 20K teachers were let go annually for performance reasons. Do you realize how ridiculous that is? Low performers exist in every job; are we supposed to believe that teachers are near perfect? I know that there are few (if any) good metrics of teacher evaluation, but shouldn't we be trying to figure one out, rather than simply saying that all teachers are great?

A little more on Chicago -- so many teachers were rated highly because if a teacher received an unsatisfactory rating, a principal had to allocate funds for additional PD (often funds that were all used up by the end of the year). Also, the union was so powerful, that it was nearly impossible to remove a teacher for something as simple as perceived low performance, so in effect, all a low rating would do is create a resentful teacher.

I don't pretend to know how to fix all this, but the status quo of strict tenure rules, 6 hours/day of class time, and minimal use of data in evaluations has got to go. Innovators like Rhee, who are unafraid of public opinion will undoubtedly rub some people the wrong way, but I'd rather see someone working towards better schools than sitting back and protecting their own interests and pension.

Posted by: OldNumber3 | September 21, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

@ Professor:
If you are a real professor..good for you. Otherwise, you should feel very lucky. Why don't you go teach in the public schools? You have guts. You can only criticize.

@ moebius22:
Oh yes they have. Experts have lots of good ideas. You are just busy watching Oprah so you don't know any of them. Many people especially politicians don't want to listen to good ideas. They just want something quick, something sounds nice. Same as most audience and voters who know nothing about education. They are too lazy to read and learn about the issues. Watching Oprah is much more fun and much faster.

Posted by: salukiindc | September 21, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

I cannot figure out why Michelle Rhee is considered the "leader" of the school reform movement. The District of Columbia Public School system in reality is #71 in number of enrolled students with approximately 57,000 students. In contrast, New York City Dept. of Education has over 1 million students and LA County over 700,000. What the heads of these school systems do has a much greater impact than anything Rhee does. Even within the Washington metro area the D.C. system is small. Fairfax County has three times as many students. Montgomery, Prince Georges, Anne Arundel, and Prince William County systems are larger than D.C. as well.

Posted by: buffysummers | September 21, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Strauss,

You need to be fired. Where did you get your journalism degree? Was it in the land of Ignorant and Stupidity? Because this paragraph clearly shows it:

"On the show with Rhee were Gates, whose foundation has spent a few billion dollars trying to reform schools, with little so far to show for it, and Davis Guggenheim, the man behind “Waiting for Superman,” a tendentious documentary that casts Rhee as an angel and public charter schools as wonderful."

Bill Gates and his foundation are spending a lot of money trying to improve our schools. Instead of commending them, you have the audacity to criticize them. What have you done for our schools besides sitting behind a computer screen and criticizing those that are trying to improve our lives?

Posted by: RUKidding9 | September 21, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

tl67- Your statement about previous leaders tolerating failure is simply untrue. Ackerman was implementing great policies, Janney's academic standards are what are in place now. Ms. Rhee's lack of credentials leads to establishing programs and that leads to a lack of significant and long lasting reform. We don't need quick fixes, which is exactly what firing a bunch of teachers with no replacements or TFA replacements is. We need a process that involves parents, uplifts students and adequately supports teachers. The current system isn't it.

Posted by: 39aka94 | September 21, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

@TL67,

Look around. Open your eyes. All the great school districts in the United States have best leaders. These leaders are people who have degrees in education leadership. People who have experiences in education. They knwo how to communicate teachers, parents, and students.

Inner city schools have bad teachers and lazy administrators because schools are violent and students are unmotivated. Most teachers don't want to teach there only bad ones who can't find jobs elsewhere. To fix inner city schools, someone like Michelle who has administration experiences isn't the key.

do you know under her leadership, the achievement gap between black and white students got bigger???

Posted by: salukiindc | September 21, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Rhee and Bret Schundler can form a consulting firm: EducationFailures.

Posted by: dsda3731 | September 21, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

correction: To fix inner city schools, someone like Michelle who has NO administration experiences isn't the key.

Posted by: salukiindc | September 21, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

great piece! Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

...a teacher in an excellent inner-city public high school school

Posted by: rgsalter | September 21, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Rhee knows nothing about education, and pretends classrooms are industrial assembly lines.

When has she ever had the courage to suggest that the students are as much or more responsible for their education as their teachers? When has she ever suggested that family support and income affect a student's education as much as his/her teacher? When has she ever acknowledged that student success is more a function of how much they, the students, study and work, as the effectiveness of the teachers?

Schools are not mills, factories, or assembly lines amenable to silly business tricks like pay for performance, and students are not widgets whose success is merely dependent on the skill of the assembly line worker or the quality control expert.

Rhee has a ridiculous philosophy that feeds into political correctness in D.C. and the teachers are useful fall guys.

What a joke!

Posted by: captn_ahab | September 21, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: salukiindc:

@ moebius22:
Oh yes they have. Experts have lots of good ideas. You are just busy watching Oprah so you don't know any of them. Many people especially politicians don't want to listen to good ideas. They just want something quick, something sounds nice. Same as most audience and voters who know nothing about education. They are too lazy to read and learn about the issues. Watching Oprah is much more fun and much faster.
++++++++++++

I don't watch Oprah.

Any links per chance?

Posted by: moebius22 | September 21, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Rhee is so committed to DC schoolchildren that she'll take herself and her school reform out of DC on the first thing smoking before she'd even consider making any compromises and work with the mayor-elect to see any of her processes through. That's real commitment and dedication to the students of the District of Columbia -- and that would have been a better discussion for Oprah to have with her.

Personally, I'm happy to see Rhee take herself and her ego out of town. I say we look closer to DC and find someone who has an actual stake in the past and future of this city and who is adult and mature enough to work cohesively with other city officials.

As for Oprah, maybe her guests should have included a parent or two from Far Southeast -- or maybe just even "east of the Park" -- and see what THEY think about her "warrior woman".

Posted by: Tootsumi | September 21, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

The question that immediately popped into my mind when I first read the quote yesterday about Rhee being a 'warrior woman' was: Who is she at war with? Teachers? Students? Parents? All three?

Given what I have seen from Ms. Rhee through the experiences of my girlfriend and many friends trying to teach in a school system that still needs serious reforms, the answer is definitely 'all three'.

Posted by: turnageb | September 21, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Valerie,
You can belittle Oprah if you want, but she is reaching a large audience that is tuning in to watch education discussed. So what if the content is a little dumbed down.Where else are you going to find that much coverage about education that reaches that broad of an audience, an audience that normally does not tune in.

So they tried and failed. You imply that because Bill Gates and Oprah failed that they should not discuss education. Well at least they are trying. They are trying different things in the hopes that they will find something that works and that can be replicated. Because for many students in public schools, the status quo is not working for them.

Does your commentary today help children get a better education? Is there a magic bullet solution out there? Enlighten us.

Posted by: Tokugawa1 | September 21, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Strauss,

Thank you very much for this article!

I'm so very tired of the extremely skewed discussion that is currently held regarding education in our country. I'm even more frustrated by the fact that Rhee is upheld as some type of godsend because she's willing to fight the teachers' union and fire teachers.

I am a lifelong DC resident. I attended public schools and college here. I now have two school-age children that attend DCPS. We have looked far and wide for the best educational institution that the city has to offer. We've been wait-listed by some of the schools with the best reputations for my oldest (nine yr old). When we didn't like what we encountered at our neighborhood (assigned) school, we enrolled our son at a DC Charter for first grade. Overall, it was a big disappointment. It was the first year of teaching for his 1st grade teacher and she was handed a class of 20+ students with no assistance in sight. At least two of her students had serious behavioral/academic disabilities that required a disproportionate amount of her time. My husband and I volunteered often in the classroom and on field trips, so we saw what was occurring firsthand in the classroom.
For a first year teacher, she was great. But, she was not well-prepared for her task overall and not well-supported by the administration. She well was versed in the lingo of student assessment (Dibels), but she could not answer a basic (but most important) question, 'how will you teach our son to read'. Her answer (and that of similar teachers interviewed by us) was to separate the students into similarly-leveled groups so that they could read to each other. When asked about teaching decoding and syllabication, she had no concrete answers.
I don't blame her for this. This is a basic element (one of many) that are missing from the current system: eliminating the educational/instructional gaps of existing teachers. Every elementary school teacher needs to know the ends and outs of teaching a child how to read. Reading to them, asking them to read to you is only one small part.

Rhee and other 'reformers' like her are only focusing on the high level buzzworthy components of educational reform by conspicuously rotating a set of targets on teachers, unions, parents, lazy students. This target practice is convenient, but will never amount to improvement. If you want a good school system, it has to start not only with the teachers, but with the curriculum, the support system for teachers that should be built into the administration, good resources (textbooks, computer programs, etc). And so much more.

Firing hundreds of teachers and testing the hell out of students may sound great. But, there isn't a line outside of DC containing hundreds of new, great teachers. Where will we find replacements for those that have been fired? DC students currently test for 4 weeks out of a 9 month school year. There most likely being bombarded with test prep for another month beyond that.

Posted by: vbj_dc | September 21, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

I don't watch Oprah but would make an exception if YOU and Ms. Rhee were scheduled together without pre-scripting. Now THAT would be a show not to miss. But then the focus would not be on Oprah so it would never happen.

Posted by: pjohn2 | September 21, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

To all of you "people worshipers" of Chancellor Rhee who betray the very education that Rhee suggests she is pushing by playing down and ignoring the academic credentials and experience that EVERY successful school superintendent in this nation has, SHAME ON YOU. What is the point, then, of education, if once you attain it, folks like you will minimize it as being unnecessary. You sound really foolish.

You say that DCPS has seen no improvement with other leaders of the system WITH those credentials. Well, that is the ONLY improvement that we are, today, seeing in DCPS.

Chancellor Rhee's predecessor DR. Clifford Janey (of the Williams Administration) deconstructed and then reconstructed DCPS curriculum and implemented a program of systemic improvement. We are now starting the see the fruits of that labor. Fruits to which Rhee valiantly takes credit. She is and always has been a school reform fraud.

The students of the District deserve more than a self serving narcissist using them as pawns.

I say this, YES credentials are absolutely essential to solving the problems of public school education. Look to the more successful Districts and you will see at the helm of them a professional WITH those credentials. The District students deserve no less.

End of Story.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | September 21, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Poor pathetic teachers union and teachers that can't won't keep their education up to date. you are not entitled to a job just because you're alive. thank GOD for Rhee and Fenty. even though he lost (because most washingtonians have a plantation mentality) uses gots ta dance n sang and have fun at work and not actually work. i would NEVER let any children of mine or my family go to a dc public school unless i wanted them to learn to sing filthy rap songs or how boys are now showing their butts to anyone that walks by. the dress code is a sham because it also involves parents who are allowing their kids to stay outside and play until 11pm. Hmm, lets just send our good kids and teachers to other states and move there. is ya wit me OH YEA LOL oh well its not really funny, but this is the lanquage used amongst teachers and their charges...

Posted by: saudi1 | September 21, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

FYI:

For those who are too busy watching talk shows and never read education research, get this. Stanford University research shows that only 1/3 of charter schools perform better than public schools. Others are either worse or same as public schools.

For those that perform better, the reasons are obvious. They can set up their own rules. They take students who are committed to learning. Students who are violent and violate rules are kicked out by charter schools.

On the other hand, public schools have to educate everyone including criminals, gangsters, thugs, abused kids and kids who got no support at home. With these students, of course inner city public schools can't get enough qualified teachers and perform badly.

So these people talk about how great charter schools are on the show. What do they know? Do they read studies? No..of course they don't. This film is about kids and parents who want good education. How about kids and parents who don't want good education? How about the kids who fight in the school and the kids who don't want to be in school?

Do they have a solution? of course not...

Posted by: salukiindc | September 21, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, thank you, and thank you.

Sincerely,

The teacher's union

Posted by: psuvo | September 21, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Someone at The Post please listen to me.

Valerie is an idiot and needs to be sent packing.

I am so sick and tired of her bashing of Obama, Duncan, Klein, Rhee, Gates and anyone who gives a damn about our schools.

Who gave her this column? What qualifications does she have?

She is so out of mainstream thinking on education reform it is laughable.

I would like FULL DISCLOSURE on all of her ties to the unions and all of the other nuts who oppose reform. Let's have it. Speaking fees, future book deals, consulting fees??

I do not get her agenda. She is an embarrassment to this paper. I want to see ONE column-just one-quoting the horrific statistics in education-dropouts, etc.

Be honest with the public and tell them-AS A REPORTER SHOULD- the sorry state of education and the trillions spent and wasted over the last decade.

Let's hear it.

Posted by: takebackourschools | September 21, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

@39aka94

How many underperforming teachers did Ackerman or Janey fire? Really. How many?
Were there no underperforming teachers during their tenures?

As for the standards, they are even Janey's. They were cribbed from other states; so, let's not give him too much credit.

Posted by: TL67 | September 21, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

I have never read anything by you before today. I have no idea who your are, but after reading this article I was left scratching my head at the nasty tone. Not in the least constructive. It just seemed to be putting everyone down from Bill Gates, to Oprah, to Ms Lee. I do not watch Oprah, but I do not think, as you say, she pretends to be a policy wonk. In some wonderment I started googling to find out what your qualifications were to be sitting in judgement of the American education system. Where exactly your wonkhood comes from. I could find no Wiki on you but in the search I turned up many other articles you have written. They are all the same.... no there there....just snark. You seem to think that calling people names, denigrating them personally is journalism.... it isn’t even good commentary, dear. I think perhaps you are writing for the wrong “post.” You seem better suited to the NY Post than the Washington Post. Uncle Rupert loves vicious journalism without substance. I for one will not make the mistake of reading you again.

Posted by: tarryh | September 21, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Strauss,How long have you lived in Washington? How many times have you interviewed Ms.Rhee? How many times have you visited D.C. schools...which ones? How many Charter schools have you visited in D.C. - how many DCPS teachers have you watched teach classes. How many in- school teacher education days have you visited? How many fired teachers have you interviewed? How many dropouts have you talked to? Which past members of our elected and appointed school boards have you watched during meetings? How many have you interviewed...how many PTA meetings have you attended? Have you ever visted Crestwood or Hillcrest?
If Oprah aint a Warrior Book Club Leader...who is? Spit it out! What do you think about City Paper.."When it comes to reforming a failed school system, you either go monomaniacal or you go home."
Now, I am sure you have answered yes to many of the above questions...so, let us hear the real story from your fingers! And if not, as Bill Cosby says, Girl, you need to get out more.(and pick up a City Paper)

Posted by: judithclaire1939 | September 21, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

so the point is..charter schools are really not better at all and they don't resolve the biggest problem in education. Why is this film promoting charter schools? It makes no sense.

Posted by: salukiindc | September 21, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

The show was very short on details. What makes a good teacher. What are effective methods of teaching. How do they get a student four years below grade level in eighth grade ready for college as they claimed.

For a show dedicated to improving education it was sure light on facts and details.

Posted by: newcar | September 21, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Well if I didn't know you despised both Michelle Rhee or Oprah I'd know after reading this post. What I find most odd about all the criticism of Rhee is that I never hear anyone pose an alternative. Is there a schools chief somewhere in the country that does it right? Should kids be forced to have bad teachers while they undergo "Professional Development"? Would you accept that deal from your pediatrician? What is so bad about charter schools? They aren't the total answer, but what is wrong with poor kids having options? Middle/Upper class kids have options. There is a tinge of racism in the discussions when white educators want less choice for kids of color in big urban systems than they have for their own children. There seems to be an attitude that we can't try anything to learn. That kids should be held hostage to a system that continues to fail too many-not all-kids.

Posted by: newbop | September 21, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Oprah never said her show was about public policy.

The only thing this "article" highlights is Valerie Strauss' undying jealousy for Oprah's media empire. And the fact she's probably sleeping with Bill Turque.

Posted by: RL67 | September 21, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

The challenge that Superintendent Janey had was he was burdened with a convoluted School Board. Nonetheless, he implemented systemic changes that is, today, producing results.

When Mayor Anthony Williams sought control of DCPS, to bring more accountability to the system, empower and make it easier for the superintendent to carry out his mission, one council member voted against such mayoral control. The patronizing Councilman ADRIAN FENTY.

Under a Gray Administration, with such empowerment, a Dr. Janey would have the freedom to get reform back on track and move it strides forward. Without all of the disrespect and divisive foolishness that is part and parcel to chancellor Rhee.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | September 21, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: salukiindc
FYI:

For those who are too busy watching talk shows and never read education research, get this. Stanford University research shows that only 1/3 of charter schools perform better than public schools. Others are either worse or same as public schools.
+++++++++++++++

One of the reasons these teacher advocate/union types/ anit- Federal government reform types are finding themselves increasingly marginalized in the current debate is largely becuase of their tone.

Join any education discussion and you will find these condescending education types who through use of red herrings try to undermine anyone who has a view different from theirs.

For someone as knowledgeable as yourself you should know that charter school results vary widely (even with their selection processes),which shows that they are not a panacea.

Despite Push, Success at Charter Schools Is Mixed
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/02/education/02charters.html?hp

Posted by: moebius22 | September 21, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and by the way, charters may educate 5% of the nation's students, but they educate 40% of DC students.

Posted by: RL67 | September 21, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

@Buffysummers -- I agree with your point that Rhee is absolutely not the "leader" of the reform movement. In my mind, the true leaders are Joel Klein, the folks at KIPP, Green Dot, Mastery, and AUSL. I think Rhee gets so much publicity precisely because she's a polarizing figure and because she's a much more interesting quote than Joel Klein. I think she is still A leader (and valuable one at that) within the reform movement, but not THE leader.

@Captain Ahab -- the reason I suspect Rhee has never acknowledged (though she may have, I haven't read every quote) that income affects a student's education as much as their teacher is BECAUSE IT IS NOT TRUE. There are several schools out there (public, charter, and private) taking high poverty students and having high test scores, graduation rates, and college attendance. Numerous academic studies have shown that the quality of the teacher is the most important factor in educational success; I'm happy to provide some studies if you are willing to listen. My guess is you aren't interested.

Posted by: OldNumber3 | September 21, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

If you have kids, I doubt that they're going to a public school in DC. Seems like you're channeling with the teacher's unions garbage. Why is it the teacher's unions are against anything that would benefit the children? The teachers put their own selfish interests ahead of those who they're supposed to service. If "reform" means going back to the way it was before, a jobs program for poorly skilled teachers, then all will have been lost.

Posted by: NedKelly | September 21, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

@salukiindc "Inner city schools have bad teachers and lazy administrators because schools are violent and students are unmotivated. Most teachers don't want to teach there only bad ones who can't find jobs elsewhere."

Okay, you obviously don't think that Michelle Rhee's leadership is the key to changing this problem as you have identified it. So what is? You're awfully quick to dismiss the work of the Gates Foundation (which, contrary to your claim DOES most certainly have phenomenal success stories to show for its efforts), Oprah Winfrey, Rhee, etc... but you offer absolutely no suggestions for how to fix the failing DC schools.

Also have to ask: do you not understand what professional development is? Attacking Rhee as a hypocrite for soliciting professional development grants is insane! Professional development isn't just for failing teachers-- it helps all teachers stay abreast of the latest pedogogical techniques and methods. Of COURSE Rhee wants all DC teachers to have the opportunity to continue to professionally develop! That doesn't mean that she thinks that teachers should have multiple years to "improve" if their performance is unacceptable. There is zero hypocrisy in her position.

Rhee was the first person to stand up and say that the schools are BROKEN, regardless of the political consequences. As a parent, and as a teacher, I feel like she was a ray of hope in a chasm of educational darkness in DC. We will no doubt lose her now that Gray is the heir apparent, and that loss will be tremendous to DC's kids. Your entry was the most head against the keyboard ridiculous post I have ever read on this website.

Posted by: mb77 | September 21, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Education reform is a serious issue that impacts millions of lives. It should not be a topic for a show such as Oprah to cover. It deserves a venue that fosters serious discussion.

Posted by: Aerowaz | September 21, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

CAN SOMEONE EXPLAIN WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR DCPS PRE-RHEE??????

everyone is focused on Rhee-can someone explain what was so great about DCPS before her tenure? Also, have any of you parents or teachers taken any responsibility for the general underperformance of the school system prior to Rhee? Can any of you in the DCPS explain why it cost twice as much to educate kids in DC as it does in Moco or fairfax?

What is/was the the tenure policy for teachers in DC prior to Rhee?

Were you satisfied with the education in DCPS prior to rhee?

Please answer these questions before we discuss Rhee any more. please.

Posted by: minhle1 | September 21, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

@RL67:
Yes. that's my point. Since success at charter schools is mixed, why are so many people thinking charter schools are the saviors of education? And it's the central point of the film discussed on Oprah's show.

FCPS and MCPS are successful because of dedicated leaders and strong teachers. They will never hire someone like Michell Rhee to lead. DCPS is broken and needs someone who is as good or better than FCPS or MCPS superintendent plus experiences with inner city schools. Not someone who has no credentials like Michelle Rhee.

Posted by: salukiindc | September 21, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

The current testing cycle and focus on assessments is just wrong. Colleges have taken a while, but have finally determined that a good SAT score is not a guarantee for a good college student. But rather is an indicator of which students have parental resources that can afford SAT prep, tutoring, etc. Similarly, high DC-CAS scores are not an indication of high academic achievement by a student or of a great teacher, but rather a great indicator of which students have been appropriately coached/taught to the test.

My son's third grade teacher (last year) only taught according to what was going to be on the test. That meant that there was little to no science, social studies, etc being covered in class. There was also no suggestions for accelerated work for advanced students or catchup work for students that may not have mastered the latest concepts. It was simply a march to cover the test subjects before the DC-CAS was given.

I know that the DC curriculum standards are supposed to be the very basic level of what each student should learn throughout a school year. I also know that under Rhee there has been a steady pressure not to deviate from the curriculum standards. I don't place a great deal of blame on teachers overall. Many of my son's teachers have had less than 4 years of teaching experience. With little training beyond the sub par exposure in college, how are new teachers supposed to know what each age group/grade level is capable of?

Many of our local and national problems require us, as a nation, to face huge questions if we seriously want to compete with other developed nations. Why do schools still take the summer off? Why does school only last 6 hours a day? Why don't we value the contributions of teachers at the same level as doctors, police officers and firemen?

What does it take to make a great teacher? How can a school district support their best and offer help to improve others?

The answers do exist to these questions. They've been asked before. The books and articles are out there for anyone who is serious about getting answers.

This latest reform storm is not very different from the storms of previous generations that brought us untested, failing theories like open classrooms and whole language instruction.

The answer to most of these questions lies in implementing tested, research-based programs and curricula, not elevating harped theories and attacking the integrity of students and teachers.

Posted by: vbj_dc | September 21, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

I know a few teachers and they are not tenured. Some states don't offer tenure.

It all depends on the School District and the State. So that statement was a fallacy.

One element that has been dropped from the equation is parental involvement.

It makes a big difference.

Also with the Race to the Top program there is an inequality because of the hard line on the percentage needed to pass in order to keep ones teaching position.

In some Districts and States students needing basic skills are in separate classes, then there are special classes for students who have behavioral problems.

But in other States they are mainstreamed so this skews the results of the achievement tests.

A one-size-fits-all approach won't address the problems in all schools.


Posted by: janet8 | September 21, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

A few reminders:

1. Charter schools are part of the public school system; they just have a little more flexibility to try new approaches. They owe it to the larger system at all times, in my view, to report back on successful experiments that might be susceptible of wider use.

2. Ms. Rhee came to one of the sickest inner school systems in the country (in our capitol, no less!) and implemented some tough-minded changes that, if they're left in place, will almost have to result in better education for the children in DC's public schools. There really is no other relevant measure of her worth than that: the children first, last, and foremost.

3. Some of our very best teachers are Teach for America types who have no teaching background at all, other than that which TFA itself provides in greatly attenuated cram fashion. The single best teaching I ever saw in a classroom was performed by one of these---after all of 3 weeks' experience! To me, it's what you do that counts---not your resume.

4. Finally, I do know a little about education, having spent a lifetime in it, working at the undergrauate and graduate levels in developing countries, and capping this with 3 years' experience as a Third Grade teacher (getting my M.Ed simultaneously) in the South Bronx, as a New York City Teaching Fellow. Now, at my charter school, we're trying to do what we can to make the system work better, and so far we've been first out of the South Bronx's 21 elementary school ever since we began taking the standardized tests. For more, please go to: www.southbronxclassical.org

Posted by: CStephenBaldwinBoardChairSouthBronxClassicalCharterSchool | September 21, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Rhee had no intentions of creating education reform in DC. If she did, then why is it that most of the DCPS teachers still have to purchase their own supplies for school? Also, why is it that inner city (we're talking urban Southeast DC) schools do not have adequate books?? Her and Fenty did absolutely nothing for these kids. No new books, no teaching materials and then she had the audacity to fire many qualified teachers and replace them with people who do not have their undergraduate degrees in Education - people who simply passed the Praxis and needed a job - what kind of mess is that? So you mean to tell me it's ok to fire a teacher with 20 years of experience working with urban youth who holds both an undergraduate and graduate degree in Education and replace that teacher with someone who holds a liberal arts degree, has no teaching experience and does not care about what these kids have to live through everyday? Oprah is out of touch, and I'm glad Rhee's job is on the line. This idiot was the person responsible for bribing kids to come to school by paying them.

Posted by: happy21 | September 21, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

This is obviously a biased article but it's obviously a blog report and not anything representing journalistic integrity. Unforunately, most replies are filled with vitriol and unproductive. Whenever I see anger at Ivy League Education, it's from people who envy it. I went through the Public School System in D.C. It's very broken and experts in education have NOT been the answer. If someone else wants to try, so be it! More than that, I found the biggest problems to be unions who fight to protect poorly performing teachers, administrators fighting to protect bloated administrative budgets and compensation and salary incentives that don't provide enough incentive for success, punitive enough for failure or rewarding enough to ensure the best and brightest teachers go where they are needed (inner city schools). Lastly, I found many students disengaged and parents more interested in athletics versus academia and schools with very little power to remove distracting students.
Until you can impact those groups with so much political influence (such as the unions), it does not matter who you get. They don't need degrees in education; they need political courage! That is what is sorely missing.

Posted by: bigjames357 | September 21, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

@NedKelly: Save it! To demand highly qualified credentials, to demand the BEST for DCPS school children is not to settle for bad teachers. You are comparing apples and oranges and you darn well know it.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | September 21, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Rhee was right to fire the incompetents. And Oprah is right when she did not want to give all her money to inner-city kids whose values are all screwed up. She is right, if they really want to they can get a good education. Here we have to reward these losers money for good grades. No way that would be necessary in other countries. Bad parenting is the culprit.

Posted by: jackson641 | September 21, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

@mb77:
Do you even know many of Gates Foundation schools struggle? One of them had to be shut down? How naive...

Posted by: salukiindc | September 21, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

@minhle1: I can, Dr. Clifford Janey, the academic improvement plan he implemented is what is producing the changes we see today.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | September 21, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

I salute Ms Rhee for her courage and her vision. The DC schools are a mess and she appears to be the first and only authority that has been willing to make the hard choices to offend the stake holders that want to maintain the status que. I fear that the newly elected Gray will allow the schoools to slip back into the dismal condition they were before Rhee arrived. No sane person who has options would send their kids to a DC public school.

Posted by: YadaYada1 | September 21, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

The barrier to DCPS progress during the Williams Administration was the patronizing councilman from Ward 4, Adrian M. Fenty.

He was vocally against the idea of the Mayor taking over the school system to bring about the level of professional accountability that he brought to the rest of District government.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | September 21, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

YadaYada1: With all due respect. You are wrong.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | September 21, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

I'm appalled at the lack of objectivity in Mrs. Strauss' report. Perhaps the most ridiculous claim is that Adrian Fenty's loss was due to Rhee's reforms.

It is ironic, that her writing exhibits the take-no-prisoner style that she accuses 'warrior' Chancellor Rhee of.

This column is not a school survival guide, it's pure venom; full of hatred and contempt. The comments posted here attest to that. Such a writing should be found in a personal blog, not in a reputable, international newspaper.

Posted by: bire | September 21, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

What an idiotic piece? The writer must be ignorant or a former teacher who protects the education status quo in inner cities. US invariably is almost dead last in k-12 achievements (Science, Math) when compared to the developed world. Why do you think that is so? With the exception of few rich county schools most US k-12 schools are wasteland. That is why we have upcoming ignoramus wannabe politicians, case in point Sarah Palin who used to practice witchcraft/excorcism in her church, the new kid in town Chrity O' Donell who admitted in dubbing in witchcraft etc. Reason people like them never had serious science, math, instruction like most inner city students. It shows the US slipping downhill. If Oprah, Gates and the like discuss on how to improve the state of education in America and t boot throw millions on the effort God bless them. Colleges of Education certainly are ill equipped to come with any serious solution since they are populated by less capable 'academics' when compared with other disciplines and all they produce is poorly designed education 'research' that have no relevancy to the sad education system in many communities. Of course there always competent teachers, administrators, and college of education academics but they are the exception rather than the rule. That is why we are where we are.

Posted by: ere591 | September 21, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

And Valerie, who are YOU and what are YOUR credentials? Have you been involved in education? Have you seen what education looks like overseas? Have you lived abroad? Just how knowledgeable and experienced are you in this matter?

Posted by: reader123 | September 21, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Valerie, can you explain some of this circular logic. a common complaint about Rhee is her firing of teachers, yet you derided her for cutting off the firings at a minimum performance level (of 700 teachers) because she made a statement about not tolerating minimum performance? Which way do you want it.

Still no one taking responsibility for the underperformance of DCPS pre-rhee.

I'm not even her supporter...I just find it laughable that anyone who contributed to the problem is claiming that Rhee is the only problem. Lot's of self-serving in these comments.

Posted by: minhle1 | September 21, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

I tried to post a comment on Oprah's website regarding Rhee placing "masking tape" on mouths of children and the comment was rejected.

Oprah is pure propaganda; only comments that glorify her show's topics are posted !

Posted by: dcnatives | September 21, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who expects to be educated by watching Oprah was born a fool and will die a fool.

Ms. Oprah is all about inflating her bank account and her ego.

Posted by: krankyman | September 21, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

The rap on Ms. Winfrey is not true. She knows exactly who she is. She knows she is an entertainer, a feel good talker, the women who is the doyen of the afternoon intellectual set who would like to believe they deeply understand the issues of the day. And as for the dog-and-pony-show aspect of her guests and topic line-ups; that’s her keen understanding of the intellectual dalliance of her audience. They are no more interested in public policy than a group of 8 year olds playing with firecrackers, are interested in aerospace engineering

Posted by: rc115shepherd | September 21, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

The rap on Ms. Winfrey is not true. She knows exactly who she is. She knows she is an entertainer, a feel good talker, the women who is the doyen of the afternoon intellectual set who would like to believe they deeply understand the issues of the day. And as for the dog-and-pony-show aspect of her guests and topic line-ups; that’s her keen understanding of the intellectual dalliance of her audience. They are no more interested in public policy than a group of 8 year olds playing with firecrackers, are interested in aerospace engineering.

Posted by: rc115shepherd | September 21, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

I'm not a fan of this article. It has a somwhat snarky tone and states opinions as facts "she never listened to anyone." Really? Maybe she did listen and what people were saying was the same crap that made DCPS not ready for third world quality. People never like change. Change agents are often subjected to personal attacks as thier plans are implemented. Ms. Rhee is no different. She was a major upgrade and losing her is going to be a painful loss.

Posted by: bob29 | September 21, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

@minhle1: I can, Dr. Clifford Janey, the academic improvement plan he implemented is what is producing the changes we see today.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc

You need to do better than this when trying to present FACTS and not your opinion. The schools were still a mess during his tenure (and I'm not making a complaint against him), and you think that when improvements took place under Rhee, we should assume it was because of Janny?

Posted by: minhle1 | September 21, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

salukiindc with a whopping ten posts. Something tells me this person has an ax to grind.

Posted by: joemdavis55 | September 21, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

@Saluki -- I have never heard a reasonable person on either side of this debate declare that all charters are great, or that we should move to an all charter system. The reason some charters are touted are because they are some of the most successful high poverty yet high performing models in the country. Obviously, some public schools also perform very well with these populations and some charters fail. The debate (at least among intelligent, nuanced people) is not charters vs. public; it's about what policies lead to better results. It's important to look at lessons from successful charter and public models to figure out how to improve schools.

Successful policies include extended school days, with an increased emphasis on math and reading help drive performance; common planning time for teachers and data-driven professional development (using formative assessment data to help teachers figure out where students are struggling); the ability to dismiss low-performing teachers; the power to enforce strict codes of conduct and responsibility; and a focus on social/emotional student wellbeing.

These are what we should be trying to bring to schools; no matter how are they are governed. In many instances, it's easier to do this at charters, but true change will not arrive until we can change publics to sustaining 8 hr school days, dismissal of low-performing staff, and more from above. To repeat -- nobody wants only charters, we just want good programs, whether it's public or charter doesn't matter.

Posted by: OldNumber3 | September 21, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Clearly, Rhee was never qualified, certified or have any Education credentials to be an expert in Education or a Chancellor. Rhee taped her students' lips together to manage her classroom. Rhee needs to be investigated for protecting a child molester at Shadd School who raped an 18 year old Special Education Emotional Disturb student. Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee and Davis Guggenheim have one agenda to bash Public Education to promote Charter Public Schools.

There are bad employees in every career arena. Case in point, judges, lawyers, doctors, Congressmen, police officers, news resporters, actors, actress, National Sports Team, Tiger Woods, USA Presidents, etc. Stop bashing teachers and volunteer at your neighborhood public schools. It takes a village to raise a child. Some parents/grandparents need a lot of guidance and assistance. Teachers do not have any authority in public schools only Administrators, City Council members, Mayor and Michelle Rhee, Damage Controller and Fabricator.

DCPS students deserve a competent, certified and experienced Superintendent.

Oprah should invite a panel of DCPS concerned educators to share the other side/facts of Rhee's reform initiaties. Rhee's reform overspending, overhiring and manufacturing a Reduction-in-Force (October 2, 2009), breaking the Hatch Act Law and mismanaging budgets.

Enough is Enough!!!

Posted by: sheilahgill | September 21, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

To concernedaboutdc:

I stand corrected, Ms Rhee is not the only authority to stand up to the status que.

Posted by: YadaYada1 | September 21, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

I don't like HOW Rhee gets things done, but it's hard to ignore some of the changes since she came on. Anyone who taught before can attest to how much more efficient 825 (I know it's moved, but old habits...) has become. More schools have consistent heat, less schools have leaky roofs, more schools have improved security. It's far from perfect, but these are concrete changes that affect DCPS students and their perception of going to school, which impacts learning.

It'd be nice if Rhee had a handler to be the public voice, but for getting things done I think she deserves credit. Someone credited Janney with the standards, but unless I'm mistaken those were written by and driven by 3 principals, which came into being under Janney. Can anyone back me up on that?

Posted by: eadc | September 21, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

"In school districts like Fairfax County and Montgomery County, you have to get graduate degrees in school administration and education leadership. Principals and administrators not only know how to be a leader but also know about teaching. Many of them have EdD or Phd.

Here we have people know nothing about education think they know all the solutions. That's so ridiculous. Michelle Rhee went to Cornell. Bill Gates went to Harvard. Guggenheim went to Brown. What do they know about inner city schools? What makes them experts on this issue?"

LOL you raise the question of the true value of a college degree. Do you need to have a Ph.D in education to run a bunch of K-12 schools well?

So fine: what is the main characteristic of the highest-performing k-12 academic system in the country? I'd guess just off the top of my head? The fact that the students come from successful two-parent families.

Posted by: tokenwhitemale | September 21, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

To all those who blame 'ill equipped' colleges of education and teachers unions:

Maybe you should look at how other countries succeed in educating their children, such as Finland, Japan, Germany, Singapore and South Korea. I don't think they'd say credit everything to teachers although those countries do have high quality teachers. These countries are well-known for their values of hardworking and love for learning. Parents are always a big part of education. They would NEVER blame only 'teachers' for the failure of underperforming students.

What's wrong with USA? Why is that parents and students don't have to take any responsibilities? When something's wrong, blame the teacher and school first. People don't like to look at themselves in the mirror and say "What can I do for my children's education?"

Posted by: salukiindc | September 21, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

@minhle1: I do just fine with facts when I was living here to witness the work of Dr. Janey, I know the facts. The fact is Chancellor Rhee did not make major modifications to the DCPS school improvement plan that was in place when she got here.

What made Dr. Janey's job monumentally more difficult than Chancellor Rhee was that he reported to a School Board where Rhee reports only to the Mayor.

When Anthony Williams sought mayoral control of DCPS, Councilmember Fenty blocked it. I guess, then, the barrior to academic improvement the 8 years of the Williams Administration was current Mayor Adrian Fenty.

Nonetheless, the academic improvement plan was implemented and is producing fruit. You don't reach measurable academic improvement in 3 years, it just doesn't happen that way.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | September 21, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

If teachers are the ones who should be responsible and the teachers in the US are really so bad...how about we hire teachers from top performing countries such as Finland and Singapore? You think their teachers will be able to survive our inner city schools and make our kids do as well? Or they will scream and run back to their countries in two weeks??? Huh?

Posted by: salukiindc | September 21, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Rhee is a parent? I thought she is just getting (or just got) married! Oh well, ...

Posted by: ashrink | September 21, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Under Rhee's mentality if you hire an attorney and you lose your case then you can fire and disbar your attorney. Rhee's scores are improving because she has improved scores by disinvesting kids and having them drop out to improve her bottom line. Let the teachers take the podium and sit with Opra and tell their side of the story. If a fireman can't controll a house fire and the house burns down--do we fire the fireman for the personal property loss? What kind of punative ultra right wing mentality is this.

Posted by: sb14247mapes | September 21, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

I'm pretty torn on this article, while it raises some excellent points, I can only applaud the efforts of Bill Gates and Oprah for all that they have done financially for the education system. With that being said though, as with any problem-throwing money at it isn't enough to affect change. Rhee is a reminder of the soon to be defunct Fenty administration and will probably find a job in Cali with her beau. But, I have the most most brilliant idea of them all! How about we get parents to do their job at home and get their children to understand the importance of a good education! I guess thats one thing that education reform can't do-change the socio-economic status of the people who are actually educated by public schools.

Posted by: elijah405 | September 21, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: concernedaboutdc

you don't know the facts because you have stated not one factual item of proof that one or any of the improvements were derived from Janny's efforts. Notice that I am not claiming that Janny didn't do good, but you need to overcome the FACT that during his watch, the DCPS was not performing on many levels. This is a fact.


Not, in each of your posts, you are stating assumptions, inferences and your opinion. what I would appreciate are some facts, studies, links so that I can appreciate your claim that Janny is the reason for all the improvements under Rhee.

also, your having LIVED in the city does not make you an expert of the facts, I currently live in the city and have been a resident for 14 years...I am not an expert simply because of my residency.

Posted by: minhle1 | September 21, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

What a bunch of hogwash you just wrote. You should be ashamed of yourself. DC schools were the pits and last in the country until Rhee came in. What have all you educators done for DC lately but whine. Get over yourselves and do a job to education all of our children. Then, maybe, someone will listen to what little you have to say.

Posted by: starr5 | September 21, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Under Rhee's mentality if you hire an attorney and you lose your case then you can fire and disbar your attorney. Rhee's scores are improving because she has improved scores by disinvesting kids and having them drop out to improve her bottom line. Let the teachers take the podium and sit with Opra and tell their side of the story. If a fireman can't controll a house fire and the house burns down--do we fire the fireman for the personal property loss? What kind of punative ultra right wing mentality is this.

Posted by: sb14247mapes

LOL, you think any attorney in private or public practice can withstand 20-30 years of losing cases and still maintain employment. If a fireman gets to the burning house and hoses down the shed, it's not underperformance but rather circumstance? good logic!

Posted by: minhle1 | September 21, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

I wish Rhee had asked her for some of that money for the D.C. schools that she is supposed to fix.
----

are you kidding me? more money for DCPS?

Posted by: thor2 | September 21, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

I don't get it. Test scores have almost doubled in DCPS and have risen dramatically at every grade level during Rhee's tenure. The improvements have far outpaced most other major cities in the country. Almost every measurable category in DC public schools has improved during her tenure. Check for yourself. The numbers are not hard to find.

Certainly, she says things that make me cringe and is not the most media savvy person, but she has been EFFECTIVE and it shows in the numbers. As a graduate of DCPS I'm happy to finally see someone making REAL improvements.

Obviously, the voters care more about image than effectiveness.

Posted by: k-paul | September 21, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Michelle Rhee is interested in her own celebrity. She's made a name by firing people and causing turmoil in DC. Where are the results? There are none. Judging her by her own standards, she's a failure. I'm sure she'll be okay though, as her ex-NBA player mayor of Sacramento will give her a nice air of faux credibility. Disgusting!!!

Posted by: gce1356 | September 21, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

@TL67 Not only is Rhee not qualified but she has something that none of her very qualified predecessors have possessed...a single authority to answer to - the Mayor. She didn't even have to answer to the State Superintendent of Education Deborah Gist; who by the way is not only more qualified but went to Rhode Island and implemented those same changes...the right way. Yeah the Chancellor/Superintendent of DC Public Schools is supposed to report to the State Superintendent of Education. However, the Office of the State Superintendent becomes obsolete or ineffective if their underlings make almost double their salary, is treated like their equal, and is identified as the driving force of reform in the District. This is BS! More importantly, the WTU is a major part of the problem as well.

Granted, serious reform was and is needed in DC Public Schools. However, if Rhee's predecessors (Janey, Vance, Ackerman, etc.) had received the same support, latitude, and power of enforcement from the DC power structure the tenor of this conversation would be totally different. Imagine if you had 3 or 4 different bosses that you had to report to BUT each was independent of the other and all had different agendas? That was the environment prior to Fenty/Rhee and its dismemberment is Fenty’s GREATEST accomplishment. Maybe Gray can convince Janey and Gist to come back and enact comprehensive reform that goes beyond the headlines.

Posted by: Jigsaw | September 21, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

judging by this article and many posts, there's no wonder why DCPS has been so bad for so long. A lot of self-serving going on here and no accountability. sad.

Posted by: minhle1 | September 21, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

We need to turn the page on Michelle Rhee. She is simply too divisive to be effective in her job. Vincent Gray should recruit and hire Jeffrey Cannady. Jeffrey has done remarkable work in the New York City Public Schools. His kind of leadership would improve DC's standing throughout the country. Jeffrey's success was featured on 60 Minutes several years ago. Since that time NYPS promoted him to Assistant Superintendent. He would be a breath of fresh air to the reform movement here. He would also bring credibility to the task having performed exceptionally at every level.

Posted by: davidalanwatts | September 21, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

@minhle1: I'll agree that when Dr. Janey was here, and left, DCPS wasn't performing where it should be on many levels. They still aren't. However, when he was appointed Superintendent it was Dr. Janey that assembled some of the greatest urban school administrative minds in the nation here in the District, developed and implemented an improvement plan, unique to the challenges of District students. The plan was not dramatically changed by Rhee, in fact, she lauded the plan when she took the helm of the system.

When you talk about young people, who have been a part of an under performing public school system, dramatic changes to that system do not produce dramatic academic results instantaneously, not even over the course of 1-2 years. Thus, if the system that his team developed hasn't been changed, then it is that system that is driving the improvement no matter who is administering the schools. Lets be clear, he completely overhauled the curriculum within DCPS.

To her credit, Chancellor Rhee has not deviated with the anticipated improvement of that plan and has used the leverage that she was given, with Mayoral control over the schools, to get things done faster.

However, again, it was a an improvement that the DCPS would have seen sooner, had then councilmember Adrian Fenty supported Mayoral Control putting politics over children.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | September 21, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

@K-Paul,
The initial improvements that were present during her first yr & 1/2 were the byproduct of her predecessor, Dr. Janey's, reform efforts . Now that her reforms have taken hold...the numbers have dropped. That's a fact that her spin machine has been trying to get around but they can't.

"Numbers don't lie, but the people handling them have been known to upon occassion."

Reform is needed, just not the way Rhee wants to do it...

Posted by: Jigsaw | September 21, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

I am a product of public education and taught, counseled and coached for 40 years in a public school system. I also taught inmates preparing to take the GED exam in a county prison for 6 years.
During that time, the vast majority of the teachers I worked with were committed to their students and were professional in their approach. There are people in all professions who should be fired or retrained. Do you think it is easy to get rid of incompetent doctors or lawyers?
My main point is that poor teachers are not the main problem. Public schools in the inner cities today are a reflection of the state of those cities. Our governments (state and federal) have basically given up on adressing the problems cities are dealing with. Until there is a national commitment to revitalize and reintegrate cities into the fabric of our country nothing is going to help. Right now politicians cynically bash teacher's unions to whip up votes. Oprah has a good heart but Gates,Rhee and Guggenheim do not have the answers. Charter schools will not fix the overall problem. In fact by draining resources from public schools they are only hurting the kids.

Posted by: jp1943 | September 21, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

joemdavis55 - salukiindc is OK, although a little overwrought on school issues.

But I learned a long time ago... whenever saluki starts a post with "Funny...", you can bet that not only won't it be funny, but it probably won't be very interesting. The first comment today is a fine example.

Posted by: bobsewell | September 21, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

If ever there was a TV show whose audience consisted primarily of glassy eyed Stepford wives, Oprah is it.

It's a little surprising that you are shocked that she would put on a show on a subject she knows nothing about. The producer/writers script all these shows in advance, and too important to spend time doing research Oprah just babbles around and through their scripts. For years she has been offering advice on mothering, being a good wife and family member, on losing weight, on how to maintain relationships, how to do this and how to do that --- absolutely none of these topics does she possess any actual or even academic knowledge. She does have the gift of gab, and a puppy dog look of sincerity that has worked for her. Expertise and knowledge is not one of her strengths.

Come to think of it, no wonder she loved Obama so much. They have much in common.

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | September 21, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

@tokenwhitemale:

You got it! You said school districts are good because of their two-parent families and students? Well then...in DC where a lot of kids have one or no parents, the reason schools are bad is very obvious. Why are teachers the only people to be blamed?? Did these teachers give birth to these children or what?

btw, I am not and was not a DC teacher. I just hate to see people who don't know anything about education act like they know everything.

Posted by: salukiindc | September 21, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Pretty snarky article. To me, the terms "...listening to others...," "...being inclusive in decision making...," are code words for don't change the system, the system where people get paid for not doing any meaningful work...a system where lazy, unqualified people pile on to rape the taxpayer for some sort of reparations of past insults. The school system was a reflection of the bigger DC problem where the taxpayer was supposed to turn a blind eye to rampant corruption and self-dealing.

Fixing that sort of problem is not a matter for parliamentary debate and time-consuming huggy-feely consultations. The teachers affected had had the benefit of decades of supposedly more sensitive listeners/mayors...to no good end. What you got from all those "wise" teachers and administrators were schools that didn't open on time, students who dropped out at alarming rates, and, when they did stay in school, students who couldn't compete effectively in academic subjects. Why waste time trying to dig out gems of wisdom by consulting with that group of under-performers?

"We can't get our students to do well in school--when we can get them open--but listen to us before you try to fix it 'cause we know what's wrong!"

Clean house, make new rules, and build a healthy, new, fresh system from the ground up. Does that step on toes? Tough cookies.

Do DC residents really want to go back to a time when nothing worked, but nobody's feathers were ruffled? Maybe so, maybe that's what the recent election said.

If Rhee goes and a huggy-touchy-feely administrator is brought in, check the school performance in 3-4 years to see if that approach really works.

Posted by: dnickell | September 21, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

First, a comment to the Post.com editors: it would be nice if editorial/blog (whatever you call this type of writing) writers were identified. The author suggests readers "follow my blog" but her name is nowhere on the page that I can see, including where it should be - right next to her picture.

For the author, any school superintendent or chancellor will "find themselves in trouble" on occasion. It is impossible to always do the 'right' thing and in education, there are few instances where school system staff, parents, students, and taxpayers will all agree on what the 'right' thing is. Your editorial comes off as an insular attack. Talk about personality politics...

Your comment about Oprah, "her viewers should have known that they were watching an entertainment show with a show woman -- not an educator -- as host" again comes off as a personal judgment. Oprah can easily be described as an educator, and not just on her TV show. She is involved in providing direct education to South African girls, and she uses her platform as host, producer, writer, etc to create shows/movies that educate (on topics ranging from nature to health to African American history) as well as promoting ideals of education - starting with personal responsibility and personal enjoyment (as with her Book Club and shows devoted to personal health).

Finally, the recent mayoral election in D.C. is broadly accepted as having been about personality politics, not actual substance. Rhee is a lightning rod, for sure, but it takes a while, and a strong disposition who won't be obsessed with every negative comment made about her, to make lasting change in a large system like the D.C. Public Schools which, we should remember, are failing in so many ways. I am a supporter of Rhee as a taxpayer and as someone who cares about the education available to my neighbors. I may not agree with every statement Rhee makes or every decision she makes, but I believe she's working herself to the bone on behalf of the betterment of the schools and that's all I can expect.

Posted by: rduguay | September 21, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

@Saluki -- You are pathetic. Nobody is suggesting we hire teachers from Finland. We should hire teachers from ed schools and alternative certification sources, we should offer them the best PD available, and we should be able to remove the ones who consistently underperform (as judged by principals, peers, and value-add metrics). You aren't even engaging in a real argument. Please read my earlier comments, and reply if you have anything valuable to contribute.

Posted by: OldNumber3 | September 21, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

What Rhee has lost, and will never reclaim, is the support of the parents of over 80% of DCPS students. African American parents, according to the WP gave Chancellor Rhee a 12% approval rating. Chancellor Rhee, regardless of her intentions, will never be able to achieve school reform when this major stakeholder does not support her. Parents are an instrumental part of any such success. When she put herself above the students and politicized DCPS reform to serve her own ambitions, she alienated these stakeholders.

I don't think she is the best person to do the job of improving DCPS. I respect education and experience. Education is the whole POINT of public school education. Reform has to be about more than an individual. It has to be systemic and supersede person and personality. That system has already been introduced to DCPS. Unlike Rhee, most successful superintendents do not wrap academic success around themselves, damning it to Hades, if they are not intimately involved with it. That is nothing more than inflated ego.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | September 21, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

I guess the DC voters spoke. I guess they like the third-world thing rather than living in the first-world.

I guess the Anacostians like it that way - broken. DC, welcome back to Zimbabwe.

If I were Rhee I would pack my bags and go as quickly as I could right after the new guy gets in. She is much better than all the Anacostians put together.

There is no hope for a Zimbabwe-like population.

Posted by: joseph_charles | September 21, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

@bobsewell:

You are just angry that yon can't find evidence to debate with me. Watching Oprah won't help you.

Posted by: salukiindc | September 21, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

"NEVER LET THE FACTS GET IN THE WAY OF A GOOD STORY" IT IS PURE FANTASY THAT RHEE HAS TURNED AROUND THE D.C. SCHOOL SYSTEM. MAYOR FENTY LET THIS LOOSE CANNON FREE, NOW HE IS UNEMPLOYED. RHEE WOULD DO A GREAT JOB IN CUBA OR THE OLD SOVIET UNION BECAUSE SHE WOULD NOT HAVE TO LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE SHE IS SUPPOSE TO SERVE.

Posted by: kevltrlaw | September 21, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Oldnumber 3:

No you are pathetic. I never said bad teachers should n't be moved. Yes they should be fired. But DCPS needs to be led by an experienced and knowledgeable professional who has communication skills. I never defended DCPS. Instead I want them to hire a real leader, not someone who thinks teachers are the ONLY problem.

You are so pathetic that you can't even read before making comments.

Posted by: salukiindc | September 21, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Money doesn't solve all problems! When will people realize that it's not fully the teachers who are responsible for whats going on in the schools? We can keep Rhee here for 50 years and she can switch teachers every other year, but until the parents become more involved we'll still be having the same argument. Unfortunately, her head is too big to realize that. Most are either on the far right or distant left, there has to be some compromise to make it work.

Furthermore, why attack Valerie? If you dont like what you have read then get over it! I read a lot I dont like on the Washington Post, which is in direct contrast to this piece. I'm sure there's something you can find that will pacify your "Pro-Rhee" needs.

Posted by: missboo | September 21, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

There is a cardinal principle in group dynamics and community development. In order to change an existing dysfunctional system you must first understand it and secondly, appreciate/respect the system and those who work in and with it. Once you do those two things you have basically laid the foundation for change because (a) you have enhanced your own knowledge of how the existing system works, (b) you now probably understand why it does not work or why it works the way it does and (c) you have probably significantly reduced any chance for friction and animosity with the people you met working with and in the existing system. Working with the existing system is not necessarily the same as accepting it; it involves communicating with the people and respecting their points of view even as you attempt to implement your vision for change. This is something I learned when I attended a 3-year teacher training and community leadership institute some years ago.

Michelle Rhee did not care to do that with the DC school system when she came in as Chancellor. She seemed to have come in with a certain level of disdain and condescension for the people who were already working in and with the system. Ms. Rhee also appeared to be arrogant and she acted accordingly, just like the man who hired her, namely, Major Adrian Fenty.

Beside the issue of incompetence, teachers in this country’s public schools have to deal with children who come to class with a plethora of problems, one of the most overlooked of which is their funky, nasty, rude and I-have-the-freedom-to-do-whatever-I-want-to-do attitude. Some of those kids do not even respect their own parents or guardians! Some go to school high on prescription drugs, illicit drugs or something of some sort. Imagine trying to teach someone (anyone) who is high on weed or anything. You will have more success trying to make an impact by peeing in sand!

Posted by: erickaba | September 21, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

@bobsewell:

and one more...I said Oprah show was funny...

Apparently your reading comprehension is very low. You are neither funny nor able to read.

Posted by: salukiindc | September 21, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

How dare a democrat want to fire incompetent black union teachers because he is more concerned with educating the black children. Valerie, quit being so hypocritical and call a spade a spade. Nobody is fooled about the real issue with Rhee and Fenty.

Posted by: bobilly1 | September 21, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

@Jigsaw,

What spin machine? The biggest improvements in test scores and graduation rates have been over the past year. Furthermore, DC teachers have been increasingly taking advantage of the continuing education incentives for which she found funding.

Not ONE of these negative posts have cited any measurable or empirical evidence of deterioration of DCPS in any capacity during her tenure. Am I in some other dimension where actual facts are irrelevant?

Posted by: k-paul | September 21, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Valerie,

You have officially qualified as a member of the NEA. When you continually degrade the education reform efforts of folks like Michelle Rhee, that's one thing. You disagree with her style, her presentation, her persona, or whatever. All of these are mildly excusable.

But when you disagree with people of character such as President Obama, Bill Gates, and now Oprah, because they're all on the ditch the status quo platform of education reform you simply do not have a leg to stand on.

Two of them are African American and have nothing but the utmost of concern for poor/minority children in this country and the other one has spent untold millions, perhaps billions, of his own money attempting to find solutions to the problems that inner-city kids experience in school.

Therefore, your attempts to castigate and/or criticize anything these three have attempted to do with regards to education reform is cause for dismissal. Your are hereby terminated from employment at the Washington Post and have exactly thirty minutes to clear your personal belongings from the building. Two security guards have been posted at your door to ensure you safe and expedient exit from said premise.

Posted by: phoss1 | September 21, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

salukiindc - I've read your posts exhaustively in this and other forums. As I said, you're OK with me, and seldom say anything with which I vehemently disagree. You'll not that I didn't disagree with you here, and wasn't even addressing anything you stated.

But (as you just exhibited) you get a little frenzied when the subject is schools. And I stand by the fact that your posts starting with "Funny..." are never, in fact, funny or interesting. Doesn't make you a bad person, but humor is not your strong suit.

Posted by: bobsewell | September 21, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

"You'll note...", not "You'll not..."

(Sigh)

Posted by: bobsewell | September 21, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Well, the girls out selling masking tape are getting their shots in...Ms. Strauss, please pass this on to the person who hired you. Get on the Green Line (Branch Avenue) and go out to Congress Heights...you will find Ward 7 (very close to Ward 8. Now, find Hillcrest- ask around the neighborhood for someone who knows and cares about the schools...Hire a writer for January! If you don't do the Metro...take Pa.Ave extended to Southern avenue- turn right- voila! Congress Heights/Hillcrest ( lots of trees - open feeling) Then on the way back, stop off at the Anacostia Museum (if you haven't been there before) there is a bus from the Anacostia Metro stop! (ask about possible writers there) Have fun- a field trip! (take your boss with you)

Posted by: judithclaire1939 | September 21, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

The commentary on Rhee's tenure lacks the nuance needed to really give it animation. On the one hand, as someone whose always worked for someone else, I comprehend the rap against Rhee that she's intimidating and insensitive to teachers and not especially supportive of their development. We're all human and when our boss is negative about us as a group, our confidence takes a hit. So I'd guess even some of the very best teachers are quite afraid of being fired. An excess of fear will encourage turnover, but at the expense of depth in the teacher core. Even more, too much fear without the tools to cope makes a joyless workplace. Then even as we defend Rhee's reforms, we can also acknowledge that tone and people management skills matter. On the other hand, however, Rhee has set in place an accountability system that is the essential element to improving schools. It should not be a point of debate that DC schools do not and have not served students under any previous superintendent in modern times. There's simply no debate here. The inability to discipline or eventually fire incompetent teachers has produced a Soviet-like complacency that Rhee has absolutely punctured. So long as the current structural reforms - mayoral control, ability to measure and dismiss teachers - remains in place, it is not critical to retain Rhee. Now may possibly be a good time to bring on board someone with good people management skills, who will use the power to terminate balanced against the obligation to help develop motivated teachers. Let's recognize, however, that there is an affirmative obligation for schools to perform and teachers may not be exempted from their responsibilities for such performance.

Posted by: tds15 | September 21, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

This is just more blather from an entrenched education professional who can't stand the heat of real reform. Chancellor Rhee and Mayor Fenty declared as a disgrace a public school system that graduates young adults who are functionally illiterate and sorely lacking in any skills. This took immense political courage. Writers like you would continue to consign these children to a dismal future of few opportunities to protect your union rights and business as usual. I guess you won this round. The dead wood in DCPS marshalled all the victimization they could find to vote Fenty out of office and get rid of Rhee. I am happy I voted for someone who actually cares about children and their need for an education. When we sink back to the low standards perpetuated by the likes of you, we can at least remember a time when there was a faint glimmer of hope. Congratulations.

Posted by: w_schulz1 | September 21, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

@Saluki -- Great response, I finally got your attention. I'm not sure how you have arrived at such misinformed opinions, but let's recap what you have stated:

1) Michelle Rhee thinks teachers are the only problem (this is clearly not true, she simply thinks the teaching population can be made stronger; also -- if she thought teachers were the only problem, why did she focus on infrastructure and wraparound supports as well?)

2) Bill Gates has never studied education research. (That's ridiculous, he has clearly become knowledgeable about a subject he has given millions of dollars and lots of his time. Also -- how about Vicki Phillips, the director of Ed at the Gates Foundation, she has a doctorate in Education, has been a middle and HS teacher, worked at US Ed, been superintendent of Portland, OR, and Sec of Ed of Pennsylvania; you think she might know a thing or two about education?)

3) Sarcastically (I assume) stated we should hire our teachers from Finland. (Great contribution, really offering solutions there.)

From reading your responses it sounds like English is your second language, so I won't pick on your (lack of) grammar (also because this is an internet board, and I'm sure we've all made numerous errors), but overall your contributions to the discussion have been nothing more than attacks without any merit. I'm sure you feel great about yourself though.

Posted by: OldNumber3 | September 21, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Winfrey has done some good but she also makes blanket statments that are insulting. For her to say "I became so frustrated with visiting inner-city schools that I just stopped going..." What an insult to all the inner-city students; teachers and parents who are producing brillant students who do care and who are learning.

Posted by: rlj1 | September 21, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Well, the girls out selling masking tape are getting their shots in...Ms. Strauss, please pass this on to the person who hired you. Get on the Green Line (Branch Avenue) and go out to Congress Heights...you will find Ward 7 (very close to Ward 8. Now, find Hillcrest- ask around the neighborhood for someone who knows and cares about the schools...Hire a writer for January! If you don't do the Metro...take Pa.Ave extended to Southern avenue- turn right- voila! Congress Heights/Hillcrest ( lots of trees - open feeling) Then on the way back, stop off at the Anacostia Museum (if you haven't been there before) there is a bus from the Anacostia Metro stop! (ask about possible writers there) Have fun- a field trip! (take your boss with you)

Posted by: judithclaire1939 | September 21, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

@Oldnumber3:

I hope you will feel great about yourself too while seeing Gates Foundation going nowhere. And by the way, interested in debating with me in a different language? Guess not..because you are not fluent in a foreign language. Not a surprise for a product of American schools.

Posted by: salukiindc | September 21, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

The Rheeformers are really hitting all the talking points. Sadly these points are based on lies promoted by Rhee, Oprah, Fenty and others.

I understand that many Rheeformers are planning on moving out of DC--BYE.

LOL. PERHAPS OPRAH WILL BUILD YOU A CHARTER SCHOOL somewhere in Rhee land.

Posted by: guylady201001 | September 21, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Valerie - don't let these people get you down.

They are new to the issue and have drunk the so widely available kool-aide.

As Rhee's work and character is revealed the truth will out. it's happening already.

Posted by: efavorite | September 21, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

First of all: those of you criticizing Ms. Strauss: This blog is a commentary, comparable to an editorial or opinion piece. She has more latitude than a typical news story.
Secondly, I am a former DCPS employee who regularly saw Ms. Strauss in DC schools as she covered education. She is as qualified to be Chancellor as Rhee and knows a whole lot more about DCPS. And to those who understand reform, it was Clifford Janey who began reform, but wasn't allowed to stay long enough to create the kind of sustainable reform that was needed. He was a career educator, what Jay Mathews called a "Super Super." He is the kind of educator needed for long-term reform, not a one-night media wonder like Rhee.

Posted by: KREvans | September 21, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

There seem to be quite a number of new posters here.
I wonder what site posted the link to Valerie's column.

I don't think presenting facts is going to turn many heads here, as the latent argument seems to be DCPS was awful before Rhee and she tries.

Well, her trying really isn't much beyond bluster most of which isn't factual.
Here's back of the hand damnation from a group she brought in to run Coolidge and Dunbar high schools:

" When DC. officials asked the group what they expected in terms of student suspensions their first months of transforming the schools, the Bedford group saw shocked looks when they said suspensions would go up if order was to be restored."

So DC officials, who are there due to Fenty/Rhee, lack a basic understanding of group behavior and dynamics. For them it is probably a PR numbers game-"Look, suspensions are down. Aren't we great."


"edlharris's weekly pieces have set a new standard of gutter journalism in this country"
-bbcrock

Posted by: edlharris | September 21, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

@Saluki -- My last post here because you are a complete fool and waste of time. Where did you ge the idea that I don't speak a foreign language? Another statement with absolutely no facts behind it, you truly are ridiculous.

I'm fluent in Russian. At least I think so, I definitely wasn't speaking English those six years in Moscow, and I never seemed to have problems communicating with anyone. Of course, you said I don't speak a foreign language, so I'm confused now.

Posted by: OldNumber3 | September 21, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

The real issue is poverty.

Posted by: Aerowaz | September 21, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

@ OldNumber3:

I will let you keep getting confused..just like how you are confused about education. I know Russian schools are pretty bad too. so what do you know about schools and education? I grew up in a small country that constantly performs in top 3 in international contests in math and science. I am here to show you guys how ridiculous you can be and how you should open your eyes about education. And you think I am ridiculous? LOL Fine. Because you will continue to see your schools going down....no one can save them. People like Gates and Rhee will only make things worse more quickly.

Posted by: salukiindc | September 21, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: OldNumber3...
********
Thank you - very very few seem to understand that.

Posted by: overed | September 21, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Albert Shanker Institute
Randi Weingarten, President

Also President of AFT-how cozy, huh, Valerie?

Do tell us what fees you have been receiving from this shell organization of the teacher unions.

Nice to see that The Post lets their staff use their paper as a mouthpiece for the unions.

Posted by: takebackourschools | September 21, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Well it seems as though the population of DC and the constituants of DCPS have spoken. Rhee's attempts at reform have been vetoed. So be it. Now DCPS can renew its death spiral into ...what?...mediocrity? naaah..that would be an improvement over where the schools were/are. Abysmal failure? more like it. Maybe this town had a decent school system back in the day. you know what it is now though? its c*r*a*p, its broken, it does not work, it has not worked for years - it would be a joke except that the kids going (or dropping out of it) are completely skrewed and simply fed into the voracious maw of hopelessness and futility because your f'n feelings are hurt.
Have it your way.

Posted by: overed | September 21, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

In a perfect world, in order to keep her job, Rhee will announce:

DC teachers: I'm sorry that I put these students on you..the ones whose parents could care less...the ones who could care less about learning and may actually not be so bright...the ones who do not want to learn..the ones who are pregnant by 14...the ones who pick up guns...etc.

Rhee stupidly thought that by firing teachers, the landscape would change decades of DC society ills....her approach was immature, ill timed, and not researched. She is the class bully but her playground was the entire DC school area.

Posted by: ariesgirl4 | September 21, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Albert Shanker, btw, was a former AFT President.

Let's share one of his more memorable quotes:

"When school children start paying dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of school children".

There you have it. Now we know where Ms. Strauss's interests are.

Posted by: takebackourschools | September 21, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Excellent commentary. I, too, watched Oprah's show yesterday and believe she did a terrible disservice to D.C. Public Schools and our city's children.

Posted by: Kathy8 | September 21, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

thank you ariesgirl14.

Velarie,

Thanks for the great article. If US wants to compete with other countries, it needs to look at how some countries do well in education, not create some crazy ideas and blame teachers and unions for all problems.

Posted by: salukiindc | September 21, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

DCPSparent:

"re: Michelle Rhee's
"mom friendly" comment,
prepared specifically for the Oprah show, about moms not tolerating
mediocre teachers being
given time to grow and develop professionally. ---
Well... The unqualified, needing-to-grow-professionally (newbie 'Teach for America') "TFA" principal that Rhee PUSHED on our school, despite protests from a panel of engaged, informed,
truly progressive, professional educators and parents with advanced degrees in education. . . . (this TFA principal)
hired and protected even more inexperienced, unqualified teachers who will take YEARS to
develop into true professionals.
But the TFA principal
and those teachers all know
how to say "yes" to their boss.
Too bad they don't know
the basics of how children learn,
or the nuances of curriculum and instruction.
It is hard, hard work indeed to have to reprogram
my kids every day after school, to get them to embrace and understand learning again.
Rhee's influential, BAD decisions and practices,
more than ANY OTHER failure of the
DC Public School system, has me on the verge of pulling my kids out of school.
Rhee embarrassed herself mightily at the
DC screening of this film ("Waiting for Wall Street Super-scammers)" --
with her comment insulting DC voters.
My kids. and the 350 others in their school,
will not be devastated at all when she leaves.
We assume she will
head to the business world
for which she may have more
appropriate skills."

------------------

Posted by: honestaction | September 21, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Rhee-form, edu-profiteers & sleazy HYPOCRISY:

What was political concubine
helicopter-in Michelle Rhee’s ‘Damage Control’
for (boyfriend) Kevin Johnson?

note:
Michelle Rhee was on the
board of directors of Kevin’s
privatized High School charter
– during the time when there were financial illegalities
& misappropriations of federal grants
and also a pattern of outlandish sexual misconduct
perpetrated by school director Kevin Johnson involving
students (minor teens) & subordinate (Americorps) school staff.

(must read)
==>
http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/citydesk/2009/11/20/what-was-michelle-rhees-damage-control-for-kevin-johnson/

=================

Posted by: honestaction | September 21, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

mega-media hype manipulated,
funded & produced by the
Hedge Fund boyz,
Kaplan Testing corporation,
Online learning corporations,
the edu-profiteers/financiers clique
and their incompetent spokesmodel
rabid Rhee
(with her ludicrous lack of proven
teaching or administrative experience,
her lack of academic certification to be
a superintendent, her lack of reasonable supervisory procedures, her lack of managerial skills, her lack of teambuilding to implement goals, her lack of community development to facilitate progress, her lack of professional tact, her lack of essential communication insight, and her abysmal lack of common sense.

------------------------

Posted by: honestaction | September 21, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

"2010 DCPS Test Scores DECLINE"

see news article,
DCist website: =>

http://dcist.com/2010/07/2010_dcps_test_scores_decline.php \


=======================

Posted by: honestaction | September 21, 2010 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Regardless of the pros and cons of Michelle Rhee and her efforts to overhaul D.C. schools -- I tend to support her clean broom, but agree she needs to be a better change manager -- I disagree with your assertion that Adrian Fenty would have been re-elected mayor but for her. In fact, I think his only real chance for re-election WAS Michelle Rhee. Fenty lost the election because he allowed his accomplishments to be tarnished by the bizarre secrecy and childish game-playing of the past couple of years. Even the momentum that's building in the D.C. schools couldn't save him.

Posted by: havana48 | September 21, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Well if I didn't know you despised both Michelle Rhee or Oprah I'd know after reading this post. What I find most odd about all the criticism of Rhee is that I never hear anyone pose an alternative. Is there a schools chief somewhere in the country that does it right? Should kids be forced to have bad teachers while they undergo "Professional Development"? Would you accept that deal from your pediatrician? What is so bad about charter schools? They aren't the total answer, but what is wrong with poor kids having options? Middle/Upper class kids have options. There is a tinge of racism in the discussions when white educators want less choice for kids of color in big urban systems than they have for their own children. There seems to be an attitude that we can't try anything to learn. That kids should be held hostage to a system that continues to fail too many-not all-kids.

Posted by: newbop

There is an urban school system that does it right, and it's right down the road in Richmond, VA. Over the last 10 years they have gone from one of the worst in the state, to the point where their SOL pass rates are equal to or higher than wealthy Fairfax County, despite the fact that their student population is 90% poor and 90% minority. Here are the differences between Richmond and DC: 1. The last 2 superintendents had over 30 years in education when hired and PhD's in Education. Since they had read and written educational research, they made smart decisions on curriculum and programs, which are the most important components in education. DC hired a temp recruiter who had taught 3rd grade for 3 years and has no understanding or interest in education research, so she chose policies that have been proven to be ineffective. 2. Richmond has no Charter schools, TFA's, DC relies heavily on both. 3. Richmond has an elected school board, DC does not and every big city that has mayoral control has not shown any improvement in student outcomes. other than what turned out to be phonyed-up tests. 4. Richmond has never been featured on Oprah or Time, despite the fact that their white students outperform those in Fairfax on all SOL's; their black students outperform those in Fairfax on all SOL's and their black students are within 10% of the pass rate of Fairfax's WHITE students on most SOL tests, and equal them in HS Chemistry and Algebra.

Smart people who know education can make it work. Corporate foundations, like Gates and others who back phony "reformers" like Rhee, have no interest in education, they simply what to attack teachers and unions for their own profit.

Posted by: mcstowy | September 21, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Love your commentary Valerie. I'm not an Oprah watcher but I watched that show yesterday and remembered why I don't watch Oprah. Question? Who was hiding in the closet video taping someone being terminated? Pretty sleazy
When the question was asked about the principal at her daughter's school being terminated, they failed to mention that the school was meeting their academic targets and making AYP. The opposite happened once the principal was replaced. That was simply television with no promise to be balanced, accurate or to make you feel good.

Posted by: candycane1 | September 21, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Oprah Winfrey allowed her show to become part of the dog and pony PR campaign for Davis Guggenheim's documentary. She praised a woman who had very few actual qualifications for the position of school chancellor. Michelle Rhee is the creature of wealthy philanthropists who like to dabble in education, partially because several of those individuals run for-profit companies that, guess what? seek to run charter schools and/or provide testing services.

They believe that public schools are basically factories in which children march in, learn a carefully scripted set of information which they will then regurgitate for testing purposes. They do not treat teaching as a profession, nor do they respect teachers. Their contempt is demonstrated by their arrogance in pushing Teach for America candidates into inner-city schools. They do this because those same foundations know that no public school system serving a middle class or upper middle class population would tolerate TFA candidates being foisted onto their schools. They use poor, urban school districts as laboratories for their pet education projects.

Ms. Strauss has covered education in the District and has every right to share her opinion of what hasn't worked under Michelle Rhee's tenure. For all of those who have drunk deeply of Ms.Rhee's Kool-aid, take comfort in the sheeplike devotion of the WaPo editorial board to your own personal god.

Posted by: sanderling5 | September 21, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

How about a Campaign to END POVERTY to help us out of this educational depression this country is in about our poor Latino, Black and some white communities?! I think this should be the foundation to go along with any remedies to better educate these communities. Why haven't our M.S.'s, Ph.D's and money laden elites figured this out or the more highly educated you are does common sense fall by the wayside?

Posted by: Outrage | September 21, 2010 7:12 PM | Report abuse

When will people learn that education begins in the home? I don't think Ms. Rhee was forward thinking enough! Failing students? Failing teachers? Failing schools? What about failing parents? How come the parents who don't send their kids to school "education ready" don't get failing grades? Why is all of the onus of educational reform and improvement put on the backs of the children and the teachers when they are not the decision makers in the decisions that matter? It is the parent, or lack thereof who "decides" if they want to feed their children or send them to school hungry. It is the parent who "decides" if they want to read to their child or help them with their homework. It is the parent who "decides" to bring a child into a chaotic environment to live or not. Ironically, the biggest failures of the DCPS system aren't even in the DCPS system or even in the discussion for that matter! (BTW, having a child out of wedlock while uneducated and or unemployed, to a man who is uneducated or unemployed IS A DECISION!). I would like to see all DCPS kids taking a mandatory class beginning in the first grade which would teach them life skills called GOOD DECISIONS 101. This class would address all of the "bad actors" in one's life and teach them to avoid the seven common mistakes which one day lead to poverty or a continuation of such...

Posted by: Logicworks | September 21, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Strauss, the television programs you listed for the Oprah Show...most were repeats...just in case you didn't know. She has a very bright group of mainly white women who are educated and want to learn. She is a great educator and has taught them a lot more than you have done in this ...whatever it is!

Posted by: judithclaire1939 | September 21, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

DCPS ELEMENTARY TEST SCORES DOWN --
DECLINES IN READING AND MATH Michelle Rhee, unaccountable & unqualified
Chancellor "The DCPS had lower math test scores
in grades 4 and 8 in 2009,
and District African-American
test scores went down" ....... read & view the
data =>
http://www.examiner.com/ward-5-in-washington-dc/rhee-fails-on-nation-s-report-card

------------------------

Posted by: honestaction | September 21, 2010 7:28 PM | Report abuse

the achievement gap widened
-- under the "crappy" regime
led by Eli Broad's & Bill Gates'
frontwoman/concubine
and rabid Rhee-form

DCPS ELEMENTARY TEST SCORES DOWN --
DECLINES IN READING AND MATH

Michelle Rhee, unaccountable & unqualified
Chancellor

"The DCPS had lower math test scores
in grades 4 and 8 in 2009,
and District African-American
test scores went down" .......

read & view the
data =>
http://www.examiner.com/ward-5-in-washington-dc/rhee-fails-on-nation-s-report-card

------------------------

Posted by: honestaction | September 21, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

mcstowy: interesting comments about richmond school system

can you provide links to those facts you cited? thanks.

as for this article, it is just plain stupid and snarky, much like glenn beck and his ilk at fox news. and for those people who criticize bill gates and oprah, for heaven's sakes, at least they are trying to do something not whining, like some of you are.

its so much easier to judge and point out other people's mistakes then coming up with solutions

Posted by: harrytam | September 21, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

Logicworks...no, it doesn't! Girl, you need to get out more. The culture of poverty all over the world is complicated and difficult to understand...let alone solve in ten minutes! Also, we still see the signs of slavery and prejudice, yes, racism...it's a white thang and let me assure you...it is alive and well in Washington!

Posted by: judithclaire1939 | September 21, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Having not had any first hand connection to education in 30 years, though my daughter taught math until 4 years ago and I have several close friends who teach, I have the feeling the education system can not address the largest factor in educational success, the family.

In my family it was my son the Colonel and my son the Doctor.There also must be a genetic predisposition. And the incentives have to be there. The community must prize learning.

This country has a horrible habit individualism that honors the self made man (who is an admirer of his own creator). They disparage the quiet nuanced genius. The average American can not recognize intelligence and the patience required to achieve educational success.

Talented and educated people inspire through natural charisma and their own originality I know of no test will capture. Simplistic formulas won't hack it.

Posted by: stanassc | September 21, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

minhle1: If you have been living in the city for 14 years and do not know that Rhee built on Janey's Master Plan he put in place, in addition to the curriculum, in even less time in office than Rhee has been, then you have not been paying attention. Even Rhee herself, in the initial stages of her administration, admitted that she would build on most of Janey's reforms -- oh, you probably missed it because Janey did not go around calling the structural changes and plans he introduced "reform." I guess if you're not using the approved jargon, then you are not a part of the clique.

Rather than challenge concernedaboutdc to provide you with facts that, historically, are part of the public domain, how about coming off of your high horse and do some research of your own? No one is obligated to rid you of your ignorance. That's your responsibility.

Posted by: vscribe | September 21, 2010 8:17 PM | Report abuse

As always, thank-you Valerie for telling the truth!

Posted by: educationlover54 | September 21, 2010 8:22 PM | Report abuse

Oprah has joined the bandwagon to trash teachers. It sounds so simple when Rhee, Gates, and the like are spewing harsh words and calling on those "caring" parents to arms. This is not reality and I can only laugh at their ignorance. Parents are nonparents these days, they are overworked, underpaid, stressed out, and yes, angry. Leave it to Oprah to get them all riled up- here I give you the problem folks- it's those selfish, lazy, teachers- forget that you don't read to your kids, take the time to even talk with them, or see what they do during their free time. No, just let the teacher take the fall for all the failures. It's so easy to join the bandwagon, but our children will suffer in the long run. By the way, there's a study out that says bonus or merit pay does not raise test scores- something Gates heartily supports- Is anyone surprised? Not the classroom teacher who deals with reality, and not scripted talk-shows everyday.

Posted by: valerie14 | September 21, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Professional educators must stand up and not allow the pseudo-reformer crowd to hijack students, teachers, and neighborhood public schools for political and for-profit purposes.

Posted by: nfsbrrpkk | September 21, 2010 9:05 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Ms. Strauss is becoming ever more fanatical in her nonsense peddling. Strauss and Bill Turque have colluded to bad mouth Rhee over the past few months- in hopes of better access to the incoming Gray administration? Because Fenty and Rhee didn't give them enough respect? Who knows why, but they had it in for both of them, forget the reality.

What's your plan to improve the schools? Keep the bad teachers? Keep the too small schools open? Stop testing students? Stop performing objective evaluations on teachers? Of course, you have no plan. You are nothing but a union puppet.

It is also amazing that Ms. Strauss is too befuddled with her own prejudices to understand Oprah (or basic logic). She presents two statements by Ms. Winfrey, one suggesting that American schools don't need her money, the second saying that "The sense that you need to learn just isn’t there," as if they are contradictory. Of course, they aren't contradictory. It is the culture of students that don't want to learn that is the issue- not more money for the schools. The struggling students don't lack books, they don't lack buildings, they lack the will to study because they do not have the value of education instilled in them.

Posted by: staticvars | September 21, 2010 9:48 PM | Report abuse

Did anyone else read the article in September's Ebony where Michelle Rhee
proudly touts the fact that programs like TFA and her 'New Teacher Project'
are bringing in teachers from the 'elite' schools?
She had to backtrack when
Dr. Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College,
challenged her.

Rhee didn't mention that these programs bring in teachers with no disciplinary skills
(such as herself -- remember her recent, fond anecdote about
"taping shut students' mouths") in Baltimore (!)
and that these these recruits are basically temp. workers
who are not committed
to the profession of teaching (ditto).

These programs are NOT designed to develop a professional corps of teachers.
As a teacher with 15 years experience,
I can tell you, no one becomes an expert in only 2 or 3 years.
I don't understand why Rhee (or anyone else) spends their energy trying to build
and repair schools with these
types of temporary teachers.
They are a band aid ---
nothting more
(band-aids are easily peeled off, fall off) ---
a pseudo-reform sham providing cover for a Wall Street-funded
edu-profiteering scam
that
doesn't heal anything and doesn't construct anything
lasting or worthwhile for the children.

===========================

Posted by: honestaction | September 21, 2010 10:09 PM | Report abuse

I think this article is a prime example of why DC Schools are as broken as they are and why DC has kids running around starting massive gang fights as speaking an almost impossible to understand language on the metro. I'll say this, when I have kids, they won't even be allowed to go near a DC School. Getting rid of Fenty was a DRASTIC mistake. I'm an African American, 12 year resident, and I have seen first hand how the school system has failed. I've volunteered to tutor and I was literally shocked by how unprepared the students were. Valerie Stauss, you should be ashamed, your article above contains no facts, you are just a part of the problem of a school system that has completely failed thousands of African Americans. More money? That's all you can come up with? Money for teachers to get kids pregnant...I don't hear you talking about that. You are ignorant, and until the DC folks wise up and understand that when someone is failing kids, they need to find a new job. I shutter for DC after Rhee. If Vince Grey had half a brain, he'd keep Rhee right where she is and let her finish the job she started. As for you Valerie Staurss...I wish Rhee worked at the Washington Post so she could fire you too. You're failing your people miserably.

Posted by: draywilliams | September 21, 2010 10:10 PM | Report abuse

mcstowy said: "There is an urban school system that does it right, and it's right down the road in Richmond, VA. Over the last 10 years they have gone from one of the worst in the state, to the point where their SOL pass rates are equal to or higher than wealthy Fairfax County,"

Total lie. The pass rates in Richmond City schools for 2009-2010 are 83% in English and 82% in math. That's well below the state average, never mind the 92% and 93% pass rates for Fairfax County. Of course, all of your remedies for schools are political remedies, which is probably what you pay too much attention to instead of facts.

Posted by: staticvars | September 21, 2010 10:13 PM | Report abuse

This is a great opinion piece. As a DCPS parent I have seen Rhee's work and I can tell you she is all about manipulating the truth and putting on a horse and pony show.

Anyone who dares point out a concern or is critical of Rhee's policies can be accused of supporting the "big bad union" who only care about "adult issues." These 'evil doers' main goal is for children to attend horrible schools.

It is absolutely absurd and shows what hype surrounds "reform."

Posted by: letsbereal2 | September 21, 2010 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Michelle Rhee is the Sarah Palin of the school reform movement.

Posted by: akasilverfox | September 21, 2010 10:26 PM | Report abuse

Valerie,
I also find Oprah to be entertaining and have never found her to cover two sides of the story completely. She always takes a side, that I have seen.

I do not live in DC so I have followed the Rhee story through the newspaper. It appears to me that one of the "Rhee-crowd" mistakes is to accuse anyone who questions their particular solutions of being part of the teacher's union, or a defender of the status quo.

What is a defender of the status quo anyway? What a bizarre accusation to make!
And why can't there be a discussion of the real issues in education without name calling?

I disliked Rhee's tone when she spoke about teachers. She has consistently emphasized that teachers are the problem in education and has implied that experience doesn't matter. This is a silly idea. Would you want an inexperienced surgeon to operate on you?

My daughter's teacher is 57 years old, she has 34 years experience teaching and she is highly energetic, efficient and motivating. She is calm and makes each fifth grader feel special. She is just wonderful. My children have had younger teachers as well. They have also been good in their own way. I prefer the older teachers, because I know they are experienced and know how to handle most situations and they seem to really care for the students if they have stayed in teaching that long.

I am a former teacher and I have taught in city districts. That work is difficult because of over crowding and under funding, but it can be rewarding. I did not find inner city students to be as materialistic as Oprah did. Why would American kids, who have rap singers, flashy sports stars, movie stars and celebrities (like Oprah)think that education is the answer? They are just kids, and middle schoolers especially tend to think they will actually be the next Michael Jordan, the next Oprah. Just listen to the lyrics of "I Want to be a Billionaire". That is an adolescent's dream.

People who are writing in comments seem to be very anti teacher. How ironic. Who do they leave their children with for 8 hours a day or more?

I think the sooner teachers get more respect in this country the better. It is really disgusting to see the leader of a national educational reform movement criticizing those who are experts at educating young people. I don't think it is good for the students, the schools or the country.

I also am aghast at the amount of lies that went unquestioned on the show. Did scores go up in DC or did they go down?

Posted by: celestun100 | September 21, 2010 10:46 PM | Report abuse

I don't know who the author of this piece is, but she shouldn't worry. Ms. Rhee will be gone before long. Then the new mayor can put in his choice. And DC kids will reenter the morass and swamp that was there in DC before Ms. Rhee's arrival. By the way, 2 big supporters of charters are Obamalosi and Duncan.

Posted by: jibe | September 21, 2010 10:46 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Rhee was brought to you by the same people that brought you Obama! Suckers! How's that miracle network thing working these days?

Posted by: flancaster99us | September 21, 2010 10:56 PM | Report abuse

I find the idea that DCPS reform depends upon one person to be absurd.

As an outsider, I am heartened by the fact that the citizens of DC stood up for themselves.

I find it it discouraging that the writers of some comments are such poor losers that they are making this into a racial issue.

So, everyone who doesn't like Rhee's style is a racist, a teacher union fan or a defender of the status quo?

I am none of those, but I repeat, Rhee's public disrespect of her own employees is just a total turn off.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 21, 2010 10:56 PM | Report abuse

For those who think that those who dislike Rhee's style are just defenders of the status quo, I ask you... where are your comments on the other blog topics that Valerie Strauss writes about current education trends? Are you keeping up with what is going on in education? Are you willing to reconsider some of your ideas or to read and consider and thoughtfully comment on education? Or are you just misinformed Oprah fans?

Posted by: celestun100 | September 21, 2010 11:00 PM | Report abuse

Rather than challenge concernedaboutdc to provide you with facts that, historically, are part of the public domain, how about coming off of your high horse and do some research of your own? No one is obligated to rid you of your ignorance. That's your responsibility.

Posted by: vscribe

He/she claimed something to be factual when it was simply an opinion driven by assumptions and inferences. Similarly, the overall breadth of complaints about Rhee are all driven by emotions, personal gain or loss, assumptions and innuendos (see this ridicukous blog), when not a single poster has explained why the system failed pre-rhee. Why would I need to search out the facts when the only fact that matters is that DCPS has failed for 3 decades. Of course none of that matters to many of you.

Posted by: minhle1 | September 21, 2010 11:27 PM | Report abuse

Judithclaire1939 wrote: "She has a very bright group of mainly white women who are educated and want to learn. She is a great educator and has taught them a lot more than you have done in this ...whatever it is!"

If Oprah is such a great educator she's wasting her potential. She should go teach in black inner city schools, and of course be made to teach the scripted Reading First literacy lessons. How great an educator could she then be, without any autonomy and flexibility to use her great educator talent?

In my opinion Oprah started out as a journalist addressing serious topics that were of help to many, but money clearly corrupted her mind as she became wealthy and she now panders to celebrities. Clearly she cannot be a fulfilled soul as she keeps craving the limelight.

What she has really taught her mainly white female audience, is to set aside all critical thought and to go crazy over whatever Oprah says, and gives away! If we wonder about the current state of public education, we need look no further than the millions of mothers who are devout, screaming for joy, Oprah fans! What do these women teach their children?

Posted by: gpadvocate | September 21, 2010 11:48 PM | Report abuse

Rhee's qualifications? She's spent two or three years teaching. In my opinion no one should be considered for school leadership unless they've spent 10 to 15 years teaching!

Posted by: Jutti | September 22, 2010 12:16 AM | Report abuse

I'm the father of two public school teachers in another state. I worked in DC throughout the 70's 80's and 90's, but would never have sent my kids to public school in the city.

The DC public schools have been turning out very large numbers of under-educated graduates for at least forty years. No one can, with a straight face, rate the DCPS system a success. By every measure, and for whatever reasons, it is at or near the bottom of all systems nationwide.

For forty years I've listened to teachers (and their unions) complain about lack of funds, lack of parental involvement, need for smaller classes, etc., but I have yet to hear a comment from any of them advocating ANY objective performance rating for teachers. I have also never heard any of them call for making it easier to remove under-performing teachers.

Ever organization has higher achieving and lower achieving individuals. When public funds are at stake, the effort to raise the overall level of achievement by eliminating the poorest performers should be a sensible goal, agreed upon by all.

When the purpose of the enterprise is the preparation of our children for adult roles in society, there's just no excuse for keeping incompetent or poorly performing employees.

Where are the teachers who support these ideas? Why are they all silent on the subject? Far too many people in DC see the DCPS system as a jobs program rather than a service to children. As long as that persists, there is no hope.

Posted by: atrepos1 | September 22, 2010 12:33 AM | Report abuse

CStephenBaldwinBoardChairSouthBronxClassicalCharterSchool wrote:

"4. Finally, I do know a little about education, having spent a lifetime in it, working at the undergrauate and graduate levels in developing countries, and capping this with 3 years' experience as a Third Grade teacher (getting my M.Ed simultaneously) in the South Bronx, as a New York City Teaching Fellow. Now, at my charter school, we're trying to do what we can to make the system work better, and so far we've been first out of the South Bronx's 21 elementary school ever since we began taking the standardized tests. For more, please go to: www.southbronxclassical.org"
___

To CStephenBaldwin: Since you know so much and you are part of the for-profit charter con, have your read about charter school fraud and the hedge fund managers? Have your read about standardized test manipulation and cut score deception? How can you be trusted?

Also, what methods do you use to achieve such remarkable results? The "researchers" and "reformers" should make a documentary about your astonishing classroom.

Posted by: nfsbrrpkk | September 22, 2010 1:30 AM | Report abuse

Michelle Rhee unquestionably is doing a most EXCELLENT job by any rational standards! Michelle Rhee is improving DC Schools & has the metrics to prove her results. Fixing a vastly broken system like DC Schools, that is rife with Teacher Union Corruption,SOME Lazy & Lackadaisical Teachers that treat their jobs like their rest away from home & could care LESS if their students really LEARN & are getting the FOCUSED targeted attention that THEY NEED ! Some Custodians have been caught during school hours washing cadillacs & boats or painting houses with Paint that was Meant for peeling run-down DC SCHOOLS ! Some Principals have sometimes been found having NAPS! or Extra Marital Relations! in their Locked offices During School hours when they should have been out in the halls & classrooms ! Michelle Rhee is Tough & that's what is NEEDED in a District like DC, where Employees trample the very idea of what hard dedicated concerned work is & complain ENDLESSLY about their imagined rights & privileges! Well,YOU ARE THERE TO SERVE students & community, NOT the other way around! YOU don't want to DO THE WORK? Goodbye, there's plenty of GOOD teachers out there just itching for the chance to do so ! CUT the DEAD WOOD NOW or suffer another generation of illiterate incompetents that fall back on a life of wefare or crime !The Black community better stop feeling sore & sorry for Bad Workers who justifiably Lose Their Jobs For Bad Performance & Recognize that Black Teachers that are GOOD at what they do don't want to have to be grouped in with Bad Black Teachers that don't care about students! Dishonesty & race-carding could mean the Black communitydooms it's own future out of pettiness & it's own bigotries!

Posted by: ajman81 | September 22, 2010 1:33 AM | Report abuse

Michelle Rhee unquestionably is doing a most EXCELLENT job by any rational standards! Michelle Rhee is improving DC Schools & has the metrics to prove her results. Fixing a vastly broken system like DC Schools, that is rife with Teacher Union Corruption,SOME Lazy & Lackadaisical Teachers that treat their jobs like their rest away from home & could care LESS if their students really LEARN & are getting the FOCUSED targeted attention that THEY NEED ! Some Custodians have been caught during school hours washing cadillacs & boats or painting houses with Paint that was Meant for peeling run-down DC SCHOOLS ! Some Principals have sometimes been found having NAPS! or Extra Marital Relations! in their Locked offices During School hours when they should have been out in the halls & classrooms ! Michelle Rhee is Tough & that's what is NEEDED in a District like DC, where Employees trample the very idea of what hard dedicated concerned work is & complain ENDLESSLY about their imagined rights & privileges! Well,YOU ARE THERE TO SERVE students & community, NOT the other way around! YOU don't want to DO THE WORK? Goodbye, there's plenty of GOOD teachers out there just itching for the chance to do so ! CUT the DEAD WOOD NOW or suffer another generation of illiterate incompetents that fall back on a life of wefare or crime !The Black community better stop feeling sore & sorry for Bad Workers who justifiably Lose Their Jobs For Bad Performance & Recognize that Black Teachers that are GOOD at what they do don't want to have to be grouped in with Bad Black Teachers that don't care about students! Dishonesty & race-carding could mean the Black communitydooms it's own future out of pettiness & it's own bigotries!

Posted by: ajman81 | September 22, 2010 1:33 AM | Report abuse

1. While Rhee certainly has much to learn about politics and public relations, she can boast three clear accomplishments:

a. she canned the worst 3% of the teachers. Private employers do this EVERY day (every employer from investment banks to your local McDonald's). Let's face it, while it may be difficult to devise empirical performance metrics in many fields, we all know who the productive people are in our respective workplaces, and who the deadweight is. Is anyone suggesting that Rhee fired the best 3% of teachers? Apparently, firing any teachers is unacceptable to some.

b. Most importantly, DC implemented a revolutionary contract that rewards teachers for performance. I'm a bit surprised that no one even mentions this on this blog.

c. She brought in an enormous amount of private funding. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

I hope, and expect, that these accomplishments will last well beyond her tenure, and am confident that, as Mayor, Vince Gray will have the good sense not to undo any of them. Some of his supporters, however, do concern me.

2. Middle and upper middle class families are voting with their feet by moving into DC and enrolling in DCPS. Enrollment rates at zoned schools in Northwest are up, which is a vote of confidence from those who do have choices (and who have overwhelmingly supported Rhee). As a parent who sends 2 kids to DCPS, I am a bit dismayed by the (suburban) naysayers who assume that all DC public schools are hopeless. The DCPS schools populated by kids of affluent educated parents are not all that different from their counterparts in Montgomery Co. or Fairfax Co. and for the same reason -- because the kids are prepared to learn. The most "successful" public schools in the US are populated by kids from affluent, educated 2-parent households - it's not because the teachers/administrators are rocket scientists.

3. On the flipside, the problems facing Wards 7 and 8 (and to some extent Wards 4 and 5) are daunting. Better teachers and better physical facilities are a plus, but much much more is needed. A teacher can only do so much in a 6-hour day with kids who are raised by poorly educated single parents (87% of kids in Wards 7/8 are born out of wedlock - there simply are no dads around) who do not read to their kids, do not help them with homework, and do not provide them with adequate nutrition and health care. I don't say this to be judgmental - I can't even begin to imagine what it's like to be a 24yo single mom in Anacostia raising 3 kids on $30k/year. To effect meaningful change to impact this cycle of poverty will require a holistic approach that addresses all causes of poverty, and provides supports to these moms to enable them to achieve more for their children. Improving the schools is a start, but it won't solve the problems of poverty facing much of this city.

Posted by: MattDC1 | September 22, 2010 1:41 AM | Report abuse

Did anyone else read the article in September's Ebony where Michelle Rhee
proudly touts the fact that programs like TFA and her 'New Teacher Project'
are bringing in teachers from the 'elite' schools?
She had to backtrack when
Dr. Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College,
challenged her.

Rhee didn't mention that these programs bring in teachers with no disciplinary skills
(such as herself -- remember her recent, fond anecdote about
"taping shut students' mouths") in Baltimore (!)
and that these these recruits are basically temp. workers
who are not committed
to the profession of teaching (ditto).

These programs are NOT designed to develop a professional corps of teachers.
As a teacher with 15 years experience,
I can tell you, no one becomes an expert in only 2 or 3 years.
I don't understand why Rhee (or anyone else) spends their energy trying to build
and repair schools with these
types of temporary teachers.
They are a band aid ---
nothting more
(band-aids are easily peeled off, fall off) ---
a pseudo-reform sham providing cover for a Wall Street-funded
edu-profiteering scam
that
doesn't heal anything and doesn't construct anything
lasting or worthwhile for the children.

===========================

Posted by: honestaction | September 22, 2010 1:51 AM | Report abuse

DCPSparent:

"re: Michelle Rhee's
"mom friendly" comment,
prepared specifically for the Oprah show, about
moms not tolerating
mediocre teachers being given time to
grow and develop professionally ---
Well... The unqualified, needing-to-grow-professionally
(newbie 'Teach for America') "TFA" principal that Rhee PUSHED on our school,
despite protests from a panel of engaged, informed,
truly progressive, professional educators
and parents with advanced degrees in education ---
(this TFA principal)
hired and protected even more inexperienced,
unqualified teachers who will take YEARS to
develop into true professionals.
But the TFA principal
and those teachers all know
how to say "yes" to their boss.
Too bad they don't know
the basics of how children learn,
or the nuances of curriculum and instruction.
It is hard, hard work indeed to have to reprogram
my kids every day after school, to get them
to embrace
and understand learning again.

Rhee's influential, BAD decisions and practices,
more than ANY OTHER failure of the
DC Public School system, has me on the verge of pulling my kids out of school.
Rhee embarrassed herself mightily at the
DC screening of this film
("Waiting for corporate Super-scammers)" --
with her comment insulting DC voters.
My kids. and the 350 others in their school,
will not be devastated at all when she leaves.
We assume she will
head to the business world
for which she may have more
appropriate skills."

-----------------------

Posted by: honestaction | September 22, 2010 1:52 AM | Report abuse

investigate this!

Rhee-form, edu-profiteers & sleazy
HYPOCRISY

What was helicopter-in
Michelle Rhee’s ‘Damage Control’
for (boyfriend) Kevin Johnson?

note:
Michelle Rhee was on the
board of directors of Kevin's
privatized High School charter
-- during the time when
there were financial illegalities
& misappropriations
($400,000) of federal grants
and also a pattern
of outlandish sexual misconduct
perpetrated by school director Kevin Johnson
involving students (minor teens)
& subordinate
(Americorps) school staff.

(crucial, must read) ==>
http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/politics/Exclusive-Congressional-Report-Rhee-did-damage-control-after-sex-charges-against-fiancee-Kevin-Johnson.html

also, more detailed
info. =>
http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/citydesk/2009/11/20/what-was-michelle-rhees-damage-control-for-kevin-johnson/

-------------------------------------

Posted by: honestaction | September 22, 2010 2:01 AM | Report abuse

investigate this!

Rhee-form, edu-profiteers
& sleazy, corrupt, criminal HYPOCRISY

What was helicopter-in
Michelle Rhee’s ‘Damage Control’
for (boyfriend) Kevin Johnson?

note:
Michelle Rhee was on the
board of directors
(and was "operations manager")
of Kevin's privatized High School charter
--- during the time when
there were financial illegalities
& misappropriations
($400,000) of federal grants
and also a pattern
of outlandish sexual misconduct
perpetrated by school director
Kevin Johnson involving students (minor teens)
& subordinate (Americorps) school staff --
as documented by
U.S. Govt. Inspector General
Gerald Walpin.

(crucial, must read) ==>
http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/politics/Exclusive-Congressional-Report-Rhee-did-damage-control-after-sex-charges-against-fiancee-Kevin-Johnson.html

also, more detailed
info. =>
http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/citydesk/2009/11/20/what-was-michelle-rhees-damage-control-for-kevin-johnson/

------------------------------------------

Posted by: honestaction | September 22, 2010 2:08 AM | Report abuse

I do not disagree with the firing of incompetent teachers. I disagree with making it sound as if that will solve all the problems in Wards 7 and 8. As Matt states above, a good teacher is going to have a real challenge in an area with high poverty and families in crisis. My objection to Rhee has been that it has appeared that she is blaming the teachers and firing them for scores that haven't gone up in those very troubled schools.
(Again, I'm not from DC , so I'm not so sure about the wards).

I think ineffective teachers should be let go. I just don't think the boss should publicly gloat over that. It sends the wrong message to the students and is unprofessional.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 22, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Matt-
I agree with most of your post, particularly the parts about not all DCPS schools being horrible and the struggles of schools in high-poverty areas.

I live in DC, send my son to a school in our Ward 5 neighborhood and work in MoCo. People are amazed when I share what my son is learning in school and are always impressed when they meet him. People assume my child is in a private school.

My husband and a few other parents have been actively working to positively effect change in his school and its working. I had a concern about a teacher last year, expressed it to the teacher, in writing, and followed up with the principal. So far, I see an improvement.

As for the struggling schools in struggling neighborhoods. Generational poverty destroys- neighborhoods, families, children. I worked in a school like that for 7 years. To call it challenging would be an understatement. It is draining. Teachers in that environment can't survive for a long time and still be highly functioning. Parents could be supportive, but most weren't prepared to make large improvements in their child's lives. When we are able to implement, as you say "holistic" improvements, the school system will improve. That is the main difference between MoCo and Fairfax Co schools. There are great, mediocre and less-than-adequate teachers everywhere. Children who come from backgrounds where their families work with them consistently are have prepared them for the educational process do well regardless.

I think Rhee would have done a better job if she had started off touting the great schools that exist in each part of the city in order to start attracting middle and upper income families back.

Posted by: 39aka94 | September 22, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

ajman says, "Michelle Rhee unquestionably is doing a most EXCELLENT job by any rational standards! Michelle Rhee is improving DC Schools & has the metrics to prove her results."

And you are talking through your hat. How do you know the things you claim? You don't. You're just spouting what you've heard, without any verification.

Actually, elementary school scores are down in DC this year and the achievement gap has expanded under Rhee. Don't believe it? Look it up:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/12/AR2009121201276.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/13/AR2010071306622.html

Key sentence: “After two years of significant gains across the D.C. school system, elementary students lost ground in reading and math test scores this year, a setback to Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee as she seeks to overhaul the city’s schools.”

Posted by: efavorite | September 22, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

@TL 67

Unfortunately, I don't have the numbers for you. However, I do know that the horrible teacher who took over my classroom after I left DCPS was let go, and this was pre-Rhee.

As I posted, my child is a DCPS student, so my husband and I (both former DCPS educators) have a vested interest in its success. I don't think Rhee really knows how to go about doing that. Example: The school where I worked probably has less than 3 teachers still there who where there when I left 8 years ago. I's still underperforming!

I also know, from working in DCPS and working in MoCo, that hype is just that- hype.

Posted by: 39aka94 | September 22, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

It is good to see that so many folks posting here have done such extensive research and have interviewed each and every single principal, teacher and staff member fired or forced out by Chancellor Rhee and have determined that each and every single one of them was truly incompetent, as are every other single union member in America, and every single veteran teacher of every single low-performing, low-income student.

And it's wonderful to know that they have proof that only good teachers and principals and staff members choose to teach or work at high-performing schools, and only bad, ignorant, lazy teachers, administrators and staff choose to work at low-performing schools. Actually, all we really need is Michelle Rhee's word on that: no other proof is needed. She can truly do no wrong.

It is also wonderful to know that the critics of Valerie Strauss know for a certainty what her evil union membership status is, as well as the list of whom she sleeps with, and that they chose to enlighten the public on that matter. Truly a public service on their part.

It's also refreshing to learn from our knowledgeable commentators that any and all increases in scale scores in DCPS on the NAEP have been due to the work of Adrian Fenty and Michelle Rhee, despite the fact that those increases started in about 1995, when Rhee was over a decade away from working in DC, and Fenty was five years away from running for DC City Council. And despite the fact that from 2009 to 2010, when Rhee's Rhee-forms really took place in DCPS, proficiency rates on the DC-CAS went down (yes, DOWN) by several percentage points in both reading and math.

Ah, true belief in the wonders of Rhee-form is wonderful. No actual facts are required.

Posted by: TexasIke59 | September 22, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Rhee may be incompetent, and yes, the people on that show aren't qualified education experts. BUT...
Their claims about teacher incompetence, tenure, and charter schools are 100% true in my 48 years of experience. As a kid in NJ, my teachers were ill-informed nincompoops. As a parent in Pennsylvania, my own childrens' teachers were even worse.

Advanced degrees? You must be joking. Maybe in some school districts. But the teachers my kids had (and some I had 40 years ago), could not even compose a letter to send home to parents that didn't have misspellings in it.

Charter schools came to the next town over from me. The local school board fought them tooth and nail because the charters, of course, would receive school tax money based on how many students they "siphoned off" from the public school system. After almost a year of battling, the first one earned its charter. When the first round of standardized testing scores came out, it was no surprise to me to see that the charter school beat all the local public schools hands down.

Bottom line? Public schools, the tenure system, and the teachers association have made a coddling, incompetent mess. It has nothing to do with money. The dollars/student that the public schools spend is plenty high enough.. The problem is a system that protects incompetence and does not reward brilliance - both in the teachers and in the students.

I don't even like Oprah. But man, this time, she got it right.

Posted by: mmagliaro | September 22, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

To nfsbrrpkk:

First, many thanks for your comments. I was beginning to think even my ideas had become invisible (not to mention foolish).

Secondly, we are not a for-profit operation and never will be. Everything we do is completely transparent and we welcome visitors at any time to witness the magic that is going on daily in our classrooms.

Finally, we wonder ouselves sometimes how the results we're getting come to pass. Clearly (to us), something like the first 40% can be accounted for simply by having a firm, clear code of conduct---and enforcing it, togther with a school uniform policy. Nothing mystical here---the Catholic schools discovered that trick long ago.

More interestingly, we have remarkable teachers who are, to a man and woman, dedicated to what they are doing. Currently, that entails long hours (even 20-25 on weekends!), but we have had little burnout so far. We pay well and fairly and competitively, but not so much that we'd attract anyone for that alone.

We do a lot of evaluation of our scholars, and we fine tune our knowledge to the point where every teacher knows just what each student's weaknesses and strong suits are, and can teach accordingly.

Finally, we've just completed an integration, vertically and horizontally, of our whole curriculum, and we expect that to have great results too.

There's lots more, but none of it involves any of the kind of fraudulent or dishonest behnavior that you cite. We'd never tolerate that.

Posted by: CStephenBaldwinBoardChairSouthBronxClassicalCharterSchool | September 22, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

I follow your posts Valerie. They rock. Thanks for taking on the loons.

Posted by: Educator10 | September 22, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

I think this article is a prime example of why DC Schools are as broken as they are and why DC has kids running around starting massive gang fights as speaking an almost impossible to understand language on the metro. I'll say this, when I have kids, they won't even be allowed to go near a DC School. Getting rid of Fenty was a DRASTIC mistake. I'm an African American, 12 year resident, and I have seen first hand how the school system has failed. I've volunteered to tutor and I was literally shocked by how unprepared the students were. Valerie Stauss, you should be ashamed, your article above contains no facts, you are just a part of the problem of a school system that has completely failed thousands of African Americans. More money? That's all you can come up with? Money for teachers to get kids pregnant...I don't hear you talking about that. You are ignorant, and until the DC folks wise up and understand that when someone is failing kids, they need to find a new job. I shutter for DC after Rhee. If Vince Grey had half a brain, he'd keep Rhee right where she is and let her finish the job she started. As for you Valerie Staurss...I wish Rhee worked at the Washington Post so she could fire you too. You're failing your people miserably.

Posted by: draywilliams | September 22, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Dear Valerie: Don't let the hateful vitriol put you off. Having been an active parent participant of the DCPS I'm ashamed to see the nasty, racist, ugly tones of so many posters. We are seeing the unleashing of the venom behind the consistent praise by WaPo, Kaplan Group. Bloomberg, K. Johnston: THE EDUCATIONAL INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX. It is a national travesty that so many white middle class racists are so afraid that their "free" and excellent public education of their offspring may actually have to compete with the resources of the ACTUALLY NEEDY folks who kept public education alive and viable via government funding in the first place. I am ashamed of our neighbors and sickened that my parent neighbors align the success of their own children with directing free public education in the way Rhee saw fit, and no more. A mean puppet for the airwaves. When our family became involved in DCPS in around 2002, it wasn't because we couldn't afford private school. it was to bring our children up in the real world. The crap that is written all over above here is no better than the stuff Jon Stewart and Steve Colbert plan to comically (but seriously) revolt against in DC on the mall. The parents of DCPS kids who are so sickened by the potential loss of Rhee above are becoming just like the Tea Baggers.

Posted by: modern1 | September 22, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse

TO THE POSTER BELOW: RHEE HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH BUILDINGS!!!! People of DC, do your freaking HOMEWORK beofre commenting. Allen Lew and the OPEFM did facilities! Rhee was freed of that headache to concentrate on her...uh..umm...FALLING TEST SCORES:

I don't like HOW Rhee gets things done, but it's hard to ignore some of the changes since she came on. Anyone who taught before can attest to how much more efficient 825 (I know it's moved, but old habits...) has become. More schools have consistent heat, less schools have leaky roofs, more schools have improved security. It's far from perfect, but these are concrete changes that affect DCPS students and their perception of going to school, which impacts learning.

It'd be nice if Rhee had a handler to be the public voice, but for getting things done I think she deserves credit. Someone credited Janney with the standards, but unless I'm mistaken those were written by and driven by 3 principals, which came into being under Janney. Can anyone back me up on that?

Posted by: modern1 | September 22, 2010 9:17 PM | Report abuse

Keep shining that spotlight on the reality of Rhee-form, Valerie!

Posted by: willoughbyspit | September 22, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Strauss, You have no idea what you are talking about. It is clear you have no educational experience and no understanding of the deep problems that existed in this district before the chancellor came in. Diplomatic--she is not--effective, she is...and that's far more important. I'm beginning to wonder whether or not you were one of the RIFFed teachers...your editorials are as incoherent as their interviews in front of the city council...since you think Rhee is so ineffective, how about you return the district to pree-Rhee years and send your kids to school in DCPS or perhaps you are a DC graduate---you write like you are.

Posted by: teacher6402 | September 22, 2010 11:26 PM | Report abuse

I was appalled at the scapegoating of teachers on Oprah's show last week. Gee, if only corporate CEOs had been held to the Rhee standard. Half of Wall Street would be fired by now for generating the worst financial crisis since the Depression. Why do corporate leaders get rewarded for incompetence?

Imagine what could be achieved if a $750 billion bailout had gone to public education instead?

Oprah's naive and knee-jerk "blame the bad teacher" for all the ills of the public education system just shows she's been a billionaire too long now and is completely out of touch with the realities of teaching in under resourced schools. Shame on Oprah for her shallow assessment of a complicated problem.

Posted by: passionara | September 24, 2010 2:51 AM | Report abuse

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