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Posted at 2:33 PM ET, 10/13/2010

What D.C. schools need now: A departure from Rheeism

By Valerie Strauss

Grand experiments certainly are grand, but they have no real place in the world of education. It’s time for them to stop and for schools to get down to the business of building strong teams to use what is already known about how to build successful schools.

There is some notion buried in our educational experiments that we still don’t really know how to teach kids, or that there is some silver bullet waiting to be discovered. We do know how, and there isn’t a magical answer. The problem is that a lot of elements go into making a school a success -- a truth that many of today’s school reformers choose to ignore.

It’s the teacher, they say, and, well, of course it is the teacher. But it is also:

  • the home environment;
  • the health of the child, both physical and mental;
  • effective principals with the resources to support teachers;
  • strong curriculum;
  • an assessment process that is fair for teachers and students;
  • equitable and sufficient funding, so that all districts have the resources they need, and so that educators don't have to use their own money to buy paper clips, and so that parents don't have to keep schools stocked in toilet paper;
  • strong early-education programs; and strong after-school programs that keep kids safe and engaged;
  • and more.

    The departing chancellor of D.C. public schools, Michelle Rhee, has been fond of espousing the “teacher is everything” philosophy of school reform, though she did take some steps that show she knows it's more complicated.

    As my colleague Bill Turque has reported over Rhee’s tenure, she dramatically expanded the number of spaces in preschool, pre-K and Head Start; opened the Early Stages diagnostic center to help flag learning disabilities in children ages 2 to 5; and piloted a program of "wrap-around" support services for at-risk middle school kids.

    Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson, the woman who will formally become interim chancellor of D.C. public schools, takes the Rhee view that teacher quality is the most important determinant of student success. Henderson was a vice president of the New Teacher Project, a recruiting nonprofit group that Rhee founded and ran before becoming chancellor in June 2007.

    The presumptive mayor of Washington, Vincent Gray, told me last week that he he believes a student’s family life is at least as important, a view more in line with education research, which shows that family income is the best predictor of student achievement.

    But he also said asked Henderson to keep the school system’s senior leadership in place until at least the end of the current academic year, indicating that he doesn’t want any significant change, at least immediately.

    Rhee’s and Henderson’s emphasis on the importance of the teacher is matched only by their endorsement of the use of standardized tests to measure not only schools but teachers, a system of evaluation called “value added” that she helped enshrine in a contract reached with the teachers union.

    Again, Gray pointed to a different approach: He questioned whether kids can properly be judged by a test score if they come to school sick or hungry.

    The big test for Gray will be how he marries two sides of education reform: the one that pushes charter schools and standardized tests, and the other that recognizes there is more to real reform.

    There is no reason to doubt that both sides want some of the same things: high expectations for students, teachers and administrators, but, as one of my loyal readers wrote in an e-mail, they differ on how to “measure progress, implement change, provide support and training and really develop a full spectrum learning institution.”

    The next chancellor can succeed only by trying to build a team in which all members share common goals and by communicating with the community about what he/she is doing. Rhee could have gone a lot further if she hadn’t shut out everybody who didn’t read her version of the reform bible.

    Henderson was an obvious choice to take over from Rhee right now. She is thought to be a candidate as the next chancellor, but I hope Gray takes a broad view of the values he wants in the next head of the city's school system.

    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  | October 13, 2010; 2:33 PM ET
    Categories:  D.C. Schools  | Tags:  d.c. schools, d.c. schools rhee, esigns, henderson, interim chancellor, kaya henderson, michelle rhee, michelle rhee quits, rhee, rhee quits, school reform  
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    Comments

    MICHELLE RHEE is a
    MENDACIOUS, MEGALOMANIAC FRAUD

    (reference to post
    by thooker65):

    Read about the scam testing procedures,
    described below ! ---

    "My daughter participated in the D.C.
    Saturday Scholar program for nearly two years.
    After I found out that she was only 1 of a few students from each school that had above average skills in learning, (Talented and Gifted), were asked to participate in that program. She along with other students that processed that higher level of learning were in this class to take the test (the NAEP exam
    a national assessment, deliberately administered to only a selected 'sample group' of DCPS students) --which was then manipulated to artificially bolster DCPS test score ratings, as a whole district.
    So how does that make the school system
    better (?!), if only this selected group of smarter kids bring up the school standings (via a clandestine process)?
    After I found out what was going on, I removed my daughter from that program. I’m pretty sure that Michelle Rhee would like to take credit for the
    better scores, but did anyone really look into that smoke screen of what was really going on, I can only imagine -- and when I found out about the program I felt sick to my stomach.

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

    Posted by: newmanagement2 | October 13, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

    "Gray pointed to a different approach: He questioned whether kids can properly be judged by a test score if they come to school sick or hungry."

    The excuses are already starting. Of course Rhee knows that sick or hungry children can't learn well, she just knows that teachers have little if any influence over those parameters. She prefers to focus on things that teachers can control, rather than leaving doors wide open for incompetant administrators and teachers to make excuses about lack of performance.

    My god, your blog is infantile.

    Posted by: waldmant | October 13, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

    LOL, agree Waldmant. Does Strauss really think that the child's homelife is a non- factor for Rhee or teachers? What a simple perspective. Does she assume that you cannot measure a teachers performance given these factors? No one is trying to compare results to schools in Mclean.

    Posted by: minhle1 | October 13, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

    Where is the "accountability" for...
    > the CIA and other corrupt
    govt. & Wall Street-affiliated players
    involved with international drug smuggling
    for decades (!)
    -- deliberately inundating
    communities & specific neighborhoods with heroin,
    cocaine, meth, pills (MDMA/ecstacy), etc.
    It is a documented fact that the CIA
    & corrupt elements of the U.S. govt.
    & freemasons have been involved in large-scale
    heroin distribution operations and also
    involved in the deliberately induced
    crack cocaine epidemic targeting black neighborhoods (for the purposes of social undermining & political-economic control).

    Where is the "accountability" for...
    > The 'entertainment' industry
    flooding our youth with heinously toxic,
    cognitively poisonous VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES
    and GANGSTER-THUG GLORIFYING music/videos
    that promote
    crime, substance abuse, disgusting conduct,
    mistreatment & violence against women,
    anti-educational achievement,
    anti-positive values, anti-professional careers,
    anti-healthy, responsible behaviors !

    Where is the "accountability" for
    self-proclaimed edu-profiteer BILL GATES & MICROSOFT
    in producing & promoting VIOLENT, PATHOLOGICAL VIDEO GAMES, including first-person shooter games,
    such as HALO !!!??? --
    which, unfortunately, too many of our country's
    children, our country's students heinously waste
    too much time messing around with,
    messing themselves up with --
    instead of healthfully, smartly & beneficially using that time for... productive experiences, studying, exploring/learning, participating in sports, teamwork, creative arts+music, outdoor activities & nature, significant time with friends & family, engaging in community service !!

    Where is the accountability for VIACOM
    & other media corporations
    (eg. instead of the "BET" channel being utilized
    for positive, inspirational, educational
    or meaningful programming --
    it has mostly
    broadcast the worst sociopathic, demeaning,
    undermining junk -- promoting
    gangsterism & exploiting our vulnerable youth
    with pernicious mind-killing crap.

    FACT! --
    Where is the "accountability" for Wall Street
    & elite financiers,
    such as MERRILL LYNCH and OPPENHEIMER,
    previously the MAIN INVESTORS & SHAREHOLDERS
    owning majority stock in the company
    that produced the 'GRAND THEFT AUTO' video game
    as its main product !!!

    Also, what about the corporate soda-pop
    & junk food pushers targeting children ?!

    The reality is that ethical, caring, dedicated
    public school teachers have been the
    'good samaritans' courageously
    teaching with tremendous effort daily
    to educate & constructively help chidren --
    to transcend, overcome hardship,
    to cultivate wellbeing & achievement --
    despite the grotesque obstacles
    & destruction foisted on us by
    irresponsible, unscrupulous, rapacious and
    duplicitous corporate execs. & financial elites,
    (societally-sabotaging/damaging,
    corrupt oligarchs, such as Goldman Sachs,
    J.P.Morgan/Rothschild scamsters et. al.
    who've caused millions of chidren & families to be homeless.

    Posted by: newmanagement2 | October 13, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

    I am not a teacher in the DCPS, and while I have no direct experience with Rhee and her policies, I have worked for Superintendent's and Principal's who must be her professional cousin's.

    And I agree with Ms Srauss and the other article by the Superintendent that school reform must be pragmatic and look at the "whole" child.

    But even today, in a not so bad school division, we are leaving out internal groups that should and need to be part of the discussion. (That's what it means to be a team...everyone is contributing.) My school division has adopted a new strategic plan which includes as its mantra developing 21st Century skills.

    Teachers are being "re-programmed" to teach skills that someone, somewhere thought they had abandoned...but, in truth, had been ordered to leave behind. New name, old strategies.

    But I can't help but to scratch my head as I see grade level after grade attending training on how to work together collaboratively but all the specialist's are being left out....or at least the art, music, and p.e. teachers are.

    Aren't we part of 21st C skills? Are all students future doctors, lawyers, or accountants? Can't we bring something to the collaboration table? After all, innovation starts with a great idea and the ability to think it through, and appropriate decision-making.

    Just today, I showed my 5th grade art students a segment from CBS's Sunday Morning show about "Google Doodles." (I had come up with a project using the student's names similar to the doodles.)

    The young people at Google were sitting at these cool computers thinking up ideas for these doodles. One student asked if these people went to a "rich" school. I said, "that's where they work." The next question was, "Do they get paid for drawing all day?"

    My point...these kids don't have a clue to what opportunities are out there for them. The focus stays on testing and the basics while many other opportunities are totally and recklessly abandoned....by educators...the very people who should know better.

    As many have said before me and many more will continue to say...these reforms are not reforms at all. In the course of history there have been many civilization's destroyed in the name of reform.

    Posted by: ilcn | October 13, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

    What an idiotic blog. Are there things outside of the teacher/school which are important? Well, duh. But some teachers can better compensate for that than others.

    Here's a metaphor. What's more important for a ship to make it's destination...a good captain, or good weather. Duh. Good weather. Squalls and hurricaines would be bad news.

    But some captains can still navigate successfully through most bad weather. They may have issues, etc...but can get to the destination. Others fail under the same conditions.

    That's the point here. Unless you plan on employing everyone until the new age comes, when we all sing "Imagine" together, while frolicking through our paradise on earth, some kids will grow up in screwed up situations. We need to employ teachers in DCPS who can best compensate for those factors, not ones who might be really great without them. The teachers who might be fabulous with motivated students that don't have these issues should feel free to aply for nice suburban districts where they can shine...not fail at the kids expense where they don't.

    Is this really that hard to understand, Ms Strauss?

    Posted by: janowicki | October 13, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

    Ms. Strauss:

    I appreciate your perspective in what I call a sea of ignorance about education that permeates the pages of the Washington Post. Along with other media, these vehicles are so out of touch about the realities of urban public education that pseudo-reformers like Rhee find it easy to make names for themselves. An ignorant media promotes a counterfeit school leader to those who largely are ignorant about the issues themselves.

    Truth is, Rhee has exploited our children to create a national reputation for herself. She was an unknown before coming to D.C. and, with a big mouth that never ceased to move, she craved the spotlight. And a media that followed George Bush into Iraq in search of weapons of mass destruction once again was deceived into fawning over Rhee. Please, our children deserve so much better than Rhee, and Henderson for that matter, whose resume is even skimpier than Rhee's and far more deficient than the teachers in the system. What a joke!

    I appreciate Rhee's resignation, because it means that the taxpaying citizens of the District of Columbia would not have to pay her a penny longer than her last day on the job...at least I hope we weren't foolish enough to allow her to plunder the treasury any longer.

    Posted by: vscribe | October 13, 2010 6:07 PM | Report abuse

    minhle1: Yes Rhee has made statements to that effect. If you take your blinders off you might see there are other perspectives to the education problem. But I doubt that will happen.

    Posted by: zebra22 | October 13, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

    Valerie,

    You made a decent attempt to give Rhee credit for some of her actions. That's commendable.

    As controversial as Michelle Rhee has been over the last three years, she has raised the level of awareness of the problems with public schools to an unprecedented level. This needs to be noted. She may well have been like a bull in a China shop but this bull was about a half century overdue.

    Bottom line; Michelle Rhee will be missed from the spotlight and especially in the DC schools. The new DC IMPACT bargaining agreement will be duplicated nationwide, in school districts from Fairbanks to Fort Meyers. She exhibited a great deal of spunk to get her message(s) across but many of them were worth the effort.

    Posted by: phoss1 | October 13, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

    @waldmont, minhle, & janowicki: how do you expect to have a serious discussion about education by calling those you disagree with "infantile" or "idiotic?" That, sadly, reflects the very reason why Rhee is so hard to take -- she could be mean-spirited and dismissive. When I read your posts, I found myself feeling that same vibe from you three.

    I respectfully disagree with the idea that Rhee "knows all that but doesn't do anything because she can't control it." First off, her almost constant message is just the opposite -- she believes that poverty can be overcome by good teachers, a reflection of her own appraisal of her so-called (and, I would point out, unverified) "Baltimore Miracle." Of course, this rhetoric only demoralized her teachers and made them feel inadequate.

    Second, the idea that Rhee couldn't do anything about out of school factors like poverty is rubbish. Geoffrey Canada has been experimenting with wraparound services like health care and food for years in Harlem -- why couldn't Rhee do the same in D.C.? Sure, that costs major private funding, but Rhee is loaded with star power and could draw the necessary money. No, Rhee didn't do those services until late because she thought them superfluous to good teaching.

    Unfortunately, the avalanche of evidence suggests just the opposite -- teachers are only a fraction of the puzzle, and until we take real measures to attack poverty, poor health, and poor nutrition, Rheeism is just beating one's head against a wall.

    Posted by: joshofstl | October 13, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

    @joshofstl

    Of course if our job was to work inside the system to enact change we would avoid using language like "infantile" and "idiotic." But, the beauty of this kind of forum is that we get to say what we really think without having to adjust our language to incorporate diplomacy or undeserved respect for opposing views.

    Should I adjust my language when commenting on the Republicans moronic plans to cut taxes for the rich as a means to "balance the budget?" No, since it absolutely makes no sense and is, on is face, intellectually dishonest and moronic. I feel the same way about Valerie's blog. It is simplistic and silly, and infantile. I am not trying to win over my detractors with diplomatic language. I am just writing something that I believe to be on its face obviously true.

    Posted by: waldmant | October 13, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse

    "...teachers are only a fraction of the puzzle, and until we take real measures to attack poverty, poor health, and poor nutrition, Rheeism is just beating one's head against a wall."

    Again, more excuses for poor performance. Unless you think Rhee controls the entire budget of the DC government, it is probably prudent of her to concentrate the resources she has on... ummmm... education? I mean, come on, we all know that all these things affect education, even Rhee. But, she has chosen to focus on her sphere of influence and expertise - teachers, principals, and schools. How unreasonably narrow minded of her. She obviously has no vision or appreciation for the complexities of education, since if she did she would o what really needs to be done - incorporate the entire social welfare system of the DC government into the department of education.

    I stand by infantile.

    Posted by: waldmant | October 13, 2010 8:12 PM | Report abuse

    Speaking for about 70% of the DC area, we'd say today is time for Rhee-joicing!

    The reign of arguably the most destructive and racially divisive force in the history of DC politics, Michelle A. Rhee, has mercifully come to a close.

    Join us in bidding a final good bye to Miss Rhee, her masking tape, her over-the-top self promotion, her razor thin resume, her racial comedy ("Lordy, Miss Rhee"), her pink slips, and ... her broom.

    Washington Post, take the pledge: NO MORE EDITORIALS, ARTICLES, OPEDS, or BLOGS on the above mentioned Michelle A. Rhee.

    By the way, what happened to the hundreds of offers for Rhee to run other school systems the Post kept bleating about? Newark, Atlanta, Detroit, et al. What's that? You made it all up, did you?
    Oh.

    Also, a major shout out to Mayor Vincent Gray whose now famous Come to Jesus meeting with Rhee that brought her to tears was no doubt a factor in her, er, "resignation." It's true. Strong men keep a comin'.

    Finally, RHEE-lief for the District of Columbia. Whew.

    The People

    Posted by: broadwayjoe | October 13, 2010 8:51 PM | Report abuse

    "Of course if our job was to work inside the system to enact change we would avoid using language like "infantile" and "idiotic." But, the beauty of this kind of forum is that we get to say what we really think without having to adjust our language to incorporate diplomacy or undeserved respect for opposing views."

    I might buy that if your characterization of Rhee was actually correct. She herself would admit that it is not, and for the reasons I've already outlined. Ironically, she shares your dismissive attitude toward those who disagree with her -- that's no small reason why she's out of a job. Worse still, her hubris has actually done harm to those ideas she had which were sound. Too bad, really.

    "I mean, come on, we all know that all these things affect education, even Rhee. But, she has chosen to focus on her sphere of influence and expertise - teachers, principals, and schools. How unreasonably narrow minded of her."

    Quite unintentionally, you're right. Rhee is quite narrow minded. (In fact, I would argue that Rhee's sphere of expertise is much smaller than you claim, but that's another topic.) The most successful school systems in the world realize the symbiotic importance of strong education and supportive social services. It is a nuance that they -- and Geoffrey Canada -- grasp and Michelle Rhee does not. Contrary to your suggestion, such wraparound services do not require co-opting the welfare state, as, again, Canada has demonstrated. In tandem with increased focus on quality teachers, basic needs like health care and a free breakfast at school each morning would go a long way. I don't buy the claim that this is beyond Rhee's sphere of influence... no district leader in America had a larger sphere of influence than her, and as I've already demonstrated, it's been done elsewhere.

    "I stand by infantile."

    The most respected, peer-reviewed researchers in education would not stand with you.

    Posted by: joshofstl | October 13, 2010 9:16 PM | Report abuse

    phoss1 said "The new DC IMPACT bargaining agreement will be duplicated nationwide, in school districts from Fairbanks to Fort Meyers."

    Don't expect it in Alaska. They don't believe in teaching to the test there.

    Posted by: jlp19 | October 13, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse

    "The most successful school systems in the world realize the symbiotic importance of strong education and supportive social services."

    Sure, it would be great to have both. Rhee decided she'd focus on the "strong education" part of that duality first. Most of those who "disagree with her" are really disagreeing with the leadership she showed by dismissing LOTS of mostly incompetent teachers and administrators (I'm sure a few good ones got fired too... it happens).

    I mean, your comments make it obvious that you are a smart, education-savvy commentator. Its hard for me to believe tat based on your comments you don't mostly agree with her focus on getting the personnel right. Most of the anti-Rhee crowd were either fired by her, have their grandmother or friends fired by her, or are union flacks. You seem to be an education expert. If that is true, can't you just let her get the personnel right before worrying about all the other issues. Isn't that the most important thing? Without good teachers, all the free lunches and health care in the world mean nothing

    Posted by: waldmant | October 13, 2010 9:47 PM | Report abuse

    This program is based on the premise that students will improve their test scores if only the teacher tried a little bit harder. It fails because it makes teachers accountable for student behavior without real authority to change it. Only parents have this authority and many of them refuse to participate in the educational process of their children. This money would be more effective if it went to parents instead. Perhaps then the television would be turned off, computer games locked up, meals put on the table and student attendance assured.
    An old folk saying is one can “…lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” Education is a labor intensive process that requires hours of rigorous and intensive work ON THE PART OF THE STUDENT. One cannot pour knowledge into someone’s head. Only the student can learn knowledge and skills through his own efforts. Holding teachers solely accountable for the effort students must make to learn is pushing a string uphill. No amount of effort, materials or technique will be effective.
    Certainly educators can improve this process with appropriate materials and resources; I have worked forty years in schools without enough textbooks, teachers, library materials or technology to know what role these resources play in education. But Americans believe all goals must come easily. We have spent so much effort in making education “interesting” “fun” or “relevant” and boosting “self confidence” that we have lost sight of the fact that learning is work. In the end, only a student can decide for himself that education is something to value and work for.

    Posted by: ambridge1 | October 13, 2010 9:50 PM | Report abuse

    "Without good teachers, all the free lunches and health care in the world mean nothing."

    That's a reasonable point: there is no question that having a great teaching corps is critical. The best countries, such as Finland, also have highly-trained, intelligent, carefully selected teachers. I would argue that the reverse is true, too -- even the best teacher will have trouble competing with an empty stomach or a chronic toothache. That's Maslow's heirarchy of needs, plain and simple. The recent "manifesto" crowd is almost baffling in it's denial of social factors. Instead, they keep insinuating that if we just tie teacher pay to test scores and destroy unions, all that other stuff will just magically go away. All the available evidence I've seen just doesn't bear that out. (Plus there is significant doubt from economists that student test scores are reliable when it comes to rating teacher effectiveness.) Again, that's not to say that teacher quality doesn't matter -- it's the most important *in-school* factor, period -- but schools really need to attack these problems on multiple fronts. Not to beat a dead horse, but that goes back to Harlem again.

    "If that is true, can't you just let her get the personnel right before worrying about all the other issues. Isn't that the most important thing?"

    I would like to believe that Rhee was smart enough and had sufficient resources (heck, she practically had everyone from Eli Broad to Bill Gates knocking down her door offering her money) to do both. She chose to focus predominantly on teachers, in large part because I believe (as I've noted) that she really felt like a great teacher could overcome anything. When you look at DC's NAEP scores and of NAEP scores in other districts that have taken that tack, you have to wonder at the wisdom of that belief, as appealing as it is.

    What's sad is that she was her own worst enemy on the personnel front. I'll readily admit that the teacher's union was obstructionist, but she may have the worst public relations skills I've ever seen in a district administrator. She managed to anger people not so much for what she did, but for *how* she did it -- parading around on all those magazine covers carrying a broom, for example. I think she did that because she arrogantly assumed she could just ramrod her definition of reform down the district, not realizing that she was formenting a rebellion against Fenty. George W. Bush was dumb as a post but (NCLB's problems notwithstanding) he still managed to reach out to the opposition on education better than Michelle Rhee -- and that's a sad thing to think about.

    Posted by: joshofstl | October 13, 2010 10:56 PM | Report abuse

    "Bottom line; Michelle Rhee will be missed from the spotlight and especially in the DC schools. The new DC IMPACT bargaining agreement will be duplicated nationwide, in school districts from Fairbanks to Fort Meyers. She exhibited a great deal of spunk to get her message(s) across but many of them were worth the effort."

    Posted by: phoss1 | October 13, 2010 7:08 PM

    =========

    God help us, I hope not!

    Ever see the IMPACT curriculum's "value added" teacher section of its guidebook?

    Here:

    http://dcps.dc.gov/DCPS/In+the+Classroom/Ensuring+Teacher+Success/IMPACT+(Performance+Assessment)/IMPACT+Guidebooks

    • Our schools must be caring and supportive environments.

    • Our decisions at all levels must be guided by robust data.

    • All children, regardless of background or circumstance, can achieve at the highest levels.

    • It is critical to engage our students’ families and communities as valued partners.

    • Achievement is a function of effort, not innate ability.

    • We have the power and responsibility to close the achievement gap

    That is from the intro page - a blue background with 6 "mission" statements repeated in mantra style, or brainwashing style, if you will. I find it reeks of fraudulence, eg, the lip service to community and family (hypocritical lip service gets your patron - Fenty - voted out of power) and the phony notion of "magic teacher" or teacher-as-all-re -learner-success (at highEST levels! For ALL! ... talk about insanely unrealistic criteria for keeping your job as teacher...) The bs cant be more evident than in bullet point #3. That is the kicker. (And its scary that something so foolish is taken so seriously... and used as a sword of Damocles over teachers' heads.)

    Also, #5 is pretty odious, considering Rhee's MO was to pin all the achievement on the teacher. Sorry, but there is something to innate ability re achievement, although certainly nurture plays a big part, too. Yet this is not learner-friendly. Rather, it is teacher-threatening. With Rhee and Kopp, et al, it promotes the false notion that no one can nurture the child toward this highest achievement but the teacher, and If it doesnt manifest, (in all children), then (all together now!) blame the teacher! Only the teacher! Of course!

    I find the creepy IMPACT intro wall to be all too fitting, given what Rhee and her fellow reformers are about, given how Rhee has behaved (doesnt jive with the caring parts) and how impoverished her understanding of what teaching and learning actually means in a public school setting, in LIFE.

    Again, may you be wrong about IMPACT coming to city and hamlet near us... its a piece of damaging nonsense.

    (Although given how committed the reformistas are to such foolish notions, I wouldnt be surprised if your predictions came true.)


    Posted by: NYCee | October 13, 2010 11:04 PM | Report abuse

    "She managed to anger people not so much for what she did, but for *how* she did it -- parading around on all those magazine covers carrying a broom, for example. I think she did that because she arrogantly assumed she could just ramrod her definition of reform down the district, not realizing that she was formenting a rebellion against Fenty."

    See, I basically disagree. I think she probably felt (and I would agree) that in this case it is useless to try to coopt or convince those who disagree with you. She probably felt that she had to directly take on her detractors since she was unwilling to make the compromises needed to gain even a modicum of their support (reduce or delay teacher firings, etc). People who disagreed with that cover image would have found something else to complain about - e.g. all the crazy stuff on the web about her masking tape on students mouths. If you NEED to dramatically shake up a stagnant and disfunctional system, shock therapy was needed. That's what she did.

    And, I would argue that the appointment of her deputy today as the new chancellow actually to some extent validated her approach. She had a successor in the wings, and played it politically smart and got the successor appointed rather than seeing some totally new person take the helm who would not continue the progress that has been made. Obviously the new chancellor person will need to be more conciliatory if she wants to keep the job, and thats probably appropriate give the last three years of revolutionary change.

    I just feel like the compromises needed to attract "buy in" from the community weren't worth it and would have dramatically reduced the extent of the changes made. Can't close all those schools (obviously needed) if you REALLY listen to the community, since they obviously don't want the schools closed. It is a political non-starter, and neither she or Fenty cared - they did what they had to do. Same with the teachers.

    Your comments about environment strike me similarly to the political commentators who are currently attacking Obama from the left - the stimulus package wasn't big enough, the health care bill was no good because it lacked a public option, etc. I mean, sure these people are probably right (and your comments are probably true too). But, why would you spend your time complaining about the imperfections of a policy that is on the right track in a revolutionary way, rather than emphasizing the remarkably positives that have come about?

    Posted by: waldmant | October 13, 2010 11:26 PM | Report abuse

    I just loved what you said: " I stand by infantile."

    I guess everyone needs to stand next to someone; might as well stand next to someone like Rhee.

    Posted by: DHume1 | October 14, 2010 12:15 AM | Report abuse

    I just thought I would let people know that learning is a process. At the school level it breaks down to curriculum, instruction, and assessments. This is not the end all of education but it is the basics of how things are aligned. Yes alignment something many people who talk about education reform miss. The one problem in the district that needs to be address and I think is criminal: DCPS has no curriculum. A curriculum is a guide a road map to let you know what you are suppose to teach. Standards are not curriculum. A curricula gives you scope and sequence of your teaching, it also helps pace your instruction. In DCPS there is no uniformity across schools. Some may disagree with the need for a curriculum but just imagine going to war without a battle plan, or visiting a new city without a map well GPS. I have been in education for 10 years and the most successful district have a curriculum that is aligned to their instruction and assessments. I can only imagine the school board in Montgomery CO schools getting rid of Maryland curriculum, all hell would break lose. My hope is that the next person that runs DCPS understands the need to bring into alignment all the facets of teaching and learning. YOU NEED A Curriculum DC it is unfair to our students.... It breeds inequalities because schools that have the resources and know how will develop their own but those that don't will stumble along and that is unfair to those kids. Oh by the way most teachers are not qualified to write curriculum, it requires full time curriculum writers, and that is not buying a bunch of programs. Programs are not curriculum........

    Posted by: ashippolytegmailcom | October 14, 2010 12:32 AM | Report abuse

    Thank you joshofstl! Great points!

    Posted by: salukiindc | October 14, 2010 6:13 AM | Report abuse

    Enough about Finland already!

    Too bad Bob Somerby of the Daily Howler doesnt get face time on TV like all the reform cheerleaders do. He has some brilliant passages in a multi-part takedown of the media slobberfest over Michelle Rhee and Education Nation and Waiting for Superman, which includes a pick-apart of the obsession with Finland. They do it in Finland! Why cant we?

    Er, because, as he so deftly lays out, WE are NOT Finland. Not even close.

    Geesh... the foolishness of our education "debate" is astounding. I wonder if, just as Americans and others hop on planes to Finland to try to puzzle out their education success, Finnish observers will travel here to try to find out just what makes Americans talk so foolishly about THEIR particular educational challenges and then turn that foolishnrss into "reforms."

    Question of the Day for Finland Fetishists:

    "Why isnt an apple an orange?"

    Posted by: NYCee | October 14, 2010 6:56 AM | Report abuse

    Enough about Finland already!

    Too bad Bob Somerby of the Daily Howler doesnt get face time on TV like all the reform cheerleaders do. He has some brilliant passages in a multi-part takedown of the media slobberfest over Michelle Rhee and Education Nation and Waiting for Superman, which includes a pick-apart of the obsession with Finland. They do it in Finland! Why cant we?

    Er, because, as he so deftly lays out, WE are NOT Finland. Not even close.

    http://dailyhowler.com/dh100110.shtml

    Geesh... the foolishness of our education "debate" is astounding. I wonder if, just as Americans and others hop on planes to Finland to try to puzzle out their education success, Finnish observers will travel here to try to find out just what makes Americans talk so foolishly about THEIR particular educational challenges and then turn that foolishnrss into "reforms."

    Question of the Day for Finland Fetishists:

    "Why isnt an apple an orange?"

    Posted by: NYCee | October 14, 2010 7:01 AM | Report abuse

    Josh -- thanks for taking these folks on.

    Valerie -- keep up the good work. I know you will

    Posted by: efavorite | October 14, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

    Forget Finland, why can't we do it like Richmond, VA (urban, 90% poor, 90% minority)? Over the last 10 years, Superintendents with PhD's and over 30 years in education each turned to the teachers to re-write the curriculum, based on the best available education research, and changed one of the worst school systems in the state into one of the best, even outperforming one of the wealthiest counties in America, Fairfax. Here is how they differ from Rhee and the "reformers:" No Charters; No TFA's; No mass firings; No teacher-bashing; No magazine covers, movies or TV interviews; No corporate testing firms or consultants. Oh, one more way they differ; they got results, long-term and sustainable, by letting the teachers take the lead. There are other success stories in public education all over the country; they just don't get mentioned in the corporate media. Professional educators using the evidence-based (not data-driven), peer-reviewed research to dramatically improve inner-city education is, apparently, not as interesting as spouting the untested or disproven theories of the ed.-reform cult.

    Specifically, Kaya Henderson is also a TFA/NTP cultist and, thus, unqualified to be in a position of authority in any education system. The TFA/NTP acolytes have no interest in, or understanding of, actual research in education and cognitive development because it challenges the core beliefs of their cult.

    Posted by: mcstowy | October 14, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

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