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Posted at 1:30 PM ET, 09/23/2010

Ravitch: Why Fenty, Rhee really lost

By Valerie Strauss

This was written by education historian Diane Ravitch on her Bridging Differences blog, which she co-authors with Deborah Meier on the Education Week website.

Ravitch and Meier exchange letters about what matters most in education. Ravitch, a research professor at New York University, is the author of the bestselling “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” an important critique of the flaws in the modern school reform movement.

Dear Deborah,
On the afternoon of Sept. 14, I attended a private screening of "Waiting for Superman," the film in which Michelle Rhee is portrayed as one of the true heroes of today’s school reform movement. That evening, Washington D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty—who appointed Rhee and gave her free rein over the city’s long-troubled public schools—lost his bid for re-election. The election was widely viewed as a referendum on Rhee, who attained a national reputation in her role as schools’ chancellor. Her allies considered her bold and combative; her opponents considered her divisive and mean-spirited. In the closing days of the Fenty campaign, she went to the districts where Fenty had his strongest support—the largely white districts in the city’s Northwest section—to rally voters.

When the results came in, Fenty was trounced in largely black districts. In Wards 7 and 8, his opponent, D.C. Council President Vincent Gray, won 82 percent of the vote. In Northwest Washington, where white voters predominate, Fenty won 76 percent of the vote. Fenty decisively lost the black vote and decisively won the white vote. D.C. public schools are about 5 percent white, so it is a reasonable supposition that the anti-Fenty vote was fueled to a large degree by parents of children in the public schools. Gray won handily, 53 percent to 46 percent.

Journalists attributed Fenty’s loss to the power of the teachers’ union, but such an explanation implies that black voters, even in the privacy of the voting booth, lack the capacity to make an informed choice. When the Tea Party wins a race, journalists don’t write about who controlled their vote, but about a voter revolt; they acknowledge that those who turned out to vote had made a conscious decision. Yet when black voters, by large margins, chose Gray over Fenty, journalists found it difficult to accept that the voters were acting on their own, not as puppets of the teachers’ union.

In the post-election analyses, the most common complaint about Fenty was that he was arrogant and out-of-touch with black voters. Rhee spoke about her failure to communicate, though it is hard to think of any figure in the world of American education who had as much media attention as she has had over the past three years. Certainly, she did not lack for opportunities to communicate. Her critics say that her fundamental flaw was arrogance and an indifference to the views of parents and teachers.

Rhee believed that mayoral control gave her the power to work her will and to ignore dissenters or brush them off as defenders of the status quo. Mayoral control bred arrogance and indifference to dialogue. She didn’t need to listen to anyone because she had the mayor’s unquestioning support. Mayoral control made democratic engagement with parents and teachers unnecessary. It became easy for her to disparage them and for the media to treat them as self-interested troublemakers.

Mayoral control of schools short-circuits democratic processes by concentrating all decision-making in the hands of one elected official, who need not consult with anyone else. If D.C. had had an independent school board, Rhee would have had to explain her ideas, defend them, and practice the democratic arts of persuasion, conciliation, and consensus-building.

We now have an "education reform" movement which believes that democracy is too slow and too often wrong, and their reforms are so important, so self-evident that they cannot be delayed by discussion and debate. So self-assured are the so-called reformers that they can’t be bothered to review the research and evidence on merit pay or evaluating teachers by test scores or the effects of high-stakes testing. If they can find one study or even a report by a friendly think tank, that’s evidence enough for them. Mayoral control gives them the mechanism they need to push ahead, without regard to other views or collateral damage.

The trouble with this anti-democratic approach to school reform is that it alienates the very people whose votes are needed by the mayor to continue what he started. Although one can find exceptions, it is usually the case that voters don’t like autocracy. They expect to be treated with respect, not condescension. They expect democratic institutions to operate with democratic processes. They expect their leaders to explain and discuss their decisions before they are final and to change course when they are wrong. The very behaviors that schools are supposed to teach—how to think, how to participate, how to reason with others, how to find common ground—are the same behaviors that we expect to encounter in public life.

In other contests, the pro-charter lobby took a beating in Democratic primaries in New York City. There, the pro-charter group Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) targeted three African-American state legislators for defeat because they questioned the expansion of charters in their communities.

DFER raised huge sums for the challengers (See "DFER Watch"). The highest-profile race was in Harlem, which has more charters than any other neighborhood in the city. Hedge-fund managers and other friends of DFER poured more than $100,000 into the campaign to defeat state Sen. Bill Perkins, who gained their enmity by seeking public audits of charters. The New York Times, the New York Post, and the New York Daily News ran numerous articles and editorials vilifying Perkins and endorsing his opponent, Basil Smikle. Smikle was supported by New York Gov. David Paterson and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

On Sept. 14, the three state senators opposed by DFER were re-elected by large margins. DFER’s main target, Perkins, collected 76 percent of the vote. The media referred to the re-election of these state senators as victories for the teachers’ union, denying the possibility that black voters exercise personal agency when they cast their ballots.

These electoral losses and the recent Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll suggest that the "reform" movement led by the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, DFER, hedge-fund managers, and the Obama administration lacks a base of popular support. But now begins the next phase of the movement, as its public relations campaign goes into high gear with the release this week of "Waiting for Superman."

Now, the public will be immersed in the "reform" narrative: Our public schools are rotten; low test scores are caused by bad teachers; high-stakes testing works; merit pay works; charters work; the unions that represent teachers are the main obstacle to "reform."

Diane

-0-


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By Valerie Strauss  | September 23, 2010; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. Schools, Diane Ravitch, Guest Bloggers, School turnarounds/reform  | Tags:  D.C. schools, Diane Ravitch, adrian fenty, bill perkins, democrats for education reform, dfer, fenty loses, gray rhee, gray rhee summit, michelle rhee, school reform, tea party, teacher unions, vincent gray  
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Comments

The DC voter will not care about things like "anti-democratic" leadership as long as those in charge are advancing what that voter perceives to be his/her self-interest.

Fenty lost because African-Americans viewed him as a mayor of the affluent White population in NW DC, according to polls; they feared gentrification and loss of their comfortable government jobs.

Why would Gray want to re-hire the poorest performing teachers? Because his constituents care about revitalizing DCPS? For political payback.

If a "democratic leadership" style is required, no teachers will ever be fired, everyone will get raises, and the schools will continue to flounder.

Posted by: biff_t84 | September 23, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Investigate this!

Rhee-form, edu-profiteers
& sleazy, corrupt 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"/consultant)
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 23, 2010 2:53 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, 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 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 comments 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."

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

Michelle Rhee is a clueless 'chancellor'
(note: she's unqualified to be a school superintendent
or even a principal);
she's a knee-jerk communicator
and an incompetent manager --
unaware & unskilled at how
to build and lead viable coalitions
to implement
and sustain strategic goals.

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

Posted by: honestaction | September 23, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Rhee/Fenty were bounced because the DC voters apparently care more about appearance than results. This has nothing to do with democratic input. The school system would not be reformed if the teachers unions were permitted to muck things up.

The basic complaint is that it's not what was being done, but the way it was being done. It reminds me of the smiling charlatans whom my mother prefers as mechanics vs. the gruff, but competent/honest ones who work on MY car.

The DC voters are very conservative with respect to preferring the toxic familiar over demonstrable improvement. Hence, DC Public Schools will continue being one of the most expensive per-pupil and under performing school systems in the country. There is no painless way to reform such a dysfunctional school system. There is too much vested interest in the status quo.

The teachers unions have won. The children have lost. This will stand as a warning to anyone who dares to buck the system again.

Posted by: william_r_alford | September 23, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Amen and a huge thank you to Diane Ravitch.
I hope black voters of DC and New York use this to influence both the politicians and the media to better serve the voters' needs and reflect their way of thinking. It is badly needed.

I fear the power of widely-distributed movies like "Waiting for Superman" to radically misinform and set off many people to advocate even more strongly these wrong-headed and no-facts-based drives to wreck schools in the name of reform.

Perhaps the title of the movie states the reality - Superman is a fictional character just like usefullness and accuracy of the issues it tries to promote.

Posted by: 1bnthrdntht | September 23, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

As usual, Diane Ravitch is spot on. Perhps the most incisive observation was that the autonomy (isolation) provided by mayoral control and corporate funding, allowed Rhee and Fenty (and other school "reformers") to ignor the evidence that their preferred policies wre not improving education and even harmful to education. Rhee and Fenty's problem was not just that they were arrogant, but that they were arroagant about their really bad ideas. Of course, when you surround yourself with cronies and yes-men, and never have to hear a dissenting voice, all of your ideas seem perfect.

Posted by: mcstowy | September 23, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

I think that is the risk all leaders face, not hearing dissenting voices, thus the bubble effect.

I disagree that the unions have won. The DC teachers conceded a lot of the job security stuff in exchange for higher salaries way before the election.

I also am trying to picture all these DC people being a big "union" town like Detroit used to be or a coal miners town. Neighbors telling each other, "I have to go vote now, my union boss wants his man back in." I mean, please! And if the majority of voters in DC want a strong teacher's union, then that is what they want.
Just because these Anacostia schools are poor doesn't mean they don't know a good teacher when they see one. And in tough schools, the emotional connection with a teacher is vital.

Perhaps DC black voters know more about education than most observers give them credit for.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 23, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps DC black voters know more about education than most observers give them credit for.

Posted by: celestun100

Just as I highly doubt those who have been slamming the DC voters for Gray have actually talk with them.

Posted by: edlharris | September 23, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse


@edlharris,

Right. Although, I guess there have been times when candidates were elected that I have totally been in disagreement with on almost every issue and I wondered what the other half of the country was thinking, so maybe I can see the outrage, but I still think they are missing the point.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 23, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Valerie and Diane are right on the point. DC.voters black and white (gray received as many white votes as fenty received black ones) Yet Gray also carries ward hardest hit by the recession, unemployment and unequal allocation of school resources (Wards 5,7,8 etc)

The drop in overall elementary test scores back to 2007 levels is enough of a concern for parents. When one looks closely one must ask why our 3rd graders, the children who came into the school system when Rhee arrive 3 years and who took the DC CAS for the first time last spring are fairing so poorly. See and insightful analysis here. http://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2010/08/20/detailed-results-on-the-dc-cas-for-2010-3rd-grade/
An Gee biff (first poster above), DCPS employs a whopping 1% of the DC's black populations. Gray said staff fired during Rhee's RIF due to budget cuts are eligible to reapply for a job. When one is removed from a job for budget reasons that is how it works. So whenever you want to cut out the race baiting hatred-That'll be cool.

Posted by: rastajan | September 23, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Well, Ms. Ravich, you gave us the answer - THE KIDS DON'T MATTER, PATRONAGE DOES. You barely mentioned the children in your article, and those that voted for that shameless panderer to failed teachers, Gray, those voters didn't give the children a thought, just their bruised, pitiful egos.

Posted by: start_loving | September 23, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

A very insightful article. Of course, the Fenty/Rhee racists will never accept that Black people can have a legitimate difference of opinion. Some people are actually committed to strengthening PUBLIC EDUCATION, not enriching the owners of charter schools. And those who blindly support the charter school movement often overlook the fact that many charter schools are actually WORSE than their neighboring public school. There is nothing magical about the term "charter school" that makes them automatically superior to public schools. Many of them spend more per student (at the expense of public schools) than the public schools and have mediocre results. And I think that the Fenty/Rhee supporters would have voted against Fenty if he had ignored their neighborhoods for four years, laid of their neighbors on the pretext of budget cuts and then built dog parks/bathrooms in Anacostia for Black people.

Posted by: PepperDr | September 23, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Diane Ravitch is not only a great historian she is a world class writer, and in this letter offers a factual detailed explanation for the defeat of mayor Fenty. In doing so, she clearly and accurately offers analysis which the education reformers will no doubt argue against, but to no avail. In plain language, SHE NAILED IT!!!

Richard Mangone
NYC Retired Teacher

Posted by: richamango | September 23, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Post-election analysis of the vote showed that 62% of the DCPS parents voting in the election voted for Fenty. No matter who you support, it's very clear that the rejection of Fenty was not a parent revolt.

If only DCPS parents' votes were counted, Fenty would be serving another term. Just sayin'.

Posted by: 4kids | September 23, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Most tea party voters are not wealthy and they generally are voting against their economic interests (for candidates who want to lower taxes on the rich and repeal health care).

Many of them simply have the facts wrong and believe every wacko email that drops into their inboxes.

They may make a conscious decision, but it is usually because they have been manipulated. Not a good analogy.

Posted by: trace1 | September 23, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Post-election analysis of the vote showed that 62% of the DCPS parents voting in the election voted for Fenty. No matter who you support, it's very clear that the rejection of Fenty was not a parent revolt.

If only DCPS parents' votes were counted, Fenty would be serving another term. Just sayin'.

Posted by: 4kids


Are you sure about that? I heard there was a mistake in that figure.

Posted by: educationlover54 | September 23, 2010 7:43 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Ravitch, when was the last time you taught in or lead a high-performing, low-SES urban classroom/school? The answer is NEVER.

Having not had this experience, I find your credibility on contemporary school reform to be laughable.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you'd like an authentic opinion on the merits of the modern school reform movement, I suggest you speak with those teachers and school leaders who have a demonstrated track record of success in promoting outstanding academic achievement in our schools.

Ms. Ravitch, do future generations of our children a favor and keep your opinions to yourself.

Posted by: careforkids | September 23, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse


Rhee can be the "Chainsaw Al" Dunlop of public education. If reform just means firing a lot of people who don't deserve it along with some who do, then Rhee is your reformer.

Posted by: blasmaic | September 23, 2010 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Carforkids-

I am a teacher in a PG middle school. 70% of my school is FARMS and 99.5% is minority. 25% currently qualify for ESOL and 45% have been in ESOL classes at some point in elementary. We have been steadily raising test scores for the past 5 years with hard work, long hours and a lot of working late at night, on the weekend and during the summer.

The "modern school reform movement" is terrible. Any educational class will teach the importance of differentiation, however we are now being 'encouraged' to teach the same thing to everyone and to cut out anything that does not show up on the MSA. Students are being pulled out of arts classes (music, art, band, drama, Spanish) for MSA prep courses.

I participated in FIRST (merit pay) 3 years ago when it started. However, since I was distinguished in the categories at the first evaluation, I couldn't "grow" so only received money for teaching in a hard to staff area (ESOL) and for attending the PD which were all on how the evaluation system worked (worthless to classroom teaching). The extra pay or hope for it did not change what I do in the classroom, the evaluation showed me to be a "distinguished" teacher (the highest level) but I still only got $2500 of the potential $10,000 that FIRST bandies about. I have no desire to do extra paperwork for a worthless program that doesn't even do what it promises.

Charter schools are a mixed bag, just like public schools. Some are great, some are terrible and most are somewhere in-between. My problem is that so many are run by for-profit institutions. How do you justify making money from a student? Taking tax dollars to go to corporate profits?

I am also sick of all the bull about the "strength" of teachers unions. In MD teachers are not allowed to unionize. We have an association to help negotiate for us, but we can't strike or do anything about bad ideas or programs. Most teachers I know don't pay much attention to the union.

I have a BA, a Masters in Teaching and a Masters in Bilingual Special Education. I have been a teacher for 2 public school districts and taught in the English Language Fellows Program for the State Department. I am the Vice President of my local professional organization, I have also working in testing writing for NAEP and several states.

Now careforkids, tell me your qualifications to believe anything YOU say since you seem to be so undemocratic about anyone having an opinion on education.

Posted by: Bramblerose | September 23, 2010 9:47 PM | Report abuse

I couldn't agree with Mr. Richard Mangone more and thank him for stating that Dr. Ravitch 'nailed it!' She certainly did.

Diane's article is superbly and fairly written. Her incisive analysis is engaging and brilliant. I don't believe I've read an article or book of hers which could be characterized as unfair, unjust, or inaccurate.

Thank you for sharing your analytical insight and for highlighting the fact that certain journalists should afford black voters more credit.

Your article left me with three morals to this story:

1) Arrogance breeds power, not justice or fairness.
2) Hold tight to our democratic processes, don't short circuit them.
3) Arrogance loses in the end.

What an outstanding article. Thanks!

Posted by: rsolnet | September 23, 2010 10:12 PM | Report abuse

It would be nice to get the breakdown of votes, maybe it has been published elsewhere.

Mostly, I am interested in the parents of school age children voters.

Anybody have the link?

Posted by: celestun100 | September 23, 2010 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Ravitch needs to sit up in her ed school ivory tower and continue to espouse the fact that all of societies ills need to be fixed so teachers can teach. Don't bring that down here.

Posted by: delray | September 23, 2010 10:27 PM | Report abuse

Post-election analysis of the vote showed that 62% of the DCPS parents voting in the election voted for Fenty. No matter who you support, it's very clear that the rejection of Fenty was not a parent revolt. If only DCPS parents' votes were counted, Fenty would be serving another term. Just sayin'.

Posted by: 4kids

* * * * *

Are you sure about that? I heard there was a mistake in that figure.

Posted by: educationlover54

* * * * *

Assuming the above statement by 4kids is true, it proves the point that this election was about more than education reform and "Rhee-form". Things such as corruption, disregard of law, fiscal irresponsibility, etc. Concluding that it was all about DCPS and Rhee is simplistic and inaccurate.

Posted by: nan_lynn | September 23, 2010 11:06 PM | Report abuse

@nan_lynn--

Wow, not the usual sniping, slights, silly comments or spam. An actual reasoned comment. I would give you a recommendation if it existed.

Posted by: delray | September 23, 2010 11:18 PM | Report abuse

One question though, does Strauss still get paid when she uses someone else's writing. It's like the star visiting professor who bring in someone else to teach each one of her classes.

Posted by: delray | September 23, 2010 11:53 PM | Report abuse

Valerie Strauss has no credentials to report on education...so she turns to a quack to do it for her.

Posted by: RL67 | September 24, 2010 12:55 AM | Report abuse

From Wikipedia

Tribalism and evolution:

According to a study by Robin Dunbar at the University of Liverpool, primate brain size is determined by social group size. Dunbar's conclusion was that the human brain can only really understand a maximum of 150 individuals as fully developed, complex people (see Dunbar's number). Malcolm Gladwell expanded on this conclusion sociologically in his book, The Tipping Point. According to these studies, then, "tribalism" is in some sense an inescapable fact of human neurology, simply because the human brain is not adapted to working with large populations. Beyond 150, the human brain must resort to some combination of hierarchical schemes, stereotypes, and other simplified models in order to understand so many people.

Nevertheless, complex societies (and corporations) rely upon the tribal instincts of their members for their organization and survival. For example, a representative democracy relies on the ability of a "tribe" of representatives to organize and deal with the problems of an entire nation. The instincts that these representatives are using to deal with national problems have been highly developed in the long course of human evolution on a small tribal scale, and this is the source of both their usefulness and their disutility. Indeed, much of the political tension in modern societies is the conflict between the desire to organize a nation-state using the tribal values of egalitarianism and unity and the simple fact that large societies are unavoidably impersonal and sometimes not amenable to small-society rules.

In complex societies, this tribalistic impulse can also be channelled into more frivolous avenues, manifesting itself in sports rivalries and other such "fan" affiliations.

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

The ability of some members of our community to ignore actual science (educational science in this case) by demonizing the messenger (Diane Ravitch in this case) is not surprising, but disappointing nonetheless. The fact that so many of Ravitch's critics are people who consider themselves well educated, well informed and more capable of understanding education reform than the majority of black families with children in DCPS is "devastatingly" pathetic, ironic, and laughable.

Tribalism is not what you think it is ... and it cuts both ways!

Posted by: AGAAIA | September 24, 2010 1:52 AM | Report abuse

Mediocre as he was, Fenty was the best mayor DC has ever had.

If he had appointed a black police chief, and a black school chief (even a very abrasive one,) does anyone doubt that he would have been re-elected ?

It's an issue everyone studiously ignores, but it is truly the elephant in the living room.
.

Posted by: gitarre | September 24, 2010 3:21 AM | Report abuse

The Post coverage of its election loss has turned ugly and dishonest. Before the election, they admitted it was largely a referendum on the "education reform" enforced by the candidates it supported.

Since the election, the Post has destroyed its journalistic standing forever by a turn to race-baiting to undermine the new administration. Howard Kurtz knows the WPO Corporation owns Kaplan K12, in addition to its fraud-ridden Kaplan Higher Education arm.

Yes, beginning in kindergarten, the WPO has a business plan that taps straight into local education budgets for its profits, without the knowledge of the community. They call it "education reform" and "Race to the Top". Michelle Rhee has deflected a steady funding stream to the Washington Post Corporation's for-profit Kaplan K12 and its subsidiaries.

An education columnist for the Post says the existence of Kaplan K12 was unknown to him, but he won't discuss disclosure because journalistic transparency is out of his area, and he has turned the question over to the Post's media expert, Howard Kurtz.

Here is Kurtz' shameful response:

"The mayor, D.C. and Race
But if the coverage is any indication, the results were largely about race. And in a way that I find troubling: The African-American mayor was essentially accused of caring too much about white people and appointing too many white people.
I am not exaggerating."

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/howard-kurtz/2010/09/the_mayor_dc_and_race.html

Posted by: mport84 | September 24, 2010 6:26 AM | Report abuse

Yet another analysis of the Fenty loss. DC residents voted in Barry after his drug arrest. End of story. Nothing deep or worthy of analysis about the DC voters.

Posted by: 12345leavemealone | September 24, 2010 7:14 AM | Report abuse

Mayoral control of the schools worked perfectly. A lot got done, because the chancellor didn't have to answer to a bunch of know-nothings who wanted to bloviate on endlessly and prove they could exercise control. Then, when enough people didn't like it, they voted the mayor out.

Posted by: rosepetals64 | September 24, 2010 7:37 AM | Report abuse

@Honestaction

Can you do anything other than post the same thing over and over again? It adds nothing to the discussion.

Posted by: biff_t84 | September 24, 2010 7:49 AM | Report abuse

I can honestly say I am just glad my kid does not go to DC school. He goes to Montgomery county, and like the lady wrote, they do not have a welfare teacher association (union). Thank God. My opinion, people gets what they deserve, so I hope they go back to their failure system of over three decades, and with the same politicians. At least they will listen to their complaints, have parties, and everybody will happy eventhought their kids can not even spell their name lol.

Posted by: externado | September 24, 2010 8:48 AM | Report abuse

I guess people went from singing "Happy Days are here again" to "Oh! Happy Day." Fenty's administration had whites in very high-profile positions and if Gray's statement that his administration will be reflective of the city, comes true a 60% shift will be in the black column. Then we as blacks will be our own worst enemies...as the old-saying of being "colored-struck" comes to play. Why do I sense the feeling of the "paper-bag" days are soon to be restored. You old-school Dunbar "Crimson-Tiders" know what I am talkng about. Don't you?

Posted by: PowerandPride | September 24, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Reading some of the posts here leads me to believe that a call to return to 3/5 ths voting representation for blacks is the next "Original Constitutional Intent"argument we may expect.

Vincent C. Gray is a superior leader to Fenty in every way, and his personal charm derives from his sincere desire to engage and learn about the people he serves and those who he works with in that service to the community.

Fenty was not just aloof, secretive, and insensitive; he was incapable of seeing his own limitations. "I have the courage to make the tough choices", Fenty says, explaining why he is so disliked by so many. Balderdash.

A great line from Dirty Harry at the end of 'Magnum Force', "A man has got to know is limitations." Every great leader understands this, whether they like Harry Callahan or not. And he had a reputation for cutting through the red tape too.

Posted by: AGAAIA | September 24, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

(corrected typos)

Reading some of the posts here leads me to believe that a call to return to 3/5 ths voting representation for blacks is the next "Original Constitutional Intent" argument we may expect.

Vincent C. Gray is a superior leader to Fenty in every way, and his personal charm derives from his sincere desire to engage and learn about the people he serves and those who he works with in that service to the community.

Fenty was not just aloof, secretive, and insensitive; he was incapable of seeing his own limitations. "I have the courage to make the tough choices", Fenty says, explaining why he is so disliked by so many. Balderdash.

A great line from Dirty Harry at the end of 'Magnum Force', "A man has got to know his limitations." Every great leader understands this, whether they like Harry Callahan or not. And he had a reputation for cutting through the red tape too.

Posted by: AGAAIA | September 24, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Wtf, what was this whole "letter" about? Someone just regurgitated all of their thoughts out onto the page about how the public seemingly rejects the notion of school reform being pushed onto them from a handful of elites, and then they forgot to write a conclusion. So disappointing.

Posted by: forgetthis | September 24, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Let's take a look at the "reform" agenda proposed by Fenty and Rhee:

1. High-stakes testing: Standardized tests of students are unreliable as a method of evaluating teacher effectiveness (Economic Policy Institute, August 29, 2010, Briefing Paper #278). NCLB, testing and choice are undemining American Education (Diane Ravitch, one of the primary founders of NCLB);

2. Replace experinced, certified teachers with inexpereinced FTA cultists: Certified, experienced teachers produce better results than uncertified, inexperienced ones ("Does Teacher Preparation Matter?” Stanford University 2005).

3. Ignor curriculum and concentrate on staffig: Curriculum matters (Brown Center Letters on Education # 3, Russ Whitehurst, Brooking Institution).

4. School choice/charters: "17 percent of charter schools reported academic gains that were significantly better than traditional public schools, while 37 percent of charter schools showed gains that were worse than their traditional public school counterparts, with 46 percent of charter schools demonstrating no significant difference." (Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University, June 15, 2009);

5. Finally, merit pay: Does not work. (Vanderbilt University's National Center on Performance Incentives and Rand Corp., commissioned by the US DOE.)

So: Is there anything about the "school reform" agenda that has not been a complete failure, according to the research? Why do we continue to pursue these failed policies and why do we allow the architects of these failures, Gates, Broad, Walton, Kopp, Duncan, Klein, Rhee, Fenty, etc. to have any voice is the discussion of education in America? Their ideas are bad. They’ve failed. Or was that the idea in the first place? To make sure poor kids get a lousey education while diverting tax dollars to private "education" companies like Kaplan?

Posted by: mcstowy | September 24, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

As a total outsider, it blows my mind that voters would vote out someone who was trying deperately to improve schools that are among the worst in the nation. Doesn't say much for the intelligence of voters in a Democracy.

Posted by: sportsfan2 | September 24, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Teachers Union wins, kids lose! The DC school system is hopeless.

Posted by: Jimbo77 | September 24, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

With the number of articles written since Fenty's loss you would think he was in office for 20 years. Fenty ran a bad campaign and tried to phone in the election without listening to the concerns from the community that elected him. Why is it hard to understand that Fenty pissed off his support base and was not elected.

Posted by: agarnett1000 | September 24, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

The corollary to the "reform" narrative is an inability to see the possibility of a third way: if you're against Rhee-style "reform," you're for the teachers' union. If you're against any aspect of the "reform" narrative, you're against reform. It's Rhee's way or back to the old way -- hmmm, that sounds familiar, doesn't it...

Tellingly but not surprisingly, all of the posters here (and many responding to similar articles elsewhere) who criticize Diane Ravitch's posting offer nothing of substance - no counterarguments, just empty insults and slogans ("Teachers Union wins, kids lose!").

Unfortunately, Ravitch has it right: the "reform" narrative which is currently being foisted on the public is un-democratic, deeply anti-learning, and very much an instrument of social control and class indoctrination. What is needed is a third way, one which respects the democratic nature of the school reform process and which respects kids as people instead of inert inputs whose "achievement" is reduced to a few test scores. It's a really hard thing to do, but it's better than the alternatives...

Posted by: tenkanv2 | September 24, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

If Gray is as canny a politician as he appears to be, he'll fire Rhee and give lip service to some retrenchment, but will continue reform and not rehire the fired teachers. Rhee may be arrogant and sowed the seeds of her own (and Fenty's) downfall, but to deny that DC schools need radical, rapid change is to deny reality. She will have done the district's children a service by delivering the shock treatment to the bureaucracy. Gray can use her scalp to distract neighborhood activists and the union while continuing on the reform path.

Posted by: webfreddes | September 24, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

I went to the public high school that used to serve President Obama's home neighborhood. Most of its students were African Americans from an impoverished inner city neighborhood. Nevertheless, at the time, I think it offered a better educational experience than the private school that the President's children attended when he lived in Chicago. Several UofC faculty agreed with that assessment and sent their children to public school even though the UofC's private laboratory school was quite affordable too them. It is not totally clear why the school managed a good experience. But it did not have anything to do with firing teachers or financial incentives. I went through a transition in private business where there were changes in employee business practices somewhat along the lines that are being talked about for teachers. As best I could tell, the change had no useful value in the performance of employees. If anything, there was a negative effect because the managers spent even more of their effort on playing politics. Our society seems to be permeated by the illusion that waving money in front of people enables them to perform miracles. I doubt that it will do much more for education than it does for the quality of investments stimulated by the Federal Reserve's cheap money.

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Posted by: shoestrade28 | September 24, 2010 11:01 PM | Report abuse

@ mcstowy:

You always come up with something valuable and worth following up on. I don't usually have a chance to look up source material that others site, but I checked out those you referenced and they were very well done.

Thank you for your contributions to the discussion. It is unfortunate that many who post seem to have the answers before the questions are asked. Kind of like playing Jeopardy, but I don't think they would fair very well there either.

Posted by: AGAAIA | September 25, 2010 12:16 AM | Report abuse

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