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Ms. Rhee: apologize, don't leave

My wife is advising me not to say any more about D.C. school chancellor's Michelle A. Rhee's remarks about teachers hitting and having sex with students. She thinks I am going to trip over myself and break a hip. Maybe, but I promised readers that I would respond, so here goes.

The chancellor did not apparently give a statement to my colleague Bill Turque last night, but she did talk to our editorial writer who has been following this matter. Check out today's editorial page to see what she said. That writer is a first-class journalist so I trust her account and will react to that. If Rhee has more to say after I post this and run off to interview a reading coach, I will react to that too.

The editorial says, at least to me, that Rhee exaggerated the problems of the teachers she fired in October in her statement to Fast Company magazine. Only six were serving suspensions for corporal punishment, only two had many unexcused absences and only one was on leave for allegedly having sex with a student, a charge the teacher denied and has not been fully investigated.

I think Rhee needs to be more apologetic. Her comments were over the line. All of us who mouth off in public are prone to saying things we would have edited if we had had the chance. The best thing to do is to say you are sorry to have sounded like an idiot and that you will try to be more careful in the future. My great fear is that any political battle over this might get bad enough to get her fired, or more likely convince her to leave. I think that would have terrible consequences for D.C. schools. I am interested in hearing from readers who think otherwise.

We have been through a lot of superintendents and chancellors in the last few years, haven't we? Was that fun for you? Not for me, and not for the many good principals and teachers who work here. Please tell me, if you want to be rid of Rhee, exactly how her disappearance is going to help those good educators and their students.

I have heard Rhee criticized for many things, but not for the quality of the principals she is installing in our schools. Brian Betts at Shaw Middle School and George Leonard, head of the team now running Dunbar and Coolidge high schools, are smart and creative people who are doing good things and hiring good teachers. If Rhee goes, then all of the principals she put in place are in jeopardy. Sure, they have contracts, but that is not what is important in a school district. The relationship between district leader and school leader is critical. If Rhee goes, we have to start over again. If Rhee goes, what potential district leader with half a brain will even consider taking such a job?

So please, Ms. Chancellor, say whatever you have to say to get us past this rough spot. I can see why national political leaders are afraid to apologize for things they did. Their opponents just use their words to beat them over the head harder. But you are in a very strong position. Test scores are improving. Voters like the direction the schools are going. Just say you're sorry and your most persistent critics will lose traction and we can move on. It's not hard to do. A little self deprecation is good in a leader. President Obama does it well. Do what has to be done so you can get back to helping kids.

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By Jay Mathews  | January 26, 2010; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags:  D.C. schools, Michelle Rhee, hitting students, insulting teachers, sex with students  
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You obviously haven't been in those schools! Rhee apologize and then leave!

Posted by: candycane1 | January 26, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

If this were an isolated incident then I'd shrug it off as a misunderstanding and move on. However, it is not. From the first day Ms. Rhee arrived, she has done nothing but criticize teachers and the teacher's union and most of her actions have been designed to frighten and demoralize teachers.

I'm not saying there are not bad teachers, there are too many of them. But just like almost every time she has spoken, she painted all the teachers that were laid off as bad (in this case accusing them of sex with and hitting students). This is not an accident.

I think that Ms. Rhee has done a lot of positive things (including angering the WTU, which is fine by me, even if I am a member). However, the principals she has brought in generally rule by intimidation and treat teachers as disposable and unimportant to the process (see Bell, etc...) and her attitude is the same.

This system needs a lot of help, but it isn't going to fixed by a bunch of TFA kids coming in for two years and then leaving. There are a lot of good teachers in this system, and they are the ones that are going to leave if their work environment becomes miserable or if they are treated badly. The ones that are going to hang on for as long as they can are the ones that don't have anywhere else to go.

Ms. Rhee bashes teachers regularly because it is easy (there are bad teachers, just like there are bad any profession) and because it is politically popular. If you think that the quality of teachers is going to improve in DCPS because of this bashing you are sadly mistaken. I know a lot of potential teachers who might have considered DC (not for one or two years, but as a career) who want no part of being a scapegoat, especially when there are options elsewhere.

I think that if she leaves, someone will build on her successes (just as she has built on Mr. Janey's). Hopefully, that person will continue to do the positive things she has started.

Of course, the point is moot, she will never apologize, as it is not in her nature. When she gets caught doing something wrong, she only gets more aggressive.

Posted by: Wyrm1 | January 26, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

“It was never OUR intention, nor did I ever say, it was ALL of the teachers who fell into these catagories...OUR intention was not to paint ALL teachers with a broad brush stroke.”

To whom does OUR refer?

Does it include Brian Betts?
George Leonard?

Posted by: edlharris | January 26, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

The relationship between district leader and school leader is critical

Jay, right problem, wrong solution

Posted by: mamoore1 | January 26, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

PS Jay:
You should have listened to your wife.

Posted by: candycane1 | January 26, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse're two for two in backing inept Superintendent & Chancellor.

1) John Deasy: Who literally left PGCPS "holding the bag" during a budget crisis because his career and personal bank account meant more to him then students and staff productive achievement.

2) Michelle Rhee: her blatent disrespect toward staff and inability to create a progressive bridge between WTU & DCPS.

True leaders don't go around bashing the very same people they should be supporting and providing confidence toward success.

Posted by: TwoSons | January 26, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Jay, based on her tenure as chancellor, what reason is there to believe that Ms. Rhee will apologize?

While Ms. Rhee has implemented some good ideas and hired some competent people as principals, she has yet to forge a constructive relationship with teachers. I don't see how she can truthfully believe that by continuously trashing public school teachers that she can improve education for children in D.C.

Posted by: sanderling5 | January 26, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

i don't see the success.

I see yet another wave of so-called "good" people, and folks investing hope and stock in them. the people speak well and show passion for the efforts, but something is always wrong. either they are not cracked up to be what folks thought they were, or the DCPS system eats them alive!

I don't think DCPS can fix it's challenges without a whole-istic city and school system approach. OK the guy at shaw is great, thus everyone wants to leave the sousa's, the Brown's, the other junior highs to get to one school that cannot serve them all. at some point it has to be about standardization of programs, resources, etc. why does DC always plays this miraculous person game?

DC would be pleased with the little step forward at Shaw, but have no eye on the big picture.

Posted by: oknow1 | January 26, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Good posts, but i don't see any realistic scenarios yet of how we could let Rhee go and not suffer serious harm in the schools. Anybody else got anything other than fond hopes?

Posted by: Jay Mathews | January 26, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

"Good posts, but i don't see any realistic scenarios yet of how we could let Rhee go and not suffer serious harm in the schools. Anybody else got anything other than fond hopes?"

There's the problem when the whole "reform" effort is dependent on one person.

Some were so wanting of "reform" that they ignored the warning signs, beginning with that "resume" of hers with its story of the "Baltimore Miracle."
Many were willing to look away, because her mind was in the "right" place.

Bob Somersby over at had it pegged right two and a half years ago:
"But then, the nation’s journos—like other elites—simply adore this narrative. It has driven coverage of urban schools at least since the mid-1960s, when we ourselves read about miracle cures in the feel-good urban educational literature of that hopeful era. Such “miracle cures” are typically myths; for example, Rhee’s test score claims are most likely fake, and her resume includes claims about the “acclaim” she won from the nation’s media that are flatly bogus. But so what? The nation’s elites are in love with this harmful narrative—and city councils aren’t willing to fight it.

Indeed, our press corps will publish tales of miracle cures no matter how bogus they may really be. In this manner, the Washington Post published a feel-good, top-of-the-front-page report about a local school with a miracle cure—a school which also had the second-lowest reading scores in the whole state of Virginia! (It happened last year, on the Post’s front page.) "

But so what? The nation’s educational elites, based here in DC, didn’t say a word about these remarkable stories, even after we did their work for them. This week, these same hail fellows have kept their mouths shut about Rhee’s unlikely resume claims. They bow low to others inside the elite. But then, it’s the nature of modern elites. They work for their cohort, themselves.

These elites exist to spread pretty tales. Those low-income kids can go hang. (We know. You refuse to believe this.) "

Posted by: edlharris | January 26, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

I know that most posters here will dismiss this finding, and I can't vouch for the methodology, but a recent DCPS stakeholder survey found that 83 percent of parents, 72 percent of students and 74 percent of faculty and staff agree that their school is on the right track.

Posted by: trace1 | January 26, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Enable incompetence because it could be worse. Got it.

Posted by: imback | January 26, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

People are frothing that the teachers got fired? That the system was so inept that they had to be rid of through budget cuts and not because they were incompetent teachers?! Yes, Rhee RIF'd a ton of teachers, some of who were egregious offenders, btu that leaves a huge swath of common incompetents.

I still don't think she needs to apologize. The Union protected alleged sex offenders. Where is the outrage at the Union? The Union puts teachers first, kids last and also never apologizes about it. The Union has caused (in some degree) the turnoever of superintendents.

I think Rhee is between a rock and a hard place - but instead of helping, the Union intends to squeeze her harder until all we have is, well, a hard place. Thanks for that. I have 2 preschoolers and I think Rhee cares more for my kids than anyone posting here.

Posted by: DCgrr1 | January 26, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

"[Marion] Barry quickly grasped that the school system could do more than just facilitate his own rise. With its thousands of well-paying jobs, it was an ideal way to rebuild the black middle class—and, not incidentally, it was a limitless source of patronage. Barry’s climb coincided with that of William Simons, the fiery head of the Washington Teachers’ Union. Simons was a sort of black equivalent to Albert Shanker, then the voluble head of New York’s United Federation of Teachers, and he led his union in two lengthy, debilitating strikes during the 1970s. Through it all, Barry played the go-between, working the city and Congress around to Simons’s position. A new political base was emerging, populated by teachers and led by Barry. “It’s no longer about educating the best and brightest of black Washington but about establishing the schools as a place where blacks can get better jobs, higher salaries, and more benefits,” [Juan] Williams told me.

A generation later, the result was a system that was overstaffed, inefficient, and resistant to change, even as it got worse at its primary role of educating students. Into this mess stepped Adrian Fenty and Michelle Rhee."

Posted by: trace1 | January 26, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

"The Union protected alleged sex offenders. "
No it didn't.
The union couldn't go and fired the teacher.

"but a recent DCPS stakeholder survey found that 83 percent of parents, 72 percent of students and 74 percent of faculty and staff agree that their school is on the right track."

The parent satisfaction has gone up 5% since Mrs Rhee became Chancellor.
What does that tell you that 2.5 years ago, 78% of parents approved or strongly approved of DCPS?

I thought, before Rhee, things were retched in DCPS.

Posted by: edlharris | January 26, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

edharris -
I was never asked to participate in a parent stakeholder survey pre-Rhee. (In fact, the Superintendent's office didn't even return calls or emails.) Do you have a link?

Posted by: trace1 | January 26, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Losing any leader mid-stream under any circumstance causes some upheaval in the system, but that’s no reason to keep someone who’s caused so much damage and seems to thrive on keeping the system roiling. Better to start over than to prolong the misery for everyone – including Rhee. I joked the other day (before sex-gate) that she was screaming for help, but I’m beginning to think I was right.

People who can jump ship are already doing so. Hiring next year, especially after this sex flap is not going to be easy. I fear DCPS is moving quickly from being perceived as a national educational miracle (thanks to a fawning press) to being perceived as a national joke (thanks to Rhee). It happens that way, when you have a really, really bad leader.

During the RIF, she alienated even the bright young teachers she hired and they’re starting to talk. Rhee’s created a toxic environment among teachers and if you don’t know it, please at the very least, read relefective educator’s blog He’s a young teacher who moved from the west coast to be part of Rhee’s reform movement and left last week after a half year.

Excuse the hyperbole here, but Germany was a mess after Hitler fell, and look at it now! DCPS is not quite at the scorched earth stage, but the sooner she’s gone, the sooner we can start rebuilding and any good manager will recognize and be able to keep on board some the truly good staff already here.

I can’t wait to see the tortured look on her face when she apologizes and to see how she fits “the best interests of children” into her resignation letter.

Posted by: efavorite | January 26, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Here's the press release with previous years' scores:

And here are more details, including individual schools.
It would nice to hear how your school did:

Posted by: edlharris | January 26, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Highly doubtful she will resign given the fact that it's an election year.

If her resignation is forced (which is highly doubtful as well) an interim candidate would need to be vetted/selected and realistically speaking, there doesn't seem to be time between now and Nov. for that to occur.

One would think an apology would be provided (but probably ineffective) and highly doubtful there is a "bridge of return" for Chancellor Rhee to continue post Nov. 2010 Mayoral election, especially if Fenty isn't reelected.

This issue will pass, as with most political upheavals (after all, this is Washington, DC, which seems to be the hub of political unrest). But yes, this is a very sensitive issue because this is about children and their educational future within DCPS.

If nothing else, the path may have been paved for the next DCPS leader of what NOT to do and what doesn't work as appointed Chancellor of DCPS.

Posted by: TwoSons | January 26, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Here is a Classic Quote of Rhee's:

"If I go down at the end of the day because I didn't play the political game right, that's okay with me," she said. "At least when you're making decisions that you believe are in the best interests of kids, you may not win in the end, but at least you can operate with a good conscience." 6/14/2009

It seems doubtful that she will apologize, or that if she manages to force out a fake apology, that anyone will believe her.

Posted by: efavorite | January 26, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

If she does provide a forced/fake apology, it seems that it may not be important to Rhee whether anyone believes her or not.

The school year has only about 5 months remaining and if I were a mind reader, (which I clearly am not) those would be her thoughts and why she more then likely isn't going anywhere.

Posted by: TwoSons | January 26, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

What people think of Rhee matters to Fenty - and it matters to whomever else needs someone to bust the union and doesn't have a candidate lined up at the moment.

I suspect at the point the WaPo ed board and her other corporate handlers see her as a huge liability and are just trying to figure out their best options -- and I don't think it has much to do helping with the kids.

Hey Jay - maybe Rhee and the powers that be could work out an orderly transition - that she stays on until the end of the school year to allow time to find someone else.

I don't think Rhee would go for it, though. Too plebeian

Posted by: efavorite | January 26, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

No school district can accept this kind of behavior. Good character must always be Number One for anyone in education.

When Rhee leaves I hope the people of DC will realize the following:

Teachers CAN be dismissed if legal procedures are followed. In the past bad teachers stayed because it was sometimes impossible to fill these jobs. The union cannot hire or fire;

It's important to hire the best qualified teachers available. These teachers need to be experienced and fully credentialed;

Teachers need support in their jobs. Teachers who have very difficult classes need to have paraprofessionals in the classroom to assist with very disruptive students;

Every teacher and every child is entitled to a safe environment. No teacher should have to endure a hostile working environment;

In education it is imperative to have the cooperation of teachers. No "reform" will ever happen without the input of the major stakeholders. That's just common sense;

DC can have the best schools possible if the people demand them. All education is local and parents generally get what they demand.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | January 26, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Jay, I think whether this city will be better off with or without Chancellor Rhee is hard to say. I come at this from a policy perspective, as someone who has been working in and around school reform and education for the better part of a decade, at the federal, state, and local level. Here's my current line of thinking:

When politics consistently interfere with good, sound policymaking I worry about the level of effort needed to make real, tangible progress in raising the bar for our kids. In our city, like any state across the country and the federal government, the Executive and Legislative branches must work together to form policies. It seems to me that no matter what cutting-edge reform efforts the Chancellor and her team develop, no matter how committed teachers and administators are, no matter how high the level of instruction is in classrooms, no matter how many support services we plug kids and their families into, this administration is not going to be able to successfully implement and bring to scale the level of change the District needs to graduate more than 50% of its students. Good management matters - ask any student of public administration and they'll tell you that a critical principle of successful management is engendering the trust and buy-in from stakeholders - in this case, kids, but too, their parents, elected officials, teachers, principals, etc. So far, Chancellor Rhee has ignored this principle, to the great detriment of her reform efforts. She just can't seem to get out of her own way, and that, I fear, is compromising an administration I once felt certain would be responsible for major turnaround in DC schools.

Posted by: Educhic | January 26, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

What people think of Rhee matters to Fenty - and it matters to whomever else needs someone to bust the union and doesn't have a candidate lined up at the moment.

I suspect at the point the WaPo ed board and her other corporate handlers see her as a huge liability and are just trying to figure out their best options -- and I don't think it has much to do helping with the kids.

Hey Jay - maybe Rhee and the powers that be could work out an orderly transition - that she stays on until the end of the school year to allow time to find someone else.

I don't think Rhee would go for it, though. Too plebeian

Posted by: efavorite | January 26, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse


Based on Fenty and Rhee's past actions, they seem to give more credance to those who agree with their performances then those that's called EGO and both seem to have huge ones.

"Smarter" politicians typically do not have a desire to "bust a union" but work cohesively to gain their support; it's what seems to work in surrounding educational systems within the DMV area. The situation with DC is that the school system was so terribly bad for such a long time, extreme measures were sought and facilitated...some say sucessfully and some say not so successful at all.

But the public will always side with the students and not unions and why the sex-gate snowballed into local newspapers and news channels and public demanding answers.

People were more inflamed about the potential of students being exposed to molestors and physical abusers then teachers being blanketly disrespected because if nothing was done, then it translated to was criminal offenses relating to the safety of minors.

The only way Rhee will be considered a "huge liability" is if her leadershp performance decreases student achievement.

Rhee will finish her tenure and the election and more importantly, student achievement, will determine her fait.

She can care less if anyone likes her and all the "powers that be" and proactive parents care about is the work getting done regarding student/child any means necessary.

It may translate to really great teachers leaving (or considering coming). Time will tell.

Posted by: TwoSons | January 26, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

good stuff. focusing on kids for a moment, I have a question for efavorite. what is this damage you refer to? In what way are students worse off under Rhee, and what evidence do you have of that?

Posted by: Jay Mathews | January 26, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

I'm sorry, but a lot of you folks act like she is the one who is at fault for the condition of the schools. All those union reps. and leaders play on every word she says, their nothing but a bunch of crooks trying to cover their collective asses, and a lot of you teachers are no better. Your union leadership is the reason the schools are in the condition their in. I say really shake things up. The union membership, should fire the leadership and get new leaders. Here is one even better than that, how about getting rid of the union all together, you folks actually might get something done. Your kids will get a better education and all those dues you pay to be a member of an organization, can then be put back in the pockets of the people who worked for it, instead of some union hack, who spends your hard earned money at the golf course. You folks should be thanking her for her efforts. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK MICHELLE RHEE!!!!!!

Posted by: fmingram | January 26, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

There - educhic said it - good management matters - and that DCPS certainly has not had under Rhee.

Unfortunately the longer Rhee is here, DCPS also is losing another important element that Educhic mentions - committed teachers and administrators.

Posted by: efavorite | January 26, 2010 6:29 PM | Report abuse

"what is this damage you refer to? I"
Jay, go read the last two Filthy teacher blogs
Your answer is there.

Posted by: edlharris | January 26, 2010 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Children are suffering under No Child Left Behind (which Rhee loves dearly). Social Studies?! Who cares! Science? Maybe now and then. Thinking? Heck no -- regurgitate that stuff, kids!

Children are suffering because we are MISERABLE when we come to work and that stress takes a toll.

At my school, test scores (everybody's measurement) began an upturn four years ago. Each year there has been a significant jump. 90% of my second graders are advanced, proficient, or a fraction below proficient in reading -- they compare to students anywhere, and I fully expect 85% to be proficient or advanced by the end of the year. Because I went to Columbia to get Reader's Workshop training. I got the 1300 books that I use in my class. DC has NEVER GIVEN ME ANY MEANINGFUL TRAINING in eleven years. And almost no materials. My colleagues are like me -- we change what we are doing if it's not working. We educate ourselves. And I've had enough of the teacher-bashing, incompetent leaders, lack of support, lack of everything.

I plan to leave at the end of the year and my community will be worse off without me.

Posted by: ame_hr | January 26, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Jay, you ask, “In what way are students worse off under Rhee, and what evidence do you have of that?”

Of course I didn’t say that students were worse off under Rhee and I know you’re too good a journalist to think I did – especially when my words are in black and white above, so you must be up to something else. Could you possibly be suggesting that if the students aren’t visibly suffering then it’s OK if the teachers and administrators are suffering and OK if the Chancellor makes gratuitous remarks about teacher sex molesters to the national media and then holes up for three days? After all “Children first!”

If so, tell me how a toxic work environment helps teachers teach better and administrators manage schools better and what evidence do you have for that?

If not, tell me what you are asking, and I’ll try to respond.

Posted by: efavorite | January 26, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Ed and ame_hr -- I'm glad you took the bait. excellent on-point answers.

Ame_hr -- you should also take Ed's advice to Jay and go over to

I think you'll find a good community of like-minded teachers there. the blogger makes it easy to get in touch with him. I suggest that you do.

Posted by: efavorite | January 26, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Linda/RetiredTeacher wrote:

"The union cannot hire or fire." Maybe not in your district in California, Linda. But you can't speak for DC.

I am personally familiar with 3 instances in our elementary school, pre-Rhee, where the principal was blocked from hiring her choice of applicant and instead was sent an "excessed" employee. Bad teachers have been passed around like holiday fruitcakes in DC for years -- principals tried mightily to maneuver around these union rules, sometimes with success, sometimes not. These teachers were always, always horrible -- lost years for the kids in their classes.

Posted by: trace1 | January 26, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

efavorite, just curious (and I've read the Reflective Teachers blogg) I feel really bad about his outcome but there are schools within the DMV that would welcome his passion and dedication.

If teachers are so miserable, and working conditions are unjust, toxic, unbearable, insufferable, to cause near brink of mental and physical breakdown, and teachers pay dues toward Union Representation to decrease or minimize these type of environments, why isn't the WTU stepping up on behalf of teachers if these are the consistent and/or majority/typical working environments?

Isn't that suppose to be the main purpose of unions?

Posted by: TwoSons | January 26, 2010 7:43 PM | Report abuse

Rhee is the one damaging the DC school system? And it was just fine before she arrived? UNBELIEVABLE!!!

Posted by: fredcorgi1 | January 26, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse

She won't listen to you, Jay. She won't apologize, not now, not ever. She's constitutionally incapable of it. It's becoming ever more clear that her behavior reflects an underlying defect of character which is probably impossible to remedy.

If she does mouth some sort of half-baked "sorry", it'll be pure public relations spin without a trace of sincerity or substance. At this point I don't think she's got an ounce of credibility left.

Posted by: laboo | January 26, 2010 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Jay - It may be time for you to take a sabbatical. You are so starry-eyed that just about anything Rhee does is better than anything else that you can imagine. Rhee has made some progress but at what cost. She is divisive, lacking the qualities of a great leader. Great leaders bring people together in support of a cause that they share and value. Rhee would rather rule not lead. She made an egregious error of judgment making a statement that she had to know would not go unanswered. This chancellor is not the bright talent that Fenty had hoped for. Washington can do better. How many of the well respected school systems in the country are led by novices? Can you imagine bringing an inexperienced journalist in to run WaPo? Of course not. Yet you and many others whose voices are heard in this city feel that it is more than acceptable for our city to accept less under the guise of reform. Rhee should be removed now. Rhee and Fenty lack credibility with the work force of this city. Its time for Fenty to go. WE CAN DO BETTER.

Posted by: lightkeeper | January 26, 2010 8:13 PM | Report abuse

Jay, I am an educator in DCPS and an excellent one at that. Michelle Rhee has done nothing but create chaos and disrespect her teaching corps since she arrived. The gains and results we are seeing have been on the rise since before she arrived and we have Clifford Janey to thank for that.

I have been in DCPS for 7 years and have never seen more chaos than this year. You mention that the relationship between district leader and school leader is important. What is more important is the relationship between the district leader and her teachers. We welcomed her, despite her lack of qualifications. Some of us even hailed her arrival, myself included. But it didn't take long for me to change my mind as I watched her take every opportunity to degrade and demean us. A little respect and a little appreciation would have gone a long way. Now, there is no trust left. Unless she fires all of us, which I believe that is where she is heading, there won't be much more change if any. You cannot lead people by instilling fear in them. The environment in DCPS is as toxic as I've ever seen it. And NONE of this is good for kids!

As mentioned, I have been in DCPS for 7 years and came through the DC Teaching Fellows program. I was a career switcher and ran a non-profit very successfully before switching to teaching. So I know a little something about leadership and motivating people.

I am on my way out of DCPS and public education. I've had more than enough. I love my students and will miss them greatly but there comes a point when you have to take your own health and sanity into consideration. I am interviewing for another job now. That is what Michelle Rhee is doing--pushing those of us who are effective educators right out the door. I also have to tell you that with the reputation she has created for herself, it will be tough to find qualified, experienced, effective educators to teach in the toughest of the schools in DCPS.

If you are interested in hearing more about my story I would be more than willing to sit down and speak with you face to face, just let me know.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | January 26, 2010 8:17 PM | Report abuse

If Rhee goes, then all of the principals she put in place are in jeopardy. Sure, they have contracts, but that is not what is important in a school district. The relationship between district leader and school leader is critical. If Rhee goes, we have to start over again. If Rhee goes, what potential district leader with half a brain will even consider taking such a job?

Jay, Jay, Jay . . .

If these are the GREAT principals you feel they are then an incoming leader would be CRAZY to let them go.

As you know the job of the leader is to enhance the image of the organization. What parent is going to want to place the care of their most precious possession in the hands of child beaters and molestors?

As far as 'starting over' we now KNOW from the NAEP scores that we were well on our way to improved student achievement under Dr. Janney until The Washington Post and Mayor Fenty jettisoned him to Newark, NJ.

Get over yourselves. As we recently saw in Massachusetts, this is a populist revolt year. Can you hear us yet?

Posted by: mrpozzi | January 26, 2010 8:25 PM | Report abuse

I think the comparison to bringing in a novice to run the wapo is the best analogy. A lot of major newspapers are in trouble, how many of them would go out and hire someone with no qualifications or experience for the top job? Really makes no sense at all. Teaching is, or rather in DCPS could be a profession, the amateur hour/ populist approach is beginning to show itself for what it is

Posted by: mamoore1 | January 26, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

TwoSons - I don't have the answer to your question. I just know I've heard the union described even pre-Rhee as ineffective in terms of taking positive actions for teachers. Still, the contract itself protects teachers and is better than nothing at all.

Urbandweller - good for you to offer to sit down with Jay. Jay - Please take him up on it. It would make a great article. Urbandweller - good luck on your interview tomorrow.

I agree about the Rhee/WaPo management analogy and can't resist re-posting a comparison I make between Rhee's reforms and journalism a while back:

If the journalism field handled its problems with declining newspaper circulation the way the Washington Post proposes DC should handle its educational problems, the solution would look something like this:

> Bring in a bold, visionary leader who has two years reporting experience, during which time the person claims to have increased circulation from 13% to over 90% (but has no data to support that claim).

> Support this leader’s plan to fire a significant share of reporters and replace them with energetic recent college grads from elite schools who become reporters for a few years before moving on to other, more lucrative careers. (No journalism majors need apply. Smart people already know how to write and they’ll be taught everything they need to know about reporting in an intensive summer course.)

> Chastise current reporters for recoiling when the new leader goes around the country blaming journalists for the shameful decline in circulation.

> Consider it perfectly reasonable when the leader says things like [borrowing from DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee], “As a newspaper reporter, you have to be willing to take personal responsibility for ensuring citizens read the newspaper daily, despite obstacles. You can’t say, ‘My readers are spending more time on the internet,’ or ‘Young people today aren’t in the habit of reading the newspaper,’ or ‘Their checks bounce, so their subscriptions are cut off.”

> Expect the good reporters that print journalism needs to attract in order to remain solvent to come rushing to its doors upon hearing the leader’s claims of success with her readers during her own brief reporting stint [again borrowing from Rhee]: “Their reading habits did not change, their interests did not change, their commute did not change, their occupational demands did not change. What changed were the reporters writing articles for them every single day. And that made every bit of difference.”

Posted by: efavorite | January 26, 2010 8:59 PM | Report abuse

Any apology from Rhee at this point is too little and too late.

She has lost the public's confidence and the trust of the faculty and staff at DCPS. Her actions have so demoralized teachers that many of the best have decided enough is enough and are leaving the system. I doubt that given the current climate at DCPS any new hires will be the creme of the crop.

She is a poor leader and lacks the people skills that should be inherent in any top official and especially in one who is charged with the education, safety and well-being of children.

She must go because she is willing, at a great cost to others, to lie when the truth would do. If she was willing to exaggerate and tell tall tales out of school in such a cheeky manner to a reporter than her credibility is also severely damaged.

She is sending the wrong message to our young people by lying to cover up her actions. There are always consequences for the actions any of us take.

The only thing left is for her to be terminated from a position that requires a person of high morals and unquestionable integrity. Rhee is not the one to lead DCPS.

Fenty fire Rhee.

Posted by: 2belinda | January 26, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

WTU exists only to protect the jobs of incompetent teachers, of whom there are far too any in DCPS. Rock on, Rhee. Break the damn union!

Posted by: bravegirl01 | January 26, 2010 9:56 PM | Report abuse

Jay, students need more teachers like UrbanDweller, but instead DCPS is driving them away. How is that not bad for students? I second the motion for you to have milk and cookies with UrbanDweller to get a perspective from the education trenches.

Posted by: imback | January 26, 2010 10:44 PM | Report abuse


I think we have all seen that it IS possible to fire teachers. Rhee proved that.

Unions cannot fire or hire in any state or in the District of Columbia. However, they do enter into contracts with the district. These contracts do protect teachers but the district leaders must sign off on them. If you do a little research you will find that most administrators do not want to go through the dismissal process (90-day plan) because it requires too much documentation. It is a matter of record that the majority of teachers in the United States get "satisfactory" ratings. The records of huge districts often show that they tried to fire only one or two teachers each year.

In my CA district it was not difficult to dismiss a teacher; generally they were pressured to resign. However, in Los Angeles, these teachers are just transferred to other schools. This is an administrative, not a union, decision. Only the administration has the authority to hire or fire.

If a teacher is fired, he will ask the union to represent him. The union will provide an attorney to help the teacher keep his job because that's what unions do. However, after this the decision is usually made by a judge, arbitrator or commission. You are right when you say that some of these bodies are favorable to the teacher, but that's a matter of laws and not of unions. In short, the situation is a complex one. It is the legal responsibility of a school administrator to evaluate a teacher.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | January 26, 2010 10:56 PM | Report abuse

Jay, when DCPS has been dysfunctional in the past, and when DCPS is dysfunctional in the present, I understand your pessimism that even with an overhaul DCPS will necessarily be dysfunctional in the future.

But it doesn't have to be that bad. It would take a community effort to improve the school system, from the mayor and council, to the chancellor and staff, to the principals and their administrations, to the teachers and their unions, to all students and their families, down to all the citizens of DC. Power trips and struggles within these groups will not bring improvement.

I had really hoped Rhee could pull off such an improvement. Those hopes are mostly dashed now.

Posted by: imback | January 26, 2010 10:56 PM | Report abuse


You just supported my argument, by stating that it's possible to fire teachers because Rhee just did it ---yes, and it wasn't done BEFORE Rhee in DC. And Rhee went around the union contract.

Listen, Linda, you know darn well that union contracts vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. I don't comment on California's contracts because I don't know much about them. You, in turn, apparently don't know much about DCPS' teachers' contract. The bumping rules in DC were some of the most onerous in the country, and, yes, they absolutely prohibited principals from hiring their choice of applicants.

To know how it evolved this way in DC, you need to understand DC's peculiar history, where the school board was one of the only ways to build political power. See:

Marion Barry worked with the union to use DCPS as a jobs/ patronage machine for his African American ADULT constituents. At that point in history, DCPS turned away from its job of educating the African American children in DC and became a way of ensuring jobs for the adults in the city. “It’s no longer about educating the best and brightest of black Washington but about establishing the schools as a place where blacks can get better jobs, higher salaries, and more benefits,” (see The Atlantic)

And you obviously know -- but will not admit -- that arbitrators must be approved by the union. The result? They rarely uphold a termination, even if a principal spends an inordinate amount of time on a "clean" termination. If arbitrators uphold terminations, they don't get reappointed. So spare me the nonsense about the "90 day plan."

Linda, the more you contribute, the more it becomes clear that you really do not understand the dynamics in DC. It is not California.

Posted by: trace1 | January 27, 2010 6:43 AM | Report abuse

please listen to your wife.

Posted by: stayone | January 27, 2010 8:37 AM | Report abuse

Trace1 - do you have information on how many union grievances go to arbitration or how many teachers have been successfully removed using the 90 day plan?

And what's the source of information on arbitrators being unfair?

Posted by: efavorite | January 27, 2010 8:50 AM | Report abuse

I am curious.

I am an uninterested party as I live in VA and only recently began following this story, but it seems to me that given the following: (i) the DC public school system has been one of the worst in the country; and (ii) the DC public school system spends a significant amount of money per student, that any change to the system has to be better than what has been occurring.

I hear a lot of "protect the status quo and get rid of Rhee comments on this board", which seem silly to me as she is the only person in recent history who seems to be achieving significant change. I am guessing the comments are coming from the WTU, who only seem interested in protecting entrenched teachers (regardless of quality), which should be a bigger concern to parents and high quality teachers than debating one poorly thought out remark.

Posted by: curiousinva | January 27, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

I posted this the other day, and your response was that the "90 day plan" was no longer relevant. The reason I posted it is because people always cite it as the reason DCPS does not need any Rhee-desired changes to the termination procedures."The 90 day plan works!" they say. Yeah, right.

So here you go, again: In 2007 in DCPS, only 18 teachers out of more than 4,000 were placed on the plan. Only one was fired.

Why? Because the documenting and meetings required under that plan require an absurd amount of a principal's time--which they would, in fact, invest if they knew a fair arbitrator was waiting at the end of it.

But since the union gets to approve the arbitrator, it is never fair (after all, the arbitrators know that if they uphold too many terminations, they are out of a paycheck. Simple common sense.)

Posted by: trace1 | January 27, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

trace1 - I don't know much about arbitrators, but it seems that you're implying that they are de facto corrupt. Is that so?

I do know that arbitrators are used to settle union grievances that have not been settled in earlier steps of the grievance process and have heard that very few cases get as far as arbitration because cases are either settled or dropped before then.

I don't know if dismissals based on 90 plans can be grieved, and if they can be, I don't know how many have been. Do you?

Also, you mention 2007 cases, which was Pre-Rhee. I think someone, maybe edlharris provided info in a later comment that the number of 90 plan dismissals jumped after Rhee. Is that right?

Posted by: efavorite | January 27, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

More teachers were put on the 90-day plan under Rhee. Why? Because she found private money to hire people to manage these insanely time-consuming maneuvers so that the principals could actually continue to manage the schools. It was another way around the union, which knew that the process was absolutely unworkable for a principal charged with curriculum, discipline, teacher support, parent relations, physical plant, and on and on.

When the private money dries up, I'd prefer not to have my tax dollars spent on hiring people to jump through ridiculous hoops set up by the union and laughingly called "due process."

Arbitrators should not have to be approved by the union. You think they're going to decide against the union when their paycheck depends on it? Talk about scales on the eyes ....

Posted by: trace1 | January 27, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Jay, I agree with you. I am slowly becoming a Rhee supporter because I appreciate that a dire situation requires dire changes. She's right in the middle of a very intriguing plan that I think really does have the best interest of DCPS students in mind.

But Rhee could gain more support from her opponents in the education community if she communicated better. I agree that this is a great time for her to show a bit of humility and admit that she erred in the tone of her statement, and that should have clarified her statement sooner (that not ALL of the teachers RIF'd were mixed up in misconduct, that most were fired because of poor teaching or reviews).

This situation is not something she should be fired over. If she creates an environment where students stop learning, or causes test scores to skydive, or allows DC schools to go back to the bottom of the nationwide ranking, then YES, fire her. But not for this.

Posted by: vivace751 | January 27, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse


What would Rhee have to do for you to withdraw support for her?

Clearly she can say anything she wants, including disparaging/slandering teachers to a national publication, and it doesn't affect that support. I think is unfortunate, because it sounds like you are giving her a blank check as long as the test scores go up.

Posted by: bermanator34 | January 27, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Also, don't you think it's time for Mayor Fenty to sit Rhee down and tell her that it is time to focus on the school system and not her personal promotional agenda?

Because when she gives an interview like the one to Fast Company, or gets her picture taken for the cover of a national magazine holding a broom, that serves her personally but does no favors to the students and teachers themselves. Maybe if she spent time working with teachers instead of being interviewed disparaging them, that would be more helpful.

Posted by: bermanator34 | January 27, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse


You and I are both interested in ensuring the best teachers possible for DC, but we see it from a completely different vantage point. You want the "bad" teachers fired right now, regardless of how it is done. I can't really blame you because I'm certain you've had some really bad experiences with DCPS.

After a lifetime in education I see things differently. Historically, it's been extremely difficult to hire fully qualified teachers for big cities such as Cleveland, Los Angeles and DC. Almost half of our population (men) have steered clear of urban teaching and now, with women going into all occupations, it will be even harder to attract people to teaching once this recession is over.

What Rhee is doing to teachers could have national repercussions. If teachers are treated with gross disrespect and cheated out of their hard-earned protections, what "highly qualified" person will want to accept these jobs? I will concede that Rhee MIGHT have dismissed a few bad apples, but what effect do you think her policies will have on future efforts to hire good teachers for DC? If she is allowed to get away with her unjust methods, what effect will this have on teacher recruitment across the United States. Two wrongs do not make a right.

I am involved in this situation because I think it has ramifications for our nation as a whole. Rhee is regarded by some as a "savior" for education, but many of us see a wolf in disguise. There is evidence that her resume is based on lies and this is ALWAYS a bad thing. A person of her type can cause a lot of damage. History is replete with examples of brilliant people whose bad character causes disaster and pain for innocent people. That's how I see it and I'm not alone.

I respect your opinions and I agree with you that DC needs to have a more efficient way to dismiss ineffective teachers. But can we just agree that a fair and legal way must be found to accomplish this goal? With a leader who is both talented AND of good character, it can happen.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | January 27, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

I have been in a lot of DC schools the past few months, and am seeing a lot of good teaching and NO toxic environnment that is hurting learning. So I am waiting for someone to tell me about it here, on this blog, as a good comment. It doesn't help this blog's readers to send us off to other blogs. Tell us what you got.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | January 27, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse


At what point does Rhee's out-of-school activities erode her support from you?

It seems to me that your attitude is akin to saying "Oh, well, it's too bad that all of the teachers who Rhee laid off now have to deal with potential bosses in other local districts asking them if they were canned for being sex offenders, abusers or truants, since Rhee cavalierly tossed out those accusations in Fast Company, but will nobody think of the children?" Would you feel the same way if she made similar comments about newspaper reporters, like your colleagues at the Post?

And if you are teacher in the D.C. schools, how can you possibly trust Rhee to look after anyone's best interests but her own?

Posted by: bermanator34 | January 27, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Trace1 - can you tell me how you know that arbitrators have to be approved by the union and how that inherently interferes with the arbitration process. What about DCPS - do they also get to approve the arbitrator? What is the source of your info? Are you saying that all arbitrators are corrupt?

Posted by: efavorite | January 27, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Also for Jay,

So the Washington Post has obviously been forced to make some major cutbacks, times being what they are in journalism. Say that someone in the Post upper management gave comments similar to Rhee's to a national magazine -- implying that a lot of the people let go were defective in some way, whether because they missed a lot of work or were lousy reporters or because they were engaged in criminal activities, or simply incompetent.

Would you react by saying "Well, those comments are unfortunate for my fallen colleagues now looking for work -- but my opinion is that upper management type does a great job at the newspaper and should keep his/her job." Wouldn't you expect said executive to face severe sanctions for those comments beyond a simple "I'm sorry."

Posted by: bermanator34 | January 27, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Given Rhee's rather interesting use of the RIF process to get rid of teachers she finds undesirable ( an accusation of misconduct gets you unemployed for it) do you think any DCPS teacher who is in it for the long term will risk it to post here? I understand that back in the day your paper was rather well know for investigative journalism. Perhaps you could talk with one of the old timers and set up something.

Posted by: mamoore1 | January 27, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Linda/Retired Teacher -
Here's where we disagree on teacher recruitment. Take a look at accountants, lawyers, engineers, almost any other true profession. People don't go into these professions because of job protections -- because all of these jobs are at-will. The employees can be fired at any time, and for any reason that is not discriminatory. According to your logic, these professions should have a really hard time finding any takers -- but they don't.

Why? Because of decent pay and respect. I do not understand why the union rejected Rhee's offer of a two-tiered pay system. She was offering one of the highest starting salaries in the nation, and I think she would have recruited top talent. And I don't think that kind of respect ever comes to employees who have ironclad job protections -- it just doesn't. If you want to be respected and paid like a professional, you have to take everything that comes with it, and that means at-will employment--or at a minimum, a fair YET EFFECTIVE method of terminating incompetents.

I suspect we agree on one thing, though. Rhee needs to figure out how to be a quieter manager-take the spotlight off herself and stop bad-mouthing her staff. There is simply no point to it and I fear it will hurt her ability to recruit teachers, no matter what pay she promises.

Posted by: trace1 | January 27, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse


Is Michele Rhee still planning on using H-1B visas to bring in a bunch of scabs from the Phillipines to teach in DC? This shameful plan should be enough to fire her moronic butt out of there.

Posted by: snortz_the_cat | January 27, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

efavorite, re union approval of arbitrator: it's in the WTU contract.

Posted by: trace1 | January 27, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

trace 1

Wow, great response. A fair YET EFFECTIVE method of terminating incompetents is exactly what is needed. The problem with making teachers at will employees is that we often must make decisions that parents don't agree with. Often these decisions are in the best interest of the child. Parental responses vary from respectful disagreement to "I'll get you fired if my kid does not start on the team". Even the most competent parents ( and believe me, a lot of parents fall short of that mark) go through a learning process as their children age and they gain perspective. In America school management is political. Principals are beholden to central admin, central admin is pretty much political instead of educational. Politicians pretty much want to get re-elected. Neither keeping bad teachers forever, or at will employment is really the answer. What is..... perhaps someday Jay will give me and others the print space where we can tell you. As with many things the answer is simple, obvious, and rather boring, it's the details that are so darn hard to work out.

Posted by: mamoore1 | January 27, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Jay, I keep asking you, but maybe I keep missing your answer. A long time ago, I asked you why Rhee had single mindedly cancelled the School Without Walls Senior Research paper requirement. You promised to ask her and get back to me. Did I miss something?

Anyway, to the new person on this blog from VA who thinks that people who want Rhee to leave prefer the status quo---you are WRONG. People want improvement in DCPS, otherwise they would not be writing on this blog. Most of us see Rhee as a deterrant to that kind of improvement, though, not a boost.

Jay, what about principals that Rhee has gotten rid of who were good? The Wilson high school one (sorry, I can't remember his name) and the upcoming elimination of Patrick Pope from Hardy. And I know that a personal friend of Rhee's is a principal in a school that has not made AYP, but I'm willing to bet she'll never get rid of him. (She introduced him to his wife, after all.)

The DCPS students would be better off if Rhee left because there would be a chance that a strong and reasonable person could take her place.

DCPS needs a Chancellor/Superintendent who will inspire, not fire. Who will build trust, not union-bust. Who will reward, not use words as a sword. (Sorry, I'm getting carried away here!)

Posted by: dccitizen1 | January 27, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

dccitizen1 -
What are you talking about? The interim principal at Wilson was a complete incompetent and Rhee hired a principal that is fabulous, Pete Cahall.

Posted by: trace1 | January 27, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse


Yes, I do agree that if teachers could make as much as accountants, engineers and other professionals, they might be less interested in protections. The DC teachers did not accept the higher salary offered Rhee because they didn't trust her and because they knew there was no permanent source for the money. This is a perfect example of why it is critical for a leader to win the trust of her subordinates.

Almost all government workers (police, firefighters, librarians etc.) accept job security and good pensions in lieu of large salaries. This is a trade-off because taxpayers aren't able to pay these people the salaries they might get in the business world. Basically many of these govenment jobs do appeal to people who value job security.

Workers are different and are motivated by different things. My friends and I are the children of Depression people and grew up with the terrifying fear of losing one's job. So many of us DID seek job security instead of the larger salaries that often come with risk. That doesn't make us bad people or bad teachers. As Mamoor says, teaching is an extremely political job and without protections teachers lives could be made unbearable.

We agree on one more point: We both want a fair and efficient way to dismiss ineffective teachers. Perhaps Randi Weingarten is on to something in calling for a more effective way to evaluate teachers promptly and fairly. I think it is time for compromise. No one wants an incompetent teacher in the classroom.

I want to reiterate that I do appreciate your point of you and ask that you look at this situation from a teacher's perspective.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | January 27, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

People seem to forget that the big improvement in student achievement was in 2007. This improvement can be attributed somewhat to Rhee (even though she stated at the time she wasn't expecting to have an impact right away) as well as to cumulative changes from Superintendent Janney's efforts.
We need to remember that there are are other committed educational leaders who can make a huge difference in this city. And Rhee herself might want to view her commentary as a sign of her own stuff (unhappiness-whatever ?) and realize that things are not working out for the long term.

Posted by: janetcamillebrown | January 27, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

I appreciate your post and your point of view. Thank you for taking the time to share it.

I guess I would say that I do not feel that DCPS has a fair yet effective way of terminating poor performers, and that is based on my years as an active, informed DCPS parent. I get a little steamed up when I see people pointing to the "90 day plan" as something that is fair and effective.

Posted by: trace1 | January 27, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Not directly on point, but certainly pertinent to school performance and teacher success/failure --
Another educator and I discussed this hypothesis and wonder what others think of it: The culture of public education selects for professionals who obtain career satisfaction primarily from social-emotional-intellectual interaction with children rather than a balanced composite of interactions comprised of classroom activities and peer/organizational collaboration.

Posted by: JDunning | January 27, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Trace1: who died and made you the ultimate authority on who is a good principal and who isn't? I heard from many Wilson parents who liked the other principal. Rhee also fired an excellent science teacher at Wilson, and that really upset the students. But so what, right?

And what about Patrick Pope? (Hardy's principal) Or is he also not good in your opinion (contrary to many parents' first-hand accounts.) Sorry, but I don't know who you are or why I should take your word for it. You seem hell-bent on defending Rhee. Bah.

I would like for Jay to answer my question that has been out there for a long time. Or is that going to turn out to be a criticism of Rhee and therefore not worth responding to?

Posted by: dccitizen1 | January 27, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

I have to give Rhee credit. She has succeeded in convincing people like Jay Matthews that nobody can fix the D.C. schools but her, so ergo she should be able to do whatever she likes because the schools are doomed if she leaves.

I guess that's what a good P.R. campaign that throws the teachers and principals under the bus to get your picture in the paper and on the cover of news magazines will do.

Posted by: bermanator34 | January 27, 2010 6:10 PM | Report abuse

dccitizen1 -
I think you'd better check out the facts. Rhee never fired a Wilson principal, although there was an interim there that was never the permanent principal. The current principal is very well=liked by the parent body.

Posted by: trace1 | January 27, 2010 6:29 PM | Report abuse

My apologies, dccitizen1. That answer came back from Rhee some time ago, but at a busy moment and I forgot to pass it on. She said she had nothing to do with that policy change at Walls. She seemed unfamiliar with it. If you have evidence to the contrary, please share it, either here or to me at It would be very uncharacteristic of her to decide something like that. She leaves it up to principals, and Walls, as far as I can see, has a very good one.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | January 27, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for answering, Jay. I will send you a separate email about this matter within the next few days.

Posted by: dccitizen1 | January 27, 2010 7:06 PM | Report abuse

TwoSons, Regarding the failure of WTU, I'd suggest you read Candi Peterson's blog ( (Sorry Jay)
Of course, she is coming at it from one point of view, but she provides enough information to see the WTU (despite the belief of dcgrrl/bravegirl01) is rather ineffective.
And remember that one or two of the previous presidents stole from the union.

Posted by: edlharris | January 27, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Jay, I double checked with my source, who was a parent of a student at School Without Walls at the time. Rhee is either lying to you or has a faulty memory about the policy change. She absolutely threw the principal under the bus and acquiesced to a couple of families who wanted a change in the Research Paper requirement two years ago. Rhee changed the Senior Research paper from a mandatory requirement to optional, which caused a lot of turmoil. I doubt she has forgotten that, but maybe because she has made so many bad decisions, this one got lost in the shuffle.

By the way, the Senior Research paper has since been changed back to mandatory, according to the NCLB requirements.

I will get the newspaper article for you (I think it was the Examiner) within the next couple of days.

Posted by: dccitizen1 | January 27, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Guess it didn't take me as long as I thought it would to find some back-up to Rhee's shenanigans at SWS.

Here is a link to an article about this:

And here is another one, and a quote from the article:

"Last September Washington, D.C.’s schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee, told students at School Without Walls Senior High School that they did not have to fulfill the senior project requirement to graduate."

Maybe if Rhee reads these articles, it will refresh her memory.

Interestingly, the very same parents who cried to Rhee about the Senior Project and convinced her to make it optional were some of the same ones who complained about Patrick Pope at Hardy. I've heard many, many good things about Pope, yet these few disgruntled parents seem to have a lot of sway with Rhee. I wonder what the back story is on that.

Posted by: dccitizen1 | January 27, 2010 7:51 PM | Report abuse

Jay - She's not going to apologize.

Posted by: jlp19 | January 27, 2010 8:09 PM | Report abuse

"DCPS needs a Chancellor/Superintendent who will inspire, not fire. Who will build trust, not union-bust. Who will reward, not use words as a sword."

Hey DCCitizen1 - what a poet you are. Keep it up!

Posted by: efavorite | January 27, 2010 8:59 PM | Report abuse


Rhee suffers from the same problem that you and your colleagues at the Post have been inflicted with for decases. Each of you think you know what's best, but truthfully, you know absolutely nothing at all. Everything you touch, or speak about is tainted with your false sense of entitlement and lack of common sense.

Why don't you stop ignoring the truth, or speak about the teacher at Sidwell that are molesting students.

Posted by: turnejohn | January 27, 2010 10:16 PM | Report abuse

DCPS students deserve a certified, qualified and experience Superientendent who can manage a fiscal budget.

The apology isn't necessary.
Rhee's dismissal is necessary!

Rhee is a fabricator, Kevin Johnson's damage controller, lacks values and integrity. She manufactured a fiscal budget shortfall to implement a Reduction in Force after receiving an additional $90 million dollars of Federal Stimulus Funds.

In other words, Rhee is out of control. DCPS students deserve a Superientendent with credentials.

Why are credentials watered down for a DC Government agency head to be a Chancellor of a public school system?
Why should students and parents settle for a Chancellor instead of a Superientendent?

No More Excuses, Just Solutions.
Enough is Enough, Rhee must GO.

Posted by: sheilahgill | January 27, 2010 10:41 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the kind words, Efavorite! I think I'm getting battle fatigue from all the Rhee stuff.

Jay, how does it feel to have been lied to by Michelle Rhee? Straight out lied-to-your-face, she did.

Posted by: dccitizen1 | January 28, 2010 6:20 AM | Report abuse

I don't know if I have been lied to until I see your evidence. A parent source is not going to convince me unless the parent was in the room when Rhee gave the order, or she has a document with Rhee giving the order, or has a reliable source at the school--like the principal--who says Rhee gave the order. I have been doing this for a long time, and have had many parents tell me of events they were sure happened in their schools, but turn out not to have happened at all. And I must also confess I have only my memory of what Rhee told me---but wait! I just checked my email and, amazingly, I kept hers, and remembered it correctly. She said:
"I am not involved in decisions like that. They are made at the school level. Do you want me to connect you with the principal?"
I didn't bother the principal, but now I will. Let's stay on this issue. It is interesting and merits a blog post of its own after dccitizen1 gets back to me.
AND, just to get back to the root of the issue. I have spent the last 27 years studying what makes inner city schools improve. Rhee is doing nearly every one of those things, particularly the appointment of smart and strong principals. I have been checking on what is happening in D.C. classrooms, and I am seeing some improvements. Not big ones, to be sure, but encouraging. No teachers have told me that what Rhee is doing has affected their ability to teach their kids well, and raise their achievement. Some have told me the opposite. I am much less interested in clashes between adults than I am in learning in the classroom. If anybody has any evidence that that is being adversely affected--and I am talking about specific evidence in specific schools with specific teachers, not our general fears and speculations---by what Rhee is doing I would very much like to hear about it, and write about it. I am not seeing any of that, so far, in this otherwise intriguing exchange of views. Let me know if I have missed something.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | January 28, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse


I will ask again, because I think this is a very fair question that speaks to how your column treats Michelle Rhee.

What would Michelle Rhee have to do to lose your support?

Because judging from your reaction to her comments in Fast Company, and the comments posted to your subsequent post on the subject, I am guessing the answer is "She could say anything she wants about the teachers, principals, parents ... and it will not affect my support for her, even if it is at least borderline slander that effectively throws some of them under the bus to advance Rhee's own agenda" -- which was the point of the Fast Company interview, no?

Is that an accurate assessment? If not, please explain where it is incorrect.

Posted by: bermanator34 | January 28, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Jay, did you look at the links I included in the above postsHere is a link to an article about this:

And here is another one, and a quote from the article:

"Last September Washington, D.C.’s schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee, told students at School Without Walls Senior High School that they did not have to fulfill the senior project requirement to graduate.%2

Posted by: dccitizen1 | January 28, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and Jay? Do you REALLY think a principal, who is serving as an "at will" employee, is going to contradict the great and powerful Michelle Rhee? But, please go ahead and ask the principal at School Without Walls about that Senior Project decision and see what happens.

Otherwise, read the publications that I posted the links to and admit that Rhee lied straight out to you.

Posted by: dccitizen1 | January 28, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

More on School Without Walls
Sep 20, 2007
“D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee has ruled that students at School Without Walls won’t have to take a senior project course to graduate this school year, reversing a principal’s decision that provoked parental complaints over scheduling problems.
. . . .
The decision not to make the class a graduation requirement came after a handful of vocal parents complained that requiring the class would interfere with their children’s course schedules.”

Rhee to Jay Mathews: “I am not involved in decisions like that. They are made at the school level.”

Jay Mathews : “It would be very uncharacteristic of her to decide something like that. She leaves it up to principals, and Walls, as far as I can see, has a very good one.”

Making a decision based on complaints from a handful of vocal parents – that is very characteristic of Michelle Rhee.

Posted by: achachi | January 28, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Jay - It's been a few days now since You and the Post ed board have asked her to apologize and stil no reaction.

What do you think about that?

Posted by: efavorite | January 29, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

What would Michelle Rhee have to do to lose your support?

I can't imagine Rhee could do anything terrible enough to lose my support. After watching teachers and their antics for about my 40 years in and out of the schools teaching and as a parent, her comments may not hhave been completely true, but the comments represent the situation in the schools when it comes to dealing with inadequate and/or ill prepared teachers. He language may not always be "nice" and her comments are often ill considered, but I don't believe that has hampered her from improving the system in DC--of course--anything would have been an improvement over what had been going on for years.

Posted by: goodjuli20031 | January 29, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Turnover is an admitted problem for teachers, principals and chancellors but how about the shoe on the other foot

If a teacher had commented publicly that many principals were pedophiles, physically abusive and frequently late would they still be in a classroom the next morning?

I don't think recovery after such a broadside is possible or desirable.

Posted by: jaysue | January 30, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

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