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Rhee should get out of the mayor's race

I don’t blame D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee for getting herself pulled into the D.C. mayor’s race. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty wants her support. She wouldn’t have her job had it not been for him. Although she didn’t ask for the assignment, now that she has invested this much time in raising achievement for D.C. children, and has had some initial success, she apparently feels obliged to help the guy who is more likely to let her follow through.

But suggesting that she might leave if D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray beats Fenty, as she has done in recent days, is turning her back, at least in part, on those children. Rhee has vowed to focus on the problems of students, not adults. Until now, she had been true to her word. That has led many adults whose advice she has ignored and prerogatives she had overridden to wish she would go find some other district to save.

Saying she would leave if Gray is elected is good news to those people. It is bad for the principals she has appointed, the teachers who share her commitment to raising achievement and the parents who are beginning to see the same teamwork, creativity and persistence in regular city public schools that they have found in many charter schools.

In Gray’s plan “for ensuring a quality education for all children,” released last week, he has not committed himself either to keep Rhee or fire her. That is smart politically. He does not want to alienate her supporters or detractors, unusually passionate on both sides.

I like his plan. It is full of good intentions and reminders of how he supported mayoral control of the schools and the hiring of Rhee, even though she is to my mind the most unconventional and stress-inducing administrator ever put in charge of an important American school district.

But there is something lacking in Gray’s plan that indicates either he doesn’t care, or doesn’t understand, how important his decision on Rhee will be. He gives no hint of what a disaster for public education it would be to lose this chancellor.

Reasonable people say that’s not so. There are other good administrators who could do the job. Nobody is indispensable. In the abstract, that is true. But the D.C. reality is this: Educators who know what makes schools work -- high expectations, more time for instruction, taking testing seriously, strong principals who foster teamwork in their schools -- will realize the minute Rhee is let go that they can no longer depend on powerful support in difficult situations.

The school veterans who preferred the status quo, and decided to hold tight until Rhee failed, will be proven right. It may take another decade or two to regain the momentum for change that Rhee developed, with great difficulty, the past three years.

In his plan, Gray says he wants a “strong Chancellor” who will make “hard choices with regard to staffing, hiring and firing to get bad teachers out of the classroom and keep good teachers in the classroom.” Rhee should take him at his word, step away from the mayor’s race, and get back to strengthening the many fine principals she has installed.

If Gray wins, she should not falter. He will hear from many people who helped him that he should fire her. But his plan suggests that he had not made up his mind about that. Rhee should not make it easy for those who want her gone.

She needs to tune out the politics and stay on the job. If Gray fires her, he will take the blame for what happens next, which I think he senses will not be good. Give him a chance to prove he is as smart as his education plan suggests, and let Rhee keep working for our kids.

For more Jay, go to Class Struggle.

By Jay Mathews  | July 4, 2010; 6:00 PM ET
Categories:  Metro Monday  | Tags:  Adrian Fenty, Michelle A. Rhee, Rhee should get out of Mayor's race, Vincent Gray, losing Rhee would be a disaster  
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Comments

Mr. Matthews, have you ever seen a ccouncil meeting with Rhee and Gray? There is no chance of them working together. He harrasses the crap out of her and insinuates that she is lying cocnstantly.

You would be better served writing to Gray about not being so condesending. Dude made a reference to her moving to sacarmento because traveling for work can be hard on married women.

Rhee:

Tell the Truth and let the chips fall where they mat.

Mr. Gray:

Tell the truth and let the Chips fall where they May.

Your act is getting tired. You never seem to know what you are going to do next. Didn't know if you wanted to run for Mayor. Didn't know if you wanted to work for Pratt Kelly. It was a staff error (at 2am) that lead to killing the street car funding. You didn't know anything about it. Now, you don't know if you would fire Rhee.

You can call her everything under the sun...but you don't know if you would work with he? Stop lying. Be a man and tell the truth.

Posted by: politicalrealist | July 4, 2010 6:34 PM | Report abuse

The selection of a mayor should not be influenced by the judgment of a chancellor, attorney general, city administrator or any government official.

The rest of the USA is laughing at DC and the argument of Rhee.

Whoever is Mayor, Fenty or Gray. No candidate should select their cabinet before they win.

The press tried to get Fenty to select his Police Chief and School's Head. He did not comply.

Wherever Rhee goes, you can bet it will be the last we hear of her in the media.

Posted by: gordonbundy | July 4, 2010 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Jay, you say she is stress producing.How can that be good for the students? That is not a climate that people want their kids in.

Posted by: celestun100 | July 4, 2010 9:54 PM | Report abuse

Well, she only did 3 years as a teacher all those years ago.

But besides the middle finger to all the DCPS students, how about the incentive pay for the teachers in the contract just ratified?
If she walks, the money is gone.


A real, mature class act.

C'est moi.

Posted by: edlharris | July 5, 2010 12:13 AM | Report abuse

I kind of feel she is going to resign regardless. Any educator who plans their wedding for September is not thinking of the students first. In fact, many teachers if asking their principal for time off at that time of year would be refused (barring giving birth or some trauma).

It would be an easy out, if she feels Fenty will lose, to get involved now so it looks like she is leaving because Gray won, when in reality she planned on moving to Sacramento from the get go.

Posted by: researcher2 | July 5, 2010 6:40 AM | Report abuse

"But suggesting that she might leave if D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray beats Fenty, as she has done in recent days, is turning her back, at least in part, on those children. Rhee has vowed to focus on the problems of students, not adults."

Jay,

If some obstructionist like Gray tries to step in and micro-manage and/or undermine everything Rhee is trying to do she would then be doomed to being an ineffective chancellor to her (new) immediate supervisor and would no longer be of meaningful help to the children of the DC schools. She would pack her bags in a heartbeat and no one would blame her for doing so.

She has every right to announce her allegiance to Fenty and let the voters of the district decide. If they like what she has done they will vote to re-elect Fenty. If the voters aren't thrilled with the progress she has made with the schools it will be a referendum vote on Rhee, not Fenty.

I believe DC voters will overwhelmingly cast their votes for Fenty and reject the long history of partisan politics getting in the way of progress in the district's schools.

Posted by: phoss1 | July 5, 2010 7:45 AM | Report abuse

I suspect Rhee has done her damage and she's history anyway. But thinking about the future Jay, what is good about being the "most unconventional and stress-inducing administrator ever put in charge of an important American school district?" And what would be good about her successor starting off as the target of "blame?"

How can you support the dumping of this toxicity on children? The first rule of schooling is that the feces rolls downhill."

Or do you think that stress, like standardized test, doesn't have inherent harm for kids?

Or do you just make these unconventional statements just to get people mad?

Posted by: johnt4853 | July 5, 2010 8:32 AM | Report abuse

I wish there was a way to combine the comments from this article linked under class struggle with the article linked here under the education page. There are 15 comments there, and 7 here..why aren't the links going to the same page?

Posted by: researcher2 | July 5, 2010 8:38 AM | Report abuse

To Rhee, or not to Rhee?
That is the Question.

If we could raise William Shakespeare in order to write one more historic play, PLEASE ... let it be based on this "Lady Chancellor."

Her lies, exaggerations, betrayals, and delusional self image are the makings of a spectacular tragic comedy in three acts...

ACT 1:
Michelle Rhee's formative years: A child of Korean immigrants, her personal education was confined to elite private schools where she developed an intensely patronizing attitude towards her elders and the underclass that suffer the indignity of public education. This culminates in her participation in a failed Baltimore City Charter School, and then her creation of an alternative history/resume of experience and achievement. Young Rhee begins her quest to prove that instead of being a failure, she and her students were victims of a system of lazy incompetent adults.

ACT 2:
The Education Reformer and Chancellor: Michelle Rhee pursues an intense search for ways to shape the rhetorical landscape of Education Reform; founding the New Teacher Project, which mirrors her distain for experience in favor of youthful exuberance. She refines her basic theory that labor unions that protect ineffective teachers and administrators (begun at Cornell [Government] and Harvard [Pubic Policy]) by melding it with ‘Taylorism’ (a scientific management business model which seeks to make labor more efficient and accountable, discounting individual judgment and experience, and promoting the idea that workers are interchangeable parts that must follow procedures that are designed by management, i.e. Rhee and her appointed sycophants). As she becomes Lady Chancellor, this evolves into a pattern of manic self-validation efforts that require increasing levels of deception and intimidation to sustain. There is no lack of tragic/comedic events to draw from here.

ACT 3:
The Fall: After becoming essential to the mayors of two cities at opposite ends of the land, the Lady Chancellor realizes that her power is now dependant on keeping these lesser men in authority. These men cannot abandon her, as their futures are tied inextricably to the mythology of her success. Perhaps unwillingly at first, both men become part of a narrative to which they have no control. One by one, they fall; and Lady Chancellor, recognizing that they no longer serve their original purpose, sets them adrift. The play ends with three dimly-lit and separate spots, where each character sharpens a dangerous plan, and starts assembling new treacherous alliances. As the light fades to black, the audience hears each voice move off stage.

Epilogue: When the house lights come up, there is no curtain call. The audience leaves through the rear of the theater, where two doormen and a stage manager with strangely familiar voices thank them for attending the show.

I know Shakespeare would do far, far better.
Let’s hope someone can, at least.

Posted by: AGAAIA | July 5, 2010 8:52 AM | Report abuse

phoss1 says, “If some obstructionist like Gray tries to step in and micro-manage and/or undermine everything Rhee is trying to do she would then be doomed to being an ineffective chancellor….”

Maybe it won’t be so scary if you thought instead in terms of a new mayor, elected by the people, choosing and monitor city services in a responsible way to best serve the public.

Posted by: efavorite | July 5, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Teamwork? Seriously, Jay. What are you talking about? I don't see any teamwork going on at my school, just a lot of mandates and timelines that are handed down from central office without any attempt to present a rationale. That's not teamwork, and frankly I don't see any evidence of creativity either. I do see a lot of hostility, suspicion, anxiety, and resignation as a result of working for an individual who appears to despise classroom teachers. This never was a environment that would foster educational success.

Posted by: Nemessis | July 5, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Jay

You are an insult to all DC residents--those who agree with you and those who do not.

Your unjust attack of Gray and his supporters is sickening. You are trying to use scare tactics by insisting that Gray and his supporters want reform of DCPS to fail. You suggest that only Fenty and Rhee supporters are seeking true reform. STOP the madness.

As far as the principals hired by Rhee, please take an honest look at these individuals. For that matter look at most of her top appointees. How many of the fired administrators were her appointments?

Rhee will not influence the vote of thinking people and neither will you and the WP.

Posted by: dccounselor72 | July 5, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Bravo AGAAIA! I think Shakespeare would have enjoyed your post. Jay, I don't understand why you're upset about Rhee campaigning for Fenty, when you have campaigned for Rhee during her tenure! How can you continue to make statements about the progress Rhee has made, when there is research refuting your statements (try reading GF Brandenburg's blog)? Wake up Jay! Rhee isn't there for the kids, she's there for herself!! I for one find her honesty refreshing. Rather then pretend to be something she's not, Rhee is honest enough to show us what she really is: a selfish child with delusions of grandeur.

Posted by: cincihenson | July 5, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Here's the link to the print version:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/04/AR2010070403916_Comments.html

Posted by: edlharris | July 5, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Bravo AGAAIA!

Posted by: johnt4853 | July 5, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Jay, I totally disagree with you that Rhee is necessary to continue the "improvements" in DCPS. Testing scores were on the rise before she arrived on the scene.

You are starting to admit some of her flaws, which must have been really hard for you to do. Yet, you can't completely let go of her since you embraced her so heartily, therefore you connect here presence with success at DCPS. Let go of your ego, Mr. Matthews. Chancellor Rhee is horrendous.

Posted by: dccitizen1 | July 5, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

correction: I meant "her presence"

Posted by: dccitizen1 | July 5, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

for dccounselor72---How is this an attack on Gray? I said I LIKED his plan. It's right there in English. I hold out hope for him being such a good person he can work with Rhee, unlike some anti-Gray comments above.

for johnt4853 and celestun100---As usual, you have put yr fingers on the important issue. Are the superintendents who create stress for principals and teachers doing a good job or a bad one? I have been watching school districts, particularly urban ones, for a long time, and it is clear to me that the superintendents who put the least stress on their principals and teachers produce BY FAR the worst results. Urban districts have to do better. Does that take leadership that says, whatever Dude, or leadership that says you have to raise yr game, we are going to help you do that, but if you dont, you are gone. The best schools I know, those that significantly raise student achievement, put plenty of stress on principals and teachers, the stress of having to reach high standards, and the most successful educators in those systems LIKE it!! That is the kind of team they want to play for. If you can give me any example of an urban system that has succeeded without that kind of stress, I would be interested. I don't know of any such.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | July 5, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

to researcher 2---thanks for pointing that out. I will try to get over there. I did not know this was happening, and am not entirely sure why, but my guess is that our system is not set up to automatically combine the column on the metro page with the column on the blog. Our great education editor Craig Timberg has been making this happen himself, I don't know how. He is on book leave. I will let the other editors know and see if they can fix it.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | July 5, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Atlanta, Boston, and Memphis have had far better results. Chicago had far better results before sanctions were applied to testing than afterwards. North Carolina is nonunion, but my understanding and my reading of some research indicated that many of their reforms were done more respectfully and were showing better results, except in terms of graduation. That is a big exception and my understanding that their previous gains are at risk now. Janey, I understand, had better results than Rhee.

In New Jersey, systems that did the standard whole school reforms had minimal results. Districts like Union City that concentrated on high quality early education and making sure that kids can read for comprehension by 3rd grade had results far greater than anything by the data-driven crowd anywhere.

I have seen the results when principals are allowed to create a respectful environment. I'll take your word about the "most successful" teachers that you have seen and how they LIKE IT. You have no way of checking my word but I'm just as great of a teacher as anyone you've watched, and I've been around the track a few more times. I'm not trying to drive the teachers you admire out of the profession. Its your chancellor in your district who is trying to drive the voice of experience out of the profession across the whole country.

Nobody is advocating a "whatever dude" approach and that is offensive. I've seen unions repeatedly offer to help get of bad teachers, but in a culture of accountability that is impossible because administrators are to scared to share control.

But I've also seen the harm done to children by dumping the toxicity of "accountability" and nonstop test prep on them. I don't have silver bullets but at least we can stop the abuse that is being encouraged by Rhee et. al.

Posted by: johnt4853 | July 5, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Jay--About stress--I have taught in Montgomery County for the last 28 years. Our superintendent tends create stress for us as well. The principals are stressed to create results and they pass that stress down to the teachers. However, there is one very big difference between how Dr. Weast handles this as compared to Michelle Rhee. Dr. Weast continually shows respect toward the teaching staff. Through out the year, whenever test results are posted, he emails everyone to give them the results, thanking them for their hard work and saying how this couldn't have happened without all of their hard work. Dr. Weast also fought for his teaching staff when it came to possible furloughs and budget cuts. Teaching is a stressful job and more importantly, a thankless job. The stress is much easier to put up with when thanks and appreciation are shown to the front line workers by those in charge. Talk to teachers who work at schools where this attitude is also shown by the administration, and you will see a more productive staff. Those who work for administrators who are micro managing and negative and you will see a school with a revolving door where teaching staff is concerned.

Posted by: musiclady | July 5, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Jay, you say you LIKED HIS PLAN but then you go on to suggest that his election will result in a failure of Rhee's reform. Gray should not be required to work with Rhee, Rhee should be required to work with Gray if she wish to remain an employee of the DC Government. It is not the other way around.

Also, please address her hiring and firing of her outstanding new principals.

Posted by: dccounselor72 | July 5, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

correction "LIKE".

Also, please read the comments of the musiclady.

Maybe you can get your girl Rhee to read it as well.

Posted by: dccounselor72 | July 5, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

I am in one of those school really trying to figure out how to increase school performance. Rhee is stressful, I think we have some start teachers that would perform great independent of who the chancellor is, but honestly they are not the majority. Too many are tired and not willing to change without some serious prodding. To the Montgomery County teacher, I wish I could say otherwise but there are a lot of teachers in DC that don't earn that respect. Not the majority, but more than the small minority of slackers that exist in every system. I don't know how you differentiate that group in conversation but they are there and they drag the system down. I honestly thin too many teachers think of themselves as soloists and can't imagine that if a more team based system was developed where all members of the team were strong then it would be easier, even with difficult poor children. I can only guess the system has been dysfunctional for so long that most cannot imagine what it could be. Rhee has been terrible at sharing that vision, but I think it is what she is aiming to develop.

Posted by: Brooklander | July 5, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

So posted Jay Mathews:

"Nobody is indispensable. In the abstract, that is true. But the D.C. reality is this: Educators who know what makes schools work -- high expectations, more time for instruction, taking testing seriously, strong principals who foster teamwork in their schools -- will realize the minute Rhee is let go that they can no longer depend on powerful support in difficult situations."

Wherever did this come from? "The minute she is let go....?" (The Fuhrer is voted out, and THEN the Jews emigrate from Germany) Please, name this cadre of educators, "strong principals" [,and central admin line supervisors and staff, too?]. Or, are you scrambling support for Rhee appointees such as the one who came in with Dr. Art Siebens railroaded out, lacked the courage and intelligence to reinstate him, and who has since hidden with absent and erroneous statistics his own failure to control and enhance much of his school, belieing an assembled-for-him image as new "urban HS" educator?

Who are the rest of this cadre who supposedly fear for the future of "reform" after the public demonstrates weariness with a couple of under 40's playing Napoleon and (manufactured) Josephine for three years? [It cannot have escaped Rhee that Napoleon was also an ethnic outsider, like her Corsican-born model. Maybe she'll honestly have that role-playing included in the biography ghosted for her, and soon. There's still California to conquer.]

2. Rhee has herself failed to support principals she hired: witness startling rapid turnover of some of her appointees. With a national beat and much else to cover, did you miss that the Chancellor is in the process of hiring a greatly expanded number of direct over-seers of school principals, superintendants reporting directly to her. Is this "support"; or is it centralization of authority and judgement, unknown and unnecessary, in say, Catholic archdioses renowned for well-managed and successful schools with "high-expectations" and "more time for instruction"?

3. Let none of us take seriously Vincent Gray's or anyone else's hired campaign statements on education or on anything else. It was solid, and probably volunteered. It stands up especially well to the set of charts Candidate Fenty found sponsorhip to buy forty-five months ago. A nice ruminative column -- a summertime thumb-sucker from the Blogger -- would be a comparison of that mechanically custom-engraved "Management and Renewal" boilerplate for DCPS with what Fenty and Rhee have actually wrought.

4.With many others, I'm disappointed that JM would seem to be one who might welcome Napoleon back from exile in Elba; so I would wish her groom every happiness and commitment to keeping her in California.

Posted by: incredulous | July 5, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Brooklander, you say, “Rhee has been terrible at sharing that vision [of a strong team-based teaching system], but I think it is what she is aiming to develop.”

If she’s been terrible at what she’s aimed to develop, then it sounds like the definition of failure. If you feel that after three years of Rhee, there are still too many “tired teachers” at your kids’ school who are “not willing to change without some serious prodding, ” then her national reputation for getting rid of the deadwood, her promise to hire strong administrators and her ability to fire bad ones at will hasn’t worked. Based on your personal experience, I don’t see why you’d continue to support her.

What about the IMPACT evaluation? It was meant to clear out just the kind of teacher you describe. Please let us know what happens. I hear the purge begins this month, but teachers would already know based on their scores if they are “ineffective” and likely to be let go. What’s the buzz at your school?

Posted by: efavorite | July 5, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Jay,

You should recommend AGAAIA for a job with the Washington Post. I enjoyed reading his retort more so than anything I've read in Class Struggle over the past year.

Also, I believe Fenty got fired a much better superintendent than Rhee: Dr. Clifford Janey. Let's keep it real, Jay: Dr. Janey put this city on a solid student achievement trajectory, and he was/is a humble curriculum and instruction superintendent. Again, we need to pay homage to what Janey's cabinet put in place (Master Education Plan). Take a look at it—Everyday Math, Lucy Calkins' Readers/Writers Workshops, Singapore Math, new content standards, the DC-CAS, robust pacing guides. You name it, Janey grounded the success, not Rhee.

Posted by: rasheeedj | July 5, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Jay, I agree with what musiclady says about stress and MCPS, but I also have a few other things to say.

I think you might be using "Stress" to mean "high expectations". I think you can have high expectations for students and teachers without the negative stress ( being stressed-out).

Stress is inherent to teaching. Students, parents, constant grading deadlines, lesson planning, and many more duties can be causes of stress. If teachers feel appreciated, that stress is kept at a reasonable level and they can live balanced lives, which is good for their creativity and teaching attitude towards students, parents and collegues.

If they are not appreciated, instead they are told "you are being paid to do that- it is your job", when they know they have gone above and beyond the call of duty, then they will become resentful, stressed out and apply for a transfer or resign.

You mention stress free urban schools with low test scores. I think those schools are probably not stress free, they are poorly run. There is probably a system in place that is stress free for some teachers and students, but for teachers who care about student behavior and learning it is not so great.

I think schools, urban and non urban, alike should have high expectations for all students and should be run efficiently. Because of the difficulties in teaching in areas with high mobility rates, extreme poverty, etc., those schools should get the best, experienced teachers that there are. Those teachers should not be hammered with more stress. They want discipline to be handled to minimize classroom disruptions and they want scheduling/materials issues to be handled fairly. But most of all, they want respect. Respect matters. That is what we tell the students. Ms. Rhee and other higher ups have faltered on this very basic notion of respect. It shows lack of moral character. It is a poor role model for students.

Posted by: celestun100 | July 5, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Thanks from me too, AGAAIA, for brightening up this dreary conversation.

Posted by: efavorite | July 5, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

To be fair, when I say that Ms. Rhee isn't respectful of teachers, I am only basing that on comments she has made that I have read. I do not have any firsthand knowledge of how it is to be a teacher in DCPS. And, possibly this is what you are going to get if you want change. But, is this really what we mean by radical reform? More testing?

Posted by: celestun100 | July 5, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Jay,

I do agree with you that it will be more difficult for the principals she has appointed once she leaves. Everytime leadership changes hands, the new people coming in like to get rid of the "old favorites" whether they are good at their jobs or not.

I'm not sure the teachers will care one way or the other. "Reforms" happen every 5 years in education anyway.

Posted by: celestun100 | July 5, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

"Although she didn’t ask for the assignment,
...............................
Are we do believe that someone twisted the arm of Ms Rhee to take over as head of the DC school system and that she really did not want the job.
....................................
"now that she has invested this much time in raising achievement for D.C. children"
...................................
Notice how Mr. Mathews claims Ms. Rhee has "invested time in raising achievement" while avoiding an incorrect statement that Ms. Rhee has actually significantly raised achievement levels. Mr. Mathews is aware that the actual achievement levels are no better than the achievement levels of the previous head of the school system.
...................................
"Educators who know what makes schools work -- high expectations, more time for instruction, taking testing seriously, strong principals who foster teamwork in their schools"
..................................
56th percent failure rates in the 2009 National reading tests for the 4th grade indicate that simply having high expectations is not enough.
Many of the "strong" principals that were chosen by Ms. Rhee had to be let go because of incompetence.
Ms. Rhee has not provided any more time for instruction and the mayhem caused by the firing of teachers during the school year because of failure to handle the budget actually reduced instruction time.
It would be nice if someone explained exactly what "taking testing seriously" means. Is this a reference to the tests where there were large numbers of erasures on incorrect answers?
..................................
"Give him a chance to prove he is as smart as his education plan suggests, and let Rhee keep working for our kids."
..................................
I thought Mr. Mathews sent all his children to private schools and I did not know that he had children in the DC public school system. But is this the "we" of politicians?

Mr. Mathews comments are continuously filled with inconsistencies and in many cases meaningless blather.

I guess that after July 4th he wanted to show us he could be as meaningless as the politicians with their cries of "a chicken in every pot" at Fourth of July events.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 5, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

The best schools I know, those that significantly raise student achievement, put plenty of stress on principals and teachers, the stress of having to reach high standards, and the most successful educators in those systems LIKE it!!

That is the kind of team they want to play for.

If you can give me any example of an urban system that has succeeded without that kind of stress, I would be interested. I don't know of any such.

Posted by: Jay Mathews
...........................
Typical Jay Mathews.

Mr. Mathews presents fake facts with no evidence and then challenges a reader who provide an intelligent comment to the contrary to provide evidence.

Well Mr. Mathews since you do not know of any urban system that has been effective without stress, what are the urban systems that have significantly raised student achievement in a nation where there is a significant achievement gap based upon your idea of principals and teachers enjoying large amounts of stress?

DC according to national tests can not be used as evidence of your "facts". Based upon your idea of stress, DC should be leading the nation instead of being in last place.

Oh and by the way in most endeavors it is good management and workers that want to do a good job that is effective and not the idea of stressing everyone out. Usually producing stress in a work place simply creates high turnover and a non caring work force.

Stress does works well on a galley ship when the overseers whips the galley slaves that do not keep up with the beat of the drum. Galley slaves quickly learn to give high performance in their work. Unfortunately for Mr. Mathews this business model is not very effective for most modern endeavors.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 5, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

"Notice how Mr. Mathews claims Ms. Rhee has "invested time in raising achievement" while avoiding an incorrect statement that Ms. Rhee has actually significantly raised achievement levels. "

Good catch, Bsallamack! Of course most casual readers will hear a continuation of the misleading "scores are up!" meme.

Posted by: efavorite | July 5, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

efavorite and bsallamack,

I think Jay is saying that Rhee would be turning her back on the kids if she leaves.

Posted by: celestun100 | July 5, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

But political professionals say Rhee is an asset and a liability for the mayoral hopefuls. She is as unpopular as Fenty in some sections of the city, especially east of the Anacostia River, where many children languish in low-achieving schools. A Washington Post poll in January showed that 54 percent of parents disapproved of her performance and that her standing with African American residents had slipped. In a Post poll two years earlier, 50 percent of black residents said they supported her. In January, 62 percent disapproved.

Her best use as a Fenty asset would be in predominantly white Northwest sections of the city, where schools are better and residents admire her tough stance against the teachers union.
Rhee hints that her job as D.C. schools chief hinges on Fenty's reelection
....................................
Finally some truth about the situation in DC.
Ms. Rhee is popular with the white population of DC since white students in DC score at the highest level in the nation on national tests.

Ms. Rhee is not popular with the black population of DC since black students in DC score at the lowest level in the nation on national tests.

Whites students make up about 16 percent of the public school population in DC while blacks make up 82 percent of the public school population in DC.

If the Department of Education used the same standard that it is using regarding large achievement gaps between white and black students throughout the nation the Federal government would call for integration in DC and the placement of every Title 1 Public school in DC on the list for immediate and drastic action.

Even the best scores for white students in DC can not be attributed to Ms. Rhee since white students in DC were leading the nation on national tests before the appearance of Ms. Rhee.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 5, 2010 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Ok, bsallamack, but can you blame Rhee for the gap? Wasn't DC already in trouble before she arrived on the scene? How much resistance to her is due to the fact that she herself is not from DC and clearly not from the East side? Also, aren't some programs like paying students to do well seen as good? Are you saying that 82% of the voters don't like her?

She rubs me the wrong way, because, she says things like "ineffective teachers have to go" making it sound like they are all lazy. She also says she doesn't care about how people feel. I find that to be rude.

Posted by: celestun100 | July 5, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

The more I think about this I think this is why we shouldn't let mayors "take over" school systems from school boards.

First donors suggested they would pull their contributions if Rhee weren't Chancellor. Now Rhee is saying she won't be Chancellor if Fenty isn't elected.

That means the donations would be pulled if Fenty isn't elected? That sounds very corrupt to me.

I am surprised the Washington Post hasn't written about this aspect of things. It appears to be very corrupt.

Posted by: celestun100 | July 5, 2010 6:23 PM | Report abuse

efavorite and bsallamack,

I think Jay is saying that Rhee would be turning her back on the kids if she leaves.

Posted by: celestun100
...............................
In one corner we have Ms. Rhee the drama queen saying she would leave if the mayor is not reelected.
Then we have Mr. Mathews the courtier saying "please do not leave and turn your back on the children".

God this is like a poorly written soap opera.

National tests have not indicated any significant improvement for the 84 percent of black students that are failing in DC.

The drama queen states:
"You can do school reform in lots of ways," Rhee said. "You can have more incremental changes. If that's the way that a city decided to go, I probably would not be the best person for that."

Well I guess Ms. Rhee should leave no matter who is elected Mayor since the National tests indicate the same incremental change that DC was experiencing before Ms. Rhee took charge. Not much point in mayhem in the area of reform when the results are no better than school management without the mayhem.

Unfortunately Ms. Rhee has only provided drama to public education and not any ideas or solutions to the severe problem of Title 1 public schools.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 5, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse

"Ok, bsallamack, but can you blame Rhee for the gap? Wasn't DC already in trouble before she arrived on the scene?"
............................
She was hired to deal with the problem.
............................
"How much resistance to her is due to the fact that she herself is not from DC and clearly not from the East side?"
............................
My resistance to Ms. Rhee is that her ideas are absurd. A small percentage of teachers do not destroy a public school system. You change from the top and not the bottom. Ms. Rhee was attacking teachers from day one instead of concern about making schools more effective by working with principals.
Ms. Rhee should have never been hired since her only idea was that the teachers were the problem. This is a very simplistic approach to the problem that is popular but does not make much sense. Most of the schools in the country have good teachers. Ms. Rhee should really have explored the reason why teachers in poverty urban areas are not effective while most teachers in non poverty schools are effective.

.................................
"Also, aren't some programs like paying students to do well seen as good?"
.................................
If you have money to pay students you should hire more teachers. The idea of paying students is absurd.
Here is idea. Test every child when they enter the public school system and place them in classes based upon their current abilities and skills so teachers can teach to the level of the class. There are tests already for testing children prior to kindergarten.

Divide primary education in half with schools of K to 2nd grade and schools of 3rd to 5th grade. This allows you to use existing schools and have 4 different level for each grade.

Now you are maximizing education for children in each class room. This method also allows you to spend more money for children that need more help since you know which classes should get the extra money.
Use yearly tests to indicate the level the child should go for the next year.

Do this for three years and you will dramatically increase the achievement in primary Title 1 public schools.

For all the test nuts this also is the only effective way you can measure the performance of teachers.
.............................
"Are you saying that 82% of the voters don't like her?"
............................
No I am saying that the white parents probably like her because she has kept up the high performance for white students, while black parents probably do not like her since there has been no real change in the Title 1 public school. Black parents who have gotten their children into charter schools probably like Ms. Rhee since anything is better than the failing Title 1 public schools.
...............................
Posted by: celestun100

..................
Interesting questions, I hope that I have answered them.
Bob Sallamack

Posted by: bsallamack | July 5, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Right on, bsallmack.

celestun100 - I don't blame Rhee for the widening achievement gap any more than I credit her for improving achievement.

I blame her for never mentioning the achievement gap and taking credit for improved achievement that has been improving all along.

I blame journalists like Jay Mathews for distorting the facts and perpetuating misinformation about Rhee's effect on the scores. I hope they lose sleep over it and publicly recant someday -- soon.

I recognize that Jay thinks Rhee would be letting kids down if she left under Gray and give Jay credit for that.

Posted by: efavorite | July 5, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

The more I think about this I think this is why we shouldn't let mayors "take over" school systems from school boards.

First donors suggested they would pull their contributions if Rhee weren't Chancellor. Now Rhee is saying she won't be Chancellor if Fenty isn't elected.

That means the donations would be pulled if Fenty isn't elected? That sounds very corrupt to me.

I am surprised the Washington Post hasn't written about this aspect of things. It appears to be very corrupt.

Posted by: celestun100
...........................
I agree with you that mayors should not be allowed to take over the school board. This has been done in New York City and the focus has been to provide services to the affluent and upper middle class. These are the voters the politicians want to cultivate.

DC is a unique since it not part of a state. Even New York City can not do everything it wants to do with the mayor in control of the schools because there are state agencies regarding public education. In DC without any state agencies of public education there is absolutely no oversight.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 5, 2010 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Thanks bsallamack and efavorite for taking my questions seriously.

I hadn't thought about the difference between DC and Ny in that way. No state oversight. Sadly, since they had control, they could really have turned the schools around. Instead it sounds like they have just turned against the people who were trying to fix the situation.

This situation makes Dr. Weast look like some kind of genius.

Posted by: celestun100 | July 5, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

celestun. and bsmall.--check any source you want: the elected (repeat, elected) DC B of E was incompetent and negligent and was in the drivers seat, steering DCPS to a steady plunge by any measure. We don't want to go back to that. So, now we have the City Council, which could have blocked or steered a lot of decisions and funding, regardless of the mayor's and chancellor's charter. But it has not, and the council, again are elected. Note that they unanimoously approved the recent contract with teachers. You need to recognize that the people have spoken in DC, rather loudly, about the schools and recent reform efforts. In NYC, the biggest problem has been Randi and her local, but reforms have moved forward. And, as someone who knows NYC well, it would make any New Yorker laugh to hear the claim that the reforms have been for the benefit of he affluent. It is almost as funny to hear that claim in DC, were it no so sad because it reflects the campaign of hate and division that have been marshaled against any change at all.Would you like "oversigh" to block the will of the citizens who vote?
Haven't we had enough playing the victims here in the District. That seems to be a comfortable role for some, but not for people who want to improve the schools.

Posted by: axolotl | July 5, 2010 7:52 PM | Report abuse

axolotl

I am certainly not suggesting that anyone "play the victim".

If it is true that the people of DC want Rhee and her style of reform then they will vote her back in.

I personally don't know who Randi is. New York was mentioned because it is a state. DC is not a state. The point was that there was no state oversight here because DC is not a state.

My point is that if you override the democratic process you are in danger of making the ends justify the means. You are suggesting that the elected school board was corrupt and ineffective. So, you have Rhee instead. Fine, but she should not be getting involved in the mayoral campaign.

I am glad you feel that the schools are better off now. I don't think the people who post here are "playing the victim". They are stating opinions, as you are and I am. We all have that right, even if DC is not a state. :)

Posted by: celestun100 | July 5, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

I read this column and the comments and I am struck by the word "reform".

In my youth reform was used in reference to corrupt politicians that had to be thrown out of office, and criminals that had to be reformed. The only use of reform in reference to schools was the idea of reform schools.

Perhaps this use of the word reform is part of our problem. The model of schools that works very well for affluent and middle class public schools do not work for Title 1 public schools.

If you have a model that does not work for every public school then you focus on changing the model for the public schools where the current model is ineffective.

Instead there is this idea of reforming the school which in reality simply means trying again to force on the school the existing unworkable model.

Almost every current idea about school "reform" is flawed since it geared to public school where the model works and it is already very apparent that this model does not work in Title 1 public schools.

For instance go into kindergarten or first grade class on the first day of affluent or middle class schools and you will classes where almost all of the children are like peas in a pod based upon behavior and ability. A teachers in these classes has no difficulty in teaching to the level of the class since there is a single level of behavior, skills, and capabilities.

Now go into kindergarten or first grade class on the first day of Title 1 public schools and you will see where there are extreme differences in the behavior and abilities of the children in these classes. A teachers in these classes will have a great deal of difficulty in teaching since there are so many differences in the children. Teach on the "normal" level and you will leave many of the children in the dark. Teach at a lower level and you will turn off many children by making them bored and apathetic to learning.

Everyone wants to change Title 1 public schools to the model of affluent and middle class schools while totally ignoring the fact that this model will not work in a school where there are diverse and dramatic levels of behavior, skills, and abilities.

Our nation does not need reform in education. Rather it needs changes in education that recognize that there must be different models for education to deal with different problems in public education.

One size fits all does not work very well in buying shoes and it certainly has been proven to not work very well in public education in regard to Title 1 public schools.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 5, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Haven't we had enough playing the victims here in the District. That seems to be a comfortable role for some, but not for people who want to improve the schools.

Posted by: axolotl
...................................
Public education should not be about the will of the people that vote in local election. Imagine public health being about the will of the people that vote in local election.

Should Doctors and Nurses be fired on the basis of public elections?

Ms. Rhee and the politicians are the problems since with all there ravings they offer no real solution.

I have not any vested interest in teachers so personally firing every teacher in public schools would not affect me.

At the same time the country is already being hurt by the nonsense from the politicians, Ms. Rhee, and the columnists like Mr. Mathews. The politicians tell us we need more dedicated teachers while telling us that teachers are lazy and that we need to get rid of every experienced teacher that is no longer young and has a decent salary.

From the politicians we got No Child Left Behind. Instead of policies or ideas to deal with problems in Title 1 public schools we get a one size fits all nonsense plan that totally ignores public education in this country and pretends that every school in the country is facing the problems of Title 1 public schools.

The national test scores for years have indicated serious problems in Title 1 public schools.

I want to see logical new ideas to fix these problems and not tired old ideas of reform that have not worked and will not work.

The problems are difficult but can be dealt with by intelligence and thought, but this will not be done as long as Americans are willing to listen to the the nonsense ideas of the politicians.

I am not an educator but even I can see the problem in the Title 1 public schools are children with very diverse skill levels in the same class. Even I can come up with a cost effective plan to deal with this problem.

Where are the new ideas to deal with the problems of Title 1 public school of Ms. Rhee, the politicians, or the columnists?

Posted by: bsallamack | July 5, 2010 8:51 PM | Report abuse

And, as someone who knows NYC well, it would make any New Yorker laugh to hear the claim that the reforms have been for the benefit of he affluent.

Posted by: axolotl
..............................
Read the New York Times.
New Gifted Testing in New York May Begin at Age 3

Taking the test for this gifted program is not a requirement of all children who will enter the public school system. Affluent and upper middle class families spend large amounts of money to prep their children for the test. If their children do not win acceptance to the program they place their children in private schools since they know that the normal public school system is a place of failure for children. The early test for children in this programs is so that if children fail to test high enough for the to enter the program, the parents will have enough time to get their child into a private school.

Apparently New York City is totally unconcerned if there are children of poor parents that might benefit from a test for the gifted program which promises a superior education for all grades in public schools.

Even in my day in public schools all students were tested for programs for selected programs and it was not a system where you had to apply to take a test.

New York City has no plan in place to test all children entering the school system or plans to try to place children in classes based upon their current skills or abilities.

The "reforms" have worked so well in NYC that Boys and Girls High School a Title 1 high school which recently was sending large numbers of students to college after the work of black principal who retired, is now on the list as one of the worst schools in NYC.

Posted by: bsallamack | July 5, 2010 9:15 PM | Report abuse

JM: "Are the superintendents who create stress for principals and teachers doing a good job or a bad one? I have been watching school districts, particularly urban ones, for a long time, and it is clear to me that the superintendents who put the least stress on their principals and teachers produce BY FAR the worst results."

I can see how districts where superintendents put the LEAST stress on principals and teachers might have poor outcomes. But that's not what we're talking about here. You say Rhee is the polar opposite. Why would you expect the results to be much better? Most people in most workplaces understand that there has to be some reasonable level of performance expectations. And most workplaces also function better when there is a significant amount of buy in from frontline workers, especially, as in teaching, where the work is nonstandard and workers have a significant amount of discretion. It seems common sense that some level of buy-in and collaboration is necessary to get high performing schools.

Posted by: dz159 | July 5, 2010 11:31 PM | Report abuse

fumr

Posted by: lacy4 | July 6, 2010 12:34 AM | Report abuse

My apologies for not commenting sooner on the post by AGAAIA, as many urged me to do. It is an entertaining take on the Rhee story, but has one fatal flaw. It suggests that what has happened to her in TFA (by the way, that was a regular public school run by a private company, not a charter school), The New Teacher Project and DC was all about her, and her agenda. She will tell you, and it is obvious from looking at the real details of her story, that she has been heavily influenced by a movement of young educators, led by people like Wendy Kopp of TFA, who was Rhee's key early patron, and successful charter school founders like Dave Levin and Mike
Feinberg of KIPP (see my latest book). They believe that more focused teaching, more instruction time, and strong principals that foster teams of like-minded and very energetic teachers can bring significant improvements in low-income student learning. I have spent a lot of time with people like that in the last 9 years, and although some of their methods have failed, or gone too far, by and large they have more to show for their work than any other identifiable group in education.
I too admire what has been done in Boston, Memphis and Atlanta, but if you look at what happened in the schools in those cities you will find the same changes that Rhee is trying to make here.
Now we have an interesting example in my colleague Stephanie McCrummen's fascinating piece on A1 today about Sousa middle school. I will post on that later today, since it fits right in with this good debate about Rhee.

Posted by: jaymathews | July 6, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Jay, Valerie quotes Diane Ravitch as saying,

"Respect teachers as adults and professionals. Give them the time and opportunity to refresh their intellectual energy. Provide opportunities for professional development that promote their intellectual, spiritual, and professional renewal. Take concrete steps to strengthen the profession. Avoid policies and programs that imply quick fixes to serious problems."

Why can't Michelle Rhee, KIPP, even Arne Duncan and others admit that teachers are professionals? That is what gets me.

Posted by: celestun100 | July 6, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

"My apologies for not commenting sooner on the post by AGAAIA, as many urged me to do. It is an entertaining take on the Rhee story, but has one fatal flaw. It suggests that what has happened to her in TFA (by the way, that was a regular public school run by a private company, not a charter school), The New Teacher Project and DC was all about her, and her agenda. She will tell you, and it is obvious from looking at the real details of her story, that she has been heavily influenced by a movement of young educators, led by people like Wendy Kopp of TFA, who was Rhee's key early patron, and successful charter school founders like Dave Levin and Mike
Feinberg of KIPP (see my latest book). They believe that more focused teaching, more instruction time, and strong principals that foster teams of like-minded and very energetic teachers can bring significant improvements in low-income student learning. I have spent a lot of time with people like that in the last 9 years, and although some of their methods have failed, or gone too far, by and large they have more to show for their work than any other identifiable group in education."

You're on the cusp of understanding and enlightenment, Jay:

TFA, NTP, KIPP, Rhee, Kopp etc. have a BELIEF system, not a program. A belief system that is impervious to evidence, ignorant of educational research and possessing of the arrogance of a 13-year old in asserting that those beliefs are superior to the experience, research and cumulative knowledge of all those who have chosen to study education in a mature fashion. In short, they have the naïve arrogance to claim that only they know and understand the TRUTH, as do all true cultists. (But, much like the leaders of other cults, they have made a great deal of MONEY marketing their belief system and it’s miracles.)

The research refutes their claims of their system’s superiority (http://www.greatlakescenter.org/docs/Policy_Briefs/Heilig_TeachForAmerica.pdf), rather it shows them to be inferior to all but the worst of the worst (even the much-touted Mathatmatica study, sponsored by TFA, contradicts the claims of the TRUE BELIEVERS in its statistics, if not inits unsupported conclusions.). The danger here is that in pursuing phony reform, we ignore changes that have been proven to actually improve student outcomes (http://www.brookings.edu/papers/2009/1014_curriculum_whitehurst.aspx). But the cultists have no way of understanding, either because they are not educated enough to understand the research, or because, in the words of Upton Sinclair; “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"

Posted by: mcstowy | July 6, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Why aren't there more columns on Prince George schools and Montgomery County schools?

Why don't you do an article on how principals are being trained these days?

Why not an article that objectively looks at the reasons that people object to the data, data, data approach?

Posted by: celestun100 | July 6, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

for celestun100-- have you been hacking into my computer? I have a column about data, and possible misuse of it, in Montgomery county scheduled for Monday.

for mcstowy---I think you are right about the data on TFA, which I did a big column on when it first came out years ago, and which the TFA folk didnt like. On average, they don't look good. But the non-average TFAs who stay in teaching, if we had data on them, would I think look very different, and the ones I focus on, like the KIPP guys, are exceptional. The data on their schools is what inspires people like Rhee. You can go to the "Trends" category on this blog and find several recent columns on the KIPP school results, which continue to look very strong.

For celestun100 again---You said:

Why can't Michelle Rhee, KIPP, even Arne Duncan and others admit that teachers are professionals? That is what gets me.

Have you got a quote from Rhee saying that teachers are not professionals? In my interviews with her, and my reading of her speeches, she has expressed admiration for teachers many times, and for the procedures that Diane endorsed in yr post. Same with Arne Duncan and particularly the KIPP people, who worship at the alter of teacher professionalism, and structure their teachers' days so they have all the time they need not only to teach but to study and confer with each other, as professionals should do.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | July 6, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

sorry, i should have spelled it "altar."

Posted by: Jay Mathews | July 6, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Jay, If what you suggest is true, I would be behind them 100 percent. Maybe not KIPP, but the others have all said rude things about teachers and keep blathering on about the "status quo" . Some of the younger principals think this has do with age and assume that older teachers are "not with the program." Personally, the teachers that my kids have had that are really great are older teachers.

About data. I don't just mean the misuse of data, although surely that happens and it is interesting to investigate.

I mean that the new administrators seem to be data happy. This is ok if they are really looking at individual kids scores in all subject areas.

However, as a foreign language teacher I find it silly for me to sit through teacher meetings that dwell on student math or reading scores. I know I can do a few things in my classes to up those scores, but I can't help thinking the emphasis is wrong. And if the schools' hope is to get the kids to learn math through the Arts programs, I mean, come on!!

Maybe Michelle Rhee is right about testing. I really wish all subjects were tested and the scores were considered of equal value. Then you would have the same pressure on all the teachers and every subject would "count".

Posted by: celestun100 | July 6, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

When I say "Right about testing", I am referring to the secondary level, not early elementary.

Posted by: celestun100 | July 6, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

"for mcstowy---I think you are right about the data on TFA, which I did a big column on when it first came out years ago, and which the TFA folk didnt like. On average, they don't look good. But the non-average TFAs who stay in teaching, if we had data on them, would I think look very different, and the ones I focus on, like the KIPP guys, are exceptional."

If you're focusing on the extremely rare TFA teachers who stay in teaching (as opposed to "education" as TFA vaguely defines it), you're forcusing on the wrong cohort. The studies (as reviewed in the Great Lakes Center study) have shown that the relative handful that obtain full certification perform as well (not better), on average, as other fully certified teachers, but the problem is that most leave at the very moment they are learning how to do their jobs. In the mean time they negatively impact children's education as they "Learn on Other People's Children", and they do so at a substantial ecomonic cost. Hiring TFA's is MUCH MORE expensive than hiring regular, certified, permanent, teachers. Exclusive of salary (paid by the local school systems) the costs to place 2 TFA teachers in a classroom would pay the annual salary for one fully certified teacher. So we're paying more for less effective teachers. In fact, Kopp's discertation seems to have applied the Wall Street business model to education, the consumer (kids and taxpayers) pay more and get less; the workers (teachers) work more for less money, and the top managers (Kopp, Rhee, etc.) pocket the difference.

Posted by: mcstowy | July 6, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Jay:

Thanks for your comment on my petition to raise Shakespeare. Please accept my most sincere apologies for not responding to your comment sooner.

I think it is great that you visit your own blog, and make a sincere effort to extend the dialogue. This interaction can be very helpful, and at the very least therapeutic. I am convinced you are committed to the search for answers, and accept that knowledge and learning are developed in this crucible containing both theory and fact (but not always).

Understanding the importance of questioning our most basic beliefs, and then responding to external ideas is at the core of the learning process. And similarly, developing the skill to apply concepts from one discipline to another is often where we find the greatest understanding; and this leads to creative discoveries and invention. This is healthy, and it has been around long before Socrates was a mentor to Plato.

While I disagree with your central premise that the Chancellor’s school reform efforts are working, and could present lots of evidence by noted scholars of education, behavioral psychology, and the cognitive and social sciences, there is something far more basic to consider. Please, let’s step back together for a moment.

I would suggest that the most salient facts that we should discuss involve the Chancellor’s inability to engage in the same type of introspective examination of our beliefs that enable growth and learning. This is where discussion could possibly bear the fruit of enlightenment.

Your engagement in this blog has demonstrated a willingness to challenge your own ideas. Do you, or do you think anyone who works closely with the Chancellor believe she is willing to do the same? I have had hundreds of personal conversations with members of central office staff, school principals and DC Councilmembers with regular interaction with the Chancellor. None of them think she questions her own ideas regarding education reform, or is tolerant of those whose experiences may be contrary to a mission that she describes only in the most careful political language. Her office, like the mayor’s, is now populated with younger professionals who fear expressing contrary thoughts.

Do you think she would sit down in a private session with Dianne Ravitch or the Harvard Graduate School of Education faculty to discuss school reform using the Socratic method? I propose to you that the most essential qualities that an educator (and public servant) must have is the courage to question oneself, the openness to learn, and a combination of humility and strength that allows one to evolve as a leader of others. She has none of these qualities; and this is why she fails.

-- continued next post--

Posted by: AGAAIA | July 7, 2010 9:09 AM | Report abuse

-- continued from above--

The validity of theory and fact is often in dispute; and I thank you for correcting my description of Harlem Park Community School as a charter school. It was indeed a public school run by Edison Education, a private for-profit business. However, I believe that this error of fact (or other not-so-fatal-flaws) does not detract from the essence of the truths that are embodied in my satire.

These forms of parody resonate with a knowledgeable audience partly because they are exaggerated characterizations that allow us to focus on features that we recognize as definitive truths, but are otherwise uncomfortable with. Comedy and satire are a lot more fun, while still performing a cathartic service.

While Shakespeare is still dead, I believe the rumors of my demise (aka fatal flaw) have been greatly exaggerated.

Posted by: AGAAIA | July 7, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

I wonder if Dr. Janey had been given the same opportunities and deals that Ms. Rhee has (go hire/do whatever it takes) that the school system would be even farther than what it is now. We know that it takes some time to show what you put in place to work. What Dr. Janey put in place during his tenure seems to be working now. Fenty nor Rhee cannot take credit for this. 2. I'm tired of hearing that the Rhee-hired teachers/principals are all great and the older teachers are so bad. When I chose my major in early childhood education many years ago, I knew that it was my career. I knew that teachers did not make a lot of money. I came from a family of teachers. It was never "Oh let me do this until I figure out what I'm going to do with my life or until something better comes up" or "I'm tired of my job--let me try teaching." I take classes to keep up with the current trends. I belong to NAEYC. Most of all, I love the children that I teach and have taught. I have the energy, the knowledge and the respect from parents and students. I and others get tired of reading or hearing from those who do not know what goes on in a classroom on a daily basis about how terrible we are. I challenge anyone to come in a class, not for 30 minutes, an hour or a day, but for 2 weeks or more and walk in our shoes. It is not an easy job.

Posted by: whatzupwiththat | July 7, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

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