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Rhee to principals: 'Go hard or go home'

Sounds as if the chancellor was channeling Mike Shanahan, but that was her message to principals at last week's "academy" at Gallaudet University. According to an attendee who shared notes with me, Rhee said that with the installation of the new IMPACT system, principals now have unprecedented ability to remove ineffective teachers.

"Unless you are comfortable with putting you own child in a classroom, that teacher does not have to be there," Rhee said. "You have the tools you need to be successful. Our expectations are high. So either go hard or go home."

Deputy chancellor Kaya Henderson also took her turn motivating the group, reinforcing Rhee's core message: that poverty and other conditions outside the classroom are not an excuse. According to the notes she said:

"Our responsibility is to deliver the goods, no matter what the situations our students are in. The reform is in the schoolhouse. You are here because we believe you are the right people to deliver this reform. The election is not our concern, the election is not your concern. Go hard or go home!"

Rhee said in an interview that the locker room aphorism is one she's used with her senior staff, but as she begins her fourth school year as chancellor, she wanted to use it to put principals on notice.

"Heading into a fourth year of anything you can tend to get a little lax or relaxed," she said. "I think it was just sort of a message that we're going to continue to drive this thing really hard and aggressively. You have to ready for it, and if you're up for it, great. And if not...."

If not, you're likely to join the steadily-expanding list of former Rhee-era DCPS principals.

As an added incentive for school leaders to "go hard" year, DCPS is developing a principal evaluation system, modeled to some extent on the IMPACT instrument that now appraises teachers. According to a draft circulated to principals, the evaluation is a mix of student achievement and leadership benchmarks, with 30 percent of the overall score to be tied to growth on DC CAS test results.

And while we're on the subject of principals, my roster of new ones (new either to the system or newly assigned) earlier this week had a few omissions. Here they are:

Walker-Jones Education Campus: Melissa Martin
MacFarland Middle School: Shirley Hopkinson
Stanton Elementary: Caroline John
Woodson High School: Thomas Whittle
Hardy Middle School: Dana Nerenberg (how could we forget?)

Follow D.C. Schools Insider every day at schools. And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our new Higher Education page at Bookmark it!

By Bill Turque  |  August 19, 2010; 2:06 PM ET
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Next: Addendum to Fenty-Rhee story


So "poverty and other conditions outside the classroom are not an excuse." Let's look at an imaginary conversation Rhee might have with a friend or relative:

Friend: Michelle, my daughter isn't making good progress in reading. I don't think she can see properly.

Rhee: No excuses! You tell her she must learn or else!

Friend: Michelle, I was laid off from my job. I have no food for my son. Can you help me?

Michelle: No excuses! He doesn't need food. Just send him to school and let them take care of it!

Relative: Michelle, little Trey has missed so much school this year. He's always got colds and seems thirsty all the time. He's losing weight rapidly.

Rhee: No excuses. You tell Trey he must go to school and learn! And tell him you don't want to hear any more whining about thirst!

Friend: Michelle, my little Sophia hates school. She says the other children make fun of her. She's refusing to go.

Michelle: No excuses! Tell Sophia if she doesn't go, you are going to call me. I'll take her there myself!

Does the above seem ridiculous? Well, it is.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | August 19, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

In our country there is no excuse for ignoring poverty or outside conditions that impede the learning of our children.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | August 19, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

"reinforcing Rhee's core message: that poverty and other conditions outside the classroom are not an excuse."

This charade angers me. Home environment has almost everything to do with it. When my wife, who is a teacher, and I began to teach our kids to read we used "Hooked on Phonics". That's in addition to the one on one time we spent teaching them and the many books we bought, flash cards, etc. it is not the only means to teach reading, but we had the resources to try it and it worked. My kids were reading by age 4 and it was like a little light just turned on in their little brains. It's so many examples of what we did to enrich their learning and education that make that statement ridiculous and dangerous at the same time.

I would venture to say Michelle Rhee does not employ that strategy with her own kids.

Posted by: oknow1 | August 19, 2010 6:39 PM | Report abuse

"If not, you're likely to join the steadily-expanding list of former Rhee-era DCPS principals."

nice jab, but I would love to see the list of former Rhee era principals.

I know the Washington Post would never allow an article on it, but does anyone have a list of principles over the 3 years of Rhee? Incumbents upon her arrival until today. I would love to see a track record of her hires.

Posted by: oknow1 | August 19, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Rhee is a bully plain and simple. I have heard too many first hand accounts and experienced it myself to think anything otherwise.

When a bully, who is in a position of major power says, "Go hard or go home." This is not inspiring people it is intimidation.

Posted by: letsbereal2 | August 19, 2010 7:12 PM | Report abuse

I think Rhee needs to be put in a mental institution.

Let's hope Gray wins and Rhee keeps her word to quit.

Posted by: educationlover54 | August 19, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

You know, Turque - covering a mental case like Rhee has to be nerve racking - especially when your employer is in love with her.

Posted by: educationlover54 | August 19, 2010 7:27 PM | Report abuse

"Go hard or go home" was exactly what teachers heard from principals on the first day back. What a way to welcome back your staff!!

Message to Rhee: You've gone hard the last 3.5 years. It's not working. So please go home to Sacramento when you get married Labor Day weekend.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | August 19, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

Are there any lasting examples in DCPS of the type of achievement strides Rhee demands?

I've seen scores stay steady, go down, go up then go down, or go up a little and level off.

What has caused this and how is "Go Hard or Go Home" going to improve anything?

Posted by: efavorite | August 20, 2010 12:06 AM | Report abuse

hmmmm..... so i guess poverty and generations of little education and background knowledge can continue to be ignored since it is so easily overcome. As a successful teacher with outstanding test scores (above 96% for my classroom since data became available 5 years ago) i can say with certainty. These two are distantly removed from the reality of a classroom. They need to spend some time getting back in touch with reality or they should GO HOME.

Posted by: agra09 | August 20, 2010 7:10 AM | Report abuse

Sounds like comments from someone who has never experience poverty herself.

Posted by: Aerowaz | August 20, 2010 8:59 AM | Report abuse

We were told at our meeting that there will be no fours given out this year, those days are over...

If we ever ran our classes this way we would be marked down immediately.

Punitive measures do not motivate.

Used to love being part of my school, things have changed so much, for the worse, its so very disappointing.

Posted by: Peppered | August 20, 2010 8:59 AM | Report abuse

I'd like to point out that the "poverty is no excuse" line is a paraphrase, not a direct and attributable quote.

Also, it's not made clear what poverty fails to excuse. Based on the supporting (second-hand) statements, it seems that poverty does not excuse principals giving the maximum effort to perform their job duties: assuring that every DCPS student has an effective teacher, and principals hold to the belief that they can be agents of change in the lives of these students.

Of course, I am just holding to the information presented in the blog post. If you infer that by saying poverty is no excuse (in a paraphrase, no less) means that poverty should be ignored, then you are simply making unjust and unfair inferences based wholly on your agenda.

Posted by: gardyloo | August 20, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

im appalled at the use of sexual enuendo by a public official. "Go hard or go home"?

thats outragous and pornographic.

Shame on Rhee!

Posted by: MarilynManson | August 20, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Sounds alot like my Grandfather...

he had a grade school education but worked two jobs for over 30 years to and taught my mother and her 2 sisters and 1 brother that same ethic. Southern prideful folks swept the dirt in front of their house; the fact it was just dirt didn't matter. Nor did their clothes being secondhand nor did Jim Crow...they were EXPECTED to achieve in spite of. And MOST DID.

So suck it up buttercups and follow old folks example...

Posted by: kahlua87 | August 20, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

While I have no problem with expecting the best from teachers an principals there needs to be some reality placed in the measures. If a 9th grade English teacher has 10 students who are illiterate (unfortunately this could be the case at certain schools)in a class of 30 and gets all 10 to read at at least a 6th grade level by the end of one school year I think thats pretty phenomenal. I'm sure testing would place them below basic.

There also needs to be a balance with job security. I would hate to be in a class with a teacher who was terrified of losing their job just because I had a bad day on testing day. Yes remove the bad teachers, but don't motivate the good ones to leave because they are one temper tantrum away from unemployment.

Posted by: Redial1 | August 20, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Ok – Here are some direct quotes from Rhee, some current and some going back a few years, to show this attitude that teachers along can overcome the effects of poverty is more than a paraphrased idea.

“As a teacher in this system, you have to be willing to take personal responsibility for ensuring your children are successful despite obstacles…You can’t say, ‘My students didn’t get any breakfast today,’ or ‘No one put them to bed last night,’ or ‘Their electricity got cut off in the house, so they couldn’t do their homework.” (The Atlantic, 11/08)

“[I have] an unwavering belief in the children of the city, that they can achieve at high levels despite the obstacles they face” Examiner 6/17/10 Thursday morning conference in Georgetown, “Making a Difference: Personal Experiences from Three American Leaders,” sponsored by Accenture.

“Nothing changed in that classroom except how the adults were teaching,” Rhee says. “I know it can be done.”

“And the only way we’re going to get out of this situation [low achievement] is if we have great teachers. That is the only solution that we have, and so that’s why we’re really focused on it.” News 4 TV

"Teachers are everything.

Posted by: efavorite | August 20, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

I would guess that many of the comments here are from members of the old legacy education establishment that clearly resents Rhee and all that she has tried to do. I know she is not well liked, and her tactics can be grating, but she done more than anyone in my memory to actually reform the DC education system.

If I was a DC educator I would be grateful for someone coming in and trying to shake things up and reform an embarrassingly ineffective institution. I would want to help build a school system that could actually educate the majority of students rather than allowing so many to either drop out or graduate without basic proficiency.

I’ve lived in DC all my life and I remember the old funding excuses on why the schools were so bad. Now that funding has been debunked as an excuse the new one is poverty and the myriad of social problems that many of our students face. I agree these are huge issues that must be addressed both at a city level and for individual students but you can’t use them as an excuse to shield incompetent or ineffectual educators. I would guess that was exactly Rhee’s point and that most of the commenter’s knew that was what she meant, but they can’t see past their self-interested anger and fear for their jobs.

Anyway, why I’m posting this is that most of the comments on this post seemed to be from educators that don’t want change. I’m a DC native with 6 month old twins and I desperately need change. I want to stay in this city but I’m not willing to send them to the schools in my neighborhood unless things improve. I hope whoever wins for mayor that Rhee can stay or someone like her is appointed.

Posted by: hn2001 | August 20, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

To many of the nut-cases above me, I think that many of you misinterpreted Rhee's message. And your lack of ability to interpret it has made it clear to me that many of you are the type of people that favor civil-rights style politics and ideals in which all of us must continually (from generation to generation) live in a cycle of victimization, medocrity and excuses.

Rhee is asking her teachers to focus on educating her students to the best of their ability and NOT FOCUS on their hardships, socio-economic status or family lives. Teachers have a responsibility to teach, they are not Social Workers.

We should push our students and not make excuses for them. The world is a big and unforgiving place and the world will not care that they came from a low income neighborhood or that their mom's boyfriend decided to walk away from his responsibility.

Parents (or lack there of) should be held accountable for the education of their children. I totally agree with the "Go Hard or Go Home" montra. This is the way the real world works and this fire must be lit under the arses of any teachers who teach our children and our paid with our tax dollars.

I to am from a low income home and neighborhood and went to a DC Public School (Plummer, Sousa Middle School and H.D. Woodson), so dont try and make it seem like I don't understand.

My teachers didnt feel sorry for me. They pushed and encouraged me.

Posted by: RPayne55 | August 20, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse


It's still paraphrased. In your supporting examples (only one of which--the first--was pertinent), in the post from yesterday, everywhere.

Posts were printed that responded to the statement as if it were a direct quote on the record. As if those exact words--"poverty is no excuse"--were put forth as a statement of fact and policy. That is not true.

Two other points:
1.) Your reframed the issue to make it about teachers. The statements were made to principals. It may be been about how principals should manage teachers, but that was not part of the reporting. Please stick to the reporting.

2.)So, let's say the statement that poverty is no excuse is false. Does that mean that poverty can be an excuse? Now, that's inspiring.

"Being poor is no sin, but it might as well be."
--Kin Hubbard

Posted by: gardyloo | August 20, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Well, she wasn't hired to make friends.

Posted by: UnknownHenson | August 20, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

So says the woman with only three years of classroom teaching experience.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | August 20, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Go, Rhee! Smash the featherbedding WTU and the legacy of Barbara "Three Furs" Bullock.

The bama.

Posted by: bs2004 | August 20, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I am not an educator, and my kids are out of college, so I have no personal stake in the debate regarding Michelle Rhee's leadership style. I have seen several of interviews and read a number of news articles regarding Ms. Rhee's tenure in the DC school system. She strikes me as the classic toxic manager. I served under retired General Colin Powell. I would direct Ms. Rhee to General Powell's "A Leadership Primer." It's available on the Internet, at no charge.

Posted by: Dave115 | August 20, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

"Our responsibility is to deliver the goods, no matter what the situations our students are in." Rhee's thinking is so far outside the box, it's scary. First, exactly what are "the goods"? Is she speaking about children and their education or some wholesale commodity? And for her to ignore "the situations of the students" is just plain out-of-touch with reality. Poverty, abuse, addictions, homelessness, umemployment, teen pregnancy, HIV/Aids are real situations, Ms. Rhee.

Posted by: daughterofold | August 20, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse


The "Our responsibility to deliver the goods" quote is attributed to Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson.

Not Chancellor Rhee.

Posted by: gardyloo | August 20, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

In some parts of the world poverty IS an excuse for not getting an education. In our country it should not be.

Many of us want true educational reform. To me that means parents, schools, social services and health agencies getting together to help the whole child. Specifically:

the hungry child will be fed
the battered child will be protected
the visually impaired will get glasses
the hearing impaired will get a hearing aid
the emotionally distraught child will get therapy
the neglected child will have a place to go

Hopefully the next mayor will combine the various agencies of the city (social services, education, health ) to meet the needs of all children. All children can learn, but it really does take a village.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | August 20, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

RPayne55 - I don't knock your opinion. Part of the issue that has to be discussed is what are kids getting from home. You may have been low income, but what support structure and enrichment did you get from home and family? it appears to be above par. In my view, a teacher should not have to encourage a kid to learn. My parents established that in me and the school never had to worry about it. hopefully you see there's a clear difference.

the reality is home environments impact kids differently in their cognitive development. I wish i could do a study of the kids in my child's kindergarten class. I can assure you if we tracked them 5-10-15 years later, the ones that were sharp or advanced are sharp now. the sharp kids weren't gifted, they represented families that invested and cared about their kids education. They were taught and exposed to things earlier. As another poster stated you can see achievement gaps in kindergarten that cannot be overcome. it's glaring to see some kids reading Dr. Seuss while other 5 year olds don't know colors, basic shapes and the alphabet. This is a core educational issue in DCPS. that's why KIPP has those kids in school 8 hr a day and 6 days a week to overcome it.

Posted by: oknow1 | August 20, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse


If you believe as you do, you are right to defend Ms. Rhee.

As a retired teacher, I am not affected by what she does or does not do, but I am still passionate about education for my own grandchildren as well as children everywhere. I believe the worst possible thing we can do for education is to insult and humiliate our teachers because these are the people who are delivering the service to our children. Traditionally it's been extremely difficult for urban school districts to recruit and retain highly qualified people. If Rhee is allowed to continue her assault, it will be virtually impossible to recruit talented people to DC once this recession is over. By that time, Rhee will be long gone. You can be certain her own children will get more than "schools alone."

The next mayor and superintendent can improve k-12 schools for DC children by:

hiring fully qualified and experienced teachers with proven records of success;

working with other city agencies to provide all children with the basics needed to do well in school;

supporting the current teachers and giving them the help that they require;

a system for supporting and supervising new teachers so that only effective educators are given permanent status;

a system for dismissing ineffective educators without public fanfare and humiliation.

DC can do better.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | August 20, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

"Go hard or go home!"

Rihanna and Young Jeezy will be collecting royalities soon.

Posted by: hoos3014 | August 20, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Rhee (I can't bring myself to give her a title) has never been a principal and, to my knowledge, her only teaching experience has been 3 years in an elementary school.

I wonder how she would handle finding out that 9 of her high school students were falling asleep in class because they were being sexually molested by their stepfather's/mother's boyfriends at night?
No, teachers and principals aren't social workers, but when the schools or the neighborhood aren't providing them,the teachers and principals wind up filling those roles as well.

The above scenario is a true story from an inner city school teacher I know. she also wound up visiting some of those girls in the hospital when they became pregnant.

I guess having students who have been sexually molested and become pregnant are no excuse, though, for not giving them at-level high school skills whether you are a teacher OR a principal.

Just one of many issues Rhee is unqualified
to address.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | August 20, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Poverty is not an excuse for not trying to educate children. Poverty and its effects are reasons why some children have difficulty learning and no amount of browbeating teachers or principals can change that.

The quotes in my post above are very relevant. What she's been saying about teachers, is also being directed at principals: If you can't raise scores, you're effective. Raise scores or else.

Posted by: efavorite | August 20, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Rhee is tremendous. No one with anything less than her determination and vision could have made a difference in the dysfunctional DCPS. From the screed posted above, you can see how much deadweight she still has to kick out before the kids even have a chance.

Go Rhee go! Nothing fights back tooth and nail like entrenched mediocrity.

Posted by: yh132 | August 20, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

So poverty is no excuse for a student or teacher not to fulfill dictator Rhee's computer model or standardized test scores. In a perfect world, perhaps. That statement alone shows her absolute lack of understanding of how to motivate children from some of the most poverty stricken homes or the complexity of teaching these children the importance of education. Not to mention her "motivational" speeches to principals harks back to old newsreels of Hitler addressing his troops. Is she going to give principals a quota on the number of teachers they must fire in order for them to keep their own jobs?

It is hard to believe that year four is starting and she is still intimidating and still firing, but has yet to show even minimal leadership skills or little in the way of positive results.

Posted by: Frustratededucator | August 20, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

I have this vision of Miss Rhee getting up before the principals, guitar in hand, singing this song to them:

"You say you’re sorry
For tellin’ stories
That you know I believe are true
You say ya got some
Other kinda lover
And yes, I believe you do
You say my kisses are not like his
But this time I’m not gonna tell you why that is
I’m just gonna let you pass
Yes, and I’ll go last
Then time will tell who fell
And who’s been left behind
When you go your way and I go mine"

Posted by: edlharris | August 20, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

"Unless you are comfortable with putting you own child in a classroom..." (you did mean *your*, right?)

So where do Ms. Rhee's and Mr. Fenty's children attend school? Are they putting their money where their mouth is?

Posted by: ceebee2 | August 20, 2010 6:33 PM | Report abuse

What a bunch of namby pamby cry babies! suck it up! - your school system is as bad as it gets. The system for years has done a disservice to helpless children. How can you sit here after all these years, generation, after generation of robbing kids of a chance at a good education and speak all this nonsense..this crazy, "we don't need this kind of change" has gone on for can't go any lower! - UP is the only direction you can go.

Posted by: audiman | August 20, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

As a matter of fact...all you cry babies..GO HOME! You are the reason for the decades of failure! New blood is needed! - that obviously is not YOU, you need to face up to that, and maybe that's the hardest part of all.

Posted by: audiman | August 20, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Go hard or go home! This is the funniest crap I have read from Rhee and company in a long time. Please, this is the same woman, that put tape on school children's mouths when she taught in a Baltimore City school. What a complete idiot, Rhee still is. She never knows when to just shut up. Who in their right mind would say something so dumb as, Go hard or go home to a group of principals. Yet there are people who want to defend Rhee.

Posted by: fivetogo | August 20, 2010 8:10 PM | Report abuse


Since you think it is so easy to teach why don't you join TFA and start teaching! Be sure to be placed at a school in a high poverty and high crime area. After about six months your verbal attacks on DCPS teachers may carry a little more weight.

gardyloo said:
"So, let's say the statement that poverty is no excuse is false. Does that mean that poverty can be an excuse? Now, that's inspiring".

People who point to the fact that many DCPS students experience violence, trauma and suffer the effects of poverty are not saying that they shouldn't be taught or that their life experiences should be used as an excuse for teachers to just give up.

People are raising these issues to UNDERSTAND why many students continue to struggle and why some schools are burdened and appear to be failing. Maybe if we understand what are some of the major factors that cause low achievement levels, we can actually address them.

But people like Rhee like to ignore this and blame the problems on bad teachers and principals.

Posted by: letsbereal2 | August 20, 2010 10:56 PM | Report abuse

Those principals either have no other options but to take the abuse or they are very stupid people. I think the latter is true. How can you follow a leader without a proven track record? Easy, because you are stupid! Keep the show going. This type of mindless entertainment is needed for people with real jobs.

Posted by: shortlady2 | August 20, 2010 10:57 PM | Report abuse

people who don't like her will think it is a bad quote. people who like her will think she is continuing reform.

I don't have an opinion about the quote. I think it is just that a quote. What we know is that (1) children need to be held to high standards and (2) children may have challenges that could hinder their development. It isn't a bad statement if the schools are putting the resources behind the principals to address the barriers. Let's remember that in many cases we could be talking about children who don't have any support from, or control over what happens at home. Hold the principals to a high standard but make sure they have the resources they need to meet those standards.

I don't know if that is or isn't happening from this column.

Posted by: mamaspearl | August 20, 2010 11:27 PM | Report abuse

Only 10 D.C. schools made AYP this year. Hasn't this number declined every year since Rhee took control? Go hard or go home, anyone?

Posted by: berniehorn | August 20, 2010 11:59 PM | Report abuse

New analysis of achievement gap: 1/2 x 1/2 = 1 1/2?

@ the following Web Address:

The DCPS and Neighborhood Schools:

Unfortunately, Chancellor Rhee's concept of “Neighborhood Schools” (a term she uses with alacrity), are actually increasing the levels of Educational Apartheid we find in DCPS.

The Chancellor's reform philosophy has consistently focused on the "failure of adults" (a.k.a. teachers and administrators) as being the primary cause of low student achievement. Since, in her view, all neighborhood schools can succeed, she has discounted and completely ignored the effects of high concentrations of poverty and home instability as the most predictive factors in student achievement. This has allowed her to pursue policies and staffing decisions that have reduced the number of out-of-boundary, low SES students attending schools in more affluent neighborhoods.

The politics in Washington, DC have been a major factor in these policies. In wealthy and mostly white neighborhoods (where my family lives) there is strong support for her reform agenda. The attitude has been that “neighborhood schools” are good for the community, and as local economic concerns have grown, the repatriation of affluent white families into DCPS has become a increasingly popular option. It is not uncommon to hear some parents speak of "taking our schools back", with the implication that they are part of a school reform effort that will demonstrate new high levels of achievement and provide a blueprint for less affluent neighborhood schools.

Recently, there has also been a very significant capital investment in public school modernization that serve these affluent neighborhoods, and these have been disproportionately high compared to investment in schools located in poorer and minority neighborhoods.

I spoke to Richard D. Kahlenberg, of The Century Foundation, who has written extensively about the impacts of high concentrations of poverty and home instability on the potential of our schools. He argues that in schools systems where neighborhood boundaries reinforce extreme economic differences, we need to take steps to increase the diversity of socioeconomic status (SES) within each school. And such integrated schools have been shown to create successful learning environments that are faithful to the purpose and ideals of public education. He pointed to the Cambridge, Massachusetts (among others) as an example of such progressive public school policy.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspects of the politicalization of school reform in Washington have been the levels of propaganda and disinformation about student achievement and the achievement gap.

Posted by: AGAAIA | August 21, 2010 6:30 AM | Report abuse

That's what she said.

Posted by: tristesse27 | August 21, 2010 6:47 AM | Report abuse

Debate over DCPS Achievement Gap

Chancellor Rhee has consistently advanced standardized test scores as the primary measure of student, teacher, and school success or failure. While this in itself is wrong and very disturbing, it has been accompanied by equally consistent manipulation and mischaracterization of test results. For instance, the DCPS testing system (DC-CAS) required for NCLB reporting has shown remarkable increases in student proficiency levels that are increasingly divorced from the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) data for the same test periods.

With regard to the achievement gap, TUDA (Trial Urban District Assessment) data strongly suggests that between 2007 and 2009 the DCPS is the among the worst public school systems in America, and getting worse. A DCPS math and science teacher consulted with statistical behavior scientists in developing a report and testimony that he presented to DC City Council in April 2010. I have reviewed this report, which compares TUDA data for each urban district, and it shows consistent increases in test score gaps (based on race and economic status) which were equal or greater than most or all other districts in the TUDA study.

In testimony before the DC City Council, Chancellor Rhee refuted any conclusion that the achievement gap was increasing, and promised that the NCES statistics analysis group (lead by Peggy Carr of the Assessment Division) would backup her many claims of reducing the achievement gap.

The NCES Assessment Division provided a letter that selectively dismissed portions, but not all parts of the report as statistically insignificant. They also included an annotated version of the PowerPoint presentation in their response that had removed critical slides that described the largest gaps without comment or explanation. We have not received any correspondence from the NCES Assessment Division that has backed up Chancellor Rhee’s claims of reducing the achievement gap, nor has Rhee provided any additional documents from NCES that she promised to the DC Council.

Mr. Turque's article in the Thursday WP, 'Fenty's Political Fortunes Tied to Success of D.C. School Reforms', further supports these conclusions, and can be found at this web address:


In conclusion ... I believe we have a Chancellor that will support a system of educational apartheid by throwing principals and teachers under the bus. How ironic is that?

Posted by: AGAAIA | August 21, 2010 6:51 AM | Report abuse

gardyloo, as usual, finds the deceptive flaws in efavorite's posturing and editing and asserting "facts," that are not infrequently out of context and misleading.

However, we must praise the consistency of efavorite in her belief that all teachers have no meaningful responsibility for education, even in class. She does insist on crisp teacher attire, use of standard American English, and keeping order, which are all great and a good baseline set of conditions. But what happens later.....

ditto for Harvard/Standford mom Linda TRT, who strongly believes that school reform will take "a long time" and "cost a lot of money." Yeah, the time is: forever, the way she tells it. And the money is as much as the teachers can get, it seems.

Finally, gardyloo is spot on in noting that these boards are infested with the old guard who will use any claim or device to slam the door on change (my sense of her more politely put thought).

Change will not be held back, not by Vince Gray, if he were elected, as he is not going to roll over for the union. He can be taken at his word, just as Fenty can, that the schools are run for the children [not the teachers] primarily.

Posted by: axolotl | August 21, 2010 8:17 AM | Report abuse


Vince Gray will improve the schools, but he will also focus on the community support systems that are critical to the success of these schools. The reform efforts of Dr. Clifford Janey in Newark are a great example of public and private collaborative efforts that are assisted by established educational research provided by institutions such as New York University and Columbia Teacher's College. Gray's education platform can be found here:

I am not in the habit of fighting other people's battles, but I don't see any endemic flaws in the points that efavorite makes, nor do I believe she can be accused of cherry-picking her sources when it comes to quoting Chancellor Rhee.

I have listened to her give testimony before the City Council for hours, and at many other forums as well. The Chancellor's latest addresses to the new DCPS teacher corp, and then to the principals continue to hammer home her flawed and poisonous prescription for school reform.

Please, try to imagine working for this woman. I know lots of great DCPS people who do, and whose commitment to the children in their charge is unquestioned. And they do not believe they are supported by the Chancellor or her ill-concieved metrics. The best teachers are leaving in greater and greater numbers, and no matter how much money is on the table, there are no great teachers and administrators moving to DC to be part of her revolution.

If you believe that teachers are interchangeable, and that the latest TFA and "New Leaders for New Schools" injection into DCPS is the solution; you are wrong. This has been a disaster. I have been personally involved in DCPS schools, and can bear witness to the ugly outcomes of this knee-jerk pop-ed reform being promoted by people with no fundamental understanding of child development or the process of learning.

Do we need reform? Yes!

Can you fix a bad TV picture with a Hammer? No!

Rhee is not the tool you use to fix our pubic schools; and it is so hard to see the damage and pain she inflicts on good people who need to be part of the solution, and not hit with a hammer.

Posted by: AGAAIA | August 21, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

If one thinks back to any basic psychology class taken in college, one can see that Rhee constantly projects as a defense mechanism. She knows deep down that she was a failure as a teacher and also is incapable of being a successful system leader. Therefore, she chooses to project her failures onto teachers--now principals with greater, overt frequency--rather than admit that she is an incompetent failure and respectfully resign.

Sadly, in the interim, she is further dismantling an already fragile system. The next superintendent (and I hope the next time there will be one) will need at least 10 years to undo the mess this wanna-be administrator has inflicted on the DCPS system.

As I read the statements that are so supportive of Rhee, I can reflect on any amount of documentation I have at my disposal that would reveal even to her most ardent supporter what a fraud she really is. I'm enraged that my tax dollars actually support this woman who borders on lunacy...(did everyone read the personal anecdotes she told to incoming teachers...who were laughing?) After reading the text and listening to her own words, can anyone with common sense doubt that this woman is unfit for her job?

Get rid of this woman. If it takes getting rid of Fenty, let's do that. The majority of the children in this city are in acute danger with irreversible consequences as long as this woman remains in the city.

Posted by: vscribe | August 21, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

When I first read the headline (Go hard or go home" I thought it was a message to the students. Disappointing...

Posted by: DecafDrinker | August 21, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Dear principals,
You can go as hard as you want to or think you need to. Rest assured you will be going home. This revolving door will not stop. There is no intention of negotiating a contract with CSO. There is no money. Sending the principals home is easy. You serve at the pleasure of the chancellor.

Impact has now changed to ensure that more teachers get fired and with the plunging test scores, merit pay is on paper too. The new teachers at the bottom of the pay scale will never see those big raises.

I go back to the teacher that worked at St. Hopes. When interviewed, she stated that teachers and administrators were recruited from everywhere. The door just kept revolvoing and the instability caused parents to remove their children from St Hopes. Teachers were then asked to stand on the corner to recruit students. That's when she quit. She stated that she didn't sign up for that. Don't blame her one bit!

Didn't I just read that a knock on the door child finding was being implemented? History does repeat itself.

The door has revolved since she got here. She wasn't satisfied with who was here when she came and not satisfied with her replacements. So, GO HARD and be prepared to GO HOME. The advice given to you came from a person who told new teachers at their orientation that she left someone's child with a stranger when she couldn't find out where the child lived after a class trip. The person was a stranger to Rhee and she left it up to that person to get the child home. Unfortunately, that day Rhee was not handled as the ineffective and negligent teacher that she was.

Good luck folks, you will be in my prayers.

Posted by: candycane1 | August 21, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Anybody who thinks that there has been real, meaningful improvement and reform under Rhee is living in a world of make-believe. Look at the actual facts and figures on DC-CAS data that has been published at GFBrandenburg's blog:
You can't really say that it's veteran teachers who are somehow intentionally 'holding back' students. Almost all of the older African-American teachers in DCPS (the ones who actually understood where their students were coming from) have retired. DCPS now is mostly staffed by young teachers with very little experience or training at all, particularly in schools in high-poverty regions. And these newbie teachers are having a very, very hard time. A lot of them don't make it through the first year.

So, what exactly is it that Chairman Rhee has 'reformed'? Do you really think that putting the least-experienced, most poorly-trained youngsters in charge of the classes with the students with the greatest needs is an IMPROVEMENT? If you do, then you ain't been in a high-poverty classroom in a long time, if ever.

Posted by: TexasIke59 | August 21, 2010 9:30 PM | Report abuse

First day at most DC Schools started with the Principals warning the staff, “I will be in your room everyday”. “Those of you who I feel is not teaching will be gone.” “By the way, this is going to be a GREAT SCHOOL YEAR.” Many were just plain nasty and some gave I am here to help you succeed speech with a smile. Bottom line is that idiots are planning to GO HARD BUT MANY WILL STILL GO HOME.

The fact that most administrators willingly pick up on Rhee theme is very telling regarding the type of administrators working for this NUT.

This further indicates that the principals also have been given a script to follow just like they are giving a script to their staff. There is no room for independent thinking under Rhee and her band of FOOLS.

Finally, who is designing the evaluation for administrators, the post, TFA, New “incompetent” Leaders?

Posted by: dccounselor72 | August 22, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse


I'm glad to see you back. I want to reiterate that I never said that reform will take a lot of time and cost a lot of money. What I've said regarding education is "There are no shortcuts and it isn't cheap." By "no shortcuts" I mean we can't skip critical steps such as ignoring the important preschool years. Change can happen today and it need not cost a dime.

I do agree that Gray will continue with the right kind of reform. From what I've read he's interested in collaborating with teachers, increasing the number and quality of preschools, providing help for struggling teachers and ensuring the validity of standardized tests. Hopefully he'll appoint a superintendent who is qualified for the job and has experience leading people to higher standards of performance. Of course, that person should "work well with others."

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | August 22, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

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