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Posted at 10:22 PM ET, 09/26/2010

From education reform to education revolution

By editors

By Kevin P. Chavous

Enough already! I love Michelle Rhee, and I introduced Adrian M. Fenty to the issue of education reform back when he was on my D.C. Council staff. I applaud both of them for their commitment to changing the D.C. public schools. But to suggest that Fenty’s and (let’s face facts) Rhee’s upcoming departures from their positions will be devastating to education reform in the District is not supported by our history. In fact, maybe the change will provide the impetus we need for something lacking in the education reform movement in America: a true revolution.

For several years, starting with our unique charter school initiative, the highly successful federal government partnership that created the Opportunity Scholarship Program, and, more recently, the reforms driven by Rhee as schools chancellor, the District has been a laboratory for education reform admired by reformers throughout the nation. Changes in leadership will not turn back the clock. But as with other education reform efforts across the country, many believe that the District’s quest for change has lacked a soul — that it has been a top-down, elite-directed effort.

Yes, there has been progress. The work of folks such as Rhee, New York’s Joel Klein, Louisiana’s Paul Pastorek, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, President Obama and others has been laudatory. So is the work of our emerging new education leaders like KIPP, Teach for America and countless charter school operators such as Friendship Public Charter Schools’ Donald Hense. These innovators toil every day to close the three primary achievement gaps affecting the lifeblood of our nation: the education deficits between children of color and white children, between all low-income children and children of means, and between all U.S. children and children from other industrialized nations. Despite our best efforts, however, each of those achievement gaps are either stuck in place or growing. At this rate they’ll never be closed. Worse, the education reform movement in America has no sense of urgency in closing these gaps. So the gaps remain. They will only be closed by a sustained, people-driven revolution.

Why a revolution? Throughout history, no meaningful movement for change has ever occurred without one. Such revolutions are needed to overthrow an entrenched oppressor that is working against the masses or infringing on their freedom. When the masses become fed up with the oppression, a revolution is inevitable. As history teaches us, leaders such as George Washington, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. provide leadership in freedom fights. But it is the people who turn those fights into revolutions. Revolutions have a sense of urgency.

In our national education reform movement, the people have yet to weigh in, but they are increasingly becoming fed up with the status quo. The masses intuitively know that what we do in our schools largely doesn’t work for many kids, yet they aren’t engaged in the fight for change.

Often, those of us fighting this fight every day unwittingly push away the very people needed to turn reform into revolution. We do so by not engaging parents, by not being inclusive, by knowing it all. Now is the time for us to let the revolution in education take hold. In places like D.C., Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey, there are parents and other stakeholders who are ready to go to the streets and fight for the education for their children. These folks understand what past revolutionaries understood, that revolutions are messy, not nice. And that the people’s demand for change must be addressed immediately, not by way of an incremental three- to five-year reform plan.

So while we acknowledge the contributions of Michelle Rhee and Adrian Fenty to the cause of education reform in the District, their exit offers us an opportunity to engage those stakeholders needed to transform our movement into a true revolution in education. Once that happens, the goal of ensuring that each American child has a quality education becomes far more important than arguing over who is in charge.

The writer, a former member of the D.C. Council (D-Ward 7), is chairman of the board of the Black Alliance for Educational Options and a distinguished fellow with the Center for Educational Reform.

By editors  | September 26, 2010; 10:22 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., HotTopic, Mayor Fenty, education  
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(reference: “knowyourfacts”)

The DCPS decline in test scores
in elementary schools (Reading and Math)
now reflect 2007 levels.
In actuality the drop was 4 points of proficiency.
These drops in elementary reading and math represent
an overall drop of 9-10% fewer elementary children
scoring proficient compared to last year.

One of the realities of Rhee’s brand of reform leadership is
that our youngest children are not being taught well
See here =>

If the reforms were having an impact one would expect
that the third graders who entered the school system
when Rhee did 3 years ago,
and are taking the DC CAS
tests for the first time, would have shown
great promise now. Unfortunately the opposite is true;
the test scores show declining
proficiency rates.

The most difficult thing about being
a parent of a child in DCPS is the
huge lack of analysis in the
mainstream media and the general spread
of misinformation about the nature of
educational gains (or lack there of).
We have a lot to learn from our third graders and owe them a qualified educational leader who can truly enable them to have high-quality learning experiences.

Unfortunately for DC teachers, the greatest beneficiaries of
Rhee’s lack of real educational leadership have been the charters — because people have flocked to them for cover as Rhee closed 20 some schools. But perhaps as a teacher you and your colleagues at the charter should ask yourself why isn’t the quality of the schools good enough. Why aren’t all children everywhere being provided with the curriculum rich learning experiences
you benefited from at the private school?
What needs to happen next to ensure that goal?

I assure you it is not it has nothing to do with the desperation
and other articulate passions expressed by people like Rhee.
It has to do with getting to the hard work of providing children with significantly enhanced academically rigorous curriculum
and learning experiences — including
their families in the process.
Passion (and broom-mongering) aside,
Rhee really didn’t bring it –
nor was she headed in that general direction in my view.

I have heard Gray speak on the educational issue and he has stated that he will move forward with reforms just not with
the expansion of testing as Rhee planned.
Hopefully that will mean that our children are
getting higher quality instruction here in DC, rather than
Rhee’s’‘teaching to the test’ approach which has hijacked meaningful, viable real education.


Posted by: tellthetruth10 | September 26, 2010 11:08 PM | Report abuse

Rhee is a disgrace and should resign immediately.

Walmart, Wall Street and Bill Gates should say out of our public schools. If they want to help, tehy should start by paying their fair share of taxes and WE THE PUBLIC will manage and improve our schools. Our children and our public schools ARE NOT FOR SALE!!!

Tape your own mouth shut Rhee.

Posted by: Nicnamibia | September 27, 2010 12:46 AM | Report abuse

Rhee is a disgrace and should resign immediately.

Walmart, Wall Street and Bill Gates should stay out of our public schools. If they want to help, they should start by paying their fair share of taxes and WE THE PUBLIC will manage and improve our schools. Our children and our public schools ARE NOT FOR SALE!!!

Tape your own mouth shut Rhee.

Posted by: Nicnamibia | September 27, 2010 12:47 AM | Report abuse

This is not about Rhee, the issue is about developing a system that will allow our children to excel. It appears that is not i place right now in D.C. or any many other places in this country. As the President said, no child should have to depend on the bounce of a ball to receive a quality education. The harsh reality is that is the world we live.

Let's also keep in mind that Bill Gates, Walmart, and other private corporations are pay taxes and these corporations are largely owned by tax payers. At the end of the day, the agendas and special interest groups mean nothing when our children are not being educated.

We're fighting to protecting unions, fighting to defend what we're accustomed to, but when will we fight to ensure every child receives a world class education?

Let the revolution begin...Let it begin with each of you!!!

Posted by: elewis3 | September 27, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

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