THE MICHELLE THAT OBAMA SHOULD AVOID
"Rhee has made no secret of her determination to break the union. With the support of Mayor Adrian Fenty and the promise of funds from private foundations, she wants to offer teachers a choice of two contracts. Under the first, teachers can make up to $130,000 in merit pay-but they must forgo tenure. Or they can choose to keep tenure, but accept a much more modest pay raise (the average teacher's salary in
What Newsweek and other media don't tell you is that the increase in salary is being funded by donations from private foundations with absolutely no guarantee the money will still be there a few years down the pike. It short, it amounts to a first class con being perpetrated with the aid of third rate media.
Following are some other things about Rhee you may not know:
Washington Post Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee told the D.C. Council that the District needs to completely rethink its approach to preventing school violence, with a better trained security force but also by teaching students to manage conflicts before they spiral out of control. Rhee spoke to the council a day after fights among rival groups at
Washington Post - At Hart [school], where the level of violence and disorder - including assaults on at least three teachers - prompted Rhee to intervene this month with a team of administrators and to dismiss Principal Kisha Webster, about 200 parents and faculty packed the school auditorium to air complaints. . . D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) said much of the violence at Hart could have been averted if the school system had planned more carefully for its consolidation with P.R. Harris, another Southeast middle school that was closed in June. Barry said administrators did nothing beforehand to ease the potential for neighborhood tensions and school rivalries that have played out under Hart's roof.
"They sent sixth , seventh and eighth-graders to Hart from P.R. Harris without any preparation for the neighborhood beefs," Barry said.
Washington Post - About a third of D.C.'s school principal corps has turned over on Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's 17-month watch, through firings, resignations and retirements. She's replaced at least three since the beginning of the school year, and has put out the word that she is not done.
The writer of the following is a former D.C. Public Schools teacher and was superintendent of schools in
Larry Cuban, Washington Post In her second year as the District's schools chancellor, Michelle A. Rhee looks like a sprinter. In less than two years, with the full support of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, she has already cut central office administrators, fired principals, closed schools and challenged the teachers union on seniority transfer rights and tenure.
By comparison, Atlanta Superintendent Beverly L. Hall and Austin schools chief Pat Forgione each served a decade and showed strong gains in students' academic achievement. They were long-distance runners. Fixing urban school districts takes marathoners, not sprinters.
Look at Alan Bersin, who ran out of gas as
My point is not that union leaders block reform. In some cities they work closely with superintendents. Nor should superintendents play nice with unions to avoid conflict.
But sprinter superintendents err in jumping on unions too early in their long-distance race for better student achievement. They suffer from ideological myopia. They believe low test scores and achievement gaps between whites and minorities result in large part from knuckle-dragging union leaders defending seniority and tenure rights that protect lousy teachers. Such beliefs reflect a serious misreading of why urban students fail to reach proficiency levels and graduate from high school. . .
This error in thinking has occurred often in districts where impatient superintendents have demonized unions, only to discover that they have stumbled into a war as a result. Once union leaders were convinced that they were fighting for their survival, they converted the battle into an "us vs. them" struggle. When that happens, kiss reform goodbye.
Rhee's ideological push against unions comes much too early in her tenure to improve teaching and learning. Such initiatives fail because they can turn the entire D.C. teaching corps -- including first-rate veteran and mid-career teachers -- against any classroom change. Rhee may deceive herself into believing that teacher whispers about forming another union will split a chapter of the American Federation of Teachers that was founded in 1925. It won't.
"Us vs. them" is not predestined.
Were the untimely face-off with the D.C. teachers union to spiral into an ugly scrum, angry union leaders and teachers would reach out to allies on the D.C. Council and elsewhere to join against a mayor and chancellor viewed as determined to destroy their organization, much like President Ronald Reagan was with the air traffic controllers union in 1981. Such conflict could possibly end in the mayor dumping his talented chancellor. Another round of high hopes for the D.C. schools would be dashed.
Guy Brandenburg, Concerned 4 DCPS - I know that the major media are totally enamored of Michelle Rhee. But those of us who live and work right under her are much less in love with her.
Closing schools? Other school chiefs in DC have been doing that for at least a decade.
Firing lots of DCPS central office workers? Just about every single one of our last 7 or 8 superintendents started out by doing that. Fat lot of good that's done.
Increased test scores? Many of us point out that that's the result of a new curriculum brought about under the former school chief, Clifford Janey, and the public schools wildly outperformed the charter schools. Yes, you read that correctly: the traditional public schools did much, much better on the [test] than all those supposedly wonderful charter schools Rhee has been promoting.
Her three main actual accomplishments to date, it seems to me are:
- bringing about the largest single-year percentage drop in student enrollment in DCPS;
- making union-busting seem like a progressive idea in education; and
- promoting the myth that it doesn't take any experience or training to be a wonderful teacher.
It is an outright lie to say that the reason that the contract that Rhee proposed has not been brought to a vote of the membership is because of a 'meltdown' in the Washington Teachers' Union leadership, and that the WTU leadership is preventing an eager union membership from voting for the contract. . .
When teachers heard some of the details of the outline of the contract that Rhee [and the head of the teacher's union] had been working on - in total isolation from the rest of the bargaining committee - the vast majority of the rank-and-file teachers thought that the central ideas were no good and that our leaders needed to go back to the negotiating table and start over.
Teachers overwhelmingly are rejecting the idea of doubling, tripling, or quadrupling their own salaries. Can you imagine the CEOs of any corporation doing that? In my opinion, teachers are rejecting that idea because they don't trust the leadership of our school system, pretty much at any level.
Most teachers know quite a bit about favoritism, nepotism, and politics, and are quite happy to have unions representing them so that there will be due process when complaints or problems come up. We have seen our often-clueless administrators leave incompetent teachers in classrooms because the administrators didn't care, while harassing teachers they felt to be troublemakers.
Teachers also know how extremely difficult it is to work in what is euphemistically called "inner-city" schools, and how much easier it is for your students to achieve at a high level if they already come with an excellent background. Just about every method I have seen proposed for judging teachers and by student achievement levels will not account for that, and will deem as "successful" the schools where lots of parents have PhDs, LLDs, and MDs, and will give the "failing" label to schools where lots of the parents have jail records, high unemployment, little education, and so on.
Quite a few of my fellow-teachers don't even believe that Rhee actually has the money to pay those huge salaries.
The St Hope connection:
Saint Hope News Release, July 2007 -
Sacramento Bee, September 2008 - The federal government released findings of its investigation into management of the nonprofit St. HOPE volunteer program founded by Sacramento mayoral candidate Kevin Johnson, citing violations that include having youthful participants run personal errands and wash his car.
The findings from the federal probe followed by a day the government's announcement it was barring Johnson, St. HOPE Academy and a former official from access to federal grants and contracts for up to a year. . .
The federal funding suspension was triggered by a months-long investigation into Hood Corps' use of AmeriCorps funds. The program received $807,000 between 2004 and 2007. Federal funding for the program was not renewed last year. In a notice of suspension sent to Johnson, an official from the AmeriCorps agency said evidence indicates that Johnson, as president and chief executive of
Washington Post - Rhee appeared at a news conference in
Roger Newell notes: Remember, this is the same person who said that she was too busy to appear before the City Council to answer questions from elected officials on how she is spending our tax money and educating our city's future.
Bll Turque, Washington Post - A new group has organized around the proposition that fixing D.C.'s schools will require nurturing and developing teachers -- not just threatening them with dismissal for failing to raise student test scores. Teachers and Parents for Real Education Reform was co-founded by a core of activists who agree with Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee that DCPS is in need of dramatic change. But they say that school reform requires a broader conversation than the one taking place between Rhee and the Washington Teachers Union over a new labor contract.
DC Examiner - The prevailing attitude in elite education circles these days seems to be: "We've tried everything else and that didn't work, so let's try bribing students to learn." So starting October 3rd, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee will begin doling out up to $100 per month to 3,000 middle school students for doing what other children around the nation are expected to do for free - show up for class, behave, do their homework. . . New York University Professor Pedro Noguera questioned the value of financial incentives after the percentage of
DC Wire, Washington Post - She's said it before, but Michelle Rhee keeps hammering away at the Democratic Party for being weak on education accountability and reform. Last night, Rhee appeared before the Ward 4 Democrats at
Progressive Review - The school system's brutalist boss, Michelle Rhee, not only feels free to trash the city's teachers but the DC city council as well. In an article in the business mag Fast Company, Jeff Chu writes that she "refuses to play the traditional, subservient role of a D.C. agency chief with the city council, which, despite its limited authority over DCPS, has repeatedly questioned her decision making and management." When Rhee catches a council hearing on late night TV she sees "her own version of a horror movie. . . 'There's this crazy dynamic where every agency head is kowtowing. They sit there and get beat down. . . I'm not going to sit on public TV and take a beating I don't deserve. I don't take that crap.'" Sounds like someone should introduce her to DC law as well as to common sense.
Gary Imhoff, DC Watch - At Wilson High School, we have just had a graphic example of how insecure a teaching job can be under the whims of Rhee's administrators, even for a teacher as admired and beloved as Dr. Arthur Siebens . . . Why on earth should teachers give up whatever protection tenure can give them against arbitrary and capricious decisions that they 'fit in with the new' order? What have Rhee and [Mayor] Fenty done to earn the trust of teachers? Why should teachers believe that they won't be treated just as shabbily at Siebens, that they won't be scorned and swept out by young, arrogant, and inexperienced school officials who are convinced that they know it all and that anyone who was in the Washington school system before they took over should be 'excessed' and disposed of?
Progressive Review - We have in the past recommended a saner approach to bureaucratic reform, such as coming up with a plan of where you want to be a few years from now, including the specific jobs that will be available after the reorganization. This not only would allow the public to know what was actually being proposed - something Rhee hasn't let us in on - and would let staff know whether their job would be there or not. If not, the employees would have time to look for another job or apply for one of the jobs under the new plan. Using such an approach is far less disruptive than the slash and burn approach of Rhee.