D.C. School Reform: The Backlash

Marc Fisher at The Washington Post writes:

But there’s been a change in the atmosphere, as teachers, school activists and some D.C. Council members and parents are grumbling more and more loudly about Rhee’s bull-in-a-china-shop manner and her continued badmouthing of the schools under her charge.

The District’s schools, Rhee says, are doing “an abysmal job,” and any fair look at students’ test scores renders that a simple statement of fact. But new questions are being asked about whether Rhee’s reforms–closing underpopulated schools, fixing up decrepit buildings, sweeping out underperforming principals, and hiring legions of energetic, if inexperienced young teachers–are really making a difference in the classroom.

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UnderNews writes:

One of the worst ideas floating around Washington is to give some high federal position to Michelle Rhee, DC school chancellor. Rhee, who has accomplished little of substance, is the media protected product of an area business community that would like to undermine public education as much as possible. Hence DC has an exceptional number of effectively unmonitored charter schools and Rhee is going after teacher tenure – not to mention teachers themselves – like a Blackwater mercenary dealing with Iraqis.

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Globalization Spits Up Michelle Rhee

EdNotes has posted the following:

Globalization Spits Up Michelle Rhee

by Paul Moore
D.C. students, their parents, teachers and public school workers need only hold on. When you have Alan Greenspan disowning Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand in congressional testimony it is a sign great change is on the way. One of those changes will be the end of the tyranny of Bill Gates’ and Eli Broad’s attack dog Michelle Rhee.
Lacking any discernible qualifications, her shocking appointment, can be understood only when you realize that Rhee was brought in to inflict maximum damage on the district’s public schools. And as a cultist (Teach For America, New Teacher Project) and true believer she came at a bargain basement salary. Real superintendents were courted (Fenty visited Miami with several members of the D.C. commission to interview Dr. Rudolph Crew) but those candidates could not be counted on to mindlessly take a club to D.C.’s public schools. The havoc and disruption that Rhee has caused was no accident. It was the plan!

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DC Parents Outraged by New Principal’s Firing

Channel 7 writes:

WASHINGTON – Parents at one D.C. elementary school are demanding to know why the principal was fired just a few months into the school year.

Shepherd Elementary School principal Galeet Ben Zion, PhD, was called in to meet with D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee on Friday and promptly fired. Ben Zion says she remains baffled by her dismissal.

“It was maybe a two-minute meeting, and I was told that I failed as a leader,” recalled Ben Zion. When asked whether she thought she had failed as a leader, Ben Zion replied, “Not in my opinion.”

Ben Zion said she was hired and fired by Rhee after a little more than three months on the job. Ben Zion’s replacement will be the school’s fifth principal in 12 months.

“If she thought I made a mistake, I would have liked for her to tell me what that mistake was so that we can fix it,” she said.

Many parents at Shepherd Elementary in Northwest are asking ‘why.’ The school listserv is filled reactions, ranging from stunned and appalled to confused and ticked off.

“I feel sick sick about Dr. Ben Zion being fired,” said Carol Mullholland. “There is no other way to describe it. I came very close to pulling my daughter out of the school.”

“The best way to describe the sentiments of the majority of my parents ranges from being pretty upset to just outraged,” said Earl Yates, the PTA president.

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Rheely? 2.0

Catherine Cullen at the Fordham Fellows Blog writes:

Allow me to take one more stab at why I can’t join the Michelle Rhee Cheering Squad, even though I support her efforts to reform the system. And then I promise to let it go.

It’s not enough that the Chancellor be a reformer. She needs to be an effective leader and actually achieve those meaningful reforms. Plan B is not good enough for the students of DCPS. First of all, the 90-Day Plan is not a valid way to get rid of under-performing teachers. It creates a 3-month period during which a teacher has no incentive to raise student achievement and then a tough-to-fill mid-year vacancy. Students with teachers put on a 90-day plan now will probably fare worse than they would if that teacher was targeted with instructional support and excessed at the end of the year. That doesn’t put students first. It puts politics, appearances and fear tactics first. Tying certification to student achievement may be a way to create some teacher accountability without building the “consensus” Rick Hess and Ben so distain. But it will lead to endless battling and controversy, it will not remove bad teachers quickly and it will not incentivize good teachers to stay (in fact it might encourage them to go to any number of nearby districts where their license wouldn’t be in jeopardy)

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Driving Michelle Rhee, Plus: Joel Klein Needs Your Help!

Eduwonkette writes:

If you just got laid off from Lehman, do I have an edu-job for you!

Michelle Rhee needs a “safe, prompt, reliable and comfortable driver to assist [the] Chancellor with her daily schedule and a variety of duties. The incumbent’s primary responsibility is the safe operation of DCPS vehicles for the purpose of transporting the Chancellor to and from events in accordance with the daily itinerary of events.”

Do all superintendents of big districts get drivers? I had no idea.

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The problem with ( Michelle Rhee’s) plan B

D2Route writes:

Let’s think about it from the principal’s perspective: it’s October. If you put a teacher on a 90 Day Plan starting Nov 1, she won’t be out until early spring. In the mean time, how effective do you think that teacher will be at teaching, especially since she can safely assume no one is looking for her to improve and get out of termination? And at the end of January, who will you get to fill that spot? Just how many excellent teachers do we think are hanging out in January, looking for a job (with the possible exception of Dr. Seibens)? Might not your students be better off with their (even low-performing) teacher and some instructional support?

I suspect that Michelle Rhee has either built in some extra incentives for principals to put teachers on the 90 plan, or just put the fear of God in them about their own jobs unless they do it.

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