Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Heedless 'Reform' in D.C. Schools

Letter to the Washington Post Wednesday, November 26, 2008; A12

I was pleased to read Larry Cuban's articulate commentary on D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's efforts to reform the District's failing school system ["Michelle Rhee: Better to Be a Marathoner," Close to Home, Nov. 23].

I, too, am concerned that the urgency of her response has compromised her analysis of what is wrong with the system. Intelligent analysis, though time-consuming, is an essential step in identifying and implementing effective solutions. Ms. Rhee, I am afraid, skipped this step.

Mr. Cuban was also correct to stress how important it is for superintendents to work with teachers unions. Ms. Rhee and the union that represents D.C. public school teachers are equally ardent in their desire to better educate students. Why, then, have they become enemies? As Mr. Cuban noted, once these battle lines have been drawn, you can "kiss reform goodbye."

As a D.C. public school teacher, I would like to add another concern to Mr. Cuban's list.

Ms. Rhee prides herself on having a "data-driven" administration. Has she missed the data on public school test scores vs. charter school scores?

Charter schools in the District of Columbia can fire teachers at will, and yet few of them are outperforming their public school counterparts. If firing teachers lay at the heart of the problem, wouldn't these charter schools be doing better by Ms. Rhee's favorite yardstick, test scores?

A good educational leader needs to carefully analyze the issues before blindly grasping at solutions. Unfortunately, Ms. Rhee, in her impatience, has not adequately analyzed the issues and has made enemies of people who share her goals of bettering the education of our students.




AVParodi said...

Your point is well made. Impatience is a childish trait too often given credence by adults who are "fed up" with things but have no real answers to the problems they are so angry about. DC Wire today posted a piece about who Ms. Rhee voted for. They got this from a TIME magazine article that everyone should read,9171,1862444-1,00.html. It is a very revealing portrayal but most revealing is the exchange between Allante Rhodes, a senior at Anacostia High, and Ms. Rhee and how that exchange has been portrayed by Rhee in interviews and Rhodes own view of their exchange. I think what he has to say at the end of the article eloquently sums up the problems that most of us are having with Ms. Rhee.

Anonymous said...

Dear Teachers for Real Education Reform:

Unfortunately our WTU Representative Assembly November 25th meeting was cancelled once again by President George Parker due to the holidays. As a result the WTU has failed to hold a representative assembly meeting in September, October or November.

WTU Executive Board members have been notified that a special meeting of the executive board will be held Thursday, December 4, 2008, at 7:00 p.m. at the WTU office. Ms. Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), has been invited to the meeting to discuss critical issues affecting the WTU. I am sure that issues related to our tentative agreement (teacher contract) and recent discussions with Chancellor Rhee will be among the hot topics to be discussed.

This meeting will be held at the WTU office located at 490 L'Enfant Plaza SW, Suite 7200, telephone : 202-293-8600. I invite all WTU members to attend this meeting, please email WTU President George Parker @ to let him know that you will be attending.Posted by The Washington Teacher @

Anonymous said...

A good educational leader also knows how to value all stakeholders opinions and include them the process of change. Alienating people or treating them disrespectfully may make one look tough but why are some equating this with characteristics of a great leader?

It also sends the wrong message to our children. I don't want my own children to believe that you need to be ruthless and disrespectful to do great things.

Anonymous said...

The schools need to change immediately because children are dying. To suggest more planning is required is laughable. Anyone suggesting it is a fool.

The PTAs demand immediate action, no more teachers trying to get by without working.

Anonymous said...

I don't hear anyone saying stop everything so we can do more planning. If you care about children then you should be extremely alarmed that there are staff vacancies across DCPS- long term subs are not teachers! Teachers do not have all the necessary resources, adequate training or support.

Rhee has failed to properly plan and address the out of control behaviors in many schools.

I want immediate action too. I want these problems to be addressed immediately like they should have been addressed in August!