Monday, July 30, 2012

Digest on Michelle Rhee

I became fascinated with the work of Michelle Rhee shortly after I moved to Washington D.C, in December, 2007. At the time, I began dating the lady in my life who happens to not be so hot about Michelle Rhee in general and particularly disdained the changes made within D.C Public Schools by Michelle Rhee.

The criticism that I most vehemently defend against is that teachers under Rhee tend to be in a state of mind where they fear their job security and similarly, that teachers working under her that were duly effective were not recognized. To some, her takeover message painted an overall picture of ineffective teachers in a failing school district. In other words, Michelle lumped teachers in a group seemingly labeled as all ineffective. Examples include teachers who are highly effective and doing a wonderful job with kids but never acknowledged or rather, slandered in the media. Some say that Michelle Rhee’s public messaging painted the majority of DCPS teachers as ineffective thereby failing to honor the quality of the work and the positive differences that individual teachers were making. Others say her policies were economically unsustainable. For example, paying teachers very high salaries and giving teachers $20,000 bonuses were touted as unrealistic and doomed for failure because municipalities couldn’t reasonably bear the cost burden of retaining teachers at such high pay and bonus rates in the long-run. It didn’t help that Michelle Rhee did not make a habit of or give credit or even acknowledges the hard work of her predecessors, sending a seemingly arrogant message that the turn-around approach in schools would happen with her overnight, starting from her tenure going forward.

In all Michelle Rhee is believed to be boastful and over confident to the point where she projects the picture of corporate arrogance. She is unapologetic, seemingly disrespectful, foolishly daring and relentless – case in point, fired her children's principal, even though that school was known for outstanding results. Education is a matter of community affairs. The approach of dealing with teachers as they were working for a public company whose motto is performance, profit or get ousted did not seem to fit an educational model.

My position on Michelle Rhee’s approach to reforming education is as follows: teachers should indeed be highly rewarded for pushing children to learn at high levels. This form of reward should be exercised through both recognition and compensation. Sure that will require greater allocation from municipalities’ budgets however the investment in human capital would be well worth it.
A global reason to support this claim is that the U.S is lagging behind other nations in terms of pioneering in innovation and education. In the field of mathematics, science, and technology, our country is lagging behind China, Finland, and Sweden whose citizens’ students are outperforming their American counterparts.

Nationwide reason in support of greater investment in teacher rewards is the impact that urban education has on the rest of the country.

Urban education is probably the most critical issue in education in this country today. All Americans have a civil right to education. The idea is for every citizen to have access to all that America offers. That right to education needs to be in the form of good and effective schooling for all. In current day America, in urban jurisdictions, there is a huge gap in performance level between the haves and the have-nots. That is an injustice. A child by virtue of the city in which he or she was born or in which the parents choose to live in or by virtue of income should not be robbed of the education rights that were promised to him or her by this country. Statistically, it is clear that minority and children living in poverty are graduating high school at much lower rates than their affluent counterparts. For example, during the year 2006 only approximately 9% of children in D.C Public Schools graduated from four year colleges and universities (Washington Post Archives). Also, within the next 20 years, Blacks and Hispanics – a group that is typically underserved, will be the majority in this country. If the education system is failing the future majority in this country, what becomes of our mass population in the future?

At the individual level, if I am a minority living in a non-affluent area in this country, by virtue of the school district that my child attends, he or she might end up with either a strong likelihood of going to Princeton or going to prison. Many districts use the achievement rates of third graders on the state tests in determining how many prison cells to build. The reason they do that is that if a child is not reading at grade levels by third grade, it is unlikely that they will graduate from high school. Kids that do not graduate from high school are more likely to end up in prison. So the question of why teachers should be recognized and well compensated financially is perhaps not the right question. It may at this point be more appropriate to ask where this country will be if we do not make that necessary huge investment in education.

Investing in educational reform schools that are changing those above-mentioned statistics is well worth the money. In agreement with Michelle Rhee, effective teachers should be valued and compensated in alignment with traditionally honored and high paying professions such as doctors, lawyers, etc. Michelle Rhee believes that it is unjust to blindly protect teachers through unions but more importantly believes in the protection of children first. If unions protect the adults, who protects the children? Her approach is not only the correct approach, but one that is effective and promotes the accountability that is so needed at the school and district level. In sum, Michelle Rhee is about increased focus on outcomes for students and has a very no nonsense, no excuses approach. She sees urban education as a civil rights issue; the civil rights issue of the century. This passion for justice for children in the urban education arena drives tough decision-making, a sense of urgency that though it can be seen as cut-throat has brought the right kind of attention that this critical issue deserves. Michelle is daring, unapologetic, confident, committed. Those are the traits necessary to make lasting changes and thereby giving our little urban kids unlimited power through quality education for all. Michelle Rhee is a gem. She has the caliber of leadership skills that would win my vote. Go Michelle.

Now, might we need Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama to tackle the issue of Education Reform. We need the Youth Code for the good ones.

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  1. We need another Michelle Rhea in Washington.

  2. Rhea was incompetent and a cheater.

  3. This is the first Positive spin I have read on Michelle Rhea so far. The lady was ruthless and ineffective.

  4. She represent everything that is not working for teachers and students.

  5. Your perspective is based on propaganda. On some stats, and articles by paid jerk offs of the Privatization Ed reform movement. You have yet to even hear from someone whose life is teaching. Its exactly like writing about sex ruins your life, while being a virgin. And you think you're right, because you read a lot of articles from other virgins. Hell you can read 10 sex books written By Catholic bishops about how sex will ruin your life, and the answer to all our problems is that people should stop having sex unless they’re trying to make babies. Still doesn’t make your opinions right. Because, that’s exactly how you sound, to somebody with years of experience in the districts which are 'the problem'.

    All your propaganda comes from circles devoted to the Demonization of teachers and their unions. WE are blamed for all the problems in America's Educational system. That’s why firing us will make everything better. It’s total horseshit. It’s like saying we would have won the Vietnam war, if we fired all the soldiers who lost battles. That the whole problem in Afghanistan, right now, is ineffective soldiers. Don't give us the tools, like better weapons. Make a group called "Afghans First" while your at it, devoted to making a mercenary for profit army.
    First of all: There is no "Crisis" in Education. Middle class public schools always show good results. Nobody is talking about closing Manhasset High School. All the problems are in the poverty stricken districts, whether trailer parks in the South, or Inner cities nationwide. Just calling them 'failing schools' is disgusting. The teachers like myself in those needy districts have unbelievable difficulties. Basically, all the social ills of inequality, with broken families, addiction, absent mothers, NO fathers, imprisonment, maiming and even murder of loved ones is being brought in the classroom. The destruction of welfare means these moms are working for shit, (I’ve yet to find an unemployed mom.), and they work 2 jobs to make ends meet, and they just can’t be around, the kids roll out of bed when they feel like. These moms are so pissed off at the kids but they can’t do anything. AND: The worst part of it all, the #1 problem that is fueling the 'Achievement Gap" is the culture of opposition from the kids. Its "Cool" to drop out, cool to fuck with the teachers. You arr definitely going to get a lot more peer respect from cursing out the teacher or being in a gang, than you would if you busted your ass to get A's. Yet, we still have kids who bust their asses and get A's, they're just not the peer leaders. Which is why "failing school" is so disgusting of a term. The school isn’t failing. A lot of KIDS are failing. And, that’s MY fault. I’m being blamed for it in my statistics at least. And that’s not changing any time soon, thanks to Rhee and the journalists who have succeeded in totally framing the debate in this way.

  6. The teachers are graduates of the same programs as the ones in the middle class districts, who, under the 'education reformers' would get paid more than their counterparts in the housing projects. Its already a job so tough that 1/2 resign within 5 years. NOW, comes Rhee and her disgusting ilk, preaching that teachers are the problem. It just doesn’t get any more infuriating.
    AND: The reformers have contributed to the problem, by making everything about standardized test scores. I teach my fucking ass off to make history interesting, interesting enough to get them to like it enough to do their assignments. Contribute in class. Now, I have to shove months of Regents prep down their fucking throats, because that’s all that really matters. My school will be closed, like my last one was, if our passing rate drops any further. if our graduation rate dips at all, we're on the fence. AND: They cut the shit out of our budget, our class sizes are huge, and we don’t have the $$ for afterschool tutoring anymore. Yet, we WILL be shut down, and re-opened as another school with clueless rookies who get paid shit. Like my last school. It was broken up into 4 new and improved schools in 2009. As of writing this, 3 of them are on the 'in danger of being closed'. Because, for pit's sake: the problem is within the neighborhood and with the kids.
    In High School, ALL achievement has everything to do with the kid and the effort he puts in. MOST IMPORTANTLY: Does the kid buy in to what school is all about? Because the problem is, that the majority think school is bull. I did my thesis on the achievement gap, based on the work of John Ogbu. Ogbu is an Anthropologist whose groundbreaking studies revealed the minority-majority phenomenon. To say it in ridiculously over-simplified terms, racial minority kids in America think doing good in school is "Acting White". This is not an American anomaly, every single 1st world nation with a minority with a bad history, the children of those groups do poorly in school. One great example is Japan, with many Koreans living there, mistreated and all...Japan isn’t even Politically Correct about it; Koreans are considered stupid. Koreans learning Jap history, Jap Literature, Jap everything is tinged with a hint of loathing, as Japan has conquered, exploited and even screwed a prostrate Korea and turned its women into Wontongs for their occupation forces. Yet, Koreans do stellar here in America - NO bad history.

  7. We are so completely messed up in the way we look at schooling because we politicized Education. It’s something mayors and elected leaders must point to, and what can be pointed to but Test Scores? My opponent has let test scores drop a point. Vote for the incumbent! Test scores went up! It’s making everything 100 times worse. We're trying to make school a little interesting and relevant, but there’s nothing more distasteful to any human being, never mind a child, than standardized fucking tests. We're putting the kids’ educators under the gun over these stupid fucking tests, so that councilmen can become mayors, principals can become super intendants. So, you call your for profit charter outfit "Children First", and its convinced you that’s what it’s about. It’s NOT ABOUT THE CHILDREN. It never was. This bitch Rhee, spent a year in the classroom? And now she's the expert?
    It’s all about privatization, for profit charters. The charters are going to get better results, because, just to get IN to a charter, you have parents who give enough of a shit to be paying attention. You give me kids with parents totally on their ass, and I’ll give you a college bound kid. The charters don’t have to deal with Emotionally Disturbed kids, or special needs, half my kids have files and are mandated for special needs, like having questions read aloud on those tests. They get to pick and choose, because the owners of the charter companies are hedge fund managers with ties to the mayor’s office. Their entire business model is to make profit by paying rookie teachers, who don’t know anything about shit. They ALL quit within 5 years, because there’s no union, no protection of any kind, no due process. Therefore, I fire your stupid butt before you hit 50,000$. They’re turning teaching into a part time thing you do when you’re young, dumb, idealistic and aren’t thinking about the viability of starting a family and all.
    People point to the Due process rights of Union teachers as if "You can’t fire a teacher". That is SUCH CRAP. With all the crap they’ve given us, reinventing the wheel of our instructional imperatives, how we're supposed to teach, our standards, and 50 other things you can’t imagine how fucking ridiculous all the shit I have to do is, why are we fucking stressed out if we can’t be fired? Would any of us have switched to the "Common core objectives" of the past two years...OR The Differentiated Instruction initiative of the past 5 years where basically every lesson has to have 3 different assessments for 3 different levels, EVERY SINGLE DAY, a total waste of fucking time when ALL OF THEM have to take the SAME STANDARDISED test? Tons of Data, Data, Data driven meetings mandated afterschool to focus intricately on this kind of test question or that, and the January and June results, and graphing it and all this fucking shit? Why are we doing ALL of this all if we can’t be fired? Because we CAN be fired, all a boss has to do is document it, Mr. Doe did not differentiate, Or, did not differentiate effectively and cogently. Mr. Doe did not submit the test score question analysis assigned last Wednesday for THIS Wednesday's 3- 4pm meeting. A GREAT teacher can easily be fired by a boss who doesn’t like them, because there's so many violations that can be found. My bulletin board contains work that’s over 2 weeks old. Maria my sister had a co-worker who was hounded and fired just because, a female-female rivalry, you know how those go.

  8. Its ‘just a popular myth begun among conservatives, but now, the Ed reform people have bought Democrats. Yeah, let’s get rid of all those "bad teachers"! You know why bad teachers are around? Because the boss is fucking them, or is married into their family, the principal has complete power and authority in a NYC Public School. If a boss doesn’t want to fire someone, they don’t get fired. I saw nepotism at Lane, there was a real lazy teacher who didn’t teach shit in my program, making my job hard because these same kids were angry I was actually forcing them to be students. He was related to the Head of his department, and went to the same synagogue as the Principal. No matter WHAT reform, this is going to happen, nepotism of those in power happens in every field.
    If Rhee was such a great reformer, why have the voters of DC rejected her reforms? The fact is, lighting a fire under the ass of overworked, underpaid, and totally unappreciated teachers, is NOT going to actually raise test scores or achievement. I already told you what hinders achievement. I get better results on Regents than my peers. I would be considered a great teacher under the Rhee assholes. Why? Because I’m "Cool", I’m popular, they pay attention more. But I don’t care, I shouldn’t be paid more because I’m "popular". I do what I do, some of my colleagues less 'cool' I believe are better teachers than me, I suck at teaching kids how to write better. So I get some kids to pass History regents, that’s my job, but they aren’t graduating anyway, cause they won’t do the effort to pass the horribly difficult math and science regents. And the whole system is waving the 'raise standards!!!' flag, so, now you can’t have a diploma without passing 7 regents.
    It’s totally fucked up, were forcing everybody to get an academic diploma for college, when in reality, college isn’t for everyone. My kids must know far more than my white plumber I paid 80$ to fix my sink, who breezed thru a non-regents diploma that doesn’t exist. , you’re going to learn about the Franco-Prussian war and Cell Mytosis, or you’re going to drop out and have a guaranteed shit life. If you’re white, you can ignore school, and join Dad's plumbing co., construction, electrician's union, etc. If you’re not lucky enough to grow up in a middle class neighborhood and be able to drop out, like a lot of our cousins and still become middle class, your fucked. We're perpetuating poverty with our stupid fucking College-Or-Nothing public education system. Raise standards! Sure! That’ll work. Make school even more onerous to kids who thought it was shitty to begin with. More black kids reject it, more curse out the teachers, because essentially, school is jail for them. Forced to be here, in my room, but they don’t want to open a book. So they talk. So they get reprimanded. Than they react hostile and curse me out, than I call security to take them to the dean's office. Try to call their parents, who aren’t home, and change apartments so frequently you don’t even know if you’re leaving a message with them. So you go to the Admins to get them to chase the kid down and force a number. You call this number. Than the same exact thing will happen next class. You’re spending your lunch hour making calls. The next day, some of the same kids had to be removed again. Meanwhile, you’re full of homework common coring and differentiating lessons in case you get observed. You have no idea how fucking hard it is to work in a 'failing school', and we're just fighting to keep our jobs so the school doesn’t close. Because if it does, were forced into looking for work, and many of the new principals are total fucking nightmares.

  9. Nightmare principals are rookie principals with no teaching experience at all, who are from the corporate world. Part of Bloomberg’s "Principal's Academy". They learn nothing but the book of shit ideology and shit practices with no basis in reality. NO classroom experience. Your principal is the one who observes you with a huge checklist - 3 pages long of shit you need to get high grades just to keep your job. They will tell you complete fucking horseshit, 'not everyone was engaged' and give you a U. OF COURSE NOT EVERYONE IS ENGAGED, this is South Bronx, it’s a huge accomplishment that the non-engaged weren’t playing with you or playing with other students causing a violent argument in the middle of your lesson, which has, at least once a month, resulted in knock down broken table fistfights. So you’re a great teacher if that's not happening, because they respect/like you. But expecting them to be 100% engaged and on task in your student centered lesson, in which you only speak for 15 of the 40 minutes, which I GOT AN UNSATISFACTORY OBSERVATION THIS YEAR for going over the 15 minute mark, and 'leading' the students too much when they were going to absolute wrong way in the Columbian Exchange chart cooperative activity....And I’ve got one of the GOOD bosses. Why would I be losing sleep and be anxious and depressed about how I’m going to pay my mortgage, for the entire month it took to change to a satisfactory rating, IF I CANT BE FIRED? Now you know why I’m so livid with rage about Rhee and her disgusting ilk of shitheads ruining our lives, so they can make millions from tax dollars on the privatization circuit.
    I’ve heard horror stories of 'nightmare principals', which has made me terrified of what will happen when my current boss retires this year. Or what happens if my school is closed and re-opened. 2 of the 4 schools that were made from the building of poor schools have nightmare principals, I know someone who unfortunately took a job in one.
    Now, this is all in a city that ISNT as fucked as DC was by Rhee. There was a tremendous backlash in the black community of DC. The candidate who was with Rhee got stomped in the primary. All of Rhee’s reforms are being cancelled out. You’re patting Rhee on her test score improvement, which was proven to be completely fabricated. That’s the worst part. You destroyed so many people's livelihoods, on lies. All you’re going to get from Rhee reforms, is cheating, because you aren’t even addressing the actual problem, at all, which is poverty. Like firing enough teachers will eliminate the achievement gap. Have I made it clear at all, the NATURE of the gap itself? It’s only possible to believe in Rhee and the Reformers, if you have ZERO experience, which is what Rhee has, in one of those 'failing schools', to think teachers are the problem. To think MORE rigor is what’s required here. Not the same rigor of white schools, no, MORE rigor. MORE test focused everything. MORE testing. MORE test prep. Sure. NONE of those things is going to change anything, except when the economy turns around, the new teacher resign rate will go from 50% to 70%.

  10. They are only able to push their shit now because so many young teachers have no other option but to continue with this thankless, difficult, stressful, hopeless situation. Because its not like we're fighting to improve our conditions, that fight is lost, we're just struggling to hold on to what we have, like tenure, which is just DUE PROCESS RIGHT- you have to prove with documentation why I’m ineffective, even if that documentation is about dotting my I's in the differentiation and common core standards, or my bulletin boards, or in one case this year, not having called on every single student during the summary. Without tenure, there is no due process, like, you can (and MANY have) get fired in your first 3 years because your principal wants to hire this relative, or that 22 year old with the fine ass. Now, thanks to journalists sucking the Rhee tit, you get parents that are convinced you are the problem. 'My kid says he wasn't talking.' Parents vs. Teachers. Nice. NOT DC though, DC turned out to be a real storm, because so much of the teaching force is black as respected members of the community. And they got pissed.
    Its a race/class thing. Black teachers are notably far less tolerant of ghetto-speak and have a bit of hostility to the kids, for making the whole race look bad. They are not as popular as you would think, its way more complicated... I accept their ghetto slang, let them curse, So Tyrell says "That white Luther nigga didnt front" , Word, Tyrell, Word.

  11. I've been a certified English/Moderate Disabilities teacher in the state of MA since 2003. I've taken all the classes, taken all the tests, crossed all my t's and dotted all my i's. I've spent the majority of the last ten years teaching students housed by the Department of Youth Services: students who were products of inner city schools and environments. I lasted three weeks teaching at a public middle school in an inner city being paid 20% more than I currently receive. The insanity of the bureaucracy was more than the money was worth.

    Today, I work at a private boarding school on Cape Cod. I've been there for a year, gotten three raises during that time, get free lunches, have 10 weeks paid vacation. When I ask for supplies I receive them. The tuition for the students is wisely spent, the staff are listened to and well compensated for individual merit. I call it the Disney of teaching. The students and staff are happy to be there. Today, I stayed late to watch a talent show where just about every student in the school performed on stage to roaring applause. The standards for excellence are well implemented in academics, citizenship, the arts and daily living skills. Today, I go to work knowing my students are being well prepared for the future and I have faith that is possible for all. It is time for Americans to stop sending their children to inadequate public schools. Reform will be the natural by-product.

  12. The bureaucracy in the public school system is where changes are needed. Good teachers quit because they cannot deal with all the crap thrown at them. Their energy levels sink after a few years. They then either quit teaching at public schools or go teach at charter or private schools. Sad.

  13. I just got to reading this. I've never been a fan of michele these. I understand that some people think of her as the 'it' girl. I on the other hand share the opinion sling the lines of the comments above. I am glad she got fired. She sucked.

  14. How do I search for your post on Margaret spellings? Also, when I try to comment I cannot log in under my user name. It forces me to select posting as anonymous. Maybe my computer has a virus. I, unlike those people above think that Ravitch is so out of touch.

  15. The youth code says that to keep people happy, you must give them things they want. For example 20k bonus plus a brand new car, a Lexus for the year. Just saying

  16. America Needs A Lot More of Michelle Rhea § 2012-08-17 20:09:32

  17. It's Rhee! § 2012-08-19 11:33:33

    I say don't flag this lady charges 50 grand <-> 2012-08-18 22:20:37

    If a person rakes in fifty grand in speaking engagements on education, then that person can withstand public comment so it is not necessary nor agreed that it is good to flag freedom of speech instead, you can chose not to visit the blog spot. che

    this just in at "education" :


    Not true, and Ms. Rhea is disgusting § <-> 2012-08-18 11:38:22

    I dislike the way Ms. Rhea treats teachers <14che123477> 2012-08-18 11:37:45

    Ms. Rhee’s reputation as a national leader of the education reform movement has rested on those test scores, which soared while she was chancellor. Then, last March, USA Today published the results of a yearlong investigation of the Washington schools that found a high rate of erasures on tests as well as suspiciously large gains at 41 schools — one-third of the elementary and middle schools in the district. Since then, Ms. Rhee has refused to talk to the reporters who know the story best, although she has been talking to many other people. During the last year Ms. Rhee has, according to a spokeswoman, scheduled more than 150 public appearances as the head of Students First, an advocacy group that favors vouchers, charter schools and evaluating teachers by test scores, while opposing tenure and teachers’ unions. Ms. Rhee has also given speeches around the country for a fee of up to $50,000, “plus first-class expenses,” according to an e-mail from Peter Jacobs of the Creative Artists Agency that was posted online by one of Ms. Rhee’s critics. (Emily Lenzner, spokeswoman for Ms. Rhee, said that the former chancellor charges for a “handful” of speeches a year and that the “amount varies.”) I believe a lot of good teachers were fired by Ms. Rhea and we now know that many bad teachers were perhaps pressured to cheat on high stakes testing due to Ms. Rhea's sole pressure to rate and reward teachers on test scores only. Ms. Rhea should not be listened to. She has done a great deal of harm to a great many in education, including creating bad atmospheres at many hundreds of schools that children attended. I hope Ms. Rhea answers questions as to if she knew about the cheating that was going on. che

    -----posted in reply to the following ------- See article about Michelle Rhea firing Teachers on Educationdigest123

  18. The fact that she commands $50,000 for her speaking engagements is not in itself bad. She knows er stuff and she wants to be paid for her skills. There is nothing wrong with that.

  19. I do agree that teachers should be be held accountable for their actions whether it be student success or failure. If successful teachers are providing a great education for children and tests scores are improving then these teachers should be recognized for what they are doing for these kids. Like wise the teachers who are not effective and not even trying should be out of a job, because their children's learning should be a priority.

  20. I do agree with the last comment;