That’s Right Nate

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Archive for the ‘Public Schools’ Category

Michelle Rhee and the Washington Education Miracle Part I

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Previously, I have posted about the wonderful work done by basketball player turned educator Arne Duncan in Chicago.   Tonight, we  look at the dynamic young go getter who is  saving the Washington DC public schools.  Her accolades are many with education luminaries like Oprah and George W. Bush singling her out for praise.

Michelle Rhee began her teaching career where it ended at Harlem Park Community School in Baltimore from 1992-1995.  According to her official biography, Rhee was praised in the Wall Street Journal and on Good Morning America for her success as a classroom teacher.   Unfortunately, when the Daily Howler did a search they could find no record of any Good Morning America appearance or writeup in the Wall Street Jorunal.   This is a shame as I am sure they were amazing.  Her claims of huge gains among her students also couldn’t be substantiated, but I’m sure they were likewise amazing.  We were able to find one newspaper article that praised the cleaner hallways at the school, but I am not sure if she actually had anything to do with the cleaning detail.

Michelle Rhee’s recent comments on her teaching career are even more inspiring.   Rather than being the educational wunderkind of her official biography, Rhee struggled in the classroom at least  initially.   In the recent article on her in Time Magazine, it states, “Rhee suffered during that first year [of teaching], and so did her students. She could not control the class. Her father remembers her returning home to visit and telling him she didn’t want to go back.  She had hives on her face from the stress.”

That really doesn’t matter.  What matters is that somewhere in her second two years of teaching, Michelle found the secret to being an outstanding teacher and immediately left the classroom.   It’s a very good thing she did  because had she stuck around in the classroom, her teaching experience would have disqualified her from most positions in education reform leadership.  After leaving the classroom, Rhee went into teacher recruitment before being hired in 2007 to be Superintendent [Chancellor–see comments] of DC Public Schools.

Rhee represents the new thinking in education reform that believes that the biggest impediment to education is teachers who have different concepts of how a classroom actually works than business people and politicians do.   These people believe that the main reason companies outsource production overseas is not because they can pay employees 17 cents an hour, but because our schools are not as good as Haiti’s or Sri Lanka’s.

In the second part, I’m going to look at the way Michelle Rhee has found to get rid of older teachers and replace them with more energetic new teachers who as a bonus also cost the district less money.

[Click here to read part 2]

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Written by thatsrightnate

October 21, 2009 at 7:08 pm