Posts Tagged ‘DC public schools’

Goodbye Michelle Rhee

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

If you have been paying attention, then by now you know that Washington, D.C., Public School Chancellor Michelle Rhee resigned her position. She is the controversial leader who decided to fire more than 200 teachers for poor performance this year, a move that is relatively unheard of in the world of public education. Read more about that here .

Rhee isn’t out until the end of the month, but already Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson has been picked to replace her. As usual, politics was involved. Rhee’s educational decisions have angered many, especially unions. The Washington Post article about the decision says that Rhee “reached a mutual decision” with City Council Chairman Vincent Gray to resign her position. Gray, a Republican, is expected to become the next mayor. Current mayor Adrian Fenty lost his re-election hopes in a Sept. 14 primary election. He was widely considered to be Rhee’s protector.

In her tenure as chancellor, Rhee showed her actions to be very much in line with President Obama’s education policies. His Race-To-The-Top initiative advocates for getting rid of low performing teachers, deciding a teacher’s quality based on student test scores and providing merit pay. Despite her departure, Rhee’s reforms, which are credited with raising test scores in D.C., are supposed to remain in place.

D.C. has been one of the lowest performing school districts in the country for quite some time. There, as in many jurisdictions around the country, officials were desperate to find ways to improve how children are taught. Michelle Rhee is what the people got. Read more about her resignation here .

Speculation abounds as to where Rhee will go next. No doubt, wherever it is, she will remain controversial.   Rhee was recently seen in the movie “Waiting for ‘Superman,”.  The movie highlights the flaws in the public education system. Clearly the problem of public education has captured the imagination of the nation. Just because Rhee is going away doesn’t mean her ideas will.

The nature of public school education is going to change. Teachers will be held to account more often, and perhaps, critics say, unfairly. If these reform efforts are successful, the changes will be here to stay. So, it is time for our nation’s parents and teachers to begin adjusting to the change. It might not be permanent, but at least for a time, it will be a reality.

Dramatic Firings in D.C.

Monday, July 26th, 2010

There is a lot of talk today about the importance of education. We are constantly trying to find ways to decrease student-to-teacher ratios, find better testing methods, and search out new types of schools and systems of education. Despite all these efforts, there is one area in which school systems are generally hesitant to do their duty: Firing ineffective teachers.

In theory, it’s simple. If a teacher isn’t adequately teaching students, then he or she should no longer have a job. In practice, poorly-performing teachers often get to stay on. But Washington, D.C., in a move that is getting national attention, has decided to do something about it.

Michelle Rhee, chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools, fired 241 teachers Friday. That’s 5 percent of all D.C. teachers. Most of the teachers fired had received the lowest rating possible from a new evaluation system. But wait, there’s more. Others in the school system — who are also performing poorly, though perhaps not as abysmally as the already-fired crew — have been told that if they don’t shape up in a year, they’ll be out too.

This isn’t the first time Rhee has fired teachers for poor performance. She did so in the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 school years as well. However, the number of teachers let go back then, 79 and 96 respectively, is small-time compared to the slaughter witnessed Friday.

To read more about the firings, check out this article in the New York Times.

Rhee’s move is dramatic, but is it right?

According to an opinion piece in the Washington Examiner, Rhee’s stint as chancellor appears to be an effective one. When she started her job in 2007, the D.C. schools were terrible. Since then, the schools have been improving, though the opinion piece does note that when measuring the schools’ progress, Rhee “has used highly publicized — and sometimes highly spun — test scores.”

Perhaps she knows what she’s doing. The Washington Post certainly thinks she deserves strong backing.

“A lot of lip service is given to not tolerating bad teachers. Educators, politicians, and even union leaders say that there is no place in the classroom for a teacher who can’t produce results. But actually doing something about the situation is an entirely different matter. That’s why D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee should be supported for taking the difficult but necessary steps to rid the system of ineffective teachers,” states a July 25 Washington Post editorial.

The importance of Rhee’s move isn’t applicable only to Washington, D.C. If her decision survives and the D.C. schools improve further, then you shouldn’t be surprised to see other school systems follow suit.  In fact, Rhee was not the first to consider drastic measures. According to this AolNews article, in February, a Rhode Island school district got rid of all teachers at one high school because of their poor performances. The article also states that Houston, Texas will start evaluating its teachers via test scores next year. And these may not remain isolated incidents. The article says that Obama’s education policy promotes tough teacher evaluations. If the president is behind this kind of thing, then expect to see it become more widespread.