[This is a guest column by EFavorite, asking us to actually think about Michelle Rhee’s slogans and what they mean. Well worth reading!]

Of all the outrageous information I’ve heard about DC Public Schools under the leadership of Chancellor Michelle Rhee, nothing is quite as bogus as the “Core Beliefs” section on the DCPS Website.  It consists of six beliefs and says, “We expect every adult in the system to act in accordance with these beliefs every day.”  Here they are, with my response to Chancellor Rhee after each belief:


1. All children, regardless of background or circumstance, can achieve at the highest levels.

Can we just say that all children have potential that can be developed — or is that not dramatic enough?  Instead, our students are not acceptable unless they’re all high-scoring automatons.     Students have different talents and interests and different motivations. Even kids in the same high socio-economic status family can’t all achieve at the “highest” levels.  Anyone who ever had a sibling or more than one child can see this.  It’s hype and hogwash.  It’s an insult to our intelligence, to the concept of human individuality and to long-established knowledge about the devastating effects of poverty.

2. Achievement is a function of effort, not innate ability.

Achievement is a function of effort AND innate ability.  All the effort in the world is not going to make me a top-notch statistician, but if I study hard, I’ll be able to pass Stats 101 (which I did once, barely). And if I’m creative and persuasive enough, I’ll think up good statistical research projects and convince a really talented statistician (like the operator of this website) to carry them out.

3. We have the power and the responsibility to close the achievement gap.

We do?  You mean believing makes it so?  Like the Michelle Rhee Baltimore Miracle of wildly improved but sadly undocumented test scores? How about providing some details on how to close the gap?  If it were simply a matter of drilling for standardized tests, it would have closed by now.  Why doesn’t anyone try to close the White/Asian achievement gap?  It certainly exists.  Perhaps concern about that particular gap is low because both Whites and Asians are doing pretty well.  Also, many Whites don’t know or care about the gap and Asians are not expected to feel guilty about it.  So why not just concentrate on helping people who are not doing so well to do a lot better, and just drop the phony “achievement gap” language.  No need to be enslaved by a contrived term.  We’re not striving to close the singing-in-tune gap or the two-left-feet gap.   Let’s forget about closing the achievement gap.

4. Our schools must be caring and supportive environments.

Finally we agree on something!  Oh, but I bet you mean just for the kids.  Children first, of course, but I fear your constant berating of teachers means you think that the need for care and support at school does not extend to them.  Perhaps you think that schools where teachers are in constant fear can still be caring and supportive environments for the kids, and that teachers who can’t handle a toxic environment of forced discomfort should look for work elsewhere.   But if you get your wish and most teachers leave at the end of the year, who will replace them?

People aren’t lining up any more to take part in the DC school reform miracle that you invented and promulgated with help from the national media.  If you could run a school system the way you can wow a crowd, we might be on the road to recovery.  Unfortunately, your management skills have not improved, your ego is out of control and your press has been terrible lately, what with the mid-year RIF, your rash and unsupported “teachers having sex with children” remark and your refusal to apologize for it, even when asked by your devoted Washington Post supporters, Jay Mathews and Jo-Ann Armao.  Then there’s your attempt to open schools during a blizzard, refusing to acknowledge that irate parents ultimately influenced you to change your mind, and your attempt to revamp highly functional schools like Hardy and Ellington without consulting parents or staff.

5. It is critical to engage our students’ families and communities as valued partners.

Again we agree! But when have you engaged families and communities as valued partners?   Certainly not with Hardy Middle School.  You avoided meeting with parents there and your staff lied about plans to replace their principal.  The Ellington School for the Arts first learned about your plans to relocate their school in a Washington Post article.

6. Our decisions at all levels must be guided by robust data.

Does “robust” mean accurate and complete, or does it mean, “If Michelle Rhee says it’s robust, then it’s robust.”  Telling national media outlets that you’re data-driven, repeatedly and in a very determined tone, makes good copy that will be widely distributed, but it doesn’t make you honest about data.  The indications are that you are driven to distort data. The pretense that you are guided by robust data is shattered simply by reading the well researched and truly data-driven contents of this website.  You can’t take credit for the rising NAEP scores.  You don’t mention that the achievement gap you think is so important has actually widened on your watch and you simply lied outright to the Washington Post and PBS about DC-CAS scores at Shaw Middle School.

In conclusion, Chancellor Rhee, as much as I enjoy proving you wrong, and as easy as you make it, the whole point of my effort is to help others wake-up to the sad fact that DC schools can’t begin to improve until you leave, and take your phony reforms with you.

[Repeat, this was a guest column by EFavorite. I think it’s well worth reading.]

Published in: on February 17, 2010 at 4:22 pm  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Many people in American society look down on teachers, especially those who serve children under the age of eighteen. These people consider only certain jobs to be worthwhile: medicine, law, engineering, business. If they are parents, they feel shame if their son or daughter is “just” a teacher. The child who elects to become a teacher in such a family is under a great deal of pressure to do something “better.” The parent might say “I didn’t send you to Cornell to become a second grade teacher.”

    I believe Michelle Rhee comes from this type of tradition. She basically does not respect the people who teach our children and this is why she acts as she does. Her attitude is common in our country, especially among affluent groups. In my opinion this attitude is the PRIMARY reason why our system of education is less than stellar.

    When the majority of our citizens give teachers the respect that they get in Finland, Germany and Japan, then maybe we’ll begin to see results similar to what they enjoy in those countries.


  2. […] Guy Brandenburg's blog: 'The Six Bogus Beliefs of Michelle Rhee's DC School […]


  3. […] Guy Brandenburg’s blog: ‘The Six Bogus Beliefs of Michelle Rhee’s DC School […]


  4. I would have to agree with Linda (retired teacher) about Ms. Rhee’s actions. Even though I am not a product of DCPS (nor a resident), I did attend Howard University and saw a small glimpse of what the school system has endured. I was a tutor for two middle schools in Southeast DC. Yeah, not fun to see what children were being subjected to. On my first day walking into middle school #1, there was a 3rd grade teacher YELLING at a student for no obvious reason. Mind you, the “classrooms” were separated by partions, the playground/area was a drug dealer’s paradise and the students looked like 300 year old zombies. The only thing that livened them up, apparently, was when the tutors (or outside educators) came to visit. Come to think of it, I don’t remember there being any decent computer equipment. I also have friends that are educators in the DC Public school system and are horrified by Ms. Rhee’s actions. The day that I heard why she laid off the hundreds of teachers (didn’t know DC even had that many teachers), I was ready to drive over to the Board of Education and let her know what a grave mistake she had made. Too bad she doesn’t know that slowly but surely, the entire DC government and their cronies, will soon be exposed and “kindly” thrown to the curb.


  5. You hit the nail on the proverbial coffin. Rhee’s 6 beleifs for reform are on the right track but lacking. She would meet a much better reception if she would pretend to be human instead of robotic.


  6. […] published on GF Brandeburg’s Blog, by guest columnist “efavorite”.  Published Feb. 17, […]


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