On the one hand, I am naturally rather relieved that Michelle Rhee is leaving DCPS. (After all, I’ve been publicly encouraging her to go!) Perhaps she could try teaching again in a normal classroom without lots of aides, with no extra funds from outside corporations, no administrative or parental support, and so on, and see how she really does (as opposed to the fairy-tale she concocted about Harlem Park ES in Baltimore). However, that won’t happen. She will instead earn millions on the lecture circuit and in some right-wing educational DEFORMER think tank, attempting to persuade gullible members of the public that evil-minded teachers are the cause of urban poverty, and that untrained, inexperienced, transient young college grads and tons of additional standardized tests and threats can somehow cure the widening gap between the poor and the super-rich. (And guess which group Rhee is joining?)
On the other hand, I am afraid that what I have seen so far from Vince Gray appears to be more of the same regime: test, punish, threaten, and fire. Kaya Henderson is almost Michelle Rhee’s clone (granted, not as vicious, and with a different hair style, but let’s recall that she backed up all of MR’s brazen lies). Mayoral control of schools has succeeded in truly improving urban education in precisely zero school districts. Increased standardized testing and turning schools into test-prep factories, ditto. Removing any rights to due process for teachers and other school employees, ditto. Ignoring the huge burdens of poverty, ditto. Turning public education over to private entrepreneurs, no improvement. Linking student scores on standardized achievement tests to teacher bonuses, zilch. Bringing in inexperienced, untrained teachers who have no intention of sticking around for the long haul, no difference. Saying that EVERY child can succeed in Advanced Placement classes have most likely watered down AP courses for everybody. Forcing all teachers to pass EVERY student, no matter how often they skip school or don’t do assignments have caused standards and achievement to go through the floor. Pretending that there either is no discipline problem in urban schools, or blaming all of the behavior problems on the teachers, are practices that have led to the near-destruction of most urban school systems.
Let’s not get discouraged! We got rid of Fenty and Rhee! Yay! Now, we need to make sure that presumptive Mayor Gray truly makes a 90-degree turn away from the failed ‘DEFORMS’ of the Rhee-Henderson-Fenty-Klein-Bobb-Duncan crowd.
I think it won’t happen without a lot of additional pressure from below.