A Review by Diane Ravitch of Whitmire’s Hagiographic Book on Rhee

You can read the entire review here.

A telling excerpt:

‘At Dunbar, she hired a turnaround team called Friends of Bedford from New York City who seemed to have the special magic that flows from cracking a whip over the heads of lazy adults and undisciplined students.

‘Whitmire paints the turnaround of Dunbar in made-for-Hollywood language. George Leonard, the leader of the group from New York City, is described as a “suave, intense man with a preternaturally soothing voice, a sharp sense of humor, a near-perfect ability to lock eyeballs, and that indefinable, impossible-to-find ability to reason with unruly students.” Leonard discovered a school where chaos reigned, fighting was commonplace, students openly smoked reefer, and the noise was deafening. Leonard swiftly took control, fired the principal, and began to turn the school around.

‘The reader anticipates the happy ending; we’ve seen it in the movies many times. The new sheriff rides into town, and peace is restored. But soon after Rhee departed, and apparently right before the deadline for the book, Dunbar spun out of control, and Rhee’s successor, Kaya Henderson, ousted the Friends of Bedford and restored the former principal. The miracle that we were led to expect evaporates with no explanation.

‘Rhee’s most important accomplishment, Whitmire writes, was persuading the teachers’ union to accept performance pay for the teachers considered most successful, defined largely by student test scores. Those teachers who accepted the higher pay would agree to give up their job rights. Whitmire doesn’t mention that 40 percent of those who were eligible for the extra money turned it down, preferring to keep their due-process rights. It does seem strange that a school district would devise a method to identify its “best” teachers and get them to agree to be fired if their students’ scores should drop.’

Published in: on April 9, 2011 at 5:47 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. That anecdote about Rhee asking the PBS film crew if they wanted to watch her fire someone is chilling, and it tells a thoughtful reader a lot about Michelle Rhee.


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