There have been so many myths promulgated by and about Michelle Rhee that it’s interesting to watch even her supporters folks gradually come to the realization that yet another one is false.
An example is in today’s WaPo where Jay Mathews writes, among other things: (*)
“Former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee […] failed miserably — as she conceded — in recruiting and training great principals, the key to turning a school around. She relied on a slapdash recruitment process and her instincts about which of the administrators she interviewed would be good and which wouldn’t.”
Me again: I think that Rhee should be famous for saying on public TV, on camera that she (Rhee) had never done anything in her entire life that she ever had any regrets for. Granted, it was during her first year as Chancellor, but the idea of anybody claiming to be perfect and infallible should make the rest of us very, very suspicious. We should just back away and look for the men with the strait jackets and padded ambulances. I mean, really, not one thing in her entire life? I’ve got to track down that video, so everybody can see it. Anybody know the link?
Interesting that Rhee’s fawning friend and acolyte, Richard Whitmire quoted Rhee in “The Bee Eater,”(**) a book published in 2011, just after she quit being DC chancellor, as saying that she was really fabulous at picking new principals.
This comes on page 122 of his book about Rhee, and it’s Rhee speaking about how GOOD she was at picking new principals:
“Within three minutes I can tell if that person would make it,” she said. “It drives me nuts. … “
So, I’m a little curious, because Mathews writes today that even RHEE herself admits that she was a failure at recruiting principals.
Two or three years ago she claimed that she was infallible and that one of her excellent qualities was her ability to recruiting excellent new principals through a “slapdash recruitment process” (either JM’s or MR’s words, not sure which, but not mine). Remember who put that process together? RHEE and her acolytes. Remember why? The explanation these ed DEformers went something like this: the old way that had horrible results and hired terrible people. Tha’t because of bureaucratic restrictions and un-needed things like due-process clauses, labor-management contract language worked out over the years, and requirements for little things like diplomas and teaching certificates and searching for real experience in the field.
So, quick as a wink, that’s what happened in DC. Now, state after state is breaking contracts with public workers. The Ed Deformers have pushed through all sorts of dubious reforms that have absolutely no track record. They stiff-arm almost all requests for real information. They pretend that there are huge improvements in the test scores that they used to point at all the time; when it’s shown that there has, in fact, been no such improvement, then they say it doesn’t matter.
In DCPS, they put together an exceedingly complicated mathematically-based piece of voodoo called VAM; it has a huge impact on a teacher’s IMPACT score. Yet, half way through the third year of its implementation (not piloting, but full-bore head-on, highly punitive implemetation with no allowance for appeals), its workings have never been explained to the public which is footing the bill. There have been no actual practical examples of how VAM actually works, with actual [anonymized or made up] student rosters and such that people can follow.
What’s more, Rhee cleverly dangled small bonuses in front of teachers; and as soon as they accept one of the bonuses, they find out that it has a poison pill inside, namely, the teacher has to give up some of his/her officially-bargained due-process rights that used to be guaranteed to any teacher in case of layoffs or school closings or other things like that. If they take the bait.
To their credit, a lot of teachers have refused to take the bait. Old teachers, young teachers, black and white. We should be proud of these folks. They cared more about fairness, their students, and being able to serve their students in the future, than they did about a few thousand dollar bonus.
(I’m sure that Rhee and FOX commentators can find a way to twist that one around!)
And those protections are quite important. As Rhee admits, a lot of her principal appointees weren’t so hot. Giving them extra power over teachers in case of sudden changes in student numbers (which is extremely common these days), means that you are putting so much pressure on teachers that they just keep quitting. Under IMPACT and VAM, there are very serious consequences for being an honest teacher if your school has ones who cheat by changing students’ answers: you can easily get fired. Certainly, we have lost an enormous number of veteran teachers such as myself; the 2-year teaching fellowships have very high washout rates and low retention rates after 2 or 3 years. I read somewhere that in some subset of American schools, the modal (most common) number of years of teaching experience is 1. That’s right – if you take all the teachers at every school in whatever subgroup of American schools this referred to, and ask them to line up in the gym based on how many years of teaching they had completed, and they lined up in order by whole numbers from 0 to 40 or whatever, then the longest line of teachers will be standing behind the big number 1. Not the 11, nor the 15, as used to be the case quite frequently a decade or so ago. Perhaps the new staffing model for schools will be McDonald’s, where even the managers only last a year or two at most? Boy, that’ll be wonderful for your kids.
Oh, wait, I’m sorry. They don’t do this at private schools. Nor, yet, in the affluent suburbs or at the magnet high schools. This is only happening in the schools where you have large numbers of poor, black and brown public school systems like here in DC, Atlanta, and New Orleans.
I’m old enough to remember a US military officer in Viet Nam explaining that he had his troops destroy a village in order to save it. You don’t have to be very old to remember hearing Arne Duncan proclaim that Hurricane Katrina’s flood waters, by destroying New Orleans’s public schools and public housing, accomplished a praiseworthy miracle.
You should definitely read the entire page I quoted from Bee Eater – it’s priceless how much of a self-promoting, ignorantly arrogant leader she was. You may be thinking I am comparing her to a certain Alaska beauty queen and politician, but they are both crazy in quite different ways and with distincly different public speaking styles. On the other hand, the book itself is such a piece of junk, and the author is such a lazy, toadying suck-up to the Billionaire Educational Deformer elite, that I would hate for anybody to go out and actually pay money for the book in any format whatsoever.
How many ways can YOU think of which demonstrate that the educational DEformers’ myths in general are simply lies at worst, wrong at best? What about our former and current educational leaders here in DC? I know the “comments” button is really hard to see in this weblog application program that I chose. I’ll try to figure out how to fix that one day. But, meanwhile, you can leave comments if you like.
(*) I’m not saying that JM always supported everything Rhee did.
(**) The audience at this event was highly critical of Rhee, so Whitmire had to spend the entire time at P&P defending her from one attack after another. He really seemed to me to be an unctuous preppy sleazeball that sold out to the billionaire education cabal a long time ago. But he had a great haircut.