Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Michelle Rhee, the answer to education reform?

Have you seen the documentary Waiting for ‘Superman'? It’s a movie that advocates for national public education reform through several means, including eliminating the inequities in many families’ ability to access high-performing schools for their children. It also tackles the controversy of whether or not teacher unions are protecting ineffective teachers. For example, Waiting for ‘Superman’ promotes the addition of more publicly funded, controversial charter schools that are allowed to function similar to private schools.

It also profiles the now former chancellor of Washington D.C. schools, Michelle Rhee. In 2007, the educator blew into her position like a firestorm and promised huge, immediate change for one of the worst school districts in the nation. She professed to not care whether she was liked; she only wanted to get the job done. She had complete support from Mayor Adrian Fenty. 

Amid some anger and outrage, Rhee closed 12 schools, fired hundreds of teachers and administrators and began to see test scores go up. Now her mission is to reform education across the nation. She quit her job and admits Mayor Fenty probably lost his seat due to her unpopularity. On the flip side, governors and companies coast to coast begged her to come help them.

Instead, Rhee has started her own foundation called Studentsfirst, www.studentsfirst.org. She hopes a million people will become members of her website and she pledges to raise $1 billion the first year for education. She says StudentsFirst will support great teachers and fight against “ineffective instructional programs and bureaucracy.”

In a Newsweek cover story, Rhee says, “we’ll support and endorse school-board candidates and politicians . . . who want to enact policies around our legislative agenda.”

She says – again – that this will be no popularity contest. Rhee says she will not shy away from conflict and hopes her supporters won’t either.

Readers, what do you think? Could Rhee launch a real reform effort that will give all children an equal opportunity for a high-quality education? Or is she going about this incorrectly by “taking no prisoners,” as the saying goes?

Let the discussion begin!

Jackie

P.S. Look for the next blog entry to see newly released data on how Hoosier children are performing.

The Indiana Partnerships Center encourages and enables parents to engage with their child’s school, to the mutual benefit of the child and school. The center, which serves all of Indiana, is one of 62 Parental Information Resource Centers funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement.

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