Saturday, December 06, 2008

Time Magazine features Michelle Rhee, Washington DC's school system chancellor who "cleans house"


The December 8, 2008 issue of Time Magazine features, on the cover, a picture of Washington DC public school system Chancellor Michelle Rhee, standing tall, with a big yardstick (or is it a broom?). The cover reads “How to fix America’s schools” and the article “Can she save our schools” appears on p 36, link here.

Michelle, hired or appointed by Mayor Fenty in 2007, has been a controversial and feared figure, dismissing a large number of administrative employees, closing some schools, and firing a number of ineffective teachers, often because of failure to complete certifications. She has also made moves toward eliminating teacher tenure, and paying much higher salaries to attract the best teachers. She pays unannounced "pop quiz" visits on classes of individual teachers, poking into the room and watching for two minutes and then leaving, with shaky teachers wondering if they're next, perhaps. The Time article gives some dismal numbers, such as that 36% of DC high school students are proficient in mathematics, and 39% in reading. In Washington DC, the teachers don't have the "power" now, unless they're very good.

Local television stations, such as WJLA, report that high school students like her. The betters students believe she is really pulling for them.

All of this reminds me of an ABC John Stossel report some time back, when he said that in New York City, it was almost impossible to fire ineffective teachers, who were just sent to holding pens where they got paid to stay all day and do nothing.

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