Tuesday, December 07, 2010

“I never thought I’d say this, but education has become sexy in America" --Joel Klein re Michelle Rhee

I definitely agree with Michelle Rhee regarding textbook manufacturers being a big part of the problem. Huge amounts of money are wasted on textbooks that don't get used. I think money for books should be given directly to individual teachers. They will use the books they buy.

And while I certainly agree that teacher unions are a huge obstacle to needed reform, I think Rhee fails to hold administrators and politicians responsible for caring more about their careers than about kids. I even have some suspicions that DC voters might have been correct that Rhee cared more about appearances than about what was actually happening to kids. It's easy to raise scores of middle class kids. The real challenge is to turn an illiterate ten-year-old into a reader. Rhee seemed to be taking the easy way to raise test scores.

It's just really hard to find people with big careers in education who really care about kids. I think I trust Bill Gates more than MIchelle Rhee when it comes to changing schools for the better.

A Former Schools Chief Shapes Her Comeback

New York Times
December 6, 2010

...“I never thought I’d say this, but education has become sexy in America, partly because of Michelle,” Mr. Klein said.

Despite her setback in Washington, Ms. Rhee is not tempering any of the fire that sometimes made her divisive.

The Newsweek cover article, which appears under her byline, unapologetically defends her record. She writes that she was “stunned” by voters’ rebuke of Mr. Fenty. She faults shortsighted parents who did not recognize that schools had improved, and the teachers’ union for pursuing narrow self-interests.

“Michelle Rhee likes to say that teachers unions are the problem, but the leading states and countries in educational outcomes — such as Finland, South Korea and Singapore — are heavily unionized,” Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, who negotiated the Washington contract, said in a statement.

During contract talks earlier this year, Ms. Rhee turned to Anita Dunn, the former communications director for President Obama, to help with her image.

A gift of $100,000 toward her fee was paid by an education philanthropist, Katherine Bradley, the wife of the publisher David Bradley of The Atlantic Monthly and National Journal.

Now it is Ms. Dunn’s firm, SKD Knickerbocker, that is coordinating Ms. Rhee’s rollout of her new group. Whatever advice it may have given her to bring all sides together when she was a public official, she clearly feels unrestricted by that now.

Andrew Rotherham, an education adviser in the Clinton White House and now a partner in Bellwether Education, a research and consulting group, said an uncensored Michelle Rhee would have an advantage.

“Most current and former large city school system leaders are reluctant to speak really forthrightly about the nature of the challenges,” he said. “Rhee is not constrained that way. That’s going to give her a niche and a brand in the debate.”...

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