I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Continuing Martyrdom of St. Michele

Valerie Strauss gets to the point:
The real issue is what she and her supporters say she accomplished but didn’t in D.C. public schools when she was chancellor for about 3 1/2 years before quitting in October when her biggest supporter, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, was ousted from office.
A myth has grown up around Rhee and her D.C. tenure that essentially has her swooping in like an avenging angel ridding the place of bad teachers and setting the troubled school system on the road to redemption. The reason it matters that the myth be dispelled is because Rhee has become a hero to state legislatures around the country who seem to think that everything she says about school reform is gospel.
If Rhee had in fact saved the school system, or even come a significant way toward that goal, nobody would be cheering more loudly than me. But she did nothing of the sort. She came to the District, talked very tough and proceeded to make a number of changes, as new school district leaders always do. Some were helpful, some weren't.
She didn't stay long enough to know if any could qualify as a success, but her major initiative, a multimillion-dollar teacher evaluation system called IMPACT, has serious flaws and as a result, there is no telling whether some of the teachers Rhee fired were really ineffective. The Rhee myth leaves no room for this reality.

This is the defining characteristic of Michele Rhee: she never stays long enough to see the job through. Three years in the classroom. Three years as the DC chancellor. And yet...

No wonder Christie loves her: he hasn't done a thing either, yet he's the bestest governor EVAH!

We claim to be a nation that rewards success, but we're really a nation that rewards claims of success.


thinker said...

I see this in action EVERY DAY! On one assignment, high schoolers were asked to read a passage and answer questions...questions to which the answers were in the passage word for word (almost no thinking required!), and in order so the students didn't even have to look through the whole article, just keep moving forward to the end. It was as if they were asked to perform brain surgery....the whining, crying and gnashing of teeth over how HARD and UNFAIR the assignment was. It was so difficult for them to think about sitting down and completing an assignment, even a relatively easy one.

How can we reward success when we can rarely look at one thing long enough to figure out if it has been successful or not? We are all so busy running after the newer/bigger/better/faster/stronger model that we never pause to even see if the old model worked. And in this climate, we ask teachers to get kids to learn-a process which usually involves focusing on something (a book, a math problem...whatever) for more than 4.5 seconds. Adults ask kids to do what they themselves usually won't do.

When did we stop rewarding accomplishment and opt instead to reward only "surface" things regardless of whether or not they are even warranted-looks, confidence, pretty words, lofty promises, etc. When will we start thinking again?

Duke said...

"Adults ask kids to do what they themselves usually won't do."