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

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

No, no, not HER!

Please, please, no...
TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie has courted Michelle Rhee to become the state’s next education commissioner, but the job’s distance from her family may prove an insurmountable stumbling block, two officials familiar with the negotiations said.
When state officials initially approached Rhee, the former chancellor of the Washington, D.C., public schools, she quickly turned back the overture, thinking the governor wanted her to make a lateral move and run the Newark Public Schools. Even Oprah Winfrey endorsed the possibility of Rhee becoming Newark’s next superintendent.
In fact, the Christie administration wanted Rhee to consider the vacant state education commissioner’s post, a more attractive offer to her because it signified a step up on the ladder of national education reform influence, according to sources who sought anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss confidential matters. But the state could not get Rhee “past the gate” because of frustration that a move to New Jersey would take her away from her family.
First of all, Rhee gave up any pretense of being anything more than a political hack when she stepped into the DC mayoral race. When you say that your patron's loss is "devastating" for the children of your city, you're pretty much giving into the political gamesmanship a school superintendent should be above.

But that's probably what's so appealing about her to Christie; her fealty to her boss, combined with an incessant need to preen in front of cameras, clearly makes her a winner in his eyes.

That and her ability to throw aside all of the serious studies of value-added modeling - which overwhelmingly say not to use it in retention and merit pay schemes - and put in place an "idiotic" system that doesn't work, demoralizes teachers, and serves as a symbol of the crass politicization of our schools.

It's also worth pointing out that this is a woman who has never been properly vetted by the media. She's staked her career on three - THREE! - years of teaching with results so sweet that the press has gobbled them up like ice cream. Bob Somerby has been looking at Rhee for some time now:
What does Rhee say she learned here in Baltimore? According to Rhee, students performing far below grade level quickly achieve at the highest levels—if they’re exposed to a quality program. In our view, that’s a pleasing, music man’s tale; it has taken the place, in the past forty years, of serious thought about low-income schools. But as we’ve shown you, there is no evidence that this educational miracle ever occurred in Rhee’s classroom. And quite frankly, her pleasing tale about national acclaim has been looking a bit shaky too.

Here at THE HOWLER, we don’t know what happened in Michelle Rhee’s classroom. But in our own thirteen years in the Baltimore schools, we came to regard that pleasing tale as the hallmark of hustlers, con men and do-dos. (For the record, we were inclined to believe it too—before we spent time in the classroom.) It substitutes for serious thought—and wins big pay-days for its adherents. Everyone loves to hear this tale. And no one seems to care if it’s true.

DC’s news orgs can do as they will. But at present, there is no real evidence—none at all—that Rhee’s miracle ever occurred. But here’s the question: Will these newspapers do their job—will they try to check Rhee’s claims? Or will they do what they so often do? Will they decide to serve the elites whose members file into their board rooms?
She sounds perfect for the NJ press. I'm sure they'll all tell us what a master teacher Rhee was without a shred of proof; if it's out of Christie's mouth, they believe it.


thinker said...

The ONLY reason I can't see her here is that I can't imagine either she or the governor giving on inch in a disagreement, nor sharing the spotlight with the other for mroe than 5.2 seconds. I don't see how these two could work together, even against the common enemy: teachers.

Duke said...

Another good point: they really are both megalomaniacs.