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

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Why Does Anyone Listen to Michelle Rhee?

NJ Governor Chris Christie on Michelle Rhee, former Washington DC schools chancellor, 11/11/11:
“No one in America has been more clear that we must change our public education system,” said Christie. "Thank you Michelle"
Michelle Rhee on Chris Christie, 11/16/11:
Michelle Rhee, the former Washington schools chancellor, who sat beside Mr. Christie’s wife during Tuesday’s speech in Trenton, has committed her new organization, StudentsFirst, to providing policy support for Mr. Christie’s education initiatives. “I think it’s incredibly courageous of the governor to take these issues on,” Ms. Rhee said Wednesday. “These are ones that have long been considered sacred cows.”

Chris Christie on the "achievement gap," 11/16/11:
“These reforms provide a comprehensive approach that recognizes there is no single solution. For a new accountability system to be effective and successful in benefitting children, we must have all of the tools that are provided for in this legislation. A piecemeal, incremental approach will not turn around our failing schools or close the achievement gap.

Michele Rhee on the "achievement gap," 2008:
To further these gains and decrease the achievement gap, we must continue to increase the level of accountability for everyone in the system, including teachers.

To recap: Christie loves Rhee. Rhee loves Christie. Christie values closing the achievement gap. Rhee values closing the achievement gap.

Now, some facts:
I’m going to focus this post on fourth grade math, since it seems to be the subject and grade level most suspectible to reform efforts. In DC since 2003, the black/white score gap remained constant, the poor/non-poor gap grew, and the Hispanic/white gap closed slightly.
Achievement gaps would be less disturbing in and of themselves if overall achievement levels were moderate or high. But what we continue to see in DC is that white students score well above both national and urban district averages for their race; black, Hispanic and poor children score well below national averages for their races and classes. This makes DC the city in the nation with the largest black-white student achievement gap. [emphasis mine]
As I've pointed out before, Rhee has been happy to claim credit for all sorts of huge triumphs even when she couldn't possibly have had any effect on the outcomes. But even putting that aside: what in her record would possibly compel New Jersey - which has one of the highest-performing school systems in the nation - to want to implement to the policies she oversaw in DC?

And who would be crazy enough to hold DC and Rhee up as a role model?
[Acting Education Commissioner Chris] Cerf got applause from the crowd when he mentioned the high ranking of New Jersey's education system nationally, and gave teachers a lot of the credit.

But they rolled their eyes when he said that the DOE and governor are not against unions, and laughed outright when he gave high marks to Washington D.C.'s teacher-evaluation system. When he challenged them to look at D.C's data, saying he'd bet $1 right there that he was right, a teacher told him to put the dollar instead into teacher pensions. [emphasis mine]
Oh, that's who...

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