"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Strauss Finds a Warrior Woman in Defeat an Ugly Thing to Watch

Valerie Strauss does a clean double takedown of Big Oprah and Little Michelle in her review of the ed deform and disinformation episode aired two days ago.

Could Oprah's pandering, bowing, and scraping to her corporate overlords be leading to the finale of all finales for the daytime soapy talk TV version of the National Enquirer:  Oprah confesses that she is white, the national audience gets a copy of Work Hard, Be Nice with lifetime discount coupons for any of Walmart's genetically-altered foods, and everyone goes home amazed at the awesomeness of our collective color blindness.

A clip from Strauss (my bolds):
. . . .There was a lot of other silliness about schools and teachers on the show that went unchallenged. For example, the issue of teacher tenure was raised and Guggenheim declared that all teachers get tenure after two years and can’t be fired.

That’s ridiculous, as noted by teacher Anthony Cody in this post on the Teacher Magazine website, entitled "OprahPaganda?" You can read here about the myth of teacher tenure, , which, in fact, is hardly a guarantee of lifetime [employment].

And, as my colleague Bill Turque wrote in this post about the Oprah episode, Rhee said some other things about teachers that don’t seem to square with reality.

Rhee, during a discussion of how to deal with ineffective teachers, minimized the significance of professional development, saying that it was not fair to ask parents to put their children in the classrooms of educators who might be better in a year or two. She noted that she was a parent, and said, "There is no way I would put up with that.” She got big applause.

Rhee the warrior.

But Rhee the chancellor set up a system that does exactly that.

Her IMPACT teacher evaluation system gives teachers the chance to improve, and that is what is happening with more than 700 D.C. teachers judged "minimally effective" on last year’s IMPACT evaluations. They’ll be given a year to improve or face dismissal.

And, as Turque points out, she did not attack teacher development in the city’s successful application for $75 million in Race to the Top money; rather, she promised to establish “a wide and deep array of of rigorous professional development opportunities" for teachers.

Perhaps, Turque wrote, even more puzzling was Rhee’s answer when Oprah asked about the difficulty in firing teachers. "You have to meet literally a criminal standard," she said, which is true when pursuing cases of sexual misconduct or corporal punishment.

But firing teachers for poor performance -- next to impossible in DCPS for years -- is now an option through IMPACT if their scores are low. That’s how 126 teachers were dismissed this past summer.

Let’s not forget Winfrey’s own personal involvement in school reform. She funded and established a $40 million school for girls in South Africa. Why, she was asked several years ago, did she not help schools in her own country? Here was her response:

"Say what you will about the American educational system—it does work. If you are a child in the United States, you can get an education."

And then she said this:

“I became so frustrated with visiting inner-city schools that I just stopped going. The sense that you need to learn just isn’t there. If you ask the kids what they want or need, they will say an iPod or some sneakers. In South Africa, they don’t ask for money or toys. They ask for uniforms so they can go to school.”
Foreshadowing of the final confessional episode?????? Curious viewers will want to know.

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