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

Monday, November 01, 2010

DC Parents and Teachers: Today Is the Last Day (of Rhee) for the Rest of Your Life

The poster girl for militant corporatism in education is clocking out for the last time this afternoon at DC Schools.  It signifies the playing out of the most healthy repudiation of bare-knuckled, anti-public management by those whose confidence and cluelessness are equally matched and whose patronizing and condescending attitudes toward parents and teachers have finally been justly rewarded by the public. 

A clip from Bill Turque, whose negative assessment of the Rhee Reign  comes near the end of his piece in WaPo:
. . . . But there is a fragility to the changes Rhee has wrought. Elementary reading and math scores dipped in 2010 after two years of gains. Testing data also show that efforts to narrow the achievement gap separating white and African American students stalled this year. Many schools remain deeply troubled; 12 percent of sophomores at Spingarn High School in Northeast Washington are proficient in math, 17 percent in reading. At Johnson Middle School in Southeast, 14 percent of the students are proficient in reading and 14 percent in math.

Enrollment, another success story, also comes with questions. It's not clear whether the gains, mostly at the preschool and pre-kindergarten levels, mean that the system is actually capturing a larger proportion of school-age children or merely benefiting from mini-baby booms in some D.C. neighborhoods.

Miguel Rosario, who is a parent at Watkins Elementary on Capitol Hill but lives in Ward 8, said schools in his neighborhood have felt the churn of Rhee's changes but received little benefit. "Principal after principal, security company after security company, a little touch-up paint, but the bathrooms are still the same. The children are not being educated," he said.

The changes also came, as Rhee now acknowledges, without a successful attempt to build a base of support that gave residents ownership of the changes.

"We made a ton of mistakes," she said Thursday. "I thought, very naively, that if we just put our heads down and we worked hard and produced the results, people would be so happy that they would want to continue the work. We were absolutely incorrect about that."

Other stakeholders said they appreciated Rhee's attempts at reaching out. "I think she tried to engage the parents," said Lisa Barton, former PTA president at Ballou Senior High School, from which her daughter graduated last spring. "I would have liked her to stay. I felt like she was doing something good."

Rhee's difficulties were compounded by questionable management and maladroit sense of public relations, embodied most notoriously in her broom-wielding Time magazine cover of December 2008.

A week after a triumphal announcement of a breakthrough contract last April, she touched off a furor that nearly scuttled the deal, first by disclosing that she discovered a $34 million surplus in the school system budget earlier in the year - just four months after laying off 266 teachers for budgetary reasons. That led to a lengthy public scuffle over how to pay for the pact with D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi, who said no such surplus existed.. . .

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