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She must be doing something right

Michelle Rhee, the new chancellor running the District of Columbia Public Schools system has gotten a long write up in Time magazine. Here is just a small sample-

Her appointment stunned the city. Rhee, then 37, had no experience running a school, let alone a district with 46,000 students that ranks last in math among 11 urban school systems. When [Mayor Adrian] Fenty called her, she was running a nonprofit called the New Teacher Project, which helps schools recruit good teachers. Most problematic of all, Rhee is not from Washington. She is from Ohio, and she is Korean American in a majority-African-American city. "I was," she says now, "the worst pick on the face of the earth."
Read the Time article in full to see what Rhee is trying to do in order to overhaul the broken down DC public school system.

Ms. Rhee has also been the subject of other media articles. Including Newsweek-

That is not to say that Rhee is relaxed. She says she wakes up every morning with a "knot in my stomach," and that she is "angry," though "angry in a good way." She is angry at a system of education that puts "the interests of adults" over the "interests of children," i.e., a system that values job protection for teachers over their effectiveness in the classroom. Rhee is trying to change that system. In a way that few realistic observers thought was possible, she has a chance to succeed, not just in Washington, but also around the country. She is entering into a struggle with the local teachers union that will test whether an urban school district can weed out its weak teachers--a profound threat to politically powerful teachers unions nationwide.Rhee.jpg


Rhee's toughest fight, by far, is coming up. She has proposed a new contract for the union that would undermine tenure, the teachers union holy of holies. The carrot is money. By tapping Mayor Fenty and private philanthropists, she is hoping to make D.C. teachers the best-paid in the country. Current teachers would actually have a choice. If they are willing to go on "probation" for a year--giving up their job security--and can successfully prove their talent, they can earn more than $100,000 a year and as much as $130,000, a huge salary for a teacher, after five years. If not, they still get a generous 28 percent raise over five years and keep their tenure. (All new teachers must sign up for the first option and go on probation for four years.) Rhee predicts that about half the teachers will choose to take their chances on accountability for higher pay, and that within five years the rest will follow, giving up tenure for the shot at merit pay hikes.

Michelle has definitely angered schoolteachers. One non-DC area schoolteacher says she is worse than Hitler. Chancellor Rhee must be doing something right to earn that kind of stupidity from a member of the education profession.

Here is one interesting approach Michelle has taken to motivate students-

One of the most controversial programs Rhee has introduced is a joint venture between D.C. schools and Harvard that pays middle school students cash -- up to $100 a month -- for good behavior and attendance.

Rhee says such pilot programs have worked in other cities. She says the District's students have far too many bad incentives on the streets, from hustling to drug dealing, and need something to keep them focused.

"We're preparing them to understand that if you do the right thing, then good things will happen to you," Rhee said.

My parents used to reward me for good grades, at the same time I'd get punished for bad. That happened in level of school I attended but the 6th grade. I did terribly that year, but nothing happened. Rumor has it my mother got into a argument with my teacher at Winged Street that year, Mr. Hecht, or he made a pass at Mom. One or the other.

Michelle Rhee faces a daunting task in Washington DC. We should all wish her good luck.

Hat tips to- Andy Jackson at Marmot's Hole and GI at ROK Drop


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Comments (26)

Not to worry, the Teacher's... (Below threshold)

Not to worry, the Teacher's Union will stab her in the back first chance they get. They have a vested interest in mediocrity.

Am I missing something here... (Below threshold)

Am I missing something here? The teachers can either earn 100,000 plus and keep their jobs, or opt for a 28% pay raise and keep their jobs. And this is daring and risky for the unionites?

"She's worse than Hitler". ... (Below threshold)

"She's worse than Hitler". OK, I've learned now that anyone - and I mean anyone - who uses this kind of phrase to describe someone with who they are displeased is a loon. Not probably but actually. In fact, it is ALWAYS used by a liberal to decribe someone who is making progress despite all liberal efforts to thwart said progress.

It'll show up, Old Puppy, i... (Below threshold)

It'll show up, Old Puppy, in fratricidal warfare. The GOOD teachers will clearly stand out, the mediocre or bad ones will know they could have gotten a lot more IF they were any good. (And it's only 5% a year raise anyway - they could be simply breathing in the classroom and earn that much - and they know it.)

Would you take a 5% annual raise on maybe $40-50k, or would you go for the big money?

If the mediocre or bad teachers try to get the good ones fired, it'll probably serve as cause to 'suggest' they find a different line of work, more in keeping with their skill set.

Thanks for the link. I thi... (Below threshold)

Thanks for the link. I think it should be pointed out that my post makes it clear the "Hitler" reference is a joke.

But, whatever; why be honest?

The Frustrated Teacher writ... (Below threshold)

The Frustrated Teacher writes-

"Thanks for the link. I think it should be pointed out that my post makes it clear the "Hitler" reference is a joke.

But, whatever; why be honest?"

You also called Rhee 'one self important bitch'. So who's being honest?

Rhea speech deal... (Below threshold)

Rhea speech deals with the real issues of accountability and politics. We need more like her.

Refering to someone as Hitl... (Below threshold)

Refering to someone as Hitler has ALWAYS been seen as a "joke". Ha Ha Ha

Yeah, especially during the... (Below threshold)

Yeah, especially during the 1935-1945 timeframe. It was downright HILARIOUS then.

"You also called Rhee 'one ... (Below threshold)

"You also called Rhee 'one self important bitch'. So who's being honest?"

Yes I did. What about honesty? I never called her worse that Hitler, except to say almost. It was a good headline.

Why don't you relax, and post my quote in full? And I really don't follow how my other post calling Rhee a bitch somehow makes me dishonest. Please, do tell.

So ... being 'almost as bad... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

So ... being 'almost as bad as Hitler' is the punchline.

Strange, I've talked to a couple Holocaust survivors - doesn't seem like they ever found Herr Schikelgruber amusing in any context.

And "please, do tell" how nazi references are in any way apropos of this issue. Aside from the obvious smear attempt, I mean.

tfteacher<blockquot... (Below threshold)


I never called her worse that Hitler, except to say almost. It was a good headline.

Can you please explain how anything she has said and done you find to be almost like Hitler, Demonstrate any parallels between her governance, and deeds that are NAZISM.
Has she enacted laws to segregate people? Has she placed them into concentration camps and then conduct inhuman scientific experimentation? Please show her scientific approach to genocide. Site where she has surrounded herself with racially pure body guards who are above the law and show her summery execution of her political opponents.

Since there is no evidence of any of this your statement about Hitler is not factual it just used to invoke strong emotional disdain.

Therefor,Your quote referencing Hitler was an ad hominem vitriolic personal attack on her. The point being made is that her policies invoke strong reactions from the opposition and instead of taking about issues some resort to personal attacks. To further evidence that her opponents attack her personally rather speak of the issues she raise is your next quote of self important b***.

Why don't you relax, and post my quote in full? And I really don't follow how my other post calling Rhee a bitch somehow makes me dishonest. Please, do tell.
Wow! Hitler is way worse t... (Below threshold)

Wow! Hitler is way worse than Rhee. Hell, the comparison isn't apt at all! Sorry the funny isn't funny.

She's a second grade teache... (Below threshold)

She's a second grade teacher in San Francisco.

The Thanksgiving poem she put up... with emphasis... well - I can't say I agree with her apparent 'patriotic' sentiments, but I will defend her right to hold 'em.

Wow! Hitler is way... (Below threshold)
Wow! Hitler is way worse than Rhee. Hell, the comparison isn't apt at all! Sorry the funny isn't funny.

Did you just now figure that out? You say you are a TEACHER? Well TEACHER go back to school and learn what Hitler was really all about. You might learn that he was far worse than you even imagine and not a name to casually throw around because you disagree with someone.

Thanks, TFT, for reminding ... (Below threshold)

Thanks, TFT, for reminding me why I left the teaching profession AND San Francisco.

Tft Do you have a... (Below threshold)


Do you have any idea of what Hitler's allies the Japanese military did to Korean Women in WWII?

Please explain what it is that you do not like about her approach to education? What has she done that is so horrible? Teachers should be accountable especially in under performing schools. We need to evaluate and reallocate appropriate sources. Throwing money at problems does not fix them however knowing what the problems are and sending in the right resources is what is needed.

The Students should come first and we do need to really evaluate what is in the student's best interest and handle political decision in ways that are beneficial to them. She wants the authority, responsibility and accountability to do her job and she want to hold others to that same standard.

I am a man. I do not teach... (Below threshold)

I am a man. I do not teach in San Francisco.

I am a Jew.

I do not like Rhee's heavy-handedness, and I am unsure of her resume. I am convinced she wants to bust the unions, taking the "blame-the-teacher" meme to its ultimate--and erroneous--conclusion.

As for your feigned disgust at my Hitler reference, I am allowed. I think you should consider the post, not the headline.

Rhee deserves a lot of cred... (Below threshold)

Rhee deserves a lot of credit for her hard work. Unfortunately until we undermine the teachers unions with school choice (vouchers), all the hard work in the world will quickly be reversed.

tft, you are a nasty piece ... (Below threshold)

tft, you are a nasty piece of work. I spent some time at your website and now I feel I should disinfect my monitor.

You are a jew? But you are vehemently anti-religious on your website.

Just be a grown-up and take responsibility for your words. Calling someone ALMOST like Hitler or like Hitler is not a joke. Well, only to people like you. Either defend it or apologize for it. Distraction isn't working.

From your blog..."... (Below threshold)

From your blog...

Bay Area, Ca, United States
I teach second grade at a public school in the Bay Area."

Please understand that to us uneducated, unsophisticated meat eaters in flyover country, there isn't a whole lot of difference between the Bay area and San Francisco proper.

Also, with the current politically correct paranoia about male teachers in grade schools, there seems to be a certain scarcity of male teachers in the lower grades.

That said, good luck to you. Teaching well is a hard job, and a good teacher is worth his or her weight in gold in my opinion. I hope you teach your charges that our country is a good one and worth defending and supporting - even though some have made serious mistakes over the centuries.

TFT, I read your post, saw ... (Below threshold)

TFT, I read your post, saw the title, and also the little addition of a Hitler mustache to Michelle Rhee's picture. You may think you are clever by mixing an exclamation point with a question mark just so you can be both definitive and uncertain, but you are not fooling anyone except yourself. Your post is vapid.

What you need to know is that this is the beginning of the end of the beginning of the dismantling of teacher unions, and the pay for performance future we are in for in education.

Well written stuff there. If you are a teacher, then I pity your students. God forbid that we actually pay for performance in education. Are you saying we should pay for bad teachers as well as good teachers?

If you eat at a restaurant which has a good chef and a bad chef. Would you want to eat the food from the bad chef? Shouldn't the restaurant be allowed to fire the bad chef and replace him with another good chef?

TFT In her example... (Below threshold)


In her example you had teachers who did not show up to class, did not take their responsibilities to their students and to the district seriously. I think that her wanting to reprimand them to be good. We grade students to see where their abilities are, in order to help the ones who need some additional instruction. It only seems logical that teachers must be held to similar standards. Yes it not just teachers but, parents and students and administrators however each one of them has to be looked at. We need improvements across the board and the ability to evaluate and reward good teachers is need. Also with evaluation teachers that just need some additional instruction can receive it. With teachers that are a burden release then additional fund can be spent on good teachers.

In her speech she also talked about consolidating schools to that resources could be better allocated. She also went into details that the improvement she made in the first year could not have been accomplished without political backing and support. The political will to change is what and the benefits of that are long lasting. I been through private and public schools and I have met many good teachers but bad ones especially in the inner city can destroy children. When the parents do find them in public schools it take way to long to dismiss them and each day they stay is another day that children are affected.

"In her example y... (Below threshold)

"In her example you had teachers who did not show up to class, did not take their responsibilities to their students and to the district seriously." Who? Her? You? They?

It's funny--well, not really--that hcddbz is trying to school me absent any observable ability to write!

If I can interpret what you mean, you are just spouting bromides. Political will is needed to end poverty, homelessness, illness, and other things a society can do to help keep its population healthy; blaming teachers just won't work!

First off as a teacher in a... (Below threshold)

First off as a teacher in a Southern right to work state, we are yearly contractual employees and have no tenure so I'm not part of the vast "teacher union" conspiracy.

2nd I'm very conservative and love Sarah Palin, so no libtard, etc., comments

3rd, most ppl that comment on public education have no freakin clue what an inner city school looks like or how it functions. Allmost all of your kids go to very nice middle class or private schools where the culture is one of focus on education. Conservative states like Nebraska, Kasas, etc., also have powerful, unionized teacher lobbies and yet we never hear complaints coming from there and the students there perform as well as anyone.

The problem with public education in America is not one of money, we spend tons, it's not one of unions, the bottom line is that there is no focus on education in the minority community! Almost all of these "failing" public schools are in minority communities where the focus is on everything but education.

The discipline in these schools is horrendous and all teachers, including minority teachers, fight to get to a "good" school. These schools will continue to underperform and be horrible institutions as long as we continue to blame teachers, administration, etc., and fail to focus on the problem and put the responsibility right where it belongs ON THE COMMUNITY THE SCHOOL IS IN!!!!

As a side note for all you Bushites, no I'm not a fan of his limp wristed Republicanism, his No Child Left Behind crap was one of the greatest infusion of federal involvement in local and state affairs in U.S. History. It forced so many schools to label huge numbers of children "Special Ed" simply so they would be exempt from state testing, this of course led to greater behavior problems in that with a Sped label almost all unruly behavior is related to the disability, of course this makes life hell for a teacher with added paperwork but looks good for administrators as test scores go up, a truly untenable situation.

TFTI was speaking ... (Below threshold)


I was speaking of Rhea and the 3 teachers she referenced in her speech. Which was what your article was about so again please explain what was such a horrible viewpoint that she holds?

Second, one of the most striking challenges we face in DCPS and in other urban districts is an utter lack of accountability. This year I met students who appealed to me about teachers who did not show up to class. On another occasion, one of my staff members took a call from a teacher who had applied to teach summer school. After 20 minutes of conversation he told my staff member, "Hold on, I have to dismiss my class." This was a person who knew he was talking to someone in the chancellor's office. In another example, in the fall I learned that an employee had failed to fill out a form for one of our special education students, and to conduct a meeting with another. Her mistakes resulted in a half-million dollar cost to the system when by law the students had to receive private placements. I called in the employee and asked her what happened. She told me "You need to understand. I'm a very busy person. Sometimes things fall through the cracks." I explained that this student's placement was under her job responsibility, and that if she did not feel up to these responsibilities then she may want to consider another job. She responded that this was "not fair." At the time I did not have the authority to make this employee and others, accountable for meeting their job responsibilities.






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