Journal 10-Michelle Rhee and Her Quest to Change D.C. Education
Thomas, E, Conant, E & Wingert, P. (2008, Aug. 23). An unlikely gambler. Newsweek, [152(8)], 54-57.
I have always been a big fan of Michelle Rhee ever since I saw her on an interview with Charlie Rose. It was one year at Curriculum Camp when I snuck back to my room and turned on the T.V. to relax. Here is the interview (http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/9170). She seems to be a smart, straight shooter who will not hesitate to say what she thinks. She also seems to not take to much stock in what people think about her. One can learn much more about Michelle Rhee by reading this Newsweek article entitled "An Unlikely Gambler" (http://www.newsweek.com/id/154901/page/1).
Michelle graduated form Cornell in 1992 and went on to teach 2nd grade in a Baltimore City School. She tells a story about her 8 year old students that seems to be a bit shocking and disturbing. One day she asked her students to line up. As they were lining up, a boy fell down, and as the other students passed by they kick him. Michelle goes on to say that it seemed like second nature for the other students to kick the boy that was down. Rhee says, "I was, like, 'What are they doing?' But it was like second nature to them. The kid is down. Kick him." Michelle openly admits that it took her over a year to gain control of her students.
Rhee also believes that teachers can make a difference. When all else is bad in a student's life, the teacher can improve a student's learning and performance on standardized tests. While Rhee taught 2nd grade, she was able to take her students, who previously preformed the worst to performing the best in Baltimore. She goes on to say that the students that she taught that went from worst to best still came from the same economically depressed, violence ridden environment than the students from previous years. She states that the only difference is the teacher they see everyday when they come to school.
As Chancellor of D.C. schools she is putting her belief in the teach to the test. Her biggest struggle will be a new merit pay program for teaching excellence in her school district. Teachers actually can choose to give up their tenure and receive merit pay of around $100,000 to $130,000 a year. Teachers who choose to keep their tenure will still receive a 26% pay increase. Rhee really could only do this type of teacher merit pay program if poor teachers were not previously removed, and they were. Of course, removing any tenured teacher is not without controversy.
Rhee seems to be sensitive to educational equality for students in her city, Washington D.C. As a democrat, she is not always thrilled with the way the Democratic Party addresses education. Often, Democrats will state that Bush's No Child Left Behind act is, as she says "sucking the life out of our teachers." Rhee goes on to say, about this statement, "come on." Who is looking out for the black child in Washington who historically had to attend under performing schools, Rhee states? She goes on to say that not until the Democratic Party breaks the ties with teacher's unions will true educational reform occur in this country.