Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tenuous Tenure

Those who track the political fortunes of school reform nationally have been watching the massive overhaul taking place in the Washington DC schools where dynamic chancellor Michelle Rhee has modeled the reformer's playbook. Her "go to" strategy mirrors that of an increasing number of superintendents these days - use student achievement data to measure teacher performance, and then, fire a bunch of teachers. Rhee was given her job by out-going mayor Adrian Fenty. If Rhee gets tossed out of the DC schools, what message, if any, will that send to similarly-minded superintendents?
This from the Washington Times:

Michelle A. Rhee wasn't on the ballot in Tuesday's primary, but the hard-charging D.C. schools chancellor - and the cause of overhauling one of the nation's most
troubled public school systems - took a major hit when the votes were counted.

Ms. Rhee, whose efforts to shake up the city's school system generated national attention, was closely tied to defeated D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. Her drive to overhaul and streamline the school system - in the face of fierce opposition from the powerful teachers union - now has an uncertain future under presumptive mayor-to-be Vincent C. Gray, the current D.C. Council chairman.

Education reformers on the ballot in races in New York City also lost to candidates with financial and logistical support from teachers unions.

"The lesson here is that the unions are going to protect their own, but that doesn't mean you have to knuckle under to them," said Peter Murphy, policy director for the New York State Charter Schools Association, many of whose endorsed candidates in
New York City lost.

As he did throughout the campaign, Mr. Gray on Wednesday refused to say whether he would retain Ms. Rhee, who personally campaigned for Mr. Fenty in the primary's final weeks. He told reporters Wednesday that a decision on Ms. Rhee won't be made until "after we sit down," and he wants to hold the meeting "ASAP." ...

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (ATF), congratulated Mr. Gray on his primary victory and pledged to "help ensure victory" for him in November. She didn't refer to Ms. Rhee, but praised Mr. Gray for his "willingness to listen and engage" and get everyone "rowing in the same direction."

Ms. Rhee generally has been at odds with the ATF's local, the Washington Teachers' Union, since she became chancellor in June 2007. The union spent heavily in support of the Gray campaign...

School reformers and education analysts said the Washington mayoral vote was not the only outcome that could alter the national debate over reform Tuesday night. In New York, several races turned on a battle between union interests and school reformers.

In Harlem/Upper West Side, Brooklyn and Queens, union-backed state Sens. Bill Perkins, Velmanette Montgomery and Shirley Huntley soundly defeated reform-backed opponents.

But two New York state assemblymen - Jonathan Bing of Upper Manhattan and Sam Hoyt of Buffalo - won their races, even though they had bucked education unions on reform issues.

In Baltimore, political newcomer and teacher Bill Ferguson, an aide to city schools chief executive Andres Alonso, unseated a veteran Democratic incumbent, said Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not a Michelle Rhee fan. It's too simplistic to "blame the teachers" for lack of student success in school.