Saturday, July 28, 2012

Michelle Rhee in Britain: A false narrative

This from Diane Ravitch in The Washington Post:
You will not be surprised to learn that when Michelle Rhee went to England recently, she spoke of her great success in improving the D.C. public schools.
The last we heard, Rhee was still under investigation by the US Department of Education's Inspector General in a possible cheating scandal.
Her secret? Finding the best teachers and firing the worst teachers.

The only problem with her narrative is that it is not true.

Her IMPACT teacher evaluation system was imposed in 2009. Since then, the D.C. public schools have made little progress on state or national exams.

The D.C. public schools continue to have the largest black-white achievement gap of any district assessed by the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress, considered the gold standard of standardized assessment.

It is not clear whether her method identified the best teachers or the worst teachers, but it is clear that she created a level of turnover among teachers and principals that is staggering.

A recent opinion piece in The Washington Post said:

DCPS has one of the highest teacher turnover rates in the nation. Richard Ingersoll of the University of Pennsylvania estimates that, “nationally, on average, about 20 percent of new public school teachers leave their district to teach in another district or leave teaching altogether within one year, one-third do so within two years, and 55 percent do so within five years.”

In DCPS, by contrast, 55 percent of new teachers leave in their first two years, according to an analysis by DCPS budget watchdog Mary Levy. Eighty percent are gone by the end of their sixth year. That means that most of the teachers brought in during the past five years are no longer there. By comparison, in Montgomery County just 11.5 percent leave by the end of their second year, and 30 percent by the end of year five. DCPS has become a teacher turnover factory. It has a hard time keeping teachers who are committed to their school and the community it serves.

Most of the principals that Rhee personally hired have left their schools.

If the British follow her suggestions, they too can have churn without improvement.

Rhee received a skeptical welcome from The Independent:

Michelle Rhee: 
'Witchfinder general' of America's classrooms 
flies in to give Gove her gospel 

Richard Garner meets the woman who lives to sack teachers
[British Secretary of State for Education] Michael Gove yesterday endorsed the policies of an American education expert who advocates sacking large numbers of incompetent teachers.
Michelle Rhee has earned a reputation as a "witchfinder general of the classroom" in the US, identifying under-performing teachers and forcing them out of the profession.

She also advocates dramatic pay rises for talented teachers who help pupils obtain good grades.
This week she flew into Britain to pass on her experience to ministers and education officials – and the Education Secretary indicated that her hard-nosed policies could well be adopted here.
"Michelle points out in everything she does that what they [children] need is the most effective teacher who demands the highest standards and is relentless about that," Mr Gove said.

"If we are ever going to achieve something like social justice we need to transform those [disadvantaged] schools.

"The way to do so is to be uncompromising in our standards, to make sure the teachers who are not doing a good job move on and that we support the teachers who are doing a good job by paying them more and giving them freedom to genuinely inspire the next generation."

Ms Rhee's main message is simple. "The main aim is to ensure there is a high-quality teacher in front of every classroom every day," she told The Independent.

"The most highly talented teachers will be recognised and rewarded. The ineffective will either quickly accelerate or – if they don't do that – they're removed from the classroom," Ms Rhee said...


Anonymous said...

Hey, that is what education is now - home of the spin doctors. Vendors promising products which produce magic results, research experts creating global applications from results of a five pupil reading group, educational leaders lambasting the present condition of choice in order to justify their own initiatives, private companies funding fabricated results for their products, assessment companies marketing instruments which have not legitimate long term corrolations with what they say they are measuring. THe lady is just another example of the army of Ozs who impose their perceived power through smoke and mirrors while they hide behind the curtain of truth.

Anonymous said...

Didn't much care for Michelle Rhee or her attempt to impose martial law on the teaching staff of the Washington, D. C. public schools. As an educator, and frequent contributor, I realize this is a management style popular in the USA, but it is a flawed one, in my view.

Diane Ravitch is right on target here. Sadly, Rhee's leadership style directly influenced, and in some degree validated, what went on in the FCPS school system when Mr. Silberman, no earned doctorate, arrived in Lexington. Good teachers left the system or retired early, others were sent to tribunals and bullied by Michael Ernst, strict disciplinarians were terminated and all of this went on until he was challenged, first by Petrelli, then by Hurley Richards. (I know I am guilty of rehashing this often, but I think it is important to remember this lest we forget the cost in human suffering these two imposed on teachers)

To be a true reformer, one must garner the respect of those who have the biggest impact on education in the classroom, teachers. Rhee and Silberman did not understand that.

I suspect they never will......

Anonymous said...

If you treat people like professionals you will by in large get professional behaviors, no different than the expectations we set in our classrooms. If you treat people like unskilled hourly workers or assume qualities of incompetence, that is the culture you are going to create in your schools.