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December 1, 2008
Michelle Rhee, the education world's It Girl, at least for now
Michelle Rhee's media blitz continued this week at Time, where the firebrand chancellor of the Washington, D.C., public schools scored a cover profile. Time's story rehashes much of the same ground that other recent profiles of Rhee have covered: it describes her controversial, take-no-prisoners attitude, nimbly Blackberrying fingers, and unwavering commitment to results. (There is at least one new tidbit: Rhee, a darling of the group Democrats for Education Reform, had to be convinced to vote for Barack Obama.) Responses to the article in the education blogosphere reflect an ongoing tension within the education policy world between those who back radical change and those who take a more cautious approach to reform. Blogging at Flypaper, Mike Petrilli of the Fordham Institute writes that he thinks "it's hard not to root for Michelle Rhee." NYC Educator, on the other hand, scathingly outlines the reasons why she's a danger to teachers. In a post titled "Michelle Rhee is Scaring Me," Robert Pondiscio takes a middle path, saying that Rhee's tactics might not be the best means to an end desired by many, including Pondiscio himself. One of the most interesting responses I've seen doesn't address Rhee's controversial tactics at all.
November 17, 2008
Next-generation education "warriors" want work-life balance
Schools Chancellor Joel Klein called on more than 1,000 Teach for America alumni at a conference Saturday to "wield cudgels" and see themselves as "warriors in the fight for educational equity." But some alumni questioned the feasibility of the warrior lifestyle that Klein said is embodied by TFA grads such as D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee and KIPP charter school founder Dave Levin. "We want to be like you," a TFA alum told who now works for the DOE stood up to tell his current boss, District 79 Superintendent Cami Anderson. But he asked how it's possible for a regular person to make a difference and still have a personal life. Anderson, a former TFA regional director for New York City, has a reputation for putting in long hours and having almost limitless energy. Confessing to her own struggles with burnout, Anderson acknowledged that closing the achievement gap isn't going to happen in just a few years, so the work must be sustainable. Before taking her current DOE position, she said, she set personal goals for herself, such as leaving work twice a week at 6 p.m. and sometimes reading frivolous books.
November 17, 2008
Pro-Teach For America, but anti-Wendy Kopp for Ed Secretary
From the comments section, a response to Democrats for Education Reform’s boosting of Wendy Kopp for Secretary of Education: I am an alumna…
November 14, 2008
Teacher to Rhee: We have valid reasons to fight for tenure
Ruben, a second-year Bronx teacher, says even though he doesn’t see himself making a career of teaching, and he approves of experiments with merit pay,…
November 13, 2008
"Unsung" Atlanta sup't embraces NAEP as measure of success
A comparison of urban districts' math score changes over time. From The Nation's Report Card. While most big-city superintendents would rather their scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress just go away, Beverly Hall of Atlanta has gone out of her way to make sure her students’ progress is judged against the national yardstick. In a recent profile of Hall, EdWeek reported: As test scores rose steadily year after year, Ms. Hall wanted to ensure that Atlanta’s progress would not be dismissed by criticism that Georgia’s performance standards and assessment, before recent changes to both, weren’t as rigorous as many other states’. The superintendent decided the city’s students would take a more rigorous national exam and publicly report the scores. Hall's colleagues feared that low scores on the national test would draw negative attention to the city's schools. But instead, Atlanta was the only district that showed significant gains in both reading and math every year.
November 12, 2008
Klein suggests a venture capitalist for top education post
Scholastic Administrator magazine has a Q&A with Schools Chancellor Joel Klein this month. A revealing nugget is who Klein suggests for Obama’s Education…
November 7, 2008
Obama: First Family yet to consider D.C. school options
Where will Malia and Sasha Obama go to school after Inauguration Day? At his first policy address as president-elect, Obama this afternoon said the…
November 3, 2008
Contest update: Brat Pack is not the answer, but we're close!
I've been getting a lot of ideas for what to call the nameless movement personified by Jon Schnur. The good news is that I think the descriptions are getting a lot more precise. The consensus points I see emerging: This set of reformers puts a primacy on data; is obsessive about getting rid of bad teachers, and views the democratic political process as a barrier. They are also young and bratty. We are getting closer, but I do not think we are there yet. I define "there" as the moment at which you the readers have delivered me a single adjective that I can slap before "reformer" without feeling a twinge of remorse. So, please send more entries! As you brainstorm adjectives, the best of the suggestions so far, which I've compiled below and which include superstar entrants including Joel Klein and Diane Ravitch, may help.
October 30, 2008
In ed policy, another New Yorker who could be headed to D.C.
Schnur is the gray-haired man on the right (via Flickr) Jason Horowitz has a story in the Observer this week wondering which New Yorkers could be going to Washington if Barack Obama wins the presidency, as it looks like he might. Here's a name I didn't see on Horowitz's list: Jon Schnur, the cofounder and CEO of the Manhattan-based nonprofit New Leaders for New Schools. Schnur has been taking time off lately to campaign for Obama, work that has included guest-blogging, debating, and meeting with like-minded, education-inclined fundraisers in fancy Manhattan apartments. (I don't have a link for that last one but can testify it did happen at least once; I was there.) Schnur is one of the main players in the quiet battle among Obama's education advisers which I am told is still raging even this close to the election. Schnur is the leader of the mostly younger "entrepreneurial" set who sympathize with the efforts of Teach For America founder Wendy Kopp and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein — and who likely were not too pleased when the leader of the other group, Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond, criticized Teach For America at a recent Teachers College debate where she was speaking on behalf of Obama.
October 27, 2008
Randi signals she isn't afraid of D.C.'s efforts to fire teachers
Over the weekend the Washington Post reported that the national American Federation of Teachers union has been meddling in a D.C. battle over…
October 16, 2008
NYC schools model gets love from both sides at debate
John McCain paid tribute to the New York City schools at last night’s debate, using the system as one of two examples of how…
September 11, 2008
Should teachers trade tenure for extra pay?
Merit pay, also known as performance pay, keeps turning up on the ed blogs and in the news. How do merit pay plans work? And, coming soon, how does the merit pay debate affect New York City schools? The gist of performance pay is that districts offer teachers increased pay on the basis of student achievement and other measures of success, often in return for weakened job security. Plans vary: some reward individual teachers, others reward schools, some are based largely on test scores, some include peer and administrator evaluations, and some offer pay increases for taking on extra responsibilities such as mentoring new teachers, or for teaching in a high-needs school or subject area. A 2007 New York Times article noted teachers' increasing openness to merit pay programs, especially those involving teacher input and collaboration with their unions. Still, the Times pointed out, many teachers in Texas and Florida rejected merit pay plans, citing concerns about divisiveness, unfairness to teachers of high-needs students, and simplistic evaluations. Educators often say they are insulted by the idea that a little extra cash will increase their motivation to help struggling students. Paul Tough has written extensively about teacher pay-for-performance plans on his Schoolhouse Rock blog at Slate. He launched last week with a look at political pressure on Barack Obama to push increased teacher pay but decreased job security, then spent the rest of the week examining existing performance pay programs. Tough summarized Michelle Rhee's proposed salary plan for DC teachers, which would increase salaries across the board, do away with tenure rights, and create an opt-in performance pay program while phasing out the traditional pay scale. Rhee has warned that if teachers reject her plan, she will turn, instead, to tougher evaluations and licensing requirements, making it easier to fire teachers.
September 9, 2008
Calculating the speed of change in New York's schools
Right now, CNN.com is leading with a story about how Michelle Rhee, the upstart superintendent of the Washington, D.C. schools, enacts reform at…
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