April 21, 2013

Hey, Michelle Rhee, I Want Answers!

Hey, Michelle Rhee, I've just about had it with your ill-conceived, unfounded, poorly-researched rhetoric, which the likes of CNN, Time Magazine and many other opportunistic media are all to happy to promote.

You are the former chancellor of Washington D.C. Schools. You demand 50K for public appearances, and you like to call yourself an education reformer. Yet, in my humble opinion, you are one of education's biggest enemies, and you owe teachers and children nationwide some answers.

Michelle, you vilify public school education, in general, and teachers, in particular. You rave about standards and accountability, when your own service record is spotty, at best, and detestable, at worst. Let's not forget that you are a Harvard graduate whose training is in policy-making -- not in education.

It's time for answers

Rather than dealing with bureaucrats, magazine reporters and news broadcasters, who know little if anything about effective teaching practices, Michelle, I want you to answer to someone who has researched and written about best practices in education for many years.

I want you, Michelle Rhee, to defend your quests to eliminate teacher tenure, while championing test scores as a way to measure teacher effectiveness. And, Michelle, I want you to stop making excuses for your past and tell the truth. Stop blaming hidden test results for your failings in D.C. Stop making unproven allegations about the so-called bad teachers you fired. Stop bringing up mythical foundations that can fund outlandish teacher raises.

Most of all, Michelle Rhee, stop telling America how poor our test results are, without explaining that we test in ways that no one else in the world tests. Instead, why not let America know that if we remove the disabled and the poor -- students who have far bigger problems than bubbling in A, B, C or D -- our scores suddenly soar to Number 1 in the world? Why don't you put your Harvard degree and corporate money behind solving the real problems that our children face daily? Is it because blaming teachers is just easier? Is it because you simply don't comprehend the gravity of these issues?

What do you want?

So, Michelle, what do you really want? From where I sit, it looks like you want your face on magazines and on TV. It looks like you want to fly around the country (first class only), looking much more like a politician than an education reformer. It looks like you want to make a lot of money -- hundreds of thousands a year in salary and fifty-thousand-dollar appearance fees. It looks like you want to bash teachers. It looks like you aspire to public office -- maybe even president one day.

Sadly, it doesn't appear that you want to improve education or to help kids.

So, Michelle, I suggest that you change your agenda. It's clear that you are a powerful voice. People are listening. In the long run, though, what real change will you make? Will you get hard-working public servants fired? Will you take money from public schools by sending their students to private schools? Will you make sure that kids hate learning by having them tested into oblivion? Will you have teachers evaluated, based on how students with autism, mental retardation and emotional disturbances perform on a standardized test?

Look in the mirror

Michelle, will you, 30 years from now, be able to look into the mirror and say, "I made the world a better place for children."

Or will you sit alone atop piles of money, knowing that, in spite of your high profile, your money and your Harvard degree, you didn't do a single thing to solve the real problems children face and that you alienated America's most important public servants?

I want answers, Michelle Rhee. Are you prepared to give them?


Don't miss Mark's book ROLE Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom, now available in the ASCD store, Barnes & Noble and at Amazon.com