Archives for category: Rhee, Michelle

Do you remember General Tata?

After a career in the military, retired Brigadier General Anthony Tata entered the Broad Academy in 2009, launching a new career. He was soon hired as Chief Operating Officer of the District of Columbia Public Schools, when Michelle Rhee was chancellor. Then on to become Superintendent of Schools in Wake County, North Carolina, where a new school board hired him to dismantle one of the nation’s most successfully integrated districts. He managed to alienate and offend enough people so that the board that hired him was soon swept out by voters.

Mike Klonsky picks up the story of General Tata’s career post-education. As a noted Islamophobe and Trumper, he soon caught the eye of Trump recruiters and is in line for a powerful position in the Defense Department.

Klonsky writes:

FAST FORWARD…So quite naturally, who should pop up yesterday as Trump’s proposed appointee to the third-highest post in the Pentagon? None other than Brig. Gen. Tata himself. The job includes managing policy decisions on everything from Afghanistan and the Middle East to China, North Korea, and Russia, as well as artificial intelligence, hypersonic weapons, and more.

Tata would succeed John Rood, who was ousted as undersecretary for policy in February after being viewed as insufficiently loyal to Trump. He could even be next in the line if the secretary of defense and the deputy resigned or were removed.

Only this time, the recommendation caused the shit to hit the fan.

Among his notorious remarks: He called President Obama “a terrorist leader.”

Another notable citizen-rightwing nut job for this itinerant administration.

In thinking back over the past decade, Peter Greene realized that Michelle Rhee was one of its defining figures.

For a time, she was everywhere. The media loved her stern and angry visage. She graced the cover of TIME and NEWSWEEK. She appeared on the Oprah show, NBC’s Education Nation, “Waiting for Superman.” And then she was gone.

For years, she was the face of the “reform” movement, a crusader set on busting unions, firing teachers and principals, and leading the way to nirvana. At one point, she boldly predicted that she would turn the public schools of D.C. into the best in the nation. After Mayor Adrian Fenty lost his race in 2010, Rhee stepped down as chancellor of the D.C.schools and launched StudentsFirst, which was anti-union, pro-testing, pro-Charter, and pro-voucher. Then it disappeared, never having raised the $1 billion she predicted.

Now the face of that same movement is Betsy DeVos, and the media doesn’t love her the way they loved Rhee, even though their goals are identical.

Like many of the big names in education disruption in the oughts, Rhee skated on sheer chutzpah. There was no good reason for her to believe that she knew what the heck she was doing, but she was by-God certain that her outsider “expertise” was right and that all she needed to create success was the unbridled freedom to exert her will.

And in 2010, it was working. The media loved her and, more significantly, treated her like a go-to authority on all educational issues. They fell all over themselves to grab the privilege of printing the next glowing description of the empress’s newest clothes. She was more than once packaged as the pro-reform counterpart of Diane Ravitch (though one thing that Rhee carefully and consistently avoided was any sort of head to head debate with actual education experts).

For the first part of the decade, it kept working. Students First became a powerhouse lobbying group, pushing hard for the end of teacher job protections. She was in 2011’s reform agitprop film Waiting for Superman. LinkedIN dubbed her an expert influencer. She spoke out in favor of Common Core and related testing. A breathless and loving bio was published about her in 2011; in 2013 she published a book of her own. She had successfully parleyed her DC job into a national platform.

2014 seemed like peak Rhee. I actually decided to stop mentioning her by name; I felt guilty about increasing her already-prodigious footprint. She seemed unstoppable, and yet by 2014 we knew that the TFA miracle classrooms, the DC miracle, the TNTP boondoggle, the StudentsFirst failures (far short of 1 million or $1 billion). Rhee was the Kim Kardashian of ed reform, the popular spokesmodel who did not have one actual success to her name. She was increasingly dogged by her controversies.

And then, in the fall of 2014, Michelle Rhee simply evaporated from the ed scene.

Greene traces the trajectory of her rise and fall in this post. What a spectacular rise it was, what an inglorious fall.

The parade has passed by, and she is no longer its leader. She is not even in it.

Since 2007, when the flamboyant Disrupter Michelle Rhee took charge of the schools of D.C. with an unlimited grant of power—no checks, no balances, no constraints—the cheerleaders for Disruption (aka “Reform”) have made bold claims about the D.C. “miracle.” This despite a major cheating scandal that Rhee swept under the rug and despite a graduation rate scandal that followed a nonsensical, false  claim by a high school that 100% of its students graduated.

Now this.

Blogger Valerie Jablow reports that the D.C. public schools face a major crisis of teacher attrition. 

In the wake of years of testimony about horrific treatment of DC teachers, SBOE last year commissioned a study by DC schools expert Mary Levy, which showed terrible attrition of teachers at our publicly funded schools, dwarfing attrition rates nationally.

An update to that 2018 study was just made available by SBOE and will be discussed at the meeting this week.

The update shows that while DCPS teacher and principal attrition rates have dropped slightly recently, they remain very high, with 70% of teachers leaving entirely by the 5-year mark (p. 32). Retention rates for DC’s charter schools are similar to those at DCPS–with the caveat that not only are they self-reported, but they are also not as complete and likely contain errors.

Perhaps the most stunning data point is that more than half of DCPS teachers leaving after 6 years are highly rated (p. 24). This suggests that the exodus of teachers from DC’s publicly funded schools is not merely a matter of weeding out poor performers (as DCPS’s response after p. 70 of this report suggests). Rather, it gives data credence to the terrifying possibility that good teachers are being relentlessly harassed until they give up and leave.

Sadly, that conclusion is the only one that makes sense to me, given that most of my kids’ teachers in my 14 years as a DCPS parent have left their schools–with only a few retiring after many years of service. Most of my kids’ teachers were both competent and caring. Perhaps not coincidentally, they almost always also lacked basic supplies that they ended up buying with their own money; were pressured to teach to tests that would be the basis of their and their principals’ evaluations; and feared reprisal for saying any of that.

(I’m hardly alone in that observation–read some teacher testimony for the SBOE meeting here, including that of a special education teacher, who notes that overwork with caseloads; lack of supplies; and increased class sizes for kids with disabilities are recurring factors at her school that directly lead to teacher burnout.)

In other words, high teacher attrition in DC’s publicly funded schools isn’t a bug but a feature.

 

Tom Ultican has written a series of posts about the Destroy Public Education Movement.

His latest post analyzes the nefarious role of TNTP in that movement.

This movement exists solely to disrupt public education and the teaching profession.

TNTP is one of several organizations that only exist because billionaires have financed them. Wendy Kopp founded TNTP (originally called The New Teachers Project) in 1997. She assigned Michelle Rhee, who had recently finished a two year Teach For America (TFA) tour, to run TNTP. Along with TNTP and TFA there are also the uncertified Broad Superintendents Academy, the fake schoolfor professional educators, Relay Graduate School and others forming a significant part of the infrastructure instilling a privatization mindset into the education community.

TNTP says it mission is to partner with educational entities to:

  • “Increase the numbers of outstanding individuals who become public school teachers; and
  • “Create environments for all educators that maximize their impact on student achievement”

These are laudable goals but why would any school district or state education department turn to an organization with minimal academic background and experience to train teachers and school leaders? Michelle Rhee earned a B.A. in Government from Cornell and a master’s in public policy from Harvard with no education studies. In the Book Chronicle of Echoes, Mercedes Schneider observes that “Wendy Kopp was a child of privilege”. She left her exclusive Highland Park neighborhood in Dallas to study International Affairs at Princeton. Kopp had no education experience or training and Rhee had five weeks of training to go along with two years experience teaching elementary school in Baltimore…

Before the billionaire driven push to privatize public education a “non-profit” company like TNTP would have gotten no consideration for training teachers because they were unqualified. If policy makers in New York wanted to create and alternative teacher certification path, they would have turned to an established institution like Columbia University’s Teachers College to create and manage the program. If Washington DC schools wanted to develop a teacher professional development program, they would have likely looked to the University of Maryland. These are places with more than a century of experience studying education and training its leaders…

Working for these want-to-be oligarchs is lucrative. The last tax return from TNTP (Sep. 2017) listed the top 12 paid employees and all of them made more than $200,000 per year. “Thirty pieces of silver” is not worth undermining democratic rights and free universal public education.

 

Gary Rubinstein has a keen eye for teacher-bashing disguised as research.

In this post, he takes apart a new paper from Michelle Rhee’s old outfit TNTP, which blames teachers for “low expectations.”

He begins:

Before Michelle Rhee was a board member for Miracle-Gro she was the founder and CEO of StudentsFirst.  Before that, she was Chancellor of Washington D.C. schools from 2007 to 2010.  Before that, she was the CEO of The New Teacher Project.

And even though Rhee is not a public figure anymore in education, she continues to influence education policy through The New Teacher Project which has since changed its name to TNTP.  TNTP puts out slick papers that it calls research but is really propaganda disguised as research.  Their first one was called ‘The Widget Effect’ which laid out the case for replacing salary schedules with a system based on merit pay based on statistically inappropriate analysis of standardized test scores.

And over the years they have put out other papers with clever titles like ‘The Irreplaceables’, ‘Rebalancing Teacher Tenure’, and ‘Teacher Evaluation 2.0.’  These papers are often quoted by ed reform propaganda sites like The74 and Education Post.

One of their most recent papers is called ‘The Opportunity Myth.’  Its central thesis is something that reformers love to use in their teacher bashing arguments, which is that too many teachers shortchange their students by having low expectations for them.  The work they assign is not challenging enough and since students always rise to the challenge of whatever you assign to them, these teachers are negligent in their duties.

 

G.F. Brandenburg cannot understand the Washington Post editorial writer Jo-Anne Armao. When Michelle Rhee started her job as chancellor of the D.C. schools in 2007, Armao interviewed her and decided that she was the greatest educator ever. Nothing that has happened in the past dozen years has changed her views. To this day, she still writes lovingly, respectfully about the Miracle that was Michelle Rhee. All her initiatives have failed. A huge cheating scandal was covered up and forgotten. Charter scandals have come and gone. A high school boasted of its 100% graduation rate, but it was a fake.

No matter. The Washington Post editorial board has Rhee’s back, almost a decade after she left.

For a fun trip down memory lane, read the comments on the John Merrow post from 2013 that is included.

 

Bob Braun was an investigative reporter for the New Jersey Star Ledger for many years. After he retired, he began blogging and is a reliable source for exposes of the inner workings of the state and the city of Newark.

Read this one. 

Braun tells the story of the Newark public schools, with accounts of back-scratching, lavish contracts that produced nothing, well-paid consultants and a revolving door of officials. You will encounter familiar names. Chris Christie. Cami Anderson. Chris Cerf. Michelle Rhee. TNTP (The New Teacher Project.) It feels like a rerun of a very bad movie, the one where the bad guys take the money and run and they don’t get caught.

Lots of money for everyone.

And what about the children? Oh.

The high-tech learning “platform” called Summit has been controversial, but nowhere more than in Brooklyn, where high school students walked out of school to protest the amount of time they spend online.

Susan Edelman writes in the New York Post:

Brooklyn teens are protesting their high school’s adoption of an online program spawned by Facebook, saying it forces them to stare at computers for hours and “teach ourselves.”

Nearly 100 students walked out of classes at the Secondary School for Journalism in Park Slope last week in revolt against “Summit Learning,” a web-based curriculum designed by Facebook engineers, and bankrolled by CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan.

It’s annoying to just sit there staring at one screen for so long,” said freshman Mitchel Storman, 14, who spends close to five hours a day on Summit classes in algebra, biology, English, world history, and physics. “You have to teach yourself.”

Listen to the students. They make more sense than the adults. Not always

Summit stresses “personalized learning” and “self-direction.” Students work at their own pace. Teachers “facilitate.” Each kid is supposed to get 10 to 15 minutes of one-on-one “mentoring” each week.

Mitchel said his teachers sometimes give brief lessons, but then students have to work on laptops connected to the Internet.

“The distractions are very tempting,” he said. “I have seen lots of students playing games instead of working.”

Kids can re-take tests until they pass — and look up the answers, he added: “Students can easily cheat on quizzes since they can just copy and paste the question into Google.”

Listen to the students.

Students protested at Sacramento Charter High School, operated by St. Hope’s Charter chain, led by former mayor Kevin Johnson and his wife Michelle Rhee. They were angry about Teacher firings over the summer and arbitrary rules, like requiring students to wear long pants when the temperature reached 100.

Charter operators can’t push high school students around as easily as little kids.

Here’s some history about Sacramento Charter High School.

“Founded in 1856, Sacramento High School moved several times. In 1922, construction began at its current location on 34th Street. It opened at this location in 1924 and continuously served the growing neighborhoods of Downtown Sacramento, Midtown, East Sacramento, River Park, College Greens, Tahoe Park and Oak Park until 2003.

“The school was closed by the SCUSD School Board in June 2003, over the objections of many students, parents and teachers. The new charter high school, which opened in September 2003, kept the same school colors, purple and white, and the dragon mascot but not the Visual and Performing Arts Center (VAPAC) which had been one of the school’s unique features for many years. Sacramento Charter High School is governed by a private Board of Directors from St. Hope Public Schools.”

Michelle Rhee always boasted about how many teachers she fired. She was sure that “bad teachers” were the root of the low academic performance in D.C. She loved her IMPACT program, which weeded out teachers, and many good teachers were fired and went elsewhere, where they were not ineffective.

Here is one teacher who fought back and won. It took nine long years, but he won. Michelle Rhee ruined his life.

For nine years, Jeff Canady lived in a cash-strapped limbo. The D.C. Public Schools teacher was fired in 2009 after 18 years in city classrooms, the school system deeming him ineffective.

Canady, 53, contested his dismissal, arguing that he was wrongly fired and that the city was punishing him for being a union activist and for publicly criticizing the school system.

For nearly a decade, Canady, jobless and penniless, waited for a decision in his case — until now.

Earlier this month, an arbitrator ruled in favor of the fired teacher, a decision that could entitle him to hundreds of thousands of dollars in back pay and the opportunity to be a District teacher again. The school system can appeal the ruling, which was made by an arbitrator from the American Arbitration Association, a nonprofit organization that settles disputes outside of court.

“I’ve been a hostage for nine years,” Canady said. “And the District wants to keep it that way.”

School system spokesman Shayne Wells said DCPS “just received the arbitrator’s decision and is in the process of reviewing it.”

Elizabeth Davis, president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, said Canady isn’t the only one fighting to get his job back. Other educators who were fired years ago and allege unjust dismissals are waiting for their cases to be settled with the school system.

Canady was one of nearly 1,000 educators fired during the 3½ -year tenure of Michelle Rhee — the controversial former D.C. schools chancellor who clashed with the union and instituted a teacher evaluation system that dictated teachers’ job security and ­bonuses. About 200 of those teachers lost their jobs because of poor performance, 266 were laid off amid a 2009 budget squeeze and the rest failed to complete new-employee probation or did not have licensing required under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

The union, which had assailed Rhee’s evaluation system, filed a series of grievances in a bid to salvage the lost jobs.

In 2016, a teacher won a case against the school system after claiming he was wrongly fired in 2011 for a low score on Rhee’s evaluation system, known as ­IMPACT. The educator won on procedural grounds and the arbitrator’s decision did not address IMPACT, but the union still hailed it as a victory in its battle over the teacher evaluation system.

“We are certain that there are still a number of cases pending, unresolved, which were first filed during Michelle Rhee’s tenure as chancellor,” Davis said in an email.

Canady was a third-grade teacher earning about $80,000 a year when he was fired in 2009 from Emery Elementary, a school in the Eckington neighborhood that later closed. The school system, according to the arbitrator’s decision, said Canady scored low on an evaluation system that preceded IMPACT.

But Canady and the teachers union argued that his third-graders performed well and that he had previously posted strong scores on his evaluations. They said they suspected his low score was linked to his public criticism of the school system and not to his performance in the classroom. They also argued that the city did not follow proper protocol when evaluating him.

In defending its action, the school system claimed that the union had included Canady’s case as part of a larger class action complaint and had waited years to proceed with his case individually. By that point, the school system said it no longer had documents or email exchanges in the case.

Davis said she could not discuss specifics of the class action filing because parts of it are ongoing.

The arbitrator said the school system was responsible for many of the delays in the case. The ruling also said D.C. schools improperly evaluated Canady and showed “anti-union animus toward him.”

Canady said in an interview last week that he was confident he would prevail and that he had a moral imperative to keep fighting.

He said that he had ambitions to be a top official in the school system and that his firing stymied career opportunities. He imagines that by now, his salary would be substantially higher than $80,000 had he not lost his job.

“I’ve been fighting for justice for people for years,” Canady said. “Surely if I am going to fight for others, I am going to fight for myself.”

Canady remained in the District and continues to attend political and community meetings but has not held a steady job. With no income, he has moved around the city frequently and said his firing has extracted a physical and emotional toll and “devastated relationships.”

Even if the arbitrator’s decision holds, he said he is unsure if he will return to the classroom. He said he still disagrees with how the District operates its schools.

“I love teaching where they are actually trying to help people,” he said. “And I’ll do it at the appropriate time and in the appropriate situation.”

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