She must be doing something right

Michelle Rhee, the new chancellor running the District of Columbia Public Schools system has gotten a long write up in Time magazine. Here is just a small sample-

Her appointment stunned the city. Rhee, then 37, had no experience running a school, let alone a district with 46,000 students that ranks last in math among 11 urban school systems. When [Mayor Adrian] Fenty called her, she was running a nonprofit called the New Teacher Project, which helps schools recruit good teachers. Most problematic of all, Rhee is not from Washington. She is from Ohio, and she is Korean American in a majority-African-American city. “I was,” she says now, “the worst pick on the face of the earth.”

Read the Time article in full to see what Rhee is trying to do in order to overhaul the broken down DC public school system.

Ms. Rhee has also been the subject of other media articles. Including Newsweek

That is not to say that Rhee is relaxed. She says she wakes up every morning with a “knot in my stomach,” and that she is “angry,” though “angry in a good way.” She is angry at a system of education that puts “the interests of adults” over the “interests of children,” i.e., a system that values job protection for teachers over their effectiveness in the classroom. Rhee is trying to change that system. In a way that few realistic observers thought was possible, she has a chance to succeed, not just in Washington, but also around the country. She is entering into a struggle with the local teachers union that will test whether an urban school district can weed out its weak teachers–a profound threat to politically powerful teachers unions nationwide.Rhee.jpg


Rhee’s toughest fight, by far, is coming up. She has proposed a new contract for the union that would undermine tenure, the teachers union holy of holies. The carrot is money. By tapping Mayor Fenty and private philanthropists, she is hoping to make D.C. teachers the best-paid in the country. Current teachers would actually have a choice. If they are willing to go on “probation” for a year–giving up their job security–and can successfully prove their talent, they can earn more than $100,000 a year and as much as $130,000, a huge salary for a teacher, after five years. If not, they still get a generous 28 percent raise over five years and keep their tenure. (All new teachers must sign up for the first option and go on probation for four years.) Rhee predicts that about half the teachers will choose to take their chances on accountability for higher pay, and that within five years the rest will follow, giving up tenure for the shot at merit pay hikes.Michelle has definitely angered schoolteachers. One non-DC area schoolteacher says she is worse than Hitler. Chancellor Rhee must be doing something right to earn that kind of stupidity from a member of the education profession.

Here is one interesting approach Michelle has taken to motivate students-

One of the most controversial programs Rhee has introduced is a joint venture between D.C. schools and Harvard that pays middle school students cash — up to $100 a month — for good behavior and attendance.

Rhee says such pilot programs have worked in other cities. She says the District’s students have far too many bad incentives on the streets, from hustling to drug dealing, and need something to keep them focused.

“We’re preparing them to understand that if you do the right thing, then good things will happen to you,” Rhee said.

My parents used to reward me for good grades, at the same time I’d get punished for bad. That happened in level of school I attended but the 6th grade. I did terribly that year, but nothing happened. Rumor has it my mother got into a argument with my teacher at Winged Street that year, Mr. Hecht, or he made a pass at Mom. One or the other.

Michelle Rhee faces a daunting task in Washington DC. We should all wish her good luck.

Hat tips to- Andy Jackson at Marmot’s Hole and GI at ROK Drop

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