Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Rhee: Uncompromising

Kudos as well to Michelle Rhee for standing strong and refusing to kowtow to the politically correct idiocy that all teachers are wonderful, and that pointing out that some teachers are terrible (or worse) is an attack on all teachers:

Late last week I had an interesting telephone conversation with D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee. She called with a comment on a post in which I suggested she be more careful of her public words--like her statement that some of the teachers she fired hit or had sex with kids--in order to make sure she stays in her job and applies her considerable skills and knowledge to fixing our failing school system.

I suggested she apologize for offending teachers with her words so that we could get past this point and back to helping kids.

She said, in essence, that she is not going to do that. She said she wished that the Fast Company magazine item that sparked the controversy had included her statement that many of the teachers she had to fire for budget reasons were good people. But, she said, she was not going to compromise her methods or her beliefs. Some teachers did hit kids and have sex with kids, she said. She thought that was something people should know. It was important to root out such behaviors.

She had taken the chancellor job, which she did not seek, with the understanding she would do things her way. She had seen many big city superintendents do the more conventional thing, watch their words and try not to offend. She thinks that approach has not been successful.

"I'm going to take a route that has not been tried before," she said. "I'm not going to try to please people so I can stay here a little longer." She is going to do what she thinks has to be done, she said, and accept the consequences.

Yesterday I emailed her to ask if she is also unmoved by her falling public favorability numbers, as reported Monday in the Post. That's right, she said. "Paying attention to polls would mean less attention to kids and schools."

She thinks her approach will work. She thinks she will be able to raise achievement substantially before she goes. "But can I guarantee that?" she said. "Absolutely not. Do I believe we'll do it? Absolutely."


Rhee: Uncompromising

Jay Mathews

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