Wednesday, June 09, 2010

In D.C., school reform is working

Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, was once a skeptic of mayoral control in DC, but after seeing the successful under Fenty and Rhee, is now a supporter:

Almost four years ago on this page, I expressed reservations about whether mayoral control was the best way to improve the D.C. Public Schools and whether D.C. residents, already deprived of a vote in Congress, would feel further disenfranchised if they had to give up the right to elect school board members [op-ed, Nov. 26, 2006]. To this day, I remain an advocate for elected school boards, and I resist the tendency to automatically view mayoral control as the panacea for what ails urban schools. In more than 30 years of working with big-city school districts, I have seen mayoral control produce good results, but not in all cities. I have seen traditional governance models work in some school systems, but not in others. I have concluded that governance changes in big-city school systems mean little on their own. They appear to work when the change in governance allows school leaders to address underlying instructional problems faster or to make structural changes that lead directly to better teaching.

That is what we appear to be witnessing in the D.C. Public Schools, confounding the initial skeptics, including me.

When Adrian Fenty became mayor, it was not clear that he had a well-defined vision for education reform. It was, however, evident that he understood someone needed to end the tug of war over schools that had historically resulted in the D.C. educational system going nowhere. Fenty had the good fortune of having had Michelle Rhee recommended to him as someone with the toughness and foresight to shake up the system.

As chancellor, Rhee has become a controversial figure for reasons that are partly of her own making. But it should not be under serious dispute that she has made a positive difference for D.C. children.


In D.C., school reform is working

By Michael Casserly
Friday, May 21, 2010; A19 

 Subscribe in a reader