A revolution in schools?

A revolution may be occurring in big city schools.  I learned this from Charlie Rose's recent interview of a truly remarkable educator, Michelle Rhee, who has taken on reform of the Washington DC School District with strong backing from Mayor Adrian Fenty.  The mayor has dismissed the school board and is managing the schools directly.  Ms. Rhee seems confident, poised and serene, and indicates she is negotiating a revolutionary new contract with the teachers union to emphasize accountability and merit-pay -- amidst sniping from the usual "community organizers". 

Conservatives tend to favor privatization and school vouchers as proselytized by Milton Friedman, however, Ms. Rhee's reforms may have a chance of success within the political constraints. 

While I encourage you to view the interview, some notable facts that struck me:

1. She notes that legislation just passed to allow her to treat the administrative staff as "at will" employees, meaning they can be hired and fired as needed and consistent with performance.  This implies that previously they effectively had tenure like the teachers.

2. Even though she is effectively CEO of the school district, she does not have power to adjust compensation of the Principals, in order to reward good performance or discipline bad.  Since Principal pay is by law much lower than surrounding districts, she has great difficulty recruiting good principals.

3. There are vast differences in quality of schools within the district depending on the wealth of the local neighborhood -a fact certainly at odds with liberals' usual justification of the public school monopoly. 

4. She is a big advocate of accountability in educational outcomes and is a solidly behind Bush's "No Child Left Behind" legislation.

5. She observes that such necessary reforms would NEVER happen if subject to interference by school-board politics, particularly since many school board members nationwide are elected with the political support of the teachers union.

6. Test scores for the students have ALREADY improved after just one year of her leadership. 

Nonetheless, she treats the unions with dignity and as a partner in the reform enterprise.  It will be very interesting to see how this reform evolves and whether it succeeds.

As a former "community organizer", it will also be interesting to see how Sen. Obama reacts to these DC School District developments as they emerge. 
A revolution may be occurring in big city schools.  I learned this from Charlie Rose's recent interview of a truly remarkable educator, Michelle Rhee, who has taken on reform of the Washington DC School District with strong backing from Mayor Adrian Fenty.  The mayor has dismissed the school board and is managing the schools directly.  Ms. Rhee seems confident, poised and serene, and indicates she is negotiating a revolutionary new contract with the teachers union to emphasize accountability and merit-pay -- amidst sniping from the usual "community organizers". 

Conservatives tend to favor privatization and school vouchers as proselytized by Milton Friedman, however, Ms. Rhee's reforms may have a chance of success within the political constraints. 

While I encourage you to view the interview, some notable facts that struck me:

1. She notes that legislation just passed to allow her to treat the administrative staff as "at will" employees, meaning they can be hired and fired as needed and consistent with performance.  This implies that previously they effectively had tenure like the teachers.

2. Even though she is effectively CEO of the school district, she does not have power to adjust compensation of the Principals, in order to reward good performance or discipline bad.  Since Principal pay is by law much lower than surrounding districts, she has great difficulty recruiting good principals.

3. There are vast differences in quality of schools within the district depending on the wealth of the local neighborhood -a fact certainly at odds with liberals' usual justification of the public school monopoly. 

4. She is a big advocate of accountability in educational outcomes and is a solidly behind Bush's "No Child Left Behind" legislation.

5. She observes that such necessary reforms would NEVER happen if subject to interference by school-board politics, particularly since many school board members nationwide are elected with the political support of the teachers union.

6. Test scores for the students have ALREADY improved after just one year of her leadership. 

Nonetheless, she treats the unions with dignity and as a partner in the reform enterprise.  It will be very interesting to see how this reform evolves and whether it succeeds.

As a former "community organizer", it will also be interesting to see how Sen. Obama reacts to these DC School District developments as they emerge.