September 10, 2010
Journalists often annoyingly inflate events in their own backyards, fallaciously treating the local and provincial as mega-trends and national harbingers. Those of us who practice political journalism in Washington, D.C., have been somewhat immune from this tendency. Our city government, with the still-looming figure of a former crackhead mayor and the not-very-distant memory of a federally imposed control board, is way too sui generis for that. But for once, Washington has emerged as an urban vanguard—a home to bold and laudable reform.
The Education Gap Is Not A Race War
August 27, 2010
Washington D.C. is running one of the most agressive experiments in public school reform in the country under its school chacellor, Michelle Rhee. Unfortunately for Rhee, she also happens to have a fairly contentious relationship with Bill Turque, the Washington Post's education reporter. And in today's paper, Turque reports the alarming news that the black-white achievement gap is growing: After two years of progress, Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's effort to narrow the vast achievement gap separating white and African American students in D.C.
August 12, 2010
Liberal anger with the Obama administration generally takes the form of disappointment that his agenda hasn’t gone far enough. The exception is the teachers’ unions and their allies, who are furious precisely because Obama has gone too far. The president of the National Education Association laments “the most antieducator, anti-union, anti-student environment” he has ever seen.
Last week, D.C. public schools chancellor Michelle Rhee announced that she had fired 241 teachers, including 165 who received low ratings under the District’s new teacher evaluation system, called IMPACT. As I wrote on Friday, the firings represent a big step for education reform. Teacher evaluations across the country are badly constructed and executed, as are the processes used to remove bad teachers. D.C. is leading the way in improving both. But this story runs deeper.
A Big Day for Education Reform (and Michelle Rhee)
July 23, 2010
The Washington, D.C. public school system announced today that it is laying off 241 teachers—roughly 6 percent of its staff—due to poor classroom performance. These are the first such dismissals since the implementation of the IMPACT teacher evaluation system, and they come on the heels of a hard-won contract between the District and its teachers’ union.
Innovative Ideas, Meet Hackneyed Battle Lines
November 05, 2009
The day before President Obama spoke in Madison, Wisconsin, about the pressing need to improve America's teachers, a report was released on the same topic at a conference in Washington's swanky Capitol Hilton. The task force that wrote the report was chaired by Minnesota Governor (and rumored 2012 presidential candidate) Tim Pawlenty and included such education policy heavyweights as New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee.
Is Michelle Rhee Breaking the Law?
October 30, 2009
DC Public Schools Commissioner Michelle Rhee is the closest thing the education world has to a celebrity. (Education Next recently photoshoped an image of Rhee in medieval armor, under the heading "DC's Braveheart") Her take-no-prisoners approach to education reform, sometimes at the expense of tenured teachers, has won her much attention nationally--and many enemies here in the District.
December 24, 2008
In November, Barack Obama bewildered education reformers by tapping Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford professor who had advised his campaign, to oversee the transition's education policy team. Their verdict was swift and harsh. "Worst case scenario," wrote Mike Petrilli, vice president for national programs and policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education think tank, the day after The Wall Street Journal leaked the news. "This is a sign that the president-elect isn't a bona fide reformer," he later told me.
Should The Obama Kids Go To Public School?
November 13, 2008
Today's NYT has a thorough story about Michelle Rhee and her efforts to reform D.C.'s supremely screwed up public school system--efforts that, since they involve abolishing tenure, are being fought tooth and nail by the teacher's union. Basically, Rhee is the best thing to happen to the public school system in the District since, well, maybe ever. And if she pulls it off, D.C.'s public school system might actually serve as a model for other public school systems across the country--which, if you know much about D.C.