Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rhee-ism without Rhee?

Is D.C. mayor-elect Vincent Gray strong enough to follow the mandate of those who elected him and break with Michelle Rhee's destructive approach to school reform? He knows it's the right thing to do and has been openly critical of Rhee's testing madness, her one-sided emphasis on the classroom teacher,  and her divisive anti-unionism. But it would mean risking the ire of Arne Duncan and the power philanthropists, whose largesse keeps the district financially afloat. 

Gray's appointment of deputy chancellor, Kaya Henderson, as interim chancellor is an indication that he isn't ready right now to stand up to the corporate reformers. Henderson is a Rhee acolyte who has vowed to continue the emphasis on mass teacher firings, privately-managed charter schools and standardized testing. Like Rhee, Henderson believes that poverty and racial inequities are just excuses for low test scores.
At an August meeting of school principals, Henderson offered a football-coach-style motivational talk, reinforcing Rhee's core message: that poverty and other conditions outside the classroom are not an excuse for poor academic achievement. (WaPo)
It's possible that Gray simply needs time to let the Waiting for Superman mania subside a bit, let the mid-term elections pass and consolidate his own political allies before making a clean break with Rhee-ism. Let's hope. 

* Also see Valerie Strauss' post at today's Answer Sheet, "What D.C. schools need now: A departure from Rheeism."

1 comment:

  1. Could it be that Gray needs to hang on to Henderson long enough to ensure that all that Gates and Broad money that's been poured into teacher salaries doesn't disappear? I'm actually curious that no one has mentioned that. I don't know what kind of backroom dealing has already occurred, but Gates and Broad were both pretty specific that if things don't continue in the same direction that Rhee started, they'd pull their money.

    Or did I miss a memo somewhere?


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