StudentsFirst (Michelle Rhee) Releases Policy Agenda

Posted: January 10, 2011 in post
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The StudentsFirst juggernaut launched in December 2010 by Michelle Rhee has just released their “Policy Agenda.” If you don’t care to read the summary, in brief it outlines the three (3) primary goals of StudentsFirst:

1) “Elevate the teaching profession by valuing teachers’ impact on students.”

2) “Empower parents with real choices and real information.”

3) “Shift spending taxpayers’ money to get better results for students.”

The summary continues to outline three (3) or more criteria to support each of the above primary objectives. You will have to view the summary for a full listing of each of those, but I will here comment on the few ideas that I believe will cause the greatest stir. While I support “education reform” and believe that certain reforms are necessary, as somewhat of a federalist, I question whether such reform should be driven and legislated by Washington.

I wonder exactly how “Evaluating teachers based on evidence of student results rather than arbitrary judgments, and separating teacher evaluation from the collective bargaining process” elevates the teaching profession. Human service workers are grossly underpaid. The teaching profession is no exception. Having worked in union positions and non-union positions, I am assured that teachers would suffer financially without unions. In theory, it sounds good to evaluate teachers on the basis of student results, I mean, educating students is what teachers are supposed to be doing, right. Unfortunately, teacher evaluation can not be reduced to a mere numbers game. As Diane Ravitch tweeted yesterday, “…[students] change every year. Schooling is not same as manufacturing cans or widgets.”

“Empowering parents with clear and useful data.” Data are currently available to parents. What new data will be provided and how will it prove useful to parents?

The above statements are those I find most troubling at present. As I have reviewed only a summary, and the summary is painted with broad strokes, it would be unfair to criticize lack of specificity in some of the other areas such as governance structures and dispelling myths about “what works.” In all fairness, the current centralized structure utilized by most districts is antiquated and inefficient at best. Many good ideas for governance reform exist. See William Ouchi for one view.

I applaud anyone who wants to improve our schools and increase student performance, but we must avoid any sort of “one-size fits-all” approach…there is no single formula for success. If there were, districts would be following the formula!

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