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February 14, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo

Today, A Reporter Asked Me What I Thought Of Michelle Rhee. This Is What I Told Him…

A local magazine here in Sacramento is doing a big story on Michelle Rhee who, apart from Governor Jerry Brown, might be Sacramento’s most famous newest resident. Their writer asked if I would be willing to answer a few questions, and we arranged a time to talk. The article won’t come out until late March, and who knows if anything that I said will even make it into print, but I thought readers might be interested in a short summary what I told him when he asked what I thought of the policies she and her allies in the “school reform” movement are promoting.

I responded by saying that I had four main concerns:

1) She seemed primarily interested in doing “to” teachers and families instead of doing “with” them. This lack of willingness to work in partnership and to listen, symbolized by her TIME Magazine cover holding a broom in a classroom, showed a lack of understanding of the basic tenets of power — sharing it with others doesn’t mean you have less; in fact, it means that the pie gets bigger for everybody with the new possibilities that are created.

2) I was very concerned with her focus on using test scores as the most important tool to evaluate teacher and student success. I referenced the discovery last week that the test scores her own students supposedly achieved when she was a teacher were far lower than she had claimed (see The Best Posts About Michelle Rhee’s Exaggerated Test Scores). That doesn’t mean she wasn’t an excellent teacher — she might very have been. It does, however, point out that standardized test scores are easy to misinterpret and are probably not the best evaluation tool for teachers — or for students. At our school, we talk about being data-informed, not being data-driven. Test results are just one of many pieces of information that should be used when we reflect on our work.

3) I didn’t appreciate Ms. Rhee and her allies regularly portraying themselves as the “true” champions of children, while the rest of us were just “defenders of the status quo.” I believe that she and many of her allies truly do want to do what they think is best for children — I just don’t agree with their overall analysis of what needs to be done. That does not mean that I do not have the best interests of my students in my heart and mind everyday. I am wary of anyone, anywhere, in whatever policy or personal arena, feeling like they have a monopoly on the truth.

4) Plenty of research has shown that two-thirds of the factors that influence student achievement occur out of school. I don’t appreciate Ms. Rhee and her allies telling us that when we state that fact, we are just making “excuses.” That doesn’t mean that my colleagues and I don’t do everything within our power to push the boundary of that “one-third” area we can influence, including working with parents to try to combat some of those other factors. But saying that poverty doesn’t have a huge impact on our students doesn’t make it so.

What do you think about what I said?  Am I missing some things?  Might I be “off-base” somewhere?

February 10, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Posts About Michelle Rhee’s Exaggerated Test Scores

The education blogosphere, and parts of the education media, have been abuzz the past couple of days over the discovery that Michelle Rhee’s often-claimed astronomical student test gains when she was a teacher were not true. This, of course, does not mean that Rhee was not a good teacher — for all I know, she was an excellent one (though I have to admit her admission that she taped the mouths shut of her students one day does give one pause).

It can mean, however, a number of other things. And here are my choices for The Best Posts About Michelle Rhee’s Exaggerated Test Scores, which provide some insightful commentary.

I think that the most thoughtful and best piece is by Alexander Russo, Rhee: Reformer’s Growing Credibility Problem.

Michelle Rhee’s early test scores challenged was written by Jay Mathews at the Washington Post.

Jay Mathews’ Lazy Swipe at Michelle Rhee by Rick Hess at Education Week is less noteworthy for Hess’ post than for the comments on it, including one from Mathews.

In the same category is the post up at Rhee’s website — the comments are fascinating.

G.F. Brandenburg’s examination of the data started it all, and he wrote a follow-up.

‘Reformers’ Playing Games With the Truth is written by John Thompson.

And Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post has also written about it.

Rhee faces renewed scrutiny over depiction of students’ progress when she taught is from the Washington Post.

Jay Mathews has an update on how the information was discovered, and links to more support that the new evidence accurate.

Additions are welcome.

If you found this post useful, you might want to consider subscribing to this blog for free.

You might also want to explore the over 600 other “The Best…” lists I’ve compiled.

January 21, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo

More on Rhee’s Move To Sacramento — We’re “Behind The Curve”

Today, the Sacramento Bee ran a fairly extensive front page story on Michelle Rhee’s move here. Headlined Former D.C. schools chief to headquarter new education advocacy lobby in Sacramento, it also discusses her local plans:

Rhee said there are “many local organizations we have talked about working in concert with” and that StudentsFirst likely would partner with Stand Up, another education nonprofit started by Johnson.

As far as Rhee is concerned, there is much work to be done. “Sacramento is probably behind the curve in terms of some of the progressive work being done around the country,” Rhee said.

Her decision to headquarter the organization in Sacramento adds significant weight to the reform movement here, education advocates said.

It’s also a move that could prove beneficial for the mayor. By landing StudentsFirst, the national focus of a controversial debate will be cast on his city.

I can only imagine what her definition of “progressive” might be….

January 20, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo

Michelle Rhee Moves Her Headquarters To…My Neighborhood

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, Michelle Rhee’s fiancée, announced today that she was moving the headquarters of her new organization, StudentsFirst, here to Sacramento.

Lucky us…

I have written quite a bit about Ms. Rhee and her education policies, which I don’t believe are beneficial to teachers, students, or communities.

(Read more about her move in The Washington Post)

December 6, 2010
by Larry Ferlazzo

Michelle Rhee Ups Her Arrogance Level

I have previously posted about the incredible zealotry and arrogance that Michelle Rhee and many other school reformers have shown in portraying their beliefs as being the only legitimate ones for people truly concerned about children (see The Gracelessness Of Michelle Rhee; Just What Our Schools Need — A Second Appalling Manifesto; and/or What A Terrible Video About Parents & Schools With A Terrible Message).

Today, in Newsweek (she was also on Oprah, but I didn’t see it — I assume she communicated a similar message) she upped that arrogance level to new heights. Not only did she portray her new organization as the one true one to “defend and promote the interests of children,” she also did not stop at attacking teacher unions as the primary obstacle to change. No, now she’s also attacking school boards,too:

“…school boards… are beholden to special interests [and] have created a bureaucracy that is focused on the adults instead of the students. Go to any public-school-board meeting in the country and you’ll rarely hear the words “children,” “students,” or “kids” uttered. Instead, the focus remains on what jobs, contracts, and departments are getting which cuts, additions, or changes. The rationale for the decisions mostly rests on which grown-ups will be affected, instead of what will benefit or harm children.”

I don’t know about you, but in my experience the vast majority of  school board members are committed to making schools the best place they can be for children and spend countless volunteer hours focusing on…children.

Rhee’s list of people  she thinks are  most concerned about the needs of children is getting smaller and smaller…

October 9, 2010
by Larry Ferlazzo

“The bankrupt ‘school reform manifesto’ of Rhee, Klein, etc.”

Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post has just published “The bankrupt ‘school reform manifesto’ of Rhee, Klein, etc.”

It’s her commentary on the recent appalling piece authored by several School Superintendents published by the Post (see What Are These Superintendents Thinking?).