Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Michelle Rhee’s miseducation…

Michelle A. Rhee is an american educator who was the former chancellor of Washington D.C.’s public schools. Her academic pedigree looks like this: Michelle graduated from Cornell University with a B.A. in government. She also received a Masters in public policy from Harvard’s prestigious John F. Kennedy school of government. 

Shortly after these accomplishments, she was assigned to under-performing schools in Baltimore, Maryland; then she went to Harlem, New York’s Park Elementary school. 

Now Michelle fancied herself, or was sold to the public as a bit of a revolutionary. She was the face of over-achievement and higher standards for all students, and she was going to single-handedly reform the D.C. schools and the swarthy populous that attended them. At least again, this was the bill of goods sold to the public. 

Unable to bridge the cultural gaps between her and her students, Michelle said the pressures of teaching those first years made her literally break out in hives. One method she thought might work to control a group of students, was putting masking tape on their mouths so they could be quiet on their way to the lunch room. As she peeled the pieces of tape off these eight year olds, they began crying out in pain. At one point Michelle says she had “Thirty-five kids who were crying.” So much for the Harvard education. 

After this fiasco, she took a teaching course and got her official teacher’s certification. She then returned to Harlem’s Park Elementary. The grades of students in Rhee’s class dropped significantly after her return. Average math percentiles fell from 64% to 17%; while the reading scores dropped from 37% to 21%.

In her second and third years of teaching, Rhee’s students made a slight improvement in overall test scores, but those scores were contested by a retired math teacher as being less than half of what she originally stated. 

In 1997 Rhee founded ‘The New Teacher Project’ that supplied the D.C. area with 23,000 mid-career professionals wanting to be teachers. It was instrumental in re-designing the D.C. schools recruitment and hiring process. 

After this, Rhee was offered the chancellor’s job for the D.C.’s school districts. Mind you, she had no experience running a school system and was never even a principal. Other teachers and education officials thought there were more qualified people for the job.  

Rhee inherited a failing school system where students were performing below the averages of state standardized tests. So what did Rhee do? She closed 23 schools, fired 36 principals, and cut 121 office jobs. Way to go! When asked why she made these cuts, the stated reasons were under-enrollment and various school complex’s ‘excessive square footage’. What?

Rhee also renegotiated teacher’s salaries saying they’d have a chance to make upwards of $140,000 a year, provided they met her requirements for ‘student achievement’. You know…the kind she failed to produce in her classrooms. The biggest caveat would be these teachers loss of tenure rights or their smaller pay raises with tenure rights retained. 

After the contracts were finalized, Rhee fired 241 teachers and put 737 more school employees on notice for termination. 

Now I’ve said all that to say this; Rhee had no intentions of helping these failing schools. She was sent to eviscerate them. 

There’s been wide spread criticism of her actions, and rightfully so. But americans need to wake up to a reality that many of us don’t want to face. America has always loved cheap labor. So there must always be a ready-made segment of this country to fill that void. And guess where they’re slated to come from…you got it, poor neighborhoods and under-performing schools. That’s the reason these schools stay over-crowded and under-funded. For this country to be ‘one of the richest’ in the world, our oligarchs feel that not everyone should have access to a quality education; these people NEED to be exploitable. And like Sam Jackson said in ‘Do the right thing’…that’s the truth, Ruth. 

Now, while looking up this woman’s history I found an interesting stat; it said that D.C. schools were performing poorly despite having the advantage of the third highest rates of spending per student in the U.S. This stat was provided by Reuters on May 24th, 2007. It also stated that D.C. spends $8,701 per student on average. Here’s the problem, there’s no break down on how much of that goes to ‘urban’ and ‘suburban’ schools. 

One stat I looked up said on average in N.Y.C., which has the largest urban public school system in this country, operating expenses per student were $4,351. Which is $1-$2,000 less than its ‘suburban’ counter-parts; like Westchester which spends $6,605, Nassau county which spends $6,539, Rockland county which spends $6,189, and Suffolk county which spends $5,852.

Now which students, urban or suburban, do you think this government’s slated for its ‘cheap labor’ work force?

Hotep (Peace)

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