Looks like “polarizing edu-celebrity” Michelle Rhee might finally be getting some serious media attention (Frontline: The Education of Michelle Rhee), which would make a nice change. My mom was studying for her NY state teaching degree when I was in high school in the early 1970s; reading books like James Herndon’s How to Survive in Your Native Land left me permanently biased against top-down miracle cures for Our Broken Educational System. Not that anything in the ensuing forty years has offered much of a counter-argument (Is our children learning, Neil Bush?). Or, as Doghouse Riley succinctly expresses it: “Michelle Rhee is not the Lance Armstrong of education — she’s the BALCO of education.”
Per Mr. Pierce at Esquire:
… Rhee’s entire (and very lucrative) career as a proponent of educational “reform” is based on her time as chancellor of the public schools in Washington, D.C. Between 2007 and 2010, she did everything that sends a thrill up the leg of the “reform” community. She bashed teachers, scapegoated principals, and shined up her own armor for public consumption every chance she got. She also instituted a system of standardized testing by which Michelle Rhee would be able to judge the awesome awesomeness of Michelle Rhee.
Standardized testing is a crack cocaine of education. It is rife with problems. It is also a multimillion industry without which might not exist, among other things, The Washington Post. A reliance on standardized testing as a metric for progress is generally a reliable “tell” that “reform” has ended and that the grift has begun. A reliance on standardized testing as a metric for progress — and, it should be said, as a Procrustean scoreboard to judge whether a teacher, an administrator, or a school system are doing their jobs properly — almost guarantees that some finagling with the numbers will take place. It is a sub rosa way to install a corporate model on public education and, since the corporate model for everything in this country right now is a moral and ethical quagmire, it encourages cheating on a massive scale. Hence, the very real possibility that the empire built by Michelle Rhee, tough-talking “reformer,” may be built upon a wilderness of crib sheets…
The current model for education “reform” in this country — a corporate model with transparency problems and severely decreased political accountability — is broken. Handing over “our” schools to hedge-fund managers, and to the people like Michelle Rhee who volunteer as well-remunerated middle managers, privatizes public education without having the basic cojones to admit that it’s happening. This is not the way it’s supposed to work.
I’m looking foward to watching the documentary once PBS posts it online.