After Michelle Rhee was named the Chancellor of Washington D.C. public schools by Mayor Adrian Fenty in 2007, she began a complete overhaul of D.C.’s educational system.
Rhee began this task with the full backing of Fenty, and her vision could not have come sooner to a school district that is one of the nation’s worst.
In just over three years, Rhee has managed to close schools that weren’t performing well, expand charter schools that were, raise students’ test scores, breathe new life into special education, renovate the teacher evaluations process and place an emphasis on paying teachers for their performance.
However, the future of D.C. public schools hangs in the balance with City Councilman Vincent Gray’s recent win in the Democratic mayoral primary, defeating Fenty.
Rhee’s biggest supporter will be out of office come November, and all eyes are watching to see if Rhee will stay appointed as chancellor.
The Washington Teachers’ Union, Rhee’s biggest opposition, backed Gray, and some argue that he will have to appease their wishes in order to stay in power.
The teachers’ union vehemently opposes performance pay for its teachers, citing that tenure prevents arbitrary firing for political or religious reasons.
Rhee has stated before that tenure “has no educational value for kids. It only benefits adults.” She suggested a contract in which teachers could give up tenure in exchange for increased salaries based on performance.
The teachers’ union refused to vote on the issue.
Gray also has the support of many black voters who feel that Rhee is ignoring the importance of community involvement in school by firing veteran, although horribly underperforming, teachers.
After their private meeting last week about the future of D.C. schools, neither Rhee nor Gray made any comments on whether or not Rhee will keep her position.
If Gray replaces her because of political pressure and not an objective decision, we will never know what D.C. schools could have become of.
Rhee’s policies will lose traction, and their positive results will fade. The nation will no longer look expectantly to Washington on how to make similar revolutionary reforms
Keeping Michelle Rhee is the right decision for school children everywhere in America, not just in D.C.
Her educational philosophy, which values the quality of education provided to students above all else, should be the standard across the United States.
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