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Michelle Rhee
Michelle Rhee: The GOP's edu-cheerleader
(Iris Harris/U.S. Department of Commerce)

For those who missed it, education "reformer" (and, evidently, newly minted resident of Tennessee) Michelle Rhee has been busy lavishing praise on the GOP-led Tennessee state legislature.

To hear Rhee tell it, the Republicans who run Tennessee have bolstered the cause of Volunteer State education, in large part by slashing the rights of the state's teachers. She described their teacher-bashing bill as "aggressive and courageous" (when she wasn't humiliating her own children to make a cheap political point).

Amazingly, Tennessee does have some educational issues. And the deprofessionalization of educators has done little to change it.

There is the small matter of racial disparities in the state's advanced courses, as The Tennessean reported this week:

In Rutherford County, Blackman High School’s physics classes were missing something.


In Wilson County, not one black high-school student took an advanced-level math, science or foreign-language class during the 2009-10 school year.

Things were slightly better in Williamson County, where 12 percent of black high-school students took Advanced Placement classes compared with 27 percent of white students.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights tracked minority student trends at more than 72,000 schools in 2009-10, including those in Middle Tennessee. Its report shows many of the region’s minorities are in classrooms led by inexperienced teachers, and relatively few of those students seek out high-level courses.

Meanwhile, Tennessee ranks 47th out of 50 states (and is behind Washington D.C.) in terms of its average composite ACT score. While that ranking is lowered a bit by the fact that the ACT is the test of choice there, whereas in other states only the most elite students take both exams, the state ranked 24th out of 27 states where the majority of state students take the exam.

Teachers aren't exactly lavishly treated in the state, either. Tennessee ranked in the bottom ten in terms of quality of teacher pay, according to a March study conducted by the business section at HuffPo.

So, the teachers are underpaid, and the students are hurting.

But, don't worry, folks. Teachers unions have been neutered. So it's all good now.

Originally posted to Steve Singiser on Wed Jul 20, 2011 at 03:25 PM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, Three Star Kossacks, Progressive Hippie, Daily Kos Labor, and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  hhhmmmmm... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    said Rhee, who served as the Washington superintendent for 31/2 years. "My job is to make sure every child in the district gets a great education. I am agnostic as to where that happens."

    Interesting choice of phrasing...

    Is that a dog whistle I hear in the distance?

  •  Meanwhile (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Steve Singiser
    The independence of the Board of Nursing to regulate the profession is under question as state investigators probe whether strong-arm tactics by lawmakers caused the board to rescind disciplinary actions.

    At least two lawmakers, Rep. Tony Shipley and Rep. Dale Ford, pressed for the board to reconsider the suspension of three nurse practitioners accused of over-prescribing narcotics. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has launched a probe into these actions, which occurred when the Board of Nursing’s right to exist as a regulatory body was up for renewal by the legislature.

    Hey look everyone, the TNGOP created jobs!

  •  Does Rhee have her own jet now? (0+ / 0-)

    She seems to be "cheer leading" in a great many places in a very short amount of time.

    The so-called "rising tide" is lifting only yachts.

    by Egalitare on Wed Jul 20, 2011 at 06:05:54 PM PDT

  •  Oh yeah, Tiger Mom Rhee. I think all news (0+ / 0-)

    reports should describe her as "Rhee, who is under federal investigation for cheating under her tenure in D.C public schools..."

    NYT reader comment (via Susan Ohanian) : Arne Duncan great example of peter Principle. Failed in Chicago; then promoted so he could repeat failure on national scale.

    by Funkygal on Wed Jul 20, 2011 at 06:17:49 PM PDT

  •  Michelle Rhee, heroine of "Erase to the Top" : (0+ / 0-)

    NYT reader comment (via Susan Ohanian) : Arne Duncan great example of peter Principle. Failed in Chicago; then promoted so he could repeat failure on national scale.

    by Funkygal on Wed Jul 20, 2011 at 06:22:43 PM PDT

  •  Educators in California (0+ / 0-)

    Are wishing Michelle Rhee all the best in her new life in Tennessee and hope she is happy there for a long time.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Thu Jul 21, 2011 at 08:13:24 AM PDT

  •  99 Problems (but a Union Ain't One) (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BigOkie, Egalitare, pot

    Sorry, couldn't resist. :-)

    "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk." --Ian McDonald

    by Geenius at Wrok on Sat Jul 23, 2011 at 05:29:01 PM PDT

  •  I'm surprised to hear this side of Rhee (0+ / 0-)

    She was featured several times in a positive light on The News Hour while she was in DC.

    I guess we didn't get the whole picture there.

    •  I supported initially Rhee when she was in DC (0+ / 0-)

      I didn't like how she treated lower income parents, but I do think she forced some badly needed reforms in the DC schools. She removed some teachers and administrators who should have been fired a long, long time ago.

      That being said, however, with recent revelations that test scores were manipulated, I have started to have second thoughts. Maybe she wasn't as good as she claimed to be.

      I know that some people here won't agree with me, but there are some teachers in systems like DC's who should be fired. And sometimes I think unions expend way too much energy defending incompetent teachers.

      •  There are some in all systems, perhaps more (0+ / 0-)

        in the broken inner-city systems...
        but you don't have to bust the union to do it.  The whole point with unions is- you need to negotiate with them.  Show them that its in their best interest to let failing (not below average, but actually failing) teachers go.  The union leadership understands PR and understands that defending the indefensible- which is going to be a non-representative minority of teachers- is not gonna fly.

        My budget-cutting plan: anyone showing up to a government worksite with Confederate images on their truck, gets paid in Confederate dollars.

        by El Sobrante on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 12:14:55 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That is one of the reasons why some people (0+ / 0-)

          don't have a positive view of labor unions. That is, some people think that unions go out of their way to defend under performing members or those who actually commit serious acts of misconduct.

          And my one gripe with teachers' unions seems to be that some of them do insist on defending those who are just not good teachers. I understand their position with due process, but I also think they should be more flexible with allowing teachers who don't perform to be let go.

          The other issue where I disagree with the unions is on merit pay. I think that the best teachers should be encouraged to stay and be rewarded. I'm not sure why teachers' unions oppose any form of merit pay or why it can't be part of their contract. That is, I don't know why they can't have a contract with clear requirements/criteria to award merit pay.

  •  She was quite popular here at dkos (3+ / 0-)

    until quite recently.  I guess because Arne Duncan was cozying up to her or some such reason.  More significantly, her ideas had a very strong following here.  What I found particularly amusing is that almost to an individual, those here that joined her in her rhetorical shredding of teachers unions universally proclaim themselves "pragmatic Democrats, that care about winning, unlike you librul purist loosers".  Yet I still ask these consummate "pragmatists", how does gutting the teachers unions help get Democrats elected anywhere

    "Tu vida es ahora" ~graffiti in Madrid's Puerta del Sol, May, 2011.

    by ActivistGuy on Sat Jul 23, 2011 at 05:31:19 PM PDT

  •  Stay tuned to... (4+ / 0-)

    The Fall of the House of Murdoch:

    Michelle Rhee and Rupert Murdoch: Thick as Thieves?

    (excerpt) She rides into school districts on promises of private benefactors if only those schools will just clean up their acts and get it together the way she envisions. She doesn't name the private benefactors, so let me name a few who spend millions of dollars on Rhee's enterprises: Devos, Walton, and the Friedman foundations, whose sole goal is to turn public school districts private.

    She'll deny that, of course, but as was reported over at Daily Kos, she slipped up and let it out with regard to Tennessee:

    Michelle Rhee Praises Tennessee Legislatures Anti-Teacher Bill

    May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house. George Carlin

    by msmacgyver on Sat Jul 23, 2011 at 05:37:08 PM PDT

  •  Rhee, Duncan, and their ilk (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Egalitare, mimi9, BE10sCoach

    are just another facet of the parasitic evil called opportunism--or in more polite circles, perhaps vultures will do.


    An idea, to be suggestive, must come to the individual with the force of revelation. William James

    by agincour on Sat Jul 23, 2011 at 05:40:58 PM PDT

    •  I teach at a community college (5+ / 0-)

      in Tennessee.

      We're now being funded based on how many students graduate (among other things), rather than on how many are enrolled. Though it may sound like a good idea, in practice it means pressures to get students through classes. More than a few minutes thought will uncover the perverse incentives at work.

      We have pretty much open admission (high school graduation or GED required, or dual enrollment), but we've been told that every student should be able to succeed. I'm all for open access, but it means the dropout rate will be higher than in selective institutions.

      The state's also decided it doesn't want to spend as much on remediation.

      It's also decided the state should have the same percentage of college graduates as the United States as a whole. This is a state with large numbers of people without a high school education. Many of our students are not just the first to graduate from college, but the first from high school.

      On top of all of that, we've had budget cuts for the past several years, though we were never fully funded in my two decades here. (In other words, the state promised x dollars for doing y, then didn't fund that formula fully -- even when the economy was booming. The recent budget cuts were on top of that.)

      Our salaries have been frozen for the past four years or so, though we got a tiny raise this year. Even after that, I make $10k a less per year than a public school teacher with my education and experience. (In the early nineties I started at the princely sum of $19,500. Still a lot better than adjunct work at $1200 a class, four classes max per semester.) My teaching load: 5-5.

      We're charging our students more because of the cutbacks in state funding, so they're having to work more to pay for school.

      No particular order to my comments -- just a few things to show how crazy things are here.

      I love my job, especially as an avenue of social mobility for my students.

      But this state makes it fucking difficult to keep from being worn down by all the unreasonable expectations created by people who've never spent a day in front of a classroom, much less an entire semester.

      Beware the man of one book.

      by fiddler crabby on Sat Jul 23, 2011 at 06:04:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Rhee is an opportunist (0+ / 0-)

      This woman is an educational lame -ass, who sells or "whores" her lame right wing opinions to all those who buy her crap!  She gives not "one shit " about the kids, only what she can shill her preception as an educational leader as, she cares for her own self promotion.  Duncan is not far behind, one of worsr Secretaries of Education ever!!!!!!!

  •  As a former TN spec ed teacher, all I can say is (6+ / 0-)

    going to work meant being complicit in a federal crime.

    TN has extremely serious education issues, not the least of which are being compliant with federal law and relegating minority students to permanent second class status.

    Giving TN teachers less power, less muscle to speak for their students' and parents' rights, is going to send the state's schools straight to hell.

    And I love TN. I do. But all the above is true.

    "In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder, a secret order." Carl Jung

    by Unduna on Sat Jul 23, 2011 at 05:44:34 PM PDT

  •  Another entry (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fiddler crabby

    in the ever growing list of wretched people that powerful members of the Democratic Party have foolishly embraced who don't really care if a Democrat ever wins another election anywhere ever again.

    If you pay any attention to anything Michelle Rhee says at all, you find out that she's the enemy of progress not a part of the engine of it.

    Michelle Rhee could easily be the Fox News in-house education "reform" pundit or a regular poster over at the National Review Online on education "reform".
  •  Racial disaprities (3+ / 0-)

    Could it be that minority kids just may not be academically prepared for such classes? Also, could it be due to the fact that these kids' parents may not be aware of such classes or how to effectively prepare for them? Has there been any effort to reach out to these kids' parents to stress education to them?

    •  That's part of the problem. (0+ / 0-)

      Some kids don't have parents who can provide support, for whatever reason.

      If kids are left to sink or swim based on their parents actions, then we'll be writing off a whole lot of them.

      Parents should support their kids, and if they did we'd have a lot fewer problems.

      But the fact is some don't/can't.

      School may be the only thing those kids have to help them overcome a lack of parental support.

      Beware the man of one book.

      by fiddler crabby on Sat Jul 23, 2011 at 06:11:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well then (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        fiddler crabby, Food Gas Lodging

        Are there efforts to help prepare minority children in earlier grades so that they will be able to effectively do well in such classes? Is there any way to engage lower income parents when their kids first start kindergarten to impress upon them the value of education?

        •  A lot of kids from families in poverty (0+ / 0-)

          begin first grade already behind the average kid.

          With the era of "higher standards," they're rarely given materials that are appropriate for where they are. From day one it's a struggle, so many simply don't make it through to graduation.

          Some parents simply aren't going to be there for their kids. We can work to include them, but the fact is there are a lot of parents who are overwhelmed with simply surviving, or who are a source of dysfunction.

          Head Start programs can help, but they don't stay long enough in kid's lives to make a long-term difference.

          The problems created by poverty require far more than academic remediation. Kids from backgrounds of poverty often require better food and consistent health care, for example, but these strategies are expensive and require a greater investment in time, as well.

          We can improve things, but it requires looking at the real problems squarely and unflinchingly.


          Beware the man of one book.

          by fiddler crabby on Sat Jul 23, 2011 at 06:31:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I'm sick of seeing her (4+ / 0-)

    on MSM acting like she is just some average person who cares about kids and is reasonable in her approach when she is just another anti-public education, anti-teacher, union bashing phony.

    •  She never acts 'average' (0+ / 0-)

      her whole thing is that she is the 'tiger mom' ultra-competent, knows-better-than-you figure re: education.  Michelle Rhee's thing appears to be... Michelle Rhee.  
      If teachers, unions, or public schools get in the way, they're going down.  If not, she might help, or not, depending, on what's best for... Michelle Rhee.

      My budget-cutting plan: anyone showing up to a government worksite with Confederate images on their truck, gets paid in Confederate dollars.

      by El Sobrante on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 12:18:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I love your budget cutting plan (0+ / 0-)

        You should have a bumper sticker made up with that quote.  

        •  Thanks! (0+ / 0-)

          You are the first person to ever comment on it.  It was inspired by a worker's truck with a giant Confederate flag decal in its back window, on the campus of a State University.  A colleague asked, "Where's the ink-filled water balloon?" but we decided it would be better to write him his paychecks in CSA dollars.  Unfortunately, we didn't know the right person in HR/Payroll...

          My budget-cutting plan: anyone showing up to a government worksite with Confederate images on their truck, gets paid in Confederate dollars.

          by El Sobrante on Mon Jul 25, 2011 at 01:38:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You're welcome (0+ / 0-)

            I live in a northern state next door to a big, ultra-conservative republican.  He has a regular size flag pole in his front yard with the America flag but he has the conferderate flag on his truck and motorcycle.  We do dueling yard signs during the elections.

            He is a retired state police officer (no doubt receiving a government pension negotiated by his union).  What a hypocrite, just like the rest of them.

  •  So what is the ultimate motive here? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fiddler crabby

    Teacher bashing and defunding of public schools are not ends unto themselves, but a means to - what?

    Diversion of public revenue into corporate coffers? It appears that so much wealth has concentrated into private hands there are no significant market revenue streams left to capture via investment. So they scheme to privatize any and all public revenues, from prisons to libraries to schools.

    Exemption of people who send their kids to private schools from supporting public education? "Vouchers" should really be called "rebates". Too many Americans have forgotten that the purpose of public schools isn't to educate your child. The purpose of public schools is to educate your neighbor's child.

    Exemption of people who simply oppose being taxed to support racially integrated schools on the grounds of "personal moral belief"?

    All of the above?

    Have you noticed?
    Politicians who promise LESS government
    only deliver BAD government.

    by jjohnjj on Sat Jul 23, 2011 at 05:58:54 PM PDT

  •  As a TN resident and sped teacher-racism abounds (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Egalitare, fiddler crabby

    Nashville public schools have been neglected and overcrowded for years. Middle class and wealthy families have no interest or personal investment in them, save the few that are housed in high income neighborhoods. They send their kids to (approximately) 30 private schools in the city.

    With the advent of busing in 1971, small, white, private schools sprang up all over town in church basements and deserted buildings. Today, those private schools  serve all white, upper middle class, and extremely wealthy.

    I wonder where Rhee is living and where she'll send her kids to school?
    BTW, her ex husband, Kevin Huffman and former Teach for America missionary-opportunist is TN Sec of Education.

    •  Not to mention the white flight suburbs. (0+ / 0-)

      Most of them saw tremendous growth in the late sixties and early seventies, and still remain overwhelmingly white.

      There are still quite a few segregationist academies in Davidson County. Take a look at a list of the founding date of most of the "church schools" in the county -- most are within a few years of 1971 -- and the racial make-up they have today.

      Beware the man of one book.

      by fiddler crabby on Sat Jul 23, 2011 at 06:15:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Another tentacle (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Egalitare, fiddler crabby

    of the ALEC, Koch Bros, GOP plan to turn the US into their private fiefdom.  Destroying public education make for more easily manipulated peasants.  Work or die in this new world.  Anyone remember Mel Brooks' Silent Movie?  Meet Engulf & Devour, Inc.

  •  Pretending Arne & His A$$ Ki$$er$ aren't enemies (0+ / 0-)

    of public education is the typical upper middle cla$$ happy happy let's be positive:

    hopeLESSly naive, OR

    seriously childish, OR

    deliberately Machiavellian  

    approach to politics which will help 1 get into the Kennedy School Of Government, College of Excuse Making Losers,

    but it won't stop the lying thieving sell outs to the right wing.



    p.s. before putting me on blast, check out the 5 or so diaries I've written in the last year.

    Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous

    by seabos84 on Sat Jul 23, 2011 at 06:13:33 PM PDT

  •  I was in Teach for America in Baltimore (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    a year or so after Rhee moved onto whatever she did after her short stint in the Baltimore City Public Schools for her TFA commitment.  The district was very troubled (mid-1990's), and there were bad teachers, who to some extent were protected by the union.  The problems ran much deeper than that, though.  Beleaguered administrators were at least as much of the problem, as were simple underfunding and decaying infrastructure.  It makes me sad that she is really the most conspicuous 'face' of TFA alumni in educational leadership.  

    Because it appears (and I am playing amateur psychologist here, sorry) that the lesson she learned was that she was better than all those other teachers and that her authoritarian, top-down approach was the only thing that would fix things.  If unions were gonna get in the way, the unions could basically go piss up a rope.  It's easy for an authoritarian to get co-opted by other authoritarians, who flatter and fund, and to serve their agenda.  

    It bums me out, especially when many of my friends from that time and place are doing the hard work of running schools, teaching classes, and actually serving children rather than right-wingers and their stealth anti-public school agendas.  She doesn't represent us, but to the public, I think she probably does.

    My budget-cutting plan: anyone showing up to a government worksite with Confederate images on their truck, gets paid in Confederate dollars.

    by El Sobrante on Sat Jul 23, 2011 at 06:27:40 PM PDT

  •  Useless pseudo-statistics (0+ / 0-)

    I live in New York. US News says our high schools give us the #5 ranking. But the average teacher salaries here are ranked #38. Does that show that lower pay results in better schools? Even more to the precise point, the Tennessee high schools rank #36, but the average pay is #9. Please spare us the crappy social science stats.

    •  Great Point... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I guess that's why the richest people don't send their kids to the priciest private schools.  

      While we're at it, I think we should use your ideas in business, as well.  If a company isn't doing well, slash its budget, slash its productivity, slash its morale, and slash its total production.  That will surely make the business into the best in the nation.

  •  Well, they're clearly angling (0+ / 0-)

    to be dead last. Go, Tennessee! You can really boast then!

    Jennifer Brunner for Governor of Ohio 2014

    by anastasia p on Sat Jul 23, 2011 at 08:01:57 PM PDT

  •  Why was Michelle Rhee ever considered a Democrat? (0+ / 0-)

    This quote says it all:"Michelle Rhee is a Democrat, but she came very close to voting for John McCain in November. She chose Barack Obama because one of her closest friends had begged her to give him a chance. "It was a very hard decision," she says. "I'm somewhat terrified of what the Democrats are going to do on education."

    Seriously? Almost voting for McCain, when Obama is one of the most right wing Democrats on education.

    DINO, in any other country she'd be a staunch Conservative.

  •  American education is thick with trash like this (0+ / 0-)

    While Michelle Rhee represents a high profile example of the morally-challenged corporate pimps who dominate American education, its policies and funding, she is hardly alone.

    Corporate pimps have gutted American education working under a variety of guises, gutting its content, perverting its purposes, sabotaging and cannibalizing its students, teachers, schools and communities, exploded its costs and - at the higher education end of the yard - burying a generation in permanent debt.

    The Republican party and its allies aren't the only one's piping corporate agents into decision-making education roles. The Democratic Party's education policy is just a slicker form of corporate, privatized education, that explodes costs, destroys education opportunity and turns whole school systems into multi-generational disaster zones.

    And behind them are the corporations and their pet 'schools of education' that give them legitimacy. These schools pump out armies of well-trained and pedigreed carpetbagging administrators who follow each other into positions of power.  These facile bureaucrats do nothing but explode the costs through the contractor-subcontractor model of governance that explodes costs, while allowing corporations to colonize education from the inside out.  Paying themselves and their allies outrageous salaries, they bring a model of corporate corruption to public education and invariably gut the place.

    Their un-excusably ignorant faith in absolute metrics remains unshaken despite the high student casualties, because their model is about creating a class of permanent losers in society that can be exploited horribly.

    I point my finger directly at Harvard School  of Education as a carpetbagging production house for corporate education pimps and cannibals.  This school is leading the charge to reduce education to its basest, most 'worker training' sense of the term, for all but the privileged.

    This corporatist education is nothing but internal colonialism on the young.  And its failure rate rivals colonial death tolls.

    We have destroyed education for the benefit of America's creepiest corporations, a handful of bureaucratic cannibals and pimps, and built it around spreadsheets instead of students, teachers and books.

    Reason number 3342342 why I will not be voting for any more of this shit again or any politician peddling it.

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