The education reform efforts of Michelle Rhee are finally getting attention in some media, and it is not always the glowing praise she is used to receiving.
The author speaks of the problem with the education "reform" movement...."it is shot through root and branch with patent-medicine remedies pitched by for-profit grifters and hustlers."
They have their own genre of richly financed propaganda, like 2010's Waiting for Superman and this year's Won't Back Down. There are an awful lot of hedge-fund gunslingers involved in the movement toward charter schools, a phenomenon about which, to his eternal credit, Bob Somerby — who actually has taught in the public schools — has been banging his tin drum at The Daily Howler for some time now. (It should also be said that Somerby's knee does not jerk. He readily gives some reform programs, and even some of Rhee's work, the props he thinks they deserve.) Some of the hustlers, alas, have the ear of this administration, and one of those people is Michelle Rhee.The article is very blunt about the standardized testing industry.
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 Frontline report tonight is mentioned. I have it set to record, and I hope they do a good job.
The ending paragraph is so true to me as a retired teacher.
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.
Another of the "reformers" whose policies tend to be punitive toward teachers, had this to say in 2009 on Arne Duncan's appointment as Secretary of Education.
The election of President Barack Obama and his appointment of Arne Duncan, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, as the U.S. secretary of education, marked the pinnacle of hope for our work in education reform. In many ways, we feel the stars have finally aligned.
With an agenda that echoes our decade of investments—charter schools, performance pay for teachers, accountability, expanded learning time and national standards—the Obama administration is poised to cultivate and bring to fruition the seeds we and other reformers have planted.