I thought this Post article on Michelle Rhee was going to be a total puff piece, but it at least presents some facts that show her claims are never backed up with reality.
“She’s got a very simple message that is highly seductive because it appears to give an answer to our difficult education problems,” said Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a liberal-leaning research group.
It would be great if her ideas translated into good results for kids, Kahlenberg said.
“But, in fact, we’ve got two grand experiments of her theory,” he said. “The first is the American South, where teachers unions are weak and the schools are not lighting the world on fire. The other is charter schools, which are 88 percent non-unionized. In charters, you can do everything that Michelle Rhee wants to do — fire bad teachers, pay good teachers more. And yet, the most comprehensive studies looking at charter schools nationally find mediocre results.”
So Rhee’s premise is faulty, he said. “But it’s a simple idea, and in the media, it’s powerful to have heroes and villains,” Kahlenberg said. “The fact that evidence doesn’t back her up doesn’t seem to prevent her from getting wide notoriety.”
I want our children to get the best education possible. Were teachers’ unions an impediment to that education, I might take Rhee’s arguments seriously. But they aren’t. There’s just zero evidence that Rhee’s policies work. What I see are teachers’ unions telling authorities that students can’t learn when schools don’t have air conditioning. There’s not a single institution in this country more invested in children learning that teachers’ unions. The real problem with education is poverty. But Very Important People don’t want to deal with poverty. As Kahlenberg notes, Rhee provides the media a nice simple message they can repeat without research, thinking, or questioning their own privilege. Unfortunately, our children and our middle class suffer as a result.