Mad Michelle is at it again.
Since Michelle Rhee took over the Washington. D. C. public school system, she has made a name for herself and become the darling of the media by her promises of fighting the union and getting rid of the dead wood among the teachers.
Don’t get me wrong. I am all in favor of removing poor teachers from the classroom. If a probationary teacher is woefully inadequate and shows no signs of improvement after evaluation, then it is best for the teacher and for the students for the teacher to find another line of work.
That being said, I find it hard to believe that one out of every four teachers in the public schools of our nation’s capital are inadequate and should be kicked out onto the street.
That is what Ms. Rhee told the nation today when she fired 226 teachers and effectively said another 737 teachers are at risk of being fired at the end of the upcoming school year.
Nearly one out of four Washington D. C. teachers do not belong in the classroom, according to Ms. Rhee.
One out of every four.
Since the firings were announced earlier today, no doubt Ms. Rhee will be praised, not only by the so-called ‘reform” groups who think schools should be run like a business (a business in a right-to-work state, at that), but also undoubtedly by the same people in the Obama Administration who thought it was wonderful a couple of months ago when the entire faculty at a Rhode Island high school was given the gate. (Most of the teachers at the school were rehired after negotiations, but not without having to bow to demands that seem more designed to give the appearance of school improvement rather than make an actual difference.)
Standardized tests have become the Holy Grail of the “reform” movement. Though it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to judge a teacher’s performance on the basis of how well students perform on standardized tests, that is exactly what is being proposed- and praised- by the reformers, whose main objective appears to be to see to it that public schools and teacher unions cease to exist.
Comparisons are made to businesses putting out a product. If their products are substandard, no one will buy them, they will go out of business.
Those comparisons are specious. In business, a good product, combined with a good marketing plan, gives you a good chance of success. If a business provides what the consumer wants at a reasonable price, it has a chance to succeed.
Public schools, however, cannot be operated like a business. In this country, we pride ourselves on providing an education to every child, not every child who has rich parents, not every child who has an above average I. Q., but every child.
If public schools were to be operated like a business, those children with severe learning problems, those with behavioral difficulties who think nothing of disrupting classes on an everyday basis, and those whose education costs considerably more due to physical, mental, or emotional handicaps, would be cut off, because it is not cost effective to educate them.
Not only are public schools expected to educate these children, and they should be because that is what makes this country special, but we are expected to have them scoring in the “proficient” range.
In Missouri where I teach, that “proficient” range roughly equates to a B if you follow the traditional grading scale.
Under No Child Left Behind and its misguided successor, Race to the Top, teachers are not rewarded for improving an F student to a D or even a C. It’s all or nothing.
Under these unrealistic guidelines, success is turned into failures, and public schools are handed goals that cannot be achieved.
Under No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, the entire weight of the educational system has been placed on the shoulders of the classroom teacher.
If students fail to show up for classes, make conscious decisions not to do homework or pay attention in class, or simply do not do well under testing pressure, the “reformers” want the teachers to pay the price.
If students’ attention is distracted because of home lives that may include physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, domestic discord between adults, or conditions of extreme poverty, that, too, is not the responsibility of national, state, or local politicians. According to the reformers, the only ones who should be held accountable are classroom teachers.
So naturally, everyone from Fox News to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will sing the praises of Michelle Rhee, the pinup poster for the educational “reform” movement.
And while Ms. Rhee continues to lay the groundwork for the gold she will mine from the lecture circuit and from books once her tenure in Washington, D. C. comes to an end, public schools have taken another dagger to the heart.