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Media Monday: Secretary Duncan may not like Michelle Rhee, but the Wall Street Journal sure does

by Elena on Dec 14th, 2009

The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed today that marries two of education’s hottest topics: D.C. superintendent Michelle Rhee and the Department of Education’s Race to the Top fund. The Journal claims that Secretary Duncan should more actively and publicly put himself in Rhee’s corner, since her reform efforts in D.C. parallel many of the Department’s alleged reform goals. Race to the Top funding will be given to states that prioritize pay for performance, charter schools, and tying teacher evaluation to student performance–all of which figure prominently in Rhee’s plan for D.C.

As you know if you’ve been following our coverage of Rhee, it’s the D.C. teachers’ union who most vehemently oppose her approach to school reform; it’s been more than two years since we started following Rhee, and her prolonged contract negotiations with the union are still unresolved. In many states, especially those with strong unions, it may prove difficult to get teachers on board with proposals for reform. The Journal writes:

The problem with this passivity is that union-negotiated collective-bargaining agreements are often the biggest barrier to enacting these education reforms. By not using their bully pulpit to back state and local reformers like Michelle Rhee, Mr. Duncan and President Obama are sending mixed messages, emboldening the opposition and jeopardizing their own education objectives.

The Journal’s unilaterally positive read on Rhee, whose reign in D.C. has been controversial, seems full of jumped-to conclusions. But it will be interesting to see whether the Race to the Top will produce replicates of the situation in D.C., as states and districts come up against union resistance, and whether Duncan’s position–”We generally don’t weigh in on local labor disputes”–will change.

To catch up on the ongoing negotiations between Rhee and the D.C. teachers’ union, watch our most recent coverage for the NewsHour, below, and listen to our interviews with Rhee and union president George Parker, collected here.

Who’s Got Michelle Rhee’s Back? [The Wall Street Journal, 12/14/09]

Two Years of Talks with Michelle Rhee & George Parker [LMtv, 9/21/09]

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DC Judge Rules in Favor of Michelle Rhee

by Jane on Nov 25th, 2009

rheeparker

Good news for Michelle Rhee this Thanksgiving: the DC Superior Court ruled yesterday that layoffs she made in October were legal. “This has been a difficult time for the entire school system,” Rhee stated through a press release Tuesday evening. “We all look forward to maintaining our focus on serving students and renewing a collective effort to improve the quality of education we offer every child across the District.”

The decision is a blow to the Washington Teachers’ Union, which had argued that Rhee had manufactured a budget shortfall in order to target teachers she wanted out of the system.

George Parker explains his version of events at 3:20, below.

Judge Judith Bartnoff acknowledged that some teachers may have been improperly removed but soundly rejected Parker’s larger claim, writing:

The Court recognizes that questions could be raised about particular RIF decisions, in terms of the position that was eliminated, the individual whose employment was terminated, or both… Nevertheless, some questionable RIF decisions do not establish that the RIF was a pretext for a mass discharge, given the undisputed evidence that the DCPS budget was sufficient to support the existing staff and the new teachers being hired for the current school year, until the Council reduced the budget by $21 million only two weeks before the new teachers were scheduled to report.

Parker and the teachers’ union may appeal Bartnoff’s decision. But for now, it seems that the dispute will return to its original venue, out of the courtroom, and back to the bargaining table.

Also important to note - at a city council hearing in October, council members questioned whether Rhee’s decision to lay off teachers was legal, but for a different reason. When the council cut Rhee’s budget over the summer, it ordered her to slash funds for summer school. Instead, Rhee made layoffs without seeking the council’s approval. That charge continues to be investigated by the council.

Full coverage of Michelle Rhee and DC Schools:
Michelle Rhee in Washington DC: The Series
Two years of talks with Michelle Rhee and George Parker

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Media Monday: Al, Arne and Newt

by Elena on Nov 16th, 2009

As we’ve mentioned, Secretary Duncan, Newt Gingrich and Reverend Al Sharpton have been visiting schools across the country together in an effort to look at school reform through non-partisan eyes. Yesterday, they talked about their findings and their visions for American education on NBC’s Meet the Press. Talk focused on teacher accountability, the value of charter schools, and the Secretary’s expectations for the Race to the Top fund.

Though he was perhaps the most clearly partisan in his opinions, Gingrich stood out for the clarity and specificity of his thoughts during this interview. Whereas Duncan said a lot of things we’ve heard him say before, all along the lines of “We all have to take responsibility…we all have to step up,” and whereas Sharpton made some basic, declarative statements about de facto racism in education and the achievement gap, Gingrich pushed his own education agenda. He said twice that he’d “like to have a Pell Grant for K through 12,” and he claimed that charter schools are a solution to the discipline problems in inner-city schools:

We have a friend whose daughter is now teaching in a school [in D.C.] where there have been 23 lawsuits this year over discipline in a school that’s fundamentally undisciplined.  And so teachers are told basically, “You can’t get enough control to teach.” And this is why, when you go out to the KIPP school and to other systems like that–and there are 82 KIPP schools in the country–they’re very structured.  The Mastery schools, very structured. These kids, for the first time in their lives, are being given discipline; and therefore, they can attract great teachers because they can actually focus on the kids.

Despite the vagueness of some of their answers, it’s impressive to see such seemingly mismatched political partners united in their concern for American schools. Watch the full episode below.

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Media Monday: BASIS Charter Schools [Ed Beat, 11/9/09]

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Weekly Round-Up: Role Models, Innovation and ‘The Providence Effect’

by Amanda on Sep 16th, 2009

It’s Wednesday afternoon and time to take a look at the stories we’re following this week.

Above: The Providence Effect screens tonight in NYC. For more info visit: http://www.theprovidenceeffect.com/

As celebrities fall short as roles models, opinion on what that means for our young people [Edutopia 9/16/09, NY Times 9/16/09 ]
Marion Brady, Deborah Meier and others weigh in when John Merrow asks ‘Where’s the Innovation in Education?’ [Taking Note, 9/15/09]
DC appeals to courts to get out of special education obligation [Washington Post, 9/16/09]
In a first, Teachers Union opens a pilot school in Boston [boston.com, 9/10/09]
Texas school district wins 2009 Broad Prize for Urban Education [Houston Chronicle, 9/16/09]

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NYC Dept of Ed & The Dissolution of Mayoral Control

by Learning Matters on Jul 1st, 2009

If you haven’t been following the breakdown in Albany, you’re missing quite a show.  Essentially, the state’s legislature has been in a lockdown and few, if any, legislative decisions are being made.Mayor Michael Bloomberg / Photo by Schwartz for NY Daily News

It came as no surprise, then, that the New York Senate failed to reauthorize the 2002 law that gave Mayor Bloomberg control of New York City schools.  With mayoral control no longer in existence, who is running the city’s schools?

It seems as if the newly recreated Department of Education school board is.

But it might be more complicated than that.

Gotham Schools is covering the news, minute by minute.  Go to their site to get the updates from the first DOE School Board meeting in 7 years and more.

Gotham Schools [blog]

* Photo by Schwartz for the New York Daily News
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