May 25th, 2012

Is Mike Miles The New Face Of Education Reform?

You may remember this December 8, 2008 TIME Magazine cover that helped cement Michelle Rhee as the face of education reform in America. At Learning Matters, we covered Michelle Rhee’s tenure as superintendent for three years; there’s no doubt that her celebrity became a big part of the story.

Rhee runs StudentsFirst now, where she continues to affect school reform in the U.S.

Now, the new face of education reform among superintendents might be Mike Miles.

At the EWA Conference in Philadelphia last week, we received a copy of outgoing College Board president Gaston Kaperton’s new book, The Achievable Dream, which introduced me to Miles in greater detail.

Miles came to prominence as the superintendent of Harrison School District Two in Colorado Springs, CO; there, he closely linked teacher pay to teacher performance and instituted a policy where teachers had to instruct with their doors open, increasing transparency. He was hired to lead Dallas ISD on April 26, 2012; Dallas is the 14th-largest school district in America presently (second-largest in Texas).


How sweeping will Mike Miles' reforms in Dallas ultimately be?

While Miles’ plans for DISD aren’t known yet — his job officially begins on July 1, but he’s been quoting Moneyball at press conferences to explain some of his changes — it seems that some of the focuses will be feedback (including more assistant superintendent school site visits), Spanish-language programs, and a healthy dose of Teach for America teachers (Charles Glover, a TFA leader in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, was Miles’ first hire as Chief Talent Officer).

This 2010 profile of Miles, written when Rhee was still heading D.C. schools, makes the comparison between the two leaders directly:

Miles has been compared with Michelle Rhee, the go-get-em chancellor who has been villainized and lauded as she tries to repair the shattered Washington, D.C. school system. Rhee, a Korean-American who once taught in the innovative Teach for America program but has never been an administrator, was tapped to run the troubled district of 46,000 students. She has rewarded good teachers but has fired more than 250. Obama has called her “a wonderful new superintendent,” but she gained the wrath of the Washington Teachers Union, which is appealing the firings.

The question many are asking not only of Rhee, but of Miles: Are they reformers who can measure the quality of teachers in a fair way and bring reform to public education, or are they outsiders moving so recklessly that they’re endangering the good in public education along with the bad?

William McKenzie, blogging for The Dallas Observer, added this:

DISD has a new superintendent who seems more firmly rooted in the education reform camp than former Superintendent Michael Hinojosa was during his tenure. Dr. Hinojosa was certainly not opposed to reforms like more realistic teacher evaluations, developing stronger principals, using data to drive instruction and giving students choices through charters. He put his weight behind each of those. But neither was he as driven by education reforms that people like new superintendent Mike Miles seem to be. Hopefully, Miles won’t be as combative as uber-reformer Michelle Rhee was in D.C., but he seems much more in her student-focused approach to education.

So, dear readers … what do you think? Is Miles the new face of education reform in America? Is it fair to link Rhee and Miles? What can we expect from Dallas schools over the next decade?

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