August 31st, 2010

Michelle Rhee in Washington, DC
Michelle Rhee in Washington, DC Episode 12: The Impact

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Three years after Mayor Adrian Fenty hired Michelle Rhee to turn around DC’s troubled public schools, the former classroom teacher and non profit leader has become something of a national symbol.  What many call her “slash and burn” way of operating has fueled big changes in the system, but success is still a long way off.

Today 12% of the city’s 8th graders are proficient in math, up from 8% when she arrived, and reading scores have improved from 12% to 14%.  Rhee is banking on IMPACT, her new method of evaluating teachers, to make even larger gains.  IMPACT is unlike anything in public education anywhere, because nowhere else can teachers lose their job immediately after being rated ineffective, even if they are tenured.

This final report in our 3-year series weighs the reforms Rhee has made to DC schools and examines a teacher evaluation system with potential to become a national model.

Download transcript (pdf)

You can watch the entirety of the Michelle Rhee series here:

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This program was made by possible by support from the Annenberg, The Eli and Edythe Broad, Bill & Melinda Gates, William and Flora Hewlett and Wallace Foundations.

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The gain that Michelle Rhee has made is amazingly small for the amount of upheaval she has created. There is one issue that I’d really like to know about. Have the tests been consistent over the years? I know that in some states, tests are getting easier and easier to help less children to be “left behind.” If this is the case in D.C., the numbers/percentages of students actually improving may even lower than the numbers reflected in this report. In addition, I see no parent/student accountability in Rhee’s system. Education is a team effort. The attitude, support and cooperation of parents and students with teachers is paramount–and is the key to effecting real change.

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