Tag Archives: michelle rhee

What Happened in DC in 2008 – & Does it Still Matter in 2013?

If a prominent urban school leader told you he couldn’t recall being informed that half his city’s schools may have allowed the gross mistreatment of students to occur, would you believe him? And even if you did, would you still want him in charge of your children?

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Your Education Stories (for a price)

It’s suddenly in vogue to gather and tell stories as part of an organization’s larger strategy to build an audience and effect change. On one level, I love this development — indeed, I’ve been gathering people’s stories about their most powerful learning experiences for years, which has resulted in a website, a radio story series, and even a book (proceeds of which do not go to me, by the way).

Yesterday, however, I received an email from Michelle Rhee’s organization, Students First, relating to an effort underway there to gather people’s stories about why they choose to put students first.

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What DC Can Teach Us About Teacher Policies

This weekend, an article in my local paper crystallized three things we need to stop doing if we want to transform American public education for the long haul – and three things we should start doing instead.

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Calling Bill Maher

After reading Michelle Rhee’s surprisingly casual dismissal of cheating allegations in DC’s public school system, I’ve decided we need to do something drastic if we want to shake ourselves out of this surreal set of conversations about school reform.

We need Bill Maher to make a documentary about education. Perhaps we can even take a cue from his first film, Religulous, and call this one “Edu-buh-cation.” Or “Stoopid.” Or “The Bee-Eater.”

Oh, wait, that one’s taken.

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What If Learning — Not Fighting — Were the Focus?

As accusations fly back and forth over the reported DC cheating scandal – the latest in a series of battles between America’s two dominant Edu-Tribes – I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we stopped spending so much time focusing on what is broken or who is to blame, and started focusing instead on how people learn, and how we can create better learning environments for everyone?

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Education Inception

I just watched Christopher Nolan’s remarkable new movie Inception, a futuristic film about a group of people who, through a variety of means, plant a thought so deeply in the mind of one man that it grows naturally and becomes seen as his own. In the opening scene of the movie, protagonist Peter Cobb rhetorically asks the audience: “What’s the most resilient parasite? A bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? No. An idea. Resilient, highly contagious. Once an idea’s taken hold in the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate. A person can cover it up, or ignore it – but it stays there.”

Cobb’s movie-based challenge is not unlike the reality-based one being faced by today’s advocates for public education reform – how to seed an idea so simple and powerful that it can mobilize public opinion, inspire policymakers, and improve the overall learning conditions for children. And yet after reading Michelle Rhee’s two newest efforts to launch her own form of “inception” – an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal and her organization’s inaugural policy agenda – I see further evidence of both her well-intentioned vision for massive educational reform, and her fundamental misunderstanding about the power of ideas.

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Is Michelle Rhee putting Students First?

Like everyone else who does education for a living, I read that Michelle Rhee is launching a new national advocacy organization, Students First. And after checking out the site and hearing how she articulates its purpose, I see some reasons to feel hopeful — and many more reasons to feel deeply concerned. First, the good […]

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Questions for the Next Schools Chancellor

Today, presumptive-next-mayor Vincent Gray will meet with presumptive-ex- chancellor Michelle Rhee to discuss the future of DC public schools.

In a way, this is a lose-lose meeting for both. As Rhee has made clear in her typically tin-eared style, she is skeptical Gray shares her commitment to a particular set of reforms. Meanwhile, Gray’s ultimate decision about Rhee is guaranteed to disappoint a significant percentage of his electorate – either those who voted for him to register their disapproval of Fenty’s and Rhee’s style of leadership, or those who voted against him to see her reign continue.

This puts Mr. Gray in a bit of a pickle, but he might as well use the opportunity to think about the essential questions he would want to ask any potential candidate to be the next Schools Chancellor. Here are five he might want to consider:

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Why Adrian Fenty Lost The City – and How Vincent Gray Can Win It Back

Now that the dust is beginning to settle from the DC mayoral race, it’s worth examining what outgoing mayor Adrian Fenty failed to understand about leadership and systems change, and what Vincent Gray will need to understand – and do – if he wants a different result.

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Election Day

It’s Election Day here in DC, and in my neighborhood of Columbia Heights, a diverse mix of citizens – old and young, wealthy and struggling, black and white and brown – have been casting their votes all morning in the basement of an old Baptist church. Inside, cheerful volunteers explain the ins and outs of the paper and electronic ballots. Outside, supporters of the prospective candidates line nearby streets to hand out leaflets and answer questions. As they do, two major construction projects – one a new restaurant in an abandoned storefront, the other a new apartment complex in an abandoned building across the street – fill the air with the sounds of power saws, hammers, and the voices of workmen.

Election Days are supposed to be about possibility, hopefulness, and the promise that comes from a system of accountability, transparency, and the will of the people. And yet in my neighborhood, amid the din of new development and community renewal, the primary feeling, paradoxically, is of disappointment and discontent. In DC this year, the election is less a contest between two candidates, and more a referendum on the leadership of mayor Adrian Fenty. And if the polls are at all accurate, it is also the beginning of the end for him and his high-profile schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee.

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