Jan 10 2013

Students First?

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

The Education of Michelle Rhee

FRONTLINE examines the legacy of one of America’s most admired & reviled school reformers.

The problem with Michelle Rhee’s report card for public schools

by Traci G. Lee, Melissa Harris Perry Show

StudentsFirst, a school reform lobbying organization headed by education reformer Michelle Rhee, recently released the results of its own national study of education policies by state. According to the results, no state received an A, but plenty scored just barely average, and 11 states received an F.

Each grade is the determined based on three areas: whether a state’s policies elevate teaching, empower parents, spend wisely, and govern well. The report highlights states that provide abundant school choices for parents (i.e. charter schools) and blasts states that fail to evaluate teachers and principals in “meaningful ways.” [..]

But a key area that StudentsFirst leaves out of its grading system also happens to be one of Rhee’s most talked-about issues: student test scores. Maryland, which ranked the highest in Education Week‘s 2012 state report card in terms of achievement and standards, only received a D+ from Rhee. [..]

Rhee’s standards have tied student performance almost exclusively to teacher performance, and as a result has unfairly targeted teachers whose students could not perform well on standardized tests. Unfortunately, what Rhee has left out of her sweeping policy reforms is the fact that a child is not two-dimensional and doing well on a test has little to do with a child’s intelligence or ability to perform well later in life.

While it’s believable that states across the country are struggling to close its schools’ achievement gaps, the criteria StudentsFirst used to grade each state seems to be part of Rhee’s personal agenda to reform schools nationwide using the standards she believed had a great impact during her time as D.C.’s chancellor.

Beware: “Pro-child” groups press corporate schools agenda

by Susan Webb, People’s World

What could be wrong with these self-proclaimed pro-student, pro-child groups? Plenty.

StudentsFirst is headed by Michelle Rhee, former head of the Washington, D.C., public schools. Aro notes that “Rhee’s time as the chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools was rife with anti-teacher policies, including illegally firing teachers.” Rhee has also been implicated in test-score tampering at D.C. schools during her chancellorship. Read more about her here.

Amidst a fog of “pro-student” rhetoric, here is just a sampling of “meat” contained in the StudentsFirst policy list:    

  • shifting control of public schools away from elected school boards to one-person “mayoral control.” Why? Because, the group says, “Public employee unions invest in friendly school board candidates and expect handsome returns.”
  • support for “turnaround” models that involve mass firing of teachers and principals and turning schools over to charter operators and other private managers – the vast majority of which are non-union.
  • end all job security and professional protection for teachers. Put them at the mercy of individual supervisors’ whims, prejudices or favoritism. The organization states flatly: “State law should not grant, implicitly or directly, tenure or permanent contracts for PK-12 education professionals.”
  • shifting teacher “defined benefit” pensions to individual 401(k) type plans, which put all the risk on the individual. StudentsFirst claims that “today’s district pensions and other benefits are not sustainable” and criticizes them for “excessively rewarding longevity.”

Rhee has refused to discuss funding for her organization, but Reuters reports that StudentsFirst has received big donations from hedge fund managers.

StudentsFirst Spending: National Education Reform Group’s Partial Tax Records Released

June 25 (Reuters) – The national education reform group StudentsFirst, which has set out to transform U.S. schools by introducing more free-market principles to public education, raised $7.6 million in its first nine months – and spent nearly a quarter of it on advertising – according to partial tax records released on Monday. [..]

Rhee, a political lightning rod since she closed scores of schools and laid off hundreds of teachers during her tenure in Washington, has refused to discuss her funding or her donors. The IRS forms released by her organization on Monday cover only the first several months of her work, through July 31, 2011. Updated filings are not expected until the end of the year, though Reuters has confirmed that recent donors include New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and hedge fund managers David Tepper and Alan Fournier, who have pledged substantial resources to a StudentsFirst partner organization in New Jersey.

The Laura and John Arnold Foundation, funded by hedge fund manager John Arnold, has also pledged $20 million to Rhee’s organization over five years, a donation that does not appear to be reflected in the IRS forms released on Monday.

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  1. TMC

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