Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A New Chapter for a Critical Leader in Education

Love her or hate her, former Chancellor of Schools in DC Michelle Rhee is a force to be reckoned with in this country. Her heart and passion is in the right place, and she is clearly a person of status, prominence, and intelligence to follow closely, especially as we look to repair the failing schools in our country.

On Monday, Rhee announced her new plan, one that I fully support her with. Here is her new endeavor that I would LOVE to become involved with (!!):

Former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee starts student advocacy group

By Bill Turque and Nick Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, December 6, 2010; 5:30 PM 

Michelle A. Rhee, who often expressed impatience with politics in more than three years as D.C. schools chancellor, launched a new political organization Monday that plans to spend $1 billion bringing her aggressive brand of education reform to the national stage.

Rhee said the new group, StudentsFirst, will pressure elected officials and bankroll candidates at all levels of government who support her approach. The agenda includes recruiting high-quality teachers who are held accountable for student growth, swiftly removing those who do not perform, offering merit pay to reward top educators, expanding school choice and fostering parent and family involvement.

"We'll support any candidate who's reform-minded, regardless of political party, so reform won't be just a few courageous politicians experimenting in isolated locations," said Rhee, a longtime Democrat, in a first-person essay in Newsweek. "It'll be a powerful, nationwide movement."

The announcement marks the widely anticipated next chapter for Rhee, 40, who resigned in October after Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's Democratic primary loss to Mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray.

While she made news last week by accepting an unpaid position on the education transition team of Florida Gov.-elect Rick Scott (R), her new venture will be her principal vehicle to promote educational change. StudentsFirst was rolled out in a carefully coordinated media blitz on Monday that included the Politico Playbook, the cover of Newsweek, a segment on Oprah and a new Web site. Rhee will be the group's chief executive and public face as it tries to raise $1 billion from corporations and individuals.

As D.C. schools chancellor, Rhee upended a school system with a history of low academic achievement, imposing a rigorous new teacher evaluation system that triggers dismissal for low-performing teachers and negotiating a labor contract that provides performance pay and new latitude for principals in choosing their faculty. She closed more than two dozen schools and fired or laid off teachers and principals by the hundreds. Standardized test scores generally improved.

But in the process, Rhee and Fenty alienated large segments of the public school community. Parents said that she appeared to be not interested in their input. Teachers said that she blamed them completely for the poor academic record. Some members of the D.C. Council said they found her dismissive and uncommunicative.
In the aftermath of Fenty's loss - which she said "stunned" her - Rhee acknowledged that she erred by paying scant attention to the political impact of her changes.

"I thought, very naively, that if we just put our heads down and we worked hard and produced the results, people would be so happy that they would want to continue the work," she told a D.C. audience in October. "We were absolutely incorrect about that."

She said in Newsweek that StudentsFirst is the product of her realization that results alone are not sustainable without political support.

"From the National Rifle Association to the pharamceutical industry to the tobacco lobby, powerful interests put pressure on our elected officials and government institutions to sway or stop change," she said. "Education is no different. We have textbook manufacturers, teachers' unions and even food vendors that work hard to dictate and determine policy. The public-employee unions in D.C., including the teachers' union, spent huge sums of money to defeat Fenty. . . but there is no big organized interest group that defends and promotes the interests of children."

Rhee, who said she hopes to sign 1 million members for the group over the next year, offered no details on its board, management, location or immediate projects.

StudentsFirst is organized under federal tax laws as a 501(c)(4), designed for political advocacy. While donations to such groups are not tax deductible - as they are to 501(c)(3) organizations - they can accept unlimited donations without disclosing the names of contributors. Critics say that the (c))4) designation has become a vehicle for undue corporate influence in political campaigns.

During her years as chancellor, Rhee earned praise from a number of wealthy philanthropists and executives who admired her hard-nosed approach to teachers unions and other interest groups. They include Los Angeles real estate giant Eli Broad, News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch and the Walton family.

StudentsFirst is not the first organization to pursue education reform through campaign finance. It joins organizations such asDemocrats for Education Reform and California's Edvoice.

"I think she's envisioning an organization that is going to step in and do the political lifting and political advocacy behind reform efforts that would have been good to have in D.C," said Rick Hess, director of educational policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute and a Rhee supporter. "How effectively they will be able to do that and how muscular they'll be remains to be seen.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who clashed with Rhee during negotiation of the D.C. contract, wished her well in a statement but added the hope that "she learns, as we have, that promoting education reform through conflict and division will not serve the interests of children and their educational needs."

But Rhee said at the end of her Newsweek essay that those in her movement "can't shy away from conflict."

"Right now," she said, "what we need to do is fight."

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