Oct 04 2013

The Id, The Ego, and The Super-Rhee-go

Reformers have been obviously working on re-vamping their public images.  People are tiring of their empty promises, their overly simplistic remedies, and their unwillingness to engage in an honest discussion about what is and isn’t working.  So the reformer’s reformer, Michelle A. Rhee, my old acquaintance from when I worked with her at the 1996 TFA institute, announced that she would be holding three ‘Teacher Town Halls’ last month, one in Los Angeles, one in Philadelphia, and one in Birmingham.

I had read some first hand accounts from people who attended these, but I was compelled to also watch the entire video of the L.A. event which was posted on YouTube.

In Rhee’s opening statement she acknowledged the protesters outside and lamented that they would not come in a join in the dialogue.  After suffering through the video of the nearly two hour event, I cannot imagine how frustrating of an experience it would have been for the protesters if they had taken Rhee up on that offer.

Everything about this event was carefully choreographed.  The decision to have Rhee sitting between the other two panelists where Perry was the fanatical reformer and Parker was the union representative with the intent of Rhee playing the part of the moderate, rather than the ‘radical’ that she generally claims to be.  In this way the trio were like three heads of the same being.  Perry was the id, Parker was the ego, and Rhee was the, well, the superego.

Audience members were warned that they would have two minutes to say their questions, which were pre-screened, and that they would not even be permitted to hold the microphone.  After the questions were asked, the panelists all got their turn to answer the way they wanted and to generally ignore the most important part of the question.  The people who asked the questions had no opportunity to say “but that wasn’t what I was asking.”  So this wasn’t really a dialogue at all.

I had heard about Dr. Steven Perry, but watching him speak, the most accurate word to describe him is ‘clown.’  One of his running ‘cute’ jokes was that he had to repeat third grade a few times, even while claiming that his great teachers were the ones who rescued him from poverty.  But if the teachers were so great, why would he have been left back?

At about the 17 minute mark, someone from the audience brought up the fact that teacher accountability is generally based on test scores and the test scores are highly correlated with poverty.  Perry answered, “If we’re going to say that poverty is the indicator of a child’s capacity then let’s shut down all schools and call it a wrap.”  Then some people from the audience had the audacity to call out “but that’s not what he said” only to be rebuked by the moderator reminding everyone to be civil.  Perry continued with “we can’t wait to cure poverty before we can teach a child to add, subtract, multiply and divide” and “the only way out of poverty is through access to education.”  He finishes by implying that his own father was in prison yet he managed to go to an ivy league school without changing his parents or his zip code.

Rhee, at the 20 minute mark, again plays the moderate saying that poverty does matter.  It makes things difficult, but not impossible, she says.  Of course this is what reform opponents say also.  “The best way to break the cycles of generational poverty is through education.”  She says that a social program might feed a kid for one night, but it is not going to make sure that their kids will escape poverty.

Parker, when it is his turn, speaks about how his great teachers enabled him to escape poverty despite the fact that neither of his parents finished elementary school.  But this sort of anecdote is really nonsense.  Of course some kids beat the odds.  What I would have like to follow up with if I were there, and if they permitted follow up questions, is “Did every student of that great teacher who saved you also go to college and break the poverty cycle?”  If he could have answered and answered honestly, he’d have to admit that most of those students likely didn’t break out, thus collapsing his point about the power of ‘great teachers’ to accomplish this.

The next question was posed by the moderator and was about whether or not the reform movement was about privatization.  Perry spoke about how he believes that ‘choice’ is the most important thing about the reform movement.  Rhee followed up with the choice concept, challenging people opposed to vouchers by saying something like “if you are willing to have your own kids go to a failing school then you can be opposed to vouchers and choice, but if you wouldn’t be willing to do that, then you can’t be against choice.”  This is one of Rhee’s most logical sounding arguments.  Though it does sound reasonable, it just doesn’t work in practice.  Since the problem of the ‘failing’ school has much more to do with the out of school factors, if all the kids in a ‘failing’ school chose to go to a ‘succeeding’ school, imagine that there was room at that school for all the students from the other school, then the ‘succeeding’ school would then become a ‘failing’ school.  Sometimes I think that for our society, in a utopian sense, the best thing would to have no choice whatsoever — not even private school, and every school can have the exact same mix of rich, middle class, and poor kids.  I’m not saying this is something that can actually happen, but in the ideal it would probably be the best thing for the cumulative education in this country.  From a realistic point of view, however, instead of choice the thing to do would be to invest resources in the ‘failing’ school so that it can be more equipped to deal with the out of school factors and then nobody would need to choose to leave it.

The next question is so outrageous, you just have to watch it for yourself

So this teacher wants to see the union eradicated and tenure abolished.  Rhee answers first with the old “if you have a pulse you have a job for life” argument.  When someone from the audience got angry with the response, he was shut down by the moderator and the three panelists were basically laughing at the frustrated audience member.  Perry then answers and says “If staying alive is tenure, I ain’t for that” which actually got a round of applause from the audience.  Perry claims that he has to spend 30% of his day chasing around a bad teacher and documenting in order to get rid of that teacher.

Parker then spoke incoherently for about ten minutes.  One of his points was about how when he was head of the union he would have board members in his pocket so that the union was running the school system, which he felt was an undeserved amount of power.  He qualifies that ‘tenure’ is supposed to mean ‘due process’ but then says that we’ve allowed tenure to become something where teachers can have three years in a row of unsatisfactory evaluations yet keep their jobs.  But the union should be fighting if the unsatisfactory evaluations are unfair particularly when they are based on half baked mathematical formulas based on standardized test scores.

A audience member asks how teachers who do not agree with their unions and how non-unionized teachers can get their voices heard by policy makers.  Rhee says that after her speeches she is always approached by teachers who say they are “with her” but who are afraid to speak out.  Parker describes this kind of teacher as a “reform minded” teacher and says that in his experience there are more “reform minded teachers than non-reform minded teachers” and says that when they did secret ballots, 80% of the teachers voted for policies, he implies, that align with StudentsFirst.

The next question is about standardized testing and whether or not it is fair for the test to be such high stakes for teachers when it isn’t such high stakes for the students taking the test.  The woman asking the question makes a mistake (or perhaps she is a ‘plant’) by saying “the tests are the only thing that are factored into the evaluation”, and this is a mistake that Rhee pounces on.  Rhee responds, correctly, that even the extreme reformers generally want test scores to count for 50% as part of ‘multiple measures.’  She then claims that the opposite extreme unions are OK with 35% because they agreed to that number in Connecticut.  So to Rhee the argument is really just about the 15% difference between what the two extremes want.  But as inaccurate as the growth measures are right now, with it labeling the same teacher highly effective one year and highly ineffective the next, in some cases, I, along with many others, think that 0% is the appropriate percent.  If the cost of these tests wasn’t so much and if the stakes weren’t so high that schools are compelled to become test prep factories over them, I actually can see myself being OK with something like them counting for up to 10%, as it could serve as a way to motivate the small fraction of hard-to-motivate teachers while not really being a big risk in getting a teacher unfairly fired.  But as introducing inaccurate value-added into the mix opens up such a “can of worms,” it is probably best to not use them as a factor at all, and to justify reducing yearly testing as a way to save scarce funds and to discourage schools from wasting time on test prep.

Perry is actually most sincere when he answers this question, as he admits that the test scores in his own school that had just come back two weeks earlier were a disappointment.  He spoke about how poorly tests are created, administered, not graded in a timely manner, and also about how some kids individually went down by a lot, which suggested that they didn’t try very hard on the test.  His frustration is similar to how teachers feel about the tests.  But I suppose he would be a lot more frustrated if he were to lose his job over his test score drop at his school, which I don’t think is likely to happen.

The next question was about charter school accountability, and Rhee admits that many charter schools have not been held accountable, and that we should.  I would like to see the day where a low performing KIPP is targeted by Rhee, though.

An audience member opposed to the StudentsFirst agenda spoke about how states with strong unions have the highest academic achievement while the states in the deep South have lowest achievement.  Rhee avoids the question by pointing to California as a state that has strong unions and low achievement.  But one example does not disprove the general trend that states with weak, or no, unions do have the lowest achievement in the country.

When the man asking the question tries to point this out, the moderator yells, “We’re not going to do a back and forth.  For real, we’re not going to do a back and forth.”

With a ten minutes left, Parker suggested that they take one more question from USC student and rising education superstar Hannah Nguyen.  The moderator said that it was too late for any more questions.  Out of sixteen questions, eight were ‘answered’ or at least responded to.  Then, with just six minutes left, Parker again requested that they break protocol to give her a chance since she was a student.

They agreed and Hannah lets loose with this speech, which has gone ‘viral’ on YouTube

Hi everyone, my name is Hannah, I’m a student… Just a few things though, I felt like this whole event was very much looking at these educational policy issues as a reformers versus teacher unions kind of issue, and as a student standing here and watching this battle it is really disheartening, because it’s a lot deeper than that, and these are everyday realities.

And this is more than a reformers versus teachers union battle, this is a social justice issue.

And there’s a lot of things brought up — going back to poverty — reformers say that poverty isn’t destiny, and that sounds great, and I believe in that, and that’s awesome. But you know what, if you really care about students, you should say that poverty shouldn’t be.

Yes, we need to work on in-school factors, and simultaneously we need to work on out-of-school factors and caring about the whole child.

Back to high stakes testing. I don’t know a single student — I’m sorry, I have a lot of friends, and I have friends at other schools too — I don’t know a single student who says that they learned something from a high-stakes test, and the way that their school is structured. They should be given the freedom to learn what they want to learn, open curriculum, well-rounded, arts, music, humanities….

I used to stand by reformers, I will admit it, I did. But after seeing the facts, and the data and everything, and my own lived experience. I cannot –  I’m sorry — stand by what you preach if it has to do with high-stakes accountability, this “school choice,” which sounds great, you know, choice — who can argue against that? But, I don’t agree with the fact that charter schools, and how they push our certain students, and I’ve seen it happen.

My main point is, listen to the students. Listen to the students.

Now I am a big fan of Hannah and am thrilled that she and others from SUPE are giving this fight the energy that it needs right now.  Sometimes when I feel like I’m running out of gas, reading about the efforts of Hannah and Stephanie Rivera and the rest makes me feel that the future is in good hands.

There were two other town halls.  I’m not sure if the others were videoed.  I don’t think they were, anyway.  One thing about this town hall is certain, which is that it was not a forum for real discussion, but a staged and ultra controlled farce.

 

25 Responses

  1. Dana

    Her Philly Town Hall was poorly attended. Most of the people in the audience were from Students First of course. One member voiced a dissenting opinion and the moderator actually said “shut the helk up.” What kind of professional behavior is that? Then you had Perry and all his ghetto slang glory. Ugh!

    Meanwhile, Jerry Jordan, PFT president,was invited by Rhee to attend. The same night, he was speaking on a pannel about conditions in Philly schools. He gladly took questions WITHOUT prescreening. Toward the end of the Town Hall, she tweeted that she was disappointed that Jerry Jordan didn’t show up. As if she would let him speak anyway. Randi Winegarten even called her out for it.

    The next night, Diane Ratvich had triple the attendance Rhee did. Jerry Jordan was in the crowd too. Lol. The same night as Rhee’s town hall, Diane was speaking to 1, 000 ppl in Pittsburgh. Diane has also said she’ll debate Rhee but no response from the Rhee camp.

  2. Michael Fiorillo

    Michelle Rhee as Superego is an impossibility, though its an amusing experiment in counterintuitive marketing, sort of like trying to sell the Ford Pinto – which burst into flames when rear-ended – for its safety features.

    As a textbook example of a sociopath, exhibiting all the markers – compulsive lying, narcissism, grandiosity, complete lack of empathy – Rhee is to the Superego and a sense of personal ethics as Mission Accomplished was to the Iraq War.

  3. Linda

    The famous line here in CT as reported by former capital prep teachers is the rallying cry from Perry…in order to boost test scores, “We got to make it snow in here!”

    Keep the white middle class coming…that’s the ticket.

    How does he run a “miracle” school while traveling and bloviating with another fraud? Most of his time is spent promoting himself.

    • Jack Covey

      Steve Perry is a total joke.

      Perry’s Phd. dissertation looks like it was written by an 8th grader. The tenacious Mercedes Schneider did some detective work and finally unearthed it. Against the university’s rules, his dissertation was not approved by any committee, but signed off by one, and only one, professor to whom Perry had a connection. He made an hour or two of phone calls as part of a survey, then wrote about the conclusions he drew from them… then padded this out to 200 pages. It’s outrageous!

      That’s why I so far have not, and will not refer to him as “Dr. Perry”, or put the letters PhD. after his name…. and no else should as well.

      Also, Perry spoke to a meeting in Minnesota, and called unionized teachers “roaches” that “need to be called out,” and that traditional public schools were “literally killing young black children.” The Minnesota teachers’ union leader there called these outrageous and looney comments totally beyond the pale of decency, and asked Perry for an apology and disavowal of those comments.

      He stood by them, and does so to this day.

      During the Chicago strike during Fall 2012, Perry also was the talking head that the right-wing corporate media would trot out to slime the striking teachers as lazy and evil and whatever…. comments for which he was well-paid, by the way. Since he’s black, he was the right person to put opposite Karen Lewis, the African-American president of the Chicago Teachers Union, who was leading the strike.

      I’m too lazy to add the links, but the above three stories are all covered in multiple stories on-line.

      I wish somebody in that room had known about Perry’s past actions and comments, then confronted him about it.

      I mean seriously, Rhee talks about how she wishes the union protesters were inside, so she could reach out to them, and attempt to “find common ground”… but chooses a person for her panel that believes unionized teachers are “roaches” and that unionized schools are “literally killing black children.”

      It’s just a hunch, but choosing some malignant union-bashing demagogue as an on-stage panelist was not and is not the best way to “reach out” to teacher union members, and “find common ground.”

    • Educator

      I think both essays are just personal anecdotes that can’t be used to form large scale conclusions, although I’m sure TFA supporters and detractors have forwarded their particular article around.

      I think the two articles could be written by traditional teachers also at “failing schools.” There are some teachers who quit and get frustrated by a lack of support, and others who stay the course and get high standardized test scores from their students.

      The two articles could be written by students also at “failing schools.” There are students who do well (don’t we all know a successful adult who grew up in the inner city? Isn’t s/he a product of a failing school?), and others who don’t and drop out.

      So I don’t thing either of those articles really further the arguments over the TFA controversy in either way.

  4. Kati Gilson, NBCT

    Sounds suspiciously like a Chicago Public School neighborhood meeting. At the board meetings they don’t respond and drag you out forcibly after 2 minutes. Also they combine people from the same group together so instead of each getting 2 minutes they only get 2 as a whole. Any teacher willing to give up union representation is very mis-informed about the importance of unions.

  5. David S.

    Back in the day, when “participatory school leadership was first starting, there was a meeting in a big Manhattan school auditorium. The presenters pulled the same stunt. “SUBMIT YOUR QUESTIONS IN ADVANCE, WE WILL SORT AND GROUP THEM AND ANSWER THEM ALL.” It was BS then and still is. The appearance of an open participation is bogus. If they say this up front, RAISE A FUSS BEFORE THE MEETING STARTS BECAUSE ITS A SHAM AND A SHAME.

  6. Jack Covey

    This whole thing was as orchestrated as any snake-oil preacher’s tent revival meeting.

    Gary, regarding the second clip you chose,
    this blonde teacher woman from Compton was
    obviously a “plant” or shill, who was playing a pre-determined role in this freakin’ farce.

    In this second clip you included, you chose a “start point” that was a little too late in my opinion.

    Go back just a bit to this start point:

    00:36:20

    After Steve “an-8th-grader-could-have-written-my-PhD.-dissertation” Perry finished blathering on, there was a moment of silence, before moderator Genethia Hayes then broke it, and began the next portion of the proceedings.

    And you see, Genethia Hayes, the moderator, then managed this awkward segue to allow the audience to hear the opinion of “a unionized teacher”… and then we get the start point that you chose for your second clip: the “unions-&-tenure-must-be-eradicated” teacher lady from Compton.

    You know… the unionized teacher who’s seen the light—and her outrageous comment and question:

    - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -

    GENETHIA HAYES:

    “That…. ummm… is actually the end of… the portion of the program because there’s just no more cards where anybody’s asking any questions about their leadership styles, or anything personal or criticisms, but the next speaker is kind of fish-and-fowl… so we’re going to move into the policy portion of the program… but we have Emma Dann Hartog who has managed to be in both camps,

    “Where is Emma?”

    (stands up in silhouette with her back to the camera…)

    “There she is… ”
    - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

    Now, how was this particular woman chosen to be the first person and teacher from the audience to be allowed to speak freely? Rhee and company knew in advance that Ms. Hartog was going to say what she said, and ask what she was going to ask…

    Thus, she was a plant, or a shill… like in a phony evangelist show where the whole thing is orchestrated in advance. The implicit assumption to be inferred from this is that she represents the opnion of many, or most teachers… and this event is here to put a spotlight on this.

    Her role and narrative is the same as others who have proceeded her:

    — “Democrats” like Rhee, Ben Austin, and Gloria Romero…

    or

    — pro-union, left-wing film maker Davis “WAITING FOR SUPERMAN” Guggenheim…

    or

    — sellout / former union president George Parker.

    That role/narrative of all these individuals is the same… “Look, I’m no conservative, union-buster… I’m from the left, and I used to believe in unions, but now that I’ve seen the light, and how destructive they are, I now know that unions and union job protections must be eradicated.”

    That’s the same evolution they are trying to manipulate in the intended audience of people who had previously been favorably disposed to unions.

    And in all these cases, Rhee and Company are well-paid to play out their roles, and read the scripts presented by their corporate, privatizing masters.

    • Manuel

      For those who don’t know, Genethia Hayes “came to the [Los Angeles] school board with the backing of the mayor and her tenure seemed more political that educational. The campaign for the school board elicited derogatory remarks from Hayes’ opponent who accused her of being the recipient of ‘plantation politics’”.

      This is not just me speaking, this is the LA Sentinel, the newspaper of the black community in Los Angeles. That mayor, by the way, was Richard Riordan.

      They go on to state that “she stepped on many toes in the Black community, via her financial backing and support from the mayor and his friends who many believe were not in accordance with the needs of the district: the historically Black neighborhoods of South and Southwest Los Angeles, and also stretches north to the Pico-Fairfax area.”

      She lasted only one term. Is it any wonder that Hayes was chosen as a moderator for this farce?

  7. Jack Covey

    Watch this segment from the PBS series on Rhee at:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3CGM1m5JEI

    Go to:

    05:06 – 06:33

    Watch how one parent, Gabriella Savio, originally was taken in by Rhee and supported her. Savio even testified in favor or Rhee early on, but eventually became disillusioned with what Rhee actually executed in practice.

    When interviewed about this, Rhee basically said she couldn’t care less what Savio and other parents thought.

    At 05:50 … you then get Rhee’s infamous:

    “It’s not democracy”

    comment as explanation. Of course, Rhee smiles with glee as she contemplates her unlimted and unchallengeable power.

    Merrow finishes the segment by asking if Rhee is a “benevolent dictator”, and we get another shit-eatin’ grin light up Rhee’s face.

    Disgusting.

    • bernie1815

      Jack:
      There is absolutely nothing wrong with Rhee’s responses to Merrow’s questions. She answered the questions forthrightly. What would have her say? She closed down what were described as 23 chronically under-enrolled schools. I am sure that understandably upset the staff at those schools and the parents whose children attended those schools. Should chronically under-enrolled schools be kept open?

      • Linda

        Interesting the number of “chronically under-enrolled” or “underutilized” schools equals the number of charters opened in the upcoming years. Bernie, your assumption is that Rhee is even telling the truth. She created a false budget shortfall to get rid of teachers. It was discovered after that she manipulated the numbers. She is a liar, a fraud, and a sociopath. But hey believe whatever you want.

  8. Dan M.

    As it pertains to teachers in general,
    or myself in particular, I get outraged
    when someone lies about us/me.

    In fact, I am the one shouting this out at
    at the recent Michelle Rhee event:

    ME: “I’m passionate when teachers are
    being lied about! You’re damn
    right I am! Yes, I am!… Yes, I am!”

    (It’s at approximately 00:40:30… in response
    to moderator Genethia Hayes saying to me, “I
    understand that you’re passionate.” )

    CONTEXT:

    Again, that’s what I shouted at the folks
    on stage Michelle Rhee’s STUDENTS
    FIRST Town Hall on Thursday,
    September 5, 2013—those folks being
    Moderator Genethia Hayes, Rhee,
    paid union-buster Steve Perry, and
    sell-out former D.C. teacher union
    President George Parker.

    What led up to this was:

    1) a unionized teacher (a shill
    that the organizers planted in
    the audience) who began by
    professing to “be in awe of” Rhee,
    and then saying that her experience
    indicates that “we need to
    eradicate tenure and
    unions… do you see a future
    without them?”

    (THAT was “the voice of teachers” that
    Rhee allowed to be heard… Sweet Jesus!)

    (from 00:36:20 – 00:38:35)

    2) in response to that staged
    performance, Rhee blathered
    every union-bashing talking point
    as regards to tenure…

    (from 38:57 – 40:16)

    – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - –

    RHEE: “The bottom line… effectively,
    the way tenure operates, is that in
    this country, you have a job for life
    regardless of performance, and I don’t
    believe that it is possible to sustain a
    high-performing organization with
    those kinds of policies in place.

    “So that’s the bottom line. I feel
    that in education, we have to look
    at every policy through the lens of

    ” ‘Is it good and right for kids?’

    “And the research is clear. There is
    no correlation between tenure, and
    (a teacher) being effective in the classroom…
    so I’d rather focus on those things that
    ensure that kids are getting a good
    education…

    “So for me, the whole tenure issue
    is really… is… it’s, it’s… It’s more
    about performance. Right? We
    have to make sure that we have
    the most high-quality teachers in
    our classrooms, and as I’ve said
    before, I think that if we have
    somebody who is not performing,
    they should not be able to have
    the privilege of teaching our kids.”
    – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - –

    At this point—around 40:16—
    I couldn’t freakin’ stand it anymore.
    Lisa, a fellow teacher of mine, and
    I had been sitting together,
    listening to this with mounting rage.

    When the applause started, she and I
    seized the moment, and began objecting:

    “It’s ‘due process”! It’s not ‘a job
    for life’! The states with the strongest
    job protections have the highest
    achievement!!!”

    It’s interesting if you freeze the frame
    at this point. Rhee’s in a crowd that
    is stacked with 90% of the folks there
    in agreement with her—they had
    contacted every astroturf teacher
    group, parent group, etc… hoping
    to fill the audience. Even still,
    like the cowardly bully she is, Rhee
    looks forward or away from Lisa and
    me and smiles—in some attempt
    to get the pro-Rhee folks to just
    laugh away our objections—while
    her two male compatriots try to stare
    us down and into silence.

    Not a chance of that happening.

    Genethia Hayes tries to calm us, “I know
    that you’re passionate.”

    And that’s when I let loose:

    ME: “I’m passionate when teachers are
    being lied about! You’re damn
    right I am! Yes, I am!”

    HAYES: “Turn your music down.”

    ME: “Yes, I am!”

    HAYES: “… and let’s just try
    to listen.”

    As I detailed in this post, I was
    allowed to speak near the end of the
    event at:

    01:21:00

    Where I pointed out that the
    states with the highest union
    participation, and the strongest
    job protections—”due proccess’
    not, tenure/job for life—had
    students with the highest academic
    achievement, while those with
    the weakest unions… or no unions,
    just “associations” without any
    power to collectively bargain, were
    at the bottom.

    Rhee pointed out that California
    had strong unions and low achievement,
    but., as you pointed out, I was not allowed to
    follow up… and respond that California
    is 48th in per-pupil funding, with
    the largest class sizes in the nation,
    and the highest number of students
    who come from poverty, and from
    homes where English is not the
    spoken language…. and that in
    middle-income, and higher-income
    communities… if you broke out the
    statistics for just those… we were
    near the top in the nation.

    Shortly after that, student Hannah
    Nguyen spoke, and the clip of her
    talking became a YouTube sensation
    getting over 18,000 views so far.

    As you’ve shown, this clip is at:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rL4zOuJe0hQ

    Because of also this, protestors in other
    cities also disrupted these farces…
    in Philadelphia, the moderator told
    the teachers—who followed our lead—
    “Shut the-hell up!” This all got
    great play on the internet.

    So, thanks to our activism, this phony
    and expensive campaign of Rhee’s
    backfired, causing damage to their
    image, when they wanted to improve
    it.

  9. Dan M.

    I’ve got more to say.

    This Town Hall, and the accompanying video really was and is a joke.

    It’s appalling the way Rhee thinks
    that she can just get away with throwing
    unsubstantiated weasel words like…

    RHEE: “And the research is clear…”

    without ever being challenged on the
    legitimacy even the very existence of this
    alleged “research”…

    as in the following quote:

    - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -
    at: 39:35

    RHEE: “And the research is clear. There is
    no correlation between tenure, and
    (a teacher) being effective in the classroom…
    – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

    Oh really? Exactly what “research” is
    THAT, Ms. Rhee? Is it from an objective,
    peer-reviewed study? Is the group
    conducting that study independent
    of any funding from the usual suspects—-
    Gates, Broad, Walton, etc.?

    OR how about this doozy of a quote
    from Rhee:

    - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -
    at 39:10

    RHEE: “Effectively, the way tenure operates,
    is that in this country, you have a job
    for life regardless of performance.”
    - – - – - – - – - – - – - -

    Really now? Non-performing teachers
    are forced out of teaching all the ding-dong
    day out here in Los Angeles, without being
    technically “fired”—that is, resigning before
    ever going through the full termination process.

    Unfortunately, the non-performers
    are leaving the profession along
    with superb veteran teachers—co-workers of
    mine of whom I have first-hand knowledge
    and experience of their high quality—who are
    forced out on fabricated allegations.

    They were targeted primarily because they
    were at the high-end of the salary scale,
    and thus, according to the corporate
    reform ideology, must be kicked to
    the curb, because well, they’re really
    not worth the $60,000-to-$80,000
    that they are earning, especially when
    we can replace them with two 22-year-olds
    who make half that salary.

    If you go to an LAUSD rubber room,
    it looks like an AARP meeting, with
    almost everyone there over 50 years
    of age—almost all of them who
    previously had spotless and
    exemplary records after decades
    of teaching, but are suddenly
    accused of trumped up charges.

    These excellent older teachers
    are annihilated and removed
    by corporate reform ideologues
    and their administrator/henchmen/
    henchwomen regardless, or to be
    more accurate, IN SPITE OF THEIR
    HIGH QUALITY as teachers.

    Some teachers simply refuse to fight and resign,

    Others sit in detention centers awaiting
    a chance to clear themselves of these phony
    allegations…. a chance that never comes….
    with the district hoping that these teachers
    will become so frustrated and worn-down
    that they will just give up and resign. All
    the teachers want to do is to return to the classroom and continue in the profession
    to which, and to the students to whom
    they have dedicated their lives.

    As to the actual role and activities
    of unions, I have this to say.

    Of all the union meetings that
    I’ve personally attended—at the local, state,
    and national level—I’ve experienced a
    healthy and vigorous democracy, and if
    you dug deep and traced the underlying
    foundation behind any action, debate, or
    argument undertaken and engaged in
    by a union, the underlying motivation is
    always:

    “How can we best serve our students, and
    improve their academic outcomes and futures?”

    When you have a professional organization
    such as this—one that protects the rights
    of teachers, improves the working conditions
    and yes, salary, of teachers… one that fights
    for funding to get to the classroom so it
    can benefit our students—both the students
    and teachers benefit… and thus, you can
    attract and retain the highest quality people,
    and that leads to the high academic
    achievement you see in the states with
    strong unions, and the low academic
    achievement you see in states without
    strong unions.

    Rhee, Perry, and Parker said the cure
    to solving education is: 1) crush unions;
    2) institute merit pay based on test
    scores; 3) fire teachers based on test
    scores; 4) let the private sector… in
    the form of charter schools… take over
    and privatize most, or all of the public
    schools.

    Well, as I tried to point out, the states—the
    Carolinas and the Deep South—they
    have been able to do all these things for
    decades… and have been intensively
    engaging in them during the last decade,
    so SHOULDN’T THEY BE AT THE TOP IN
    TERMS OF ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT?

    No, they’re at the bottom!

    Conversely, shouldn’t the states with
    strong unions, and that cannot engage
    in these dubious, unproven, so-called
    “reforms” be AT THE BOTTOM?

    No, they’re at the top!

    Furthermore, is there a country on earth
    with a successful education system that
    has ever operated the way Rhee insists
    this country’s education system should be
    run? Does Finland, the model for the world,
    have any of the following:

    Teach for Finland?

    KIPP Finland?

    the Finnish Parent Trigger?

    the Finnish merit pay system based on student test scores?

    union-busting organizations like Students First / Finland?

    No, it has none of this.

    No. The country that has a system closest
    to the one pushed by Rhee, Broad, Gates,
    Walton and others… is Chile… which has,
    thanks to a CIA coup and decades of
    ZERO democracy, instituted all of Rhee’s beloved practices.

    The result?

    The education system there is an unmitigated,
    free market disaster… with stratification,
    low academic achievement, zero democratic
    oversight of the privatized system… with the only
    folks benefiting being the “bosses” of these
    Walmart-ized chains of schools. Every
    other subgroup—students, parents, teachers,
    citizens—are worse off, and thus, the protests
    in that country are ramping up every year.

    Seriously, IS THAT WHAT WE WANT FOR OUR
    STUDENTS AND FOR OUR SCHOOLS HERE? No, that’s why we are fighting, and that’s why
    we were in that room at the STUDENTS FIRST
    TOWN HALLS in Los Angeles, Birmingham,
    and Philadelphia (where the moderator told
    the teachers who wished to speak:

    “Shut the-hell up!”)

    So, as I said in the video at 01:21:00 or so,
    the interest of teachers and the interests of
    students ARE ONE AND THE SAME—which
    I emphasized with a gesture of two fists
    slamming together.

    Rhee and others want to argue that it
    is an adversarial equation… a gain for
    teachers—or unionized teachers—is
    always a loss for students… and a gain
    for students is always a loss for teachers—
    or again, unionized teachers.

    That’s a false dichotomy.

    If you notice in their reply to me, both
    Parker and Perry try to co-opt my gesture
    of punching my fists together at the
    “ONE AND THE SAME” line. Instead rhey separate
    their fists, arguing the false dichotomy that
    a loss for one group (students) is always a
    gain for the other (teachers) and vice-versa.

    They can do on the stage, but not in the
    realm of the real world. The interests of students and the interests of teachers are, indeed, ONE AND THE SAME. (smacking fists together)

  10. bbbbmer

    Oh, if only y’all knew about Rhee’s pre-DCPS history, including and especially her role in Sacramento’s St. Hope charters, founded by former basketballer Kevin Johnson, now her husband.

    But first, about the investigation into test score cheating at DCPS — if one views board meetings subsequent to her departure, the investigation wasn’t only about test score erasures — it was about BUDGETARY MALFEASANCE, including the manufacture of budget ‘crises’ to justify terminations, but also kickbacks to her former husband’s NEW TEACHER PROJECT for recruitment fees…

    But what’s REALLY startling about Rhee’s past is her part in covering up allegations of child sexual abuse against current husband Kevin Johnson, seven of them, including payoffs to victims, all as documented by now archived newspaper articles by REAL investigative reporters Dorothy Korber and Terry Hardy, formerly of the Sacramento Bee, which has since supported Johnson’s political career…

    She’s a really unsavory and corrupt character — small wonder her STUDENTSFIRST group takes money from ALEC and the KOCH BROS…

    There’s a word for people like her, but it’s not a polite one, so I won’t use it here…

    • Bilgewater

      bbbbmer, it may not be a polite term, but it is undoubtedly accurate.

  11. It is really “STUDENTS LAST.” You can see uncut Rhee in L.A. last year at George1la along with a lot of other video like Deasy running from students, Gloria Romero and DFER choking when we ask real questions. Lots of students performing at the Create California meeting in Fresno to put the arts back into California schools.

  12. Clara Fitzpatrick

    First to the student: You were taught somewhere to think critically, keep up the good work.
    To Kati: At least in CPS board meetings you get to say what you mean and the moderator (Board chair) does not demean your intelligence by misunderstanding the question and ask that you be civil when you try to explain that that was not the question asked
    Now to Gary: Thanks for your fine analysis of this “love fest” specifically designed to promote a prepared agenda to an either uninformed or planted audience. The love fest allowed all the ids, including the moderator, to perform without benefit of either an ego that negotiates between the uncontrollable id and the stubborn superego. Poverty was mentioned as being able to determine children’s standardized test scores, not their altitude. The panelists (nee ids) flippantly provided bromides to escape the question. Thanks Gary, for taking time to analyze this farce.

  13. Gary, I’m not a fan of Michelle Rhee. In fact I’ve written a newspaper column quite critical of her.

    But I’m wondering as why you choose to work at a “public” school with admissions tests that makes it very difficult for most students to enter. People have to do very well on standardized tests to have a chance of being admitted to the school where you teach. Why is that oK?

    • Gary Rubinstein

      Hi Joe, I’m all for the admissions process at Stuyvesant to having, as they say, ‘multiple measures.’ But remember, while comparing the results of a student’s standardized test to what a computer would predict that same student to get is not an accurate way to measure the quality of that student’s teacher, it is a pretty accurate gauge (if it is a good test) of how much that student knows so I’m more open to a test being a part of an admissions process to a school than using it for teacher evaluations.

  14. Bilgewater

    Ha, Dr. Tony Bennett tried this scripted, pre-screened question stunt back in 2010 at a “forum” for the public here in Indiana.

    It was being moderated by a tea-party republican legislator who also happened to be a principal at a private school.

    Let Rhee continue to speak to her diminishing crowds. When she shows up, though, I hope many like Gary Rubinstein and others will be there to ask the right questions.

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By a somewhat frustrated 1991 alum

Region
Houston
Grade
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Subject
Math

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