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Friday, August 10, 2012
Mr. and Mrs. Rhee Lecture on Ethics « Diane Ravitch's blog
LP: Michelle Rhee and Kevin Johnson the dynamic duo of ethics seek to help out everyone by teaching them how to cheat on standardized tests and running and ethic challenged lo state government. The accountability only goes so high.
Both Johnson and Rhee promoted the anti-union film “Waiting For Superman.” When Johnson asked how many in the audience had seen the film, only about 20 of 200 raised their hands. Rhee told the stories of children in the film trying to get into better schools, and how their parents struggled with this, to make the point that vouchers would have paid the needed tuition. This concern over parents’ powerlessness over their children’s educational options led to a promotion for another upcoming film, this one funded by the Walden Foundation (Walmart), called “Won’t Back Down.” This film deals with the “parent trigger” in which parents can step in to privatize a failing school (by NCLB standards) have the faculty fired and reapply for their positions en masse, or create some other type of charter. No mention was made of the fact that in Los Angeles, it could in reality end with the closure of the community school, nor that chain charter schools actively recruited parents to do this.
...This was a major theme of the evening, the obstruction that unions present to meaningful reform. Johnson gave a powerful telling of his work to convert Sacramento High from a public school a charter. He stated that the unions stepped in to oppose this, spending vast sums of money to fight against it. No context was given as to why, leaving the audience to assume it was because they opposed poor and minority children receiving a quality education. The flip side of the demonization of unions throughout the night was the way in which the actual results of Rhee’s programs were blatantly whitewashed, or barely addressed. No mention of a D.C. test cheating scandal, of the lackluster performances of charter schools, of the billionaires that back up Rhee’s attacks on teacher unions, of the lack of effective teacher training for TFA graduates (who are assumed to be better than the “bad” experienced public school teachers), and no mention of the corporate funding of the anti-union films they were promoting.
Rhee also promoted the corporate model of merit pay for the “best” (according to flawed assessment models) teachers, and punishment for the bottom-performing percentile. This corporate model known as “stack ranking” or “rank and yank” is a perfect example of how Rhee sees schools as indistinguishable from businesses. She and her husband both portrayed themselves as progressive liberals stating that charter schools needed to be heavily regulated and that failing charters needed to be closed. This qualification was obviously too little too late to establish any semblance of “balance” in their ideology.
For all their talk of accountability, no one thought to ask them who holds them accountable to prove their claims of miracles, turn-arounds, or the selfish agenda of kid hating unions whose one desire is lifetime tenure. If anyone wrote that question for them, it was not asked.