Streams

Michelle Rhee's Education Reform

Friday, April 13, 2012

Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of the Washington DC school system and now the head of Students First NY, talks about the new New York State advocacy group she's founded that's being described as a counter to the teachers' union. 

Guests:

Michelle Rhee
News, weather, Radiolab, Brian Lehrer and more.
Get the best of WNYC in your inbox, every morning.

Comments [111]

Deborah from New York City

Although some of Rhee's education reform concepts have merits, it should not be done at the expense of public school funding. If parents want to send their children to a private charter school, then they should pay for it. I have no children and no issues with paying taxes for public schools; I do have problems with my taxes going towards private schooling (e.g., charters, elite, and home schooling).

Rhee, find the money elsewhere or find a way to reform the public school's current system.

Aug. 10 2012 10:41 AM
Tim Everds

I watched Ms. Rhees on CNBC today, then read up on her on the
net. The national education system is busted & her efforts
point this out.

I love what she said on CNBC today, that Americans don't seem to care
if our schools are inferior to China or France, etc.

Education is an economic issue.

She is smart & pro change. She'd make a wonderful Education Seceratary,
But Beltway types & other Educational incumbents will hate her.

Tim Everds

Jun. 23 2012 12:49 AM
Nancy from Union Square

I just listened to this on podcast. I'm a recent transplant from DC, and she's a total fraud. A performer, a fundraiser, and a fake. Recent inquiries into her performance in DC reveal the mixed history of her anti-intellectual administration.

The core problem with her and her ilk is that they don't respect teacher education. They are so confident to dismiss the incredibly complex task of teaching and molding a young brain. From Columbia Teacher's College to HBCUs to local state schools, there is wonderful work going on in our nation's teacher's colleges, and we already have many teachers totally committed to low-income students and their success. The problem is administrative inefficiency, inner-city corruption (lack of democracy), and social problems unrelated to schools. Poverty is the problem. This takes a lot of effort to change, it's not a quick fix and helicoptering in a bunch of Ivy League 22-year-olds to "save the inner city" ain't gonna do it. That's what I saw in DC and it was a big mess.

Finally, Brian Lehrer (whom I respect so much!) should retract his incorrect reference to her as "Doctor." It gave her undue authority as an interviewee, which she doesn't deserve.

May. 01 2012 12:03 AM

One thing for sure: with $10 Million Michelle Rhee can pay a lot of trolls.

Apr. 20 2012 11:51 PM
Erin from Bronx

Love, love, love Michelle Rhee.

Apr. 17 2012 10:13 PM
Amanda from Manhattan

I'm tired of people oversimplifying this debate. We keep placing people into boxes. Pro-union or anti-union. Education can alleviate poverty or poverty must be solved to fix education. It causes unnecessary divisions when we're all after the same goal. Doesn't anybody see that? The vitriol in the education reform debate is depressing and wrong. It needs to stop.

Apr. 17 2012 08:25 PM
Cecilia from Bronx

When you put students first, you elevate teachers, empower parents, and value education the way it should be.

Apr. 17 2012 07:51 PM
Adam from NYC

You can have your own opinion, but you can't have your own facts. And the facts show that reforms supported by StudentsFirst work. They're not a magic bullet. But they're a piece of the puzzle. There's been progress in NYC. There's been progress in DC. We need to sustain this and it can't happen without the work of groups like DFER, StudentsFirstNY, etc.

Apr. 17 2012 07:40 PM
Larissa from Harlem

LISTEN TO SO MANY OF YOU! Joel Klein this. Michelle Rhee that. This isn't about Klein or Rhee! Get that into your thick skulls! They're doing good work and trying to help our kids and many of you do nothing but criticize.

My question to detractors is: What are you doing to improve public education in NYS?

Apr. 17 2012 06:57 PM
Eli from UWS

The results in DC are a mixed bag, but in the end improvements were made. Rhee's reforms largely worked. Let's expand on them in NYC and push them through the state. Why get rid of something that is working? Doesn't make any sense.

Apr. 17 2012 06:51 PM
Alana from NYC

Good teachers + good principals = educated children

That equation holds true always. Outside circumstances like poverty or stability of the home certainly matter. They are facts of life that teachers deal with in the classroom. That needs to be understood by those outside the teaching profession. But they are NOT excuses. EVERY child can learn.

Apr. 17 2012 06:44 PM
Ari from NY

AH brings up a good point. Stop making this about the organization and its people and let's start making it about its mission--to give our kids a good education. That's something we can all get behind, right?

Apr. 17 2012 06:32 PM
AH from from nearby

There are too many comments on here about what adults think and want. Who cares if Rhee has a PHD? Who cares if she talks like she knows it all? Who cares if she is has a large audience and following? Who cares about how long she taught? The bottom line is that this isn't about Rhee, it isn't about you and it isn't about me. It's about bringing awareness to education reform and helping school communities make the decisions that are in the best interst of students. Education is the only profession where we can continue to fail students and not be held accountable. At some point, those of us who pride ourselves as being educators should be proud of what we produce...no excuses! I commend Rhee for taking her position and standing up for StudentsFrist, regardless of what everyone else thinks about it.

Apr. 17 2012 04:52 PM
Ellen from Manhattan

I want to address an issue that a lot of detractors here don't seem to understand. StudentsFirst is NOT anti-teacher. StudentsFirst is NOT anti-union. Explain this to me: How can StudentsFirst be anti-teacher when it wants to pay effective teachers more? How can it be anti-teacher when it wants to elevate the teaching profession and recruit the best talent? StudentsFirst respects the teaching profession and respects teachers. Union leaders are keeping the profession from progressing.

Apr. 17 2012 12:44 PM
Mark from Brooklyn

I don't understand why people keep focusing on Michelle Rhee's personal characteristics. Regardless of how you feel about her, the policies that she suggests are backed by an enormous amount of data! Stop making personal attacks and start looking at the proposals!

Apr. 17 2012 12:24 PM

Michelle Rhee for President!

Apr. 17 2012 10:35 AM
AJ from New York

Why so much hate for StudentsFirst? Where's the love? Don't knock someone trying to do good for our kids.

Apr. 17 2012 12:11 AM
Gretchen Long Island from Queens

Michelle Rhee does not propose teacher evaluations based on test scores. She proposes teacher evaluations that take students academic growth into account. I don't see anything wrong with that. While other countries graduate bilingual, competitive youth our country is ok settling for a less than a mediocre education.

At least Rhee is acknowledging the elephant in the room: We are falling behind.

Apr. 16 2012 11:38 PM
Erica from The Great State of New York

This hate between both sides needs to stop. In the end, we're all after the same thing--giving children a shot. StudentsFirst may not know everything. But they don't act like they do. The other side needs to realize that it too doesn't know everything. If they did, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in now.

Apr. 16 2012 10:58 PM
EJ from Binghamton

This honestly isn't about warfare between StudentsFirst and the Teachers Union. Rhee says that repeatedly. Yes, she has shifted from education administration to political action, but it seems she is still genuinely looking at the best courses of action for students in public schools. That's what obvious from what she's saying.

Apr. 16 2012 10:55 PM
Tracey from New Jersey

Read more about Ms. Rhee ans her lack of real answers for education. (h/t Jersey Jazzman) Jazmanhttp://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2012/04/incoherent-reform-of-michelle-rhee.html

Apr. 16 2012 10:51 PM
Terry from Rochester

How are we going to listen to a woman (LEONIE HAIMSON) who says class size is the biggest issue in education when studies CLEARLY show that class size has almost no effect past the 3rd grade. No credibility.

Apr. 16 2012 10:49 PM
Mary from South Glens Falls

Rhee is fighting for social justice by actually believing that ALL children can succeed. Hold students to high standards and they will exceed expectations. Like she says, "there is no silver bullet solution... There needs to be a comprehensive approach." This could not be more true. The system needs reform and it needs it now!

Apr. 16 2012 10:46 PM
Joyce from NYC

Leonie, stop carrying Randi Weingarten's water. I don't know if Rhee and her dream team will be able to turn around NY education. But I'm willing to give them a try. You're just advocating for the same old policies that haven't gotten us anywhere.

Apr. 16 2012 10:38 PM
Alex from NYC

Leonie is one to talk about trolls. Her cronies flood the StudentsFirst Facebook page with non-stop attacks.

http://www.facebook.com/StudentsFirstHQ

Apr. 16 2012 10:33 PM

Here's more about how Michelle Rhee's corporate & privatizing policies are closely aligned with those of ALEC: joined at birth - http://goo.gl/l63NQ

Apr. 16 2012 10:02 PM

Lots of Students First trolls on this page; you can spot them a mile away.

Apr. 16 2012 09:57 PM
Sandra from Utica

I'm so glad there's finally an organization that is prioritizing the right people in the education reform debate: the students. Way to go StudentsFirst!

Apr. 16 2012 09:51 PM
Leonie Haimson from NYC

Why is everyone on this board, including Brian Lehrer, calling her a Dr.? Rhee has no PhD or doctorate of any kind that I know of.

According to her bio on Students First, "Michelle has a bachelor's degree in government from Cornell University and a master's in public policy from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government."

So why didn’t she correct him?

Yet another attempt to fake her credentials and inflate her credibility (like her 110K NY members that were generated by people who signed her petitions by mistake!) that don’t exist anywhere except the PR spin bought and paid for by her hedge-fund backers.

Apr. 16 2012 09:50 PM
Jennifer from Albany

Michelle's response to the standardized testing question is spot on! Testing needs to be a part of teacher assessment, but not the only measure. A "multi-pronged view" is practical and fair.

I'm a teacher in NY and I appreciate the idea of more measurable feedback. I would never want to be evaluated solely through student achievement, but I like that I can see whether or not I'm succeeding in educating the kids in my classroom in a quantifiable way.

Apr. 16 2012 06:19 PM
Mary from South Glens Falls

It's too simplistic to call StudentsFirst "union-busting". The point isn't to be against teacher's unions, but rather to promote policies that have been proven to be better for students. Teachers are the most important aspect of a classroom, and we should make sure that only effective ones are teaching. We need to be valuing our effective teachers, not accepting mediocrity as the norm.

Apr. 16 2012 06:00 PM
Andrew from Upper West Side

A quality education opens doors. A quality education can lift people out of poverty. A quality education is something that every child deserves. Education reform shouldn't be about Democrat or Republican. It should be about educating New York's children.

I'm hopeful that StudentsFirstNY will help move the needle in improving education in our great state. One question: Will StudentsFirstNY only be involving itself with the NYC mayoral election? Or will it also be working at the state level?

Apr. 16 2012 04:59 PM
Jesse from Queens

It's about time we have someone fighting for students! Public education is to educate our children and provide them opportunities. It's not just an employment program.

Apr. 16 2012 04:55 PM
Ashley from Brooklyn

StudentsFirstNY = Michelle Rhee + Geoffrey Canada + Eva Moskowitz + Joel Klein

Michelle Rhee + Geoffrey Canada + Eva Moskowitz + Joel Klein = Awesome

By the transitive property, StudentsFirstNY = Awesome

Apr. 16 2012 04:50 PM
Jaime from NYC

Watch out Mulgrew...There's a new sheriff in town. The unions are going to be putting a lot of money into the NYC 2013 mayoral election. They want to help elect a Mayor who will roll back on the progress and reforms in education we've had under Bloomberg. We need a counterweight to the political games played by Mulgrew and his union. Go StudentsFirstNY!

Apr. 16 2012 04:36 PM
Joseph from Utica

Finally! A group to change the status quo. In the US, NYS is #1 in funding per child, but #38 in student achievement. We shouldn't be OK with this. I don't know if StudentsFirstNY has all the answers, but what we're doing isn't working so I'm supportive of their efforts.

Apr. 16 2012 04:03 PM
George from Buffalo

I'm glad StudentsFirst is entering NY. For too long we've been content with the lack of student achievement in NYS. We need someone to shake things up and between StudentsFirstNY and Governor Cuomo's focus on reform, I'm hopeful for the future of education in NYS.

Apr. 16 2012 03:56 PM
Tucker Ranson from United States

The irony is that this is being organized by those who have historically ignored and disempowered and systematically ignored parent and community organizations.

Apr. 15 2012 07:48 AM
Sean Crowley from Buffalo NY

Did everyone forget Rhee is still under investigation for the cheating scandal on her "test scores?" I know Arne roundball Duncan did but most of us haven't, She remains to be seen and what we have seen sucks.

Apr. 14 2012 08:11 PM
George

Klein, he has no agenda.... Rhee did a great job in DC pitting people against each other... how is merit pay working there

Apr. 14 2012 02:36 PM
Mary Conway-Spiegel from Manhattan

"I actually, I actually don’t think that that’s true [rr: That is to say, Brian does not actually find that his kids’ best teachers are frustrated with the Bloomberg system]. From the teachers that I talk to, what they are tired of is the bureaucracy..." I'm wondering who Ms. Rhee has spoken to? I'm wondering when she last toured Jamaica, Columbus, Robeson, Gompers here in NYC?

My sense is Ms. Rhee has never set foot inside any of these schools. What teachers are talking about is each and every reform that's associated with: "outcomes," "accountability" and testing. What teachers are talking about is Charter Schools scoring a free - at the expense of other children - ride inside already existing school buildings. What teachers are talking about is separate and unequal.

Curious to speak with those who are frustrated with bureaucracy, because THAT frustration would be a welcome break from real life in Public Education in New York City.

Apr. 14 2012 09:54 AM
Maria from New York

I came across very interesting articles by googling "Why Michelle Rhee left Washington D.C. schools" i.e. "Amid a Federal Education Inquiry, an Unsettling Sight" (NY Times. Feb. 27, 2012)and "Why Michelle Rhee's Education 'Brand' Failed in D.C." (The Atlantic. Sept. 15, 2010). I have worked in the NYC school system for over 20 years. Teachers put their hearts and souls into their jobs. I am convinced that Ms. Rhee is joining the 'Teacher Bashing Bandwagon' for monetary reasons, and to destroy the union. I totally agree with Jennifer's comments.

Apr. 14 2012 09:19 AM
Raul R. from Prospect Heights

@Dan G from Rahway, NJ - I don't think it matters if the school is good or bad. Lehrer is talking about the most innovative teachers, some of whom can be found in even the worst schools.

What is galling is that she belittles Brian Lehrer's experience is not true. If she thinks that Brian Lehrer is not a good judge of his own life, then how can you expect her to take any viewpoints seriously besides her own? To me, this is a perfect example of how Rhee and other advocates of mayor control dismiss all parents- which is one of the big ways I think they harm children.

Apr. 13 2012 09:29 PM
Dan G from Rahway, NJ

In reference to Raul R. Do Brian Lehrer's kids go to under or over performing public schools? To me it sounds like Brian Lehrer is talking about teachers over-performing schools and Rhee is talking about teachers in under-performings schools. This very well coud be the same teacher's reaction to two very different environments.

Apr. 13 2012 01:00 PM
Raul R. from Prospect Heights

Here's the part of the show where Ms. Rhee discounts Mr. Lehrer's personal experience. It starts at 21:06- she does her best to turn Brian Lehrers' words to their opposite meaning:

Here is the exchange started at 21:06:

Lehrer: I find my kids’ best teachers are the most creative, individualistic ones who hate the system the most. Do you think my experience with that is unusual?

Rhee: No, in fact, you know, I talk to teachers every day who are incredibly frustrated with the way the system works. In fact, you know, a lot of people talk about ineffective teachers and what has to happen—

Lehrer [interrupting]: But they’re not frustrated with their unions so much as they’re frustrated with the increasing homogenization that they see in the Bloomberg system.

Rhee: You know, uh, I actually, I actually don’t think that that’s true [rr: That is to say, Brian does not actually find that his kids’ best teachers are frustrated with the Bloomberg system]. From the teachers that I talk to, what they are tired of is the bureaucracy, the bureaucracy that both allows ineffective teachers to stay in the classroom as well as the bureaucracy that says there is a one-size-fits-all approach to things. And I think that you’re right, teachers are very creative but the best teachers are also very outcomes-oriented. They know exactly where every single one of their students stand, they know where they want to get every one of those students in terms of academic outcomes, and then they work relentlessly in whatever way necessary to make sure their students can reach those goals.

Apr. 13 2012 12:36 PM
C. Vasilev from Westbury, NY

Michelle Rhee's "Students First" is an example of the use of a term that should unite but rather defines an organization that is divisive, pitting parents against public schools and public school educators. Rhee suggests that the goals of anyone seeking equity and fair treatment for the professionals that work with students are antagonistic to the goal of putting students first.
At a time when funding for public education has been cut, cynicism toward those who have dedicated themselves to quality education for all students abounds, and education policy is being dictated by test scores and the private companies profiting from their use-- we need to take a giant step away from privatization and focus on the real issues of equity and excellence for all.

Apr. 13 2012 12:24 PM
john from upper west side

Most parents and many educators are not famaliar with "Gardners Multible Intellengences" which was the rage in education reform in the 90's. Some like myself were certified in a graduate program sponsored by the NYC board of education. I was entering retirement, considering teaching, and was substituting to get my feet wet. I took the 8 credit course in the summer intensive program 8-4PM July & August. I had the highest score on the final paper 128 of 130 points. Only 60% of the class that included assistant principals would leave able to fill the demands of the method. Including portfolio and group learning ETC. Expecting any teacher to teach to this method without the trining is unfair. Anyhow it is the opposite of teach to the exam. It requires a different grading scale for performance and takes different criteria to determine the grade. There are many good things about it. It gives teachers and students leaway....but it doesnot guarantee that a student will get high grades in an examination. The problem is and still is that the schools re not proberly orgnized to seperate running the school efficiently and managing cirriculum. Accountability is measured differently in the private sector. I retired from teaching as an adjunct lecturer in on of CUNY colleges in engineering.

Apr. 13 2012 12:02 PM
ph

@Sarah Moore, just because you have a graduate degree doesn't mean you have any ability to teach a class. I've seen too many professors who think droning on for an hour is the best way to teach a class or homework is for the birds. Imagine how 2nd graders or even 10th graders would feel.

Apr. 13 2012 11:53 AM

Joel Klein now works for Rupert Murdoch. He's been characterized as being Murdoch's consigliere in assisting the News Corps with its recent UK (and possibly US) phone hacking and police scandals. Joel Klein should not be allowed anywhere near our educational system.

Apr. 13 2012 11:46 AM
martha from crooklyn

We heard the word "incredible" a lot, and a strange inability to actually answer the questions posed to her.
I'd call Rhee's (and Klein's?) effort astroturf, only they hardly seem to be bothering to pretend that this is a grass-roots organization. But like other astroturf groups, this is an effort to cripple the economic power of a work force , but also its participation in governance— in this case the aim is, first, to capture public monies for for-profit groups (which charter schools soon will be) and, second, to be able to impose a corporate agenda on the development of a new generation of workers (also known as students).
Rhee has a script, so she could hardly bother to listen to the callers or to the host. School systems under her influence are under criminal investigation for cheating on the part of school and district admins in order to meet guidelines... But anyone who deploys the language of management, using superlatives to suggest that "every" principal and teacher can be (choose superlative, such as the best, fantastic superb,etc), that person is peddling snake oil.

There are wonderful comments here, with only 2 or 3 that support Rhee, which you would never know if you did not visit the page. Brian chose to mention one pro-Rhee and one that was critical. But what should happen, in regard to all comments, is to remark on the preponderance of comments, not to cherry pick for false balance, imo.

Apr. 13 2012 11:41 AM
NYC School Teacher from NYC

The interview should have examined more carefully who funds Students First. It is public knowledge that the UFT is funded by NYC teachers and paras who devout themselves to the kids and the teaching profession. Who funds Students First? Hedge fund managers who enjoy significant tax breaks for funding charter schools? Is it wealthy movement conservatives who are fundamentally opposed to unions regardless of results or outcomes? The point is, is this well funded organization being funded by the "tens of thousands of parents" Ms. Rhee referenced in the interview or is this just another example of the same, tried union bashing individuals that prop her up again and again.

Apr. 13 2012 11:39 AM
Raul R. from Prospect Heights

Listen carefully to the show: Ms. Rhee kind of called Brian Lehrer a liar. When Brian mentioned that in his experience, many of the best teachers are opposed to Bloomberg's policies, she said that teachers are opposed to bureaucracy, meaning they are in favor of Bloomberg's reforms. So in her view, either he is misrepresenting his personal experience, or Ms. Rhee thinks that Brian Lehrer has failed to understand the teachers of his children. Maybe she thinks that Brian Lehrer is too brainwashed by UFT propaganda that he no longer understands his own life.

I'll let the listeners of this show decide who is more reliable- Brian Lehrer's description of his experience as a father, or Ms. Rhee's interpretation of our host's life.

Apr. 13 2012 11:32 AM
Frank Marino from East village

CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE UNION BUSTING scams that DO NOT attract the best teachers They are LESS qualified and payed less money .This woman as a SHILL and she hogs the mike especially if she is being exposed . FAKE PHONY Charter BS . It's a shame that they sell their poison based on resentment that teachers have got it too well and of course the THEY never deserve it !!! At the cost of crushing the creativity of our kids with this George Bush - Obama test score scam . DAMN

Apr. 13 2012 11:19 AM
Kimberly from Queens

@john from office: Ms. Rhee was dismissed from DC because she's an education Nazi that didn't support good teachers and dismissed the concerns of parents. Parents should have a voice in the education of their children, but people like Ms. Rhee, Mayor Bloomberg and their minions seem to think that only they know best.

@john from NYC: Its disingenuous to think that the sole opponent to Ms. Rhee's type of reforms are the teachers union, and that they're planting people to pretend that they're teachers and parents. The opposition is real and its growing. I'm a NYC public school alumni with no children and not a member of any union, but I've become very wary of this new educational wave. Diane Ravitch is not a member of the union and she's against these reforms as well. Parents of the Upper West Side of Manhattan, who got an Eva Moskowitz charter forced into their district, also strongly protested. These are not teachers union ploys.

@Mike from Manhattan: She's no longer teaching because she's raking in big money being a "reformer". Charter schools have become the new fast money hustle.

@Ed from NJ: I completely agree with you; I am waiting for the charter school movement to take in the kids that are hardest to educate - special education students, kids with criminal records, the poorest and lowest performing students in the system. When they can do that, I'll buy into the charter school mantra. I have yet to see any charter school willing to do that. In fact, the charters consistently seem to do everything NOT to take on these charges.

Apr. 13 2012 10:54 AM

I found it interesting how she slipped past the question regarding why we should trust hedge fund managers and venture capitalists who are funding her anti-union efforts. Follow the money! To glimpse the future of the Rhee/Klein/Bloomberg world, see today's Times article (page A26) about the founder of a charter school network who earned $500,000 in 2009, failed to pay state and city taxes and ran up European vacation expenses on school credit cards.

Apr. 13 2012 10:54 AM
Sarah Moore

I feel that it is crazy to have a so many specialized educated people who can't teach because they need yet another degree to teach children which costs more money and who are not interested in teaching children because it does not pay. If the pay was raised and people who are passionate about their feild could teach children, we would see interested and educated children. I have graduate degree and can teach college but yet I can't teach children because I don't have an education degree....would't just a couple courses do? I feel that one of the major points that never seems to be talked about is teacher pay.

Apr. 13 2012 10:53 AM
Lyn from Brooklyn


Why didn't Ms. Rhee speak to the quality of her own private education experience? Why did she quickly skip to noting she was a public school parent? Why didn't she say much about that either? How long did Ms. Rhee teach in a low-performing school? How long did she spend in the classroom?

I hope Brian Lehrer will consider hosting a selection of random NYC public school teachers and ask them to speak to the issues of ineffective teachers. Is this really a top concern for an effective teacher? Every job will have its top performers and low performers; its human nature. There are many talented and devoted teachers in the school that I teach though it would be a wonder if anyone knew they existed.

Let's focus on the issues that a bureaucratic system presents? Why is it that the system is most concerned with the infantilization of teachers? I teach sixth graders, some who are scoring between 33% and 55% on the Acuity, and yet my assistant principal (who apparently knows best because of his 3 year teaching stint) will not approve copies of worksheets because he does not see the rigor. There are no worksheets or workbooks used in English Language Arts instruction and yet, the school provides workbooks for math and science. Every question a student of mine answers, is a question devised by me. Does that seem sensible? Before students encounter rigor, they must have the basics.

When attracting future doctors to the field of medicine, is the primary pitch that your 150 patients are counting on you and that feels good! Do they tell doctors that they will have to buy their surgical equipment?

Apr. 13 2012 10:51 AM
Nick from UWS

The woman had no listening ability at all. None. The only thing she was listening to was the sound of her own voice in her own head. I struggled in vain to detect the relationship of her responses to the questions posed to her.

Apr. 13 2012 10:51 AM
Marnie from Brooklyn

I am a public school parent here in Brooklyn. I am very distressed that Ms. Rhee uses the name "Students First" when truly she is for "Privatization First." Ms. Rhee is a 1%-er. And having lived through the chaos she created in DC-- where she was run out of town-- all parents in NYC should beware of her presence here.

Charter schools do not outperform public schools, this is well documented. Furthermore, they are based on an unsustainable model that relies on many young teachers without children who can dedicate unpaid overtime to their jobs. And charter schools are developed precisely on a system of communities "not lasting" -- meaning, we (the state/city) allow neighborhood public schools to fall into disrepair and fall into the traps of "high stakes" hoops just to create an opportunity to intervene with charter schools and the venture capital speculative profit making off our children that Brian mentioned comes with it. I'd also like to know who is making money off our children in the testing industry.

This is not unlike how cities allow public housing to fall into direpair to create an opening for private equity capital to come and "save" it-- as Obama is now piloting. This is also not unlike how Roger Starr, former NYC planner, allowed entire neighborhoods to fall into disrepair, so that "gentrification" can now "save" people from their own communities.

Ms. Rhee is about everything that has to do with profiteering, about everything but our students or my children. I say "Communities First." Let's get together charter and public school parents and make sure all of our schools work well for the entire community involved. We have only everything to lose with Ms. Rhee here.

Apr. 13 2012 10:51 AM
martha from crooklyn

We heard the word "incredible" a lot, and a strange inability to actually answer the questions posed to her.
I'd call Rhee's (and Klein's?) effort astroturf, only they hardly seem to be bothering to pretend that this is a grass-roots organization. But like other astroturf groups, this is an effort to cripple the economic power of a work force , but also its participation in governance— in this case the aim is, first, to capture public monies for for-profit groups (which charter schools soon will be) and, second, to be able to impose a corporate agenda on the development of a new generation of workers (also known as students).
Rhee has a script, so she could hardly bother to listen to the callers or to the host. School systems under her influence are under criminal investigation for cheating on the part of school and district admins in order to meet guidelines... But anyone who deploys the language of management, using superlatives to suggest that "every" principal and teacher can be (choose superlative, such as the best, fantastic superb,etc), that person is peddling snake oil.

There are wonderful comments here, with only 2 or 3 that support Rhee, which you would never know if you did not visit the page. Brian chose to mention one pro-Rhee and one that was critical. But what should happen, in regard to all comments, is to remark on the preponderance of comments, not to cherry pick for false balance, imo.

Apr. 13 2012 10:46 AM
Edie Smith from New York

As a citizen, I worry about the constant emphasis on charter schools. It seems to me they accentuate the growing divides in the city and country. I can certainly understand parents wanting the best education for their children but what happens to the children who don't have good parent advocates. They are also part of our society.

I'm in part influenced by watching an excelling public school (in Arizona) struggle to keep up its quality education when a group of parents who wanted "back to basics" " uniforms" etc. took some of the money away to create a charter school.

Apr. 13 2012 10:41 AM

I teach at a highly regarded independent school and no longer work in public schools primarily because I am free to develop and implement curriculum. As an arts teacher, I found that the demands being put on whole school communities to meet test-based standards, my ability to teach my art was completely undermined AND that the kids who would have benefited from a different focus for even a few periods a weeks were caught in a numbingly soulless grind of test prep.

Apr. 13 2012 10:37 AM
john from upper west side

the problem: meeting the needs of all students. There are high preforming student schools and low preformiing schools. High preforming schools have high preforming students and are able to meet higher demanding subjects and cirriculum

Low preforming schools are in minority neighborhoods with low preforming students. The two groups have different needs. They cannot be reonciled favoribly without diluting the cirriculum or minimumizing requirements for the lower preforming students. Filling the needs of higher preforming students will fail to meet the needs of lower preforming students. The bell curve is real and it can only be moved left or right. It makes it difficult for all teachers but there are some teachers who cannot meet the needs of most students and should be removed.

Apr. 13 2012 10:36 AM
Laurel from Long Island

How can charter schools claim success when they are not held to the same standards as public schools - for example they don't have to give the same standardized tests to their students as public schools must.

Also, charter schools have their pick of students. They can and do deny enrollment to students they don't want.

Let's demand that charter schools must take any applicant and must also test their students with the same tests as public schools.

Let's face it, they are just private schools demanding public funds.

Apr. 13 2012 10:35 AM
Michele Hamilton from Brooklyn, NY

Two Points:

1) Has anybody read the Agreement on Evaluation Guidelines? http://www.governor.ny.gov/press/02162012teacherevaluations -"The agreement significantly tightens the scoring system to ensure student achievement and teacher performance are both properly taken into account for teacher ratings. Teachers or principals that are rated ineffective in the 40 points could not receive a developing score overall." THIS MEANS STANDARDIZED TESTS TRUMP ALL

2) Public schools struggle and falter because the mayor starves public schools of necessary funds. It is not a matter of the money following the students.

Apr. 13 2012 10:34 AM
Stephan from queens NY

What about the students. No one talks about the students, you all should just walk into an inner city school and see how the kids are behaving. They want you to teach ABCs & 1,2,3 but you can’t do this without discipline first. These kids today lack discipline which starts at home and continues at school or work. The best teacher can’t teach effectively if the students are not discipline and are ready to learn.

Apr. 13 2012 10:33 AM
Mary from NYC

Both my children attended NYC public school from kindergarten to graduation from high school. Since Klein became chancellor, I have been so relieved that my chiildren are out of the system run by him and Bloomberg. Their emphasis on testing is short-sided and and "uneducated." For example, they might look at teacher/student ratio, and poverty of the students. I REALLY object to Rhee and Klein and their hedge fund contributors interferring with NYC public schools. Are/were their children in public schools?

Apr. 13 2012 10:31 AM
RBC from NYC

Ask Ms. Rhee if her reforms were so great, why did the Mayor of Washington DC (her biggest supporter) get voted out of office strongly due to the unsatisfaction of Ms. Rhee's reforms by the electorate?

Apr. 13 2012 10:31 AM
Gretchen from Astoria

The system of assessment and evaluation as it is currently in place, developed under the direction of Klein and Bloomberg, and against the objections of the teachers, in fact pressures teachers and principals to make choices to preserve their jobs that are in diametric opposition to the best, creative, pedagogical interests of the students in their schools.

Apr. 13 2012 10:30 AM
"Miss" from HARLEM

As a teacher in one of Bloomberg's 27 shutdown schools, I can agree with Dr.Rhee's note on highly effective teachers and their impact on student lives.

Her solution though, on sending students to "charter schools".. This is troublesome to me because what of the student with no parents to advocate for them?

I also enjoyed her comment on social mobility. This is incredibly true but, this narrative of social mobility has proven to be failed by the charter school movement through their lack of incorporation of English Language Learners in their schools.

My question to Ms.Rhee is this: What of the students with special needs? Or behavioral issues? Or language barriers?

The NYS Regents does not address this. No test can.

Apr. 13 2012 10:28 AM
Victoria Zunitch from Queens

Ms Rhee says parents are flocking to charters from local publics because the locals aren't doing a good job. Maybe she can just get her friends Klein and Bloomberg fired, because they're responsible for that.

Apr. 13 2012 10:28 AM
RJ from NY NY

I quibble but I'm tired of folks saying "this country was founded on.." and citing things that are contemporary, i.e. "The American Dream".

I think people fled here to evade religious persecution...the idea of freedom and etc etc came later..much later..

Apr. 13 2012 10:28 AM
Ellen from Outer Borough

When I look at the support that Michelle Rhee has garnered, it seems a number of names and I am guessing a large amount of financial suppport from hedge funds and the economic elite. To me it is clear that her organizing is from and for the well bing of the 1%. What are their educational credentials? I don't think their goal is students. I think it is very much to dismantle unions, a clear benfit for them. How does Ms Rhee respond?

Since Ms. Rhee's departure from D.C.,there has been an investigation into cheating on the tests that were the measuring stick for teacher performance. Considering that her high pressure tactics did not actually improve reading scores in D.C. as measured by the NAEP when compared to the results 10 years previously. It appears the wonders that Ms. Rhee was supposed to have performed really didn't do much for D.C. Comment please.

Apr. 13 2012 10:28 AM
Amanda Brokaw from Brooklyn

I've enrolled my son in the New American Academy, which is a public elementary school that was nurtured by Joel Klein. It is not a charter and the principal has been given a lot of autonomy to create a truly innovative and progressive curriculum. Will this sort of school fit into the model that Dr. Rhee is describing?

Apr. 13 2012 10:28 AM
Mike from Manhattan

If teaching is so rewarding to her, why is she no longer teaching?

Apr. 13 2012 10:28 AM
J Ballonzoli from New York, NY

I can't believe that some people are buying the BS that this woman is giving us! Charters Schools was a wonderful dream for education advocates. It's no more thanks to politicians and other people like her!

Apr. 13 2012 10:27 AM
Nick from UWS

Another slippery paid-off shill for the rich and their kids. Hedge fund managers, eh?

Apr. 13 2012 10:27 AM
amm339


Why don't we trust these reformers?

Joel Klein/ Rupert Murdoch

http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/Nm3ZmHm7aj9/Rupert+Murdoch+Delivers+Keynote+National+Summit/X3lCvLnN5Z3/Joel+Klein

Apr. 13 2012 10:27 AM
Nick Penkovsky from New York

Is there any correlation between High Performing Schools and highly talented students? Can a school be high performing where each child schieves to his or her own ability?

and she is wrong about hte principles of thefounding of our country- many people because of color were enslaved

Apr. 13 2012 10:27 AM
mc from Brooklyn

Note to NYC mayoral candidates: take a cautionary lesson from DC's ex-mayor Adrian Fenty, stay away!

Apr. 13 2012 10:27 AM
Sabrina

Ms. Rhee: It's not honest to say that there are this many "members" of StudentsFirst. A lot of people have been *tricked* into signing your petitions on Change.org, and are then being claimed as "members". See these posts:

http://parentsacrossamerica.org/2011/04/regrets-clarification-after-signing-one-of-michelle-rhees-petitions/

http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teacher_in_a_strange_land/2011/08/money_cant_buy_me_love.html

Apr. 13 2012 10:26 AM
Justine

Why can't it be drawn out that Michelle Rhee's reform movement is about busting teacher unions? The only "improvement" she is looking for in charter schools is non-union teachers. Teacher unions are one of the few strong unions left and this is part of an organized effort to destroy them.

Apr. 13 2012 10:26 AM
GJ from NYC

As far as I could tell she completely avoided the question about unions and comparisons to other countries.

Apr. 13 2012 10:26 AM
shashinyc from Manhattan

Caller Susan is right on...Bloomberg's clear agenda is to PRIVATIZE public education. If the expertise to create brilliant schools exists, why not hire such educational consultants to overhaul the public school system holistically so that EVERY SINGLE CHILD is afforded an equally excellent New York City education. Blame is cast upon the teacher's union, but mayoral will to reform the system isblatantly absent.

Apr. 13 2012 10:26 AM
Denise from Riverdale

This is not about SOME parents supporting charter schools. This is about systematic dismantling a public school system that is part of the social contract and turning it into a FOR PROFIT enterprise that will NOT put children's interests first in the long run. By its nature a privatized school system will put profits ahead of children's needs.

Apr. 13 2012 10:26 AM
RL

Interesting that several times the guest begins to talk before BL or the caller has finished speaking. In the theater we call that - Not Listening. Not a good sign.

Apr. 13 2012 10:26 AM
will

Wasn't there a national study on performance based compensation that was halted midstream because it was completely ineffective at changing outcomes?

Apr. 13 2012 10:25 AM
lucy from Brooklyn

Michelle Rhea-
Why do hedge fund investors want to invest in charter schools and politicians that support charter schools? Have these investors suddenly gotten an altruistic streak? No, they are making money off of the students so that less money is going to the students education.

Apr. 13 2012 10:25 AM
Pablo Alto from da Bronx

The system is broken, but Dr. Rhee does not have the answer. She is a manufactured commodity. Get Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch together on the show.

Apr. 13 2012 10:25 AM
Nicole from nyc

Your guest is correct, that some parents do want to send their children to charters. That is because the city is putting money into these charters rather than bettering the schools that exist. There is much evidence demonstrating that overall, children at charters do NOT do better than children at public shools. Some schools are exceptions in both categories, but overall, the education is not better.

Apr. 13 2012 10:25 AM
David Campbell from Flatbush

Ms. Rhee is being disingenuous when she says that she supports the evaluation system being based on factors other than test scores. It was only through the strength of the union that we were able to beat back the dominance of test scores. In fact Mayor Bloomberg has not agreed to the evaluation system precisely because he believes there is not enough reliance on test scores.

Apr. 13 2012 10:25 AM
Edward from NJ

As long as charter schools select their students on an opt-in/lottery basis, their performance is meaningless. Show me a charter school that can educate lower-performing public school kids with uninvolved parents, then I'll be convinced.

Apr. 13 2012 10:23 AM
a from Brooklyn

What Dr. Rhee says about disapproving of the narrowing of curriculum, etc., completely ignores human motivation; principals and teachers who live and die by test scores will try to protect their status and their jobs by preparing students for tests. It may be short sighted, but teachers' interests are necessarly short term.

Apr. 13 2012 10:21 AM
John from NYC

Interesting that the the first two callers are representing the teacher's union while claiming to be a principal and a parent.

Apr. 13 2012 10:21 AM
Patrick from Queens

Your guest comes across as another special interest group. If my memory serves me right, Gov. Cuomo defunded a 20 million dollar teacher recruitment organization that she headed last year. When that effort failed, she simply jumped on another opportunity to enrich herself through this new effort. I'd be very interested to hear her response to this.

Apr. 13 2012 10:21 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

Karen Belluzzi, RIGHT ON. Current education reform discourse is bogged down with widespread unawareness of what teachers actually do and the support they require.

Apr. 13 2012 10:19 AM
Victoria Zunitch from Queens

Brian always leaves his hardballs at home when discussing NYC public education, perhaps because as a public school parent he knows all too well the Soviet-style retaliation that would rain down on his head and family if he gave them the tough questions treatment.. Brian, please ask Ms. Rhee if she's talked to her buddy Joel Klein about the elimination of libraries and book check-out in NYC public schools under his rule. They're gone, gone, gone.

Apr. 13 2012 10:17 AM
Peter R from Queens

2 teens killed themselves in Kenya over standardized test scores recently. Are we going in that direction?

Apr. 13 2012 10:17 AM
john from office

This issue is very complex. You have race, income, children and unions all stired into a pot. There should be an outside party that judges what is best for the children, not for the unions or what uninformed parents want.

This guest was drummed out of DC because she refused to accept low expectations for black children and she was hounded out by the unions and City council.

Apr. 13 2012 10:17 AM
Tucker Ranson from United States

The irony is that this is being organized by those who have historically ignored and disempowered and systematically ignored parent and community organizations.

Apr. 13 2012 10:16 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

Students first, OF COURSE. The path to that is NOT through neoliberal predators, or the privatization of schools, or the low regard for and de-unionization of teachers.

Apr. 13 2012 10:15 AM
Karen Belluzzi from New Jersey

I would like to know Rhee's actual teaching experience. Education is the only profession that someone can "lead" when they actually have no idea what it is like to be a teacher. Teach in urban education for at least ten years, then tell me how to do my job better. (Spoken from a former NYC teacher who left the system when businessmen started telling me what to do)

Apr. 13 2012 10:13 AM
mick from Inwood

What does she know about the educational problems of New York State or New York City? She is an outsider with a one-size-fits-all solution that purports to work for students but in reality is out to reduce costs by reducing teacher compensation and pushing out teachers as they near the top of the salary scale.

Apr. 13 2012 10:11 AM
Alyson Bardsley from Staten Island

Ask Ms Rhee what she'll do to stop textbook and testing companies' guiding policy e.g the overemphasis on tests, which benefit no one but textbook and testing companies' bottom line.

Apr. 13 2012 10:11 AM
Victoria Zunitch from Queens

Please ask M. Rhee if sticking 4-year-olds at desks to do worksheets for 6 hours a day -- with no play time, SpongeBob for recess and 11 pages of homework per night -- constitutes a "good" education. Then ask her if Mike Bloomberg has passed the standardized test of a "good" education mayor.
The best interests of kids require developmental appropriateness and parental control of school boards.

Apr. 13 2012 10:08 AM
Pam from Bronx

It is baffling to see such manufactured vitriol when the evidence is clear in any classroom and every day in the newspaper. The system is broken. The teachers union is by design interested and focused on the needs and pay and time and latitude of the teachers. they are not programmed to focus on the kids.

as a nation, we have to protect and nurture our most important natural resources - our kids. look at china or india or even some of the most beleagured countries on the planet and you will see an approach to education far superior to our own.

it is embarrassing but ultimately it will be tragic for our country.

Good for Michelle to try and take on something so powerful and embedded. We need a new way of thinking and StudentsFirst brings that.

Apr. 13 2012 10:06 AM
mct from Brooklyn

She revealed herself when she offered to allow a TV crew film her firing a principal. Can you say "public humiliation?" Is this "students first?" Absolutely disgusting.

Apr. 13 2012 09:40 AM
Joe from nearby

I'm not a teacher but I'm sick of seeing them attacked by people who claim to be motivated strictly "for the children!" but really have their own ulterior motives, like profiteering and union busting. The Wikipedia entry on Rhee reveals that she is simply a self-promoting fraudster with a hidden agenda (sounds like a politician). From the "test erasure scandal" to her own "resume scandal" and her shutting down high-scoring schools, to politically motivated firings of good personnel, to getting appointed Chancellor of D.C. schools though she never had been even a school principal, to attacking Bobby Walton in Michigan for opposing her group, to teaming up with Scott Walker, the scourge of Wisconsin-- it's truly frightening that this discredited person has any input at all in school policy making. "StudentsFirst"--even the name is a bad joke. Policy is the last thing this person should be allowed to get near. Who is she a puppet of?
BRIAN- please ask her how much her gross income has been since she left the teaching profession. Has she ever met the Kochs? That should tell us a lot about her.

Apr. 13 2012 09:04 AM
David krupp from Queens, New York

Dear Mr. Lehrer:

Please ask Ms. Rhee these questions:

How can you claim that teachers and teacher unions are the major reason for the poor performance of many american students since countries who do best on international tests have teachers' unions?

How can you claim that teachers and teacher unions are the major reason for the poor performance of many american students since Asian and Jewish student out perform other students. Isn't culture the most important factor is student performance?

Can you think of any other country that has deamonized their teachers for the poor performance of their students?

How can you explain that research has shown that charter school students to no better than regular school students?

Don't charter schools have a big advantage over regular schools because they get students that are really interested in education and willing to work hard?

Apr. 13 2012 08:36 AM
Jennifer

P. S. I couldn't help but notice that "Students First NY" actually gives Sacramento, CA as its address. Listen, if you don't live in the state, if you don't have children in the system, you really don't deserve a voice. If you don't have skin in the game, you shouldn't get to call the shots. Now, we all understand that Students First is trying to figure out who the next mayor will be. Christina? John? To those would-be mayoral candidates, I say: Listen to the voters, not to special interests!

Here's what parents want: a stable system with clean, well-maintained buildings (even toilet paper in the bathroom -- a luxury, I assure you in many schools!),a clear and challenging curriculum, meaningful learning goals, and, of course, conscientious, caring teachers. But the fulcrum in the aforementioned equation is the administrator. A school principal hires, fires, negotiates with building contractors and maintenance, and most importantly, creates a school culture. That person needs to be someone with integrity and an institutional memory and someone who is not easily swayed by the latest fad from some outsider with little actual meaningful experience in educating children.

Apr. 13 2012 08:34 AM
Jennifer

I'm so disheartened that this woman continues to attempt to foist her "reforms" from DC on people around the country. It's easy to vilify Rhee because she's so obviously a self-promoter, but, of course, she's really just a talking head for vested interests funding her speaking engagements. Please probe these connections. Follow the money! What public contracts are private entities (testing companies, publishers, e-learning endeavors) angling for?

I'm not a teacher, but I am a parent with two children who have gone through NYC's public school system, and I have been witness to the rapid decline in many of New York's public schools since Klein imposed reforms that dumbed down curriculum, changed funding (Fair Student Funding deserves a radio segment unto itself), massaged graduation rates with policies like "credit recovery," manipulated test results (not to mention, shifted from Princeton to McGraw Hill, which resulted in a shift from test results being clear, available, and detailed, to tests being inaccessible to parents post-delivery, results obscured in political wrangling --Oh! It's just enraging as a taxpayer to consider what these people have got away with in the name of education reform!!!),and reorganized the schools so chaotically that it is close to impossible for even an educated parent to navigate the ins and outs of "choice" and to ensure a consistent, comprehensive k-12 education for his/her child.

Obviously, I'm only one person writing in before I rush off to work, but I assure you that many, many, many of my neighbors -- parents of public school children -- are disgusted by Rhee, Klein, and their ilk and the policies they represent.

Apr. 13 2012 08:19 AM

Leave a Comment

Register for your own account so you can vote on comments, save your favorites, and more. Learn more.
Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief.
Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. Names are displayed with all comments. We reserve the right to edit any comments posted on this site. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. By leaving a comment, you agree to New York Public Radio's Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use.