Sunday, November 30, 2008

O Chancellor, O Chancellor...

Time magazine has an article on my Chancellor crush, Michelle Rhee. You can find my Holiday cheer to her after my remarks about the article.

The article offers very little that hasn't already been written about Chancellor Rhee, and adds a great deal of commentary on public education as it relates to what Rhee would like to accomplish.
Author Amanda Ripley writes: The U.S. spends more per pupil on elementary and high school education than most developed nations. Yet it is behind most of them in the math and science abilities of its children. Young Americans today are less likely than their parents were to finish high school. This is an issue that is warping the nation's economy and security, and the causes are not as mysterious as they seem. The biggest problem with U.S. public schools is ineffective teaching, according to decades of research.

Reactions: First, I want to see all of this evidence. Do any of you know where I can find that data supporting the statement that today's students are "less likely than their parents were to finish high school." If this is true, I am astonished.
Second, I doubt any research that suggests the "biggest problem" in our schools today is "ineffective teaching." Is it a problem? Yes. The biggest? No. The biggest problem in failing public schools is the lethal combination of poor teaching, uneducated parents, poor resource management, the lack of useful resources, hungry students, apathetic students, pregnant students, disrespectful students, underpaid quality teachers who leave for easier schools--get the picture?

Ripley writes about Rhee's interaction with a student who e-mailed a complaint:
Anacostia High has a 24% graduation rate, and only 21% of its students read at grade level. Rhodes is well aware of the miserable statistics, and when he first saw his new chancellor from afar, he thought she looked petite, foreign and underqualified. "I was like, She doesn't look ready for urban kids." But after they exchanged e-mails, he agreed to meet her downtown. He realized almost at once that he had underestimated her. "She actually sat with me," he says, "and talked eye to eye, like I was one of her co-workers." They decided to meet again, this time at Anacostia High. Rhodes began to talk about Rhee to his classmates, and they started writing an agenda for the meeting, detailing all the things that were wrong with the D.C. school system. They had much to tell.

Reactions: Here is where Chancellor Rhee ought to continue to operate. If she wants to change the culture of the schools she leads, she must continue to bring the stakeholders into the conversation. The stakeholders are not the parents or teachers; the students are the most important people in the equation. If we begin to respect our students, there's a chance we might earn their participation.

Ripley writes about Rhee's reaction to a classroom visit: In the hallway, she muttered about teachers who spend too much time cutting out elaborate bulletin-board decorations or chitchatting at "morning meetings" with their third-graders before the real work begins.

Reactions: Well, we all can't be perfect, including Chancellor Rhee. Maybe Rhee didn't have morning meetings in her two years of teaching, and I can say that at the high school level, I have not ever done this. However, this year as I struggle to teach reading skills to my students, I realize that they lack basic background knowledge. I've used Marzano's effective teaching strategy of Similarities and Differences (analogies, metaphors, etc.) with little success. Why? They didn't have the knowledge. This type of information comes to most students through dialogue with parents and adults. Many of our struggling students, especially from high poverty homes, miss out on the everyday conversations about the world.

Ripley also writes, She says things most superintendents would not. "The thing that kills me about education is that it's so touchy-feely,"

Reactions: Damn right.

And now to the Holiday song: (to the tune of O, Christmas Tree!)

O Chancellor! O Chancellor!
Thy style's so relieving;
O Chancellor! O Chancellor!
Thy style's so relieving;
You take no crap from union heads,
And when staff see you come they dread.
O Chanclellor! O Chancellor!
Thy style's do relieving!


At 8:32 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You ask. "Do any of you know where I can find that data supporting the statement that today's students are "less likely than their parents were to finish high school.""

Digest of Education Statistics Table 100 ( The averaged freshman graduation rate for 1970 was 78.7%, 1971 was 78%, and 1972 was 77.4%. The most recent years on the chart were 2007 at 74.8% and 2008 at 74.4% (admittedly these are projected but the non-projected rates for earlier years are even lower).

At 2:02 PM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Thanks Dataperson. I'm simply stunned.


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