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Suffer the Little Children

There are a number of high profile School Chancellors/CEOs/Superintendents.  To name a few, there is Rudy Crew in Miami/Dade, Joel Klein in New York City, Paul Vallus in New Orleans and Michelle Rhee in Washington DC.  All of these individuals are responsible for dealing with school systems which are faced with enormous difficulties.

The Washington Post recently (8/25/2008) published a story on Ms. Rhee (www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2008/25) entitled, Better or Worse, It’s Rhee’s School System Now.

Ms. Rhee was hired by the mayor of Washington, Adrian M. Fenty and is directly responsible to him.  He has gone on record as staking his political future on fixing the schools in the District of Columbia.  A number of mayors have taken on the direct responsibility of fixing the schools in their cities with the belief that schools create jobs.  Mrs. Rhee has established as a goal for her administration to establish D.C. schools as “a world-class system.”  This will be a daunting task because of the following:

  • According to a Manhattan Institute Report, November 2001, High School Graduation Rates in the United States, Washington DC schools graduated 59% of its high school class.
  • USA Today reported on April, 1, 2008, that there were 2,364 dropouts in the 2007 graduating class or 58.2% of the class graduated.
  • The 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAED) reported that the Washington DC 4th and 8th grade scores were lower than any other students in the United States.
  • Washington DC schools spend $14,400 per pupil.  That is more than any of the 50 states.

In order to improve the DC schools, Ms. Rhee “has closed 23 under-enrolled schools, overhauled 26 academically ailing schools and fired 150 people she considered poor performers including nearly 50 principals and assistant principals, most of them black women over the age of 40.” (Washington Post)

She has run into opposition from the teachers union, parent groups, the DC Council, and education activists.  Rhee, who is of Korean ancestry, has faced racial discrimination charges over the firings.  In addition, she has been criticized for not being responsive to the demands of parents and community representatives.  But according to the Washington Post article, she attended 370 community meetings.

Principals, work on year-to-year contracts, and according to Rhee were not rehired based on comments from parents, teachers and from reviews from her staff.

All heads of school systems, face enormous challenges, but if schools are not serving students, there needs to be some sort of immediate action taken.

Children in Washington, DC deserve to have their schools improve.

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