Michelle Rhee: ED reformer fighting $pecial interest$ with… well $$$ (or the hope of$$$)

i just returned from an event put on by michelle
rhee
who has recently decided to enter the non-profit
world in an effort to continue her struggles and vision of
education reform. her new organization studentsfirst.org
invited a small group of los angeles educators to discuss reform
ideas with the controversial former chancellor of washington d.c.
public schools… what was pitched as an opportunity to have
teacher voice at the center of the discussion so that michelle rhee
and her support staff for the newly launched organization could
listen and take away important perspectives from the people “in
the trenches”
… it turned into more of a town hall Q
& A, complete with microphones and documentarians to capture
this footage for the reform mogul… and why not? michelle rhee
is the most controversial education reformer
out there right now… not afraid of making waves and “effective”
at making her campaign understandable to most people. and most of
us educators want to know where she stands… and what is her
stance? let’s do right by kids. let’s focus on what students need
and it is hard to argue with the simplicity of that logic. the crux
is in the how… during this brief discussion the usual culprits of
ed reform lingo were present: teacher effectiveness and
measurement, accountability, retention, teacher evaluation, union
and media portrayal of educational realities… and of course, the
large special interests that have policy makers ears when it comes
to the not so new mantra of education reform (see alfie
kohn
) i asked her three questions: 1) had she ever heard
of sir ken robinson… she disappointingly answered no… so then i
shared a link with her and i hope she views it 2) what her thoughts
about the standardization saturation going on in the current
popular reform efforts in regards to curricula and testing,
fetishizing data and number crunching… she responded saying that
when she was chancellor of washington d.c. schools 8% of students
were reading at grade level while 96% of teachers were receiving
exemplary evaluations… a very real problem… but didn’t really
answer my question. i did feel like i could have phrased the
question better. perhaps more succinct: how do you feel about
standardized tests and their ability (or inability) to measure
critical thought… and the methods often used to “prepare”
students to take these tests? 3) how did she envision herself being
able to take on such big special interests and empower and advocate
for students to be at the forefront of any policy making an
implementation? she responded that she was going to raise a billion
dollars… in essence we have to fight big money with our own big
money… hmmm… there is something problematic in this and i am
not seeing the paradigm shift quite yet… but in a way she is
right. leveling the playing field for students by taking away the
money factor (or at least trying to balance it out more) with money
comes power to lobby on behalf of students and parents. the ability
to organize around elections and propositions and school board
appointments… and if anyone was in a position to do this intense
campaigning, it would be michelle rhee… i mean hell, launching a
goal like this on oprah… is a pretty good start!