It was recently announced, and not very publicly, that Michelle Rhee, the HIGHLY controversial ex-Washington, D.C. superintendent was coming to the state of Alabama at the request of Dr. Bentley (yes the Michelle Rhee from the Waiting for Superman documentary). It’s still unclear who’s going to be footing the bill for her visit. Apparently she and her group StudentFirst are coming to here to work with charter schools in the state. Dr. Bentley’s office didn’t notify the state Board of Education or the state school superintendent. That should be the first red flag. How can a woman come in to talk about education reform…without talking to the Board of Ed. or the state superintendent?!
So anyways, out of everyone that could have came, what made Dr. Bentley think this woman would is the answer for Alabama? Ms. Rhee has a very poor record of success. Then what success she has had, has come under intense scrutiny because of fraudulent findings. It doesn’t take long to figure out why people hate this woman. She’s been accused of closing schools in the D.C. area without holding public hearings, failing to report complete budget figures at city council hearings, firing hundreds of teachers, excluding parents from involvement, hiring former supporters to conduct an evaluation of her performance, opposing student protests of her security policies, using authoritarian principles in her management and spending more time doing media interviews and on the lecture circuit instead of visiting schools (this is a direct quote from an al.com article). A USA Today investigation also revealed that 103 schools (or over half of the schools in D.C.) had been found to be changing answers on tests from wrong to right to improve grades and receive bigger bonuses for the schools. Teachers were also teaching down to bad tests, dumbing down tests, and a whole heap of other charges. They cited institutionalization fraud and a narrowed curriculum as the true outcomes as her tenure at Superintendent of the D.C. schools.
Aside from these investigations, Ms. Rhee has only spent one year actually teaching in a classroom and she admits that she couldn’t control them (she even admits that she would tape their mouths shut with masking tape while walking to the lunchroom). She was placed in the school through the Teach for America program and she has had ZERO education on, well, education or administration. And of course, Dr. Bentley names Emily Schultz as her education policy director, a position she had under Rhee in D.C. as well. Schultz also worked for Teach for America and has NO education in education administration.
So what is she doing here? She’s working to reform education laws to allow charter schools to be established in the state, as well as changes to tenure (something that she is totally opposed to). About a year ago, I interviewed seven different friends that I have that are teachers. I asked each of them about charter schools and if they were the answer to our educational problems in America and every one of them said no. I asked each if tenure was a good or bad thing, and 6 of the 7 said good (the other said it was both good and bad). And lets go ahead and say the other ultimate goal of her as well as Dr. Bentley, and that’s to eliminate the AEA.
So what will happen if charter schools are established? This is something that a lot of people don’t understand and I really encourage people to study it. These schools receive public funding (taking money away from the already broke public schools) but don’t follow the same rules or guidelines as them. Instead, they setup a “charter” that lays out what they’ll strive for as goals. They’ll also be able to create their own curriculum, allowing for specialization in certain fields (similar to majors in college). As long as the goals in the school’s charter are achieved, teachers receive achievement bonuses. This of course is going to bring in cheating and fraud. Ultimately, what’s going to happen if charter schools are allowed in Alabama, is that public schools are going to have even LESS money than they already do. Charter schools are going to be established and promoted by the Republican controlled state government and you’re going to see an even greater segregation than we already have. Education WON’T improve with charter schools, and could even become worse if we begin to see teachers dumbing down tests and changing answers like what happened in D.C..
Let’s be honest here. Our education system in Alabama is atrocious at best. It’s a joke. It BADLY needs reformed. However, this woman is not going to do anything. Charter schools are not the answer. What we need to do if reform our PUBLIC school systems, modify rules for tenure to allow truly bad teachers to be eliminated, and most importantly GET PARENTS INVOLVED IN THEIR CHILDREN’S EDUCATION. The greatest educators in a child’s life is their parents. Right now, parents in this state, and generally all over the country, either don’t care about their children’s education (they see school as a baby sitter), or they don’t have time to help their kids (because they’re both working 2 or 3 jobs to be able to pay the bills). We also need to address the quality of teachers that we’re hiring in schools, ensuring that it is qualified people in these positions and we need to pay them a quality wage. Who, in this country, has a more important job? Without quality teachers, as we have seen lately, our future generations are going to be worthless. So you can’t tell me that they deserve the ridiculously low pay that they are getting. We also need to completely embrace early childhood education, bilingual education, as well as the obvious fields of math and science. Until we address these issues, we’re not going to see an improvement in education in this state or this country.