Update: Michelle Rhee vs. the D.C. Teachers' Union

Eighteen months after we profiled Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee ("The Iron Chancellor," September 2008), she still hasn't won union approval of a new contract. After the October layoffs of 266 teachers and staff, the union claimed Rhee used a budget crunch as a pretext for dismissing veteran teachers, since seniority rules don't cover cuts for fiscal reasons. "I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school," Rhee says. "Why wouldn't we take those things into consideration?" The release of 2009 test scores was good news for Rhee: Only D.C. and four states showed gains in math for fourth and eighth graders. "We're not good yet," she says, "but I'm seeing the quality of instruction improving."

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  • Catherine Salmon

    Betty Williams, above, said the following: “Not many in history and certainly never in the history of education has anyone been called a ‘chancellor’ accept [sic] Adolph Hitler.”

    Actually, quite a lot of people throughout history have been called chancellors, including people in education. See, for instance, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C...

    Aside from the many government officials who are chancellors (e.g., in the UK, the Chancellor of the Exchequer), and the many people who serve as chancellors for their churches, the heads of the NYC Department of Education and the DC Public Schools have long been called chancellors. In addition, many universities and university systems have chancellors. [See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C...]

  • Julie Worley

    It is a "dirty little secret" that children continue to be struck with boards for School "Discipline" purposes in 20 PREDOMINANTLY SOUTHERN states, while in stark contrast it is Illegal for school employees to do so in schools in 30 states! It is a dangerous practice that is not evidence based and puts the U.S. at odds with over 100 countries that have banned it.

    The Southern Education Foundation recently issued a report that the South is the First U.S. Region with a Majority of Low-Income (living in Poverty) and Minority Students in Southern Schools, that a large number of graduates will come from educational deprivation, which will have enormous implications.

    School Physical/Corporal Punishment is related to the discrepancy in achievement scores for African American children. The U.S. Department of Education committee announced two years ago that addressing the achievement gap is a high priority in LNCB reauthorization. African American children represent l7 percent of the school population and receive 36 percent of the paddlings.

    At his Senate confirmation hearing in February, Arne Duncan succinctly summarized the Obama administration's approach to education reform: "We must build upon what works. We must stop doing what doesn't work."

    It was reported that there were nearly 60,000 spankings in Miss. schools last year. Ouch! For the second time in a month, a school district in Leflore County has been hit with a $500,000 (each) lawsuit from a student alleging injuries from a paddling. It was reported that a state legal adviser, told Bristol, Tennessee Director of School that while school principals who paddled students were legally protected from allegations of assault, they were not immune from accusations of inappropriate or improper touching.

    School boards are asking for trouble to sanction a practice that is intended to inflict pain.

    Our nation's most prominent and trusted National Children’s Health and Education Organizations have issued official position statements OPPOSING Physical/Corporal Punishment of Children in SCHOOLS including The American Medical Assn (AMA), American Academy of Pediatricians, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Bar Assn, American Humane Assn, American Psychiatric Assn, American Psychological Assn, American Public Health Assn, National Parent Teacher Assn (PTA), National Assn for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), National Mental Health Assn and Prevent Child Abuse America among others.

    People with SPANKING FETISHES work in occupations that give them access to children like hospitals, schools, boy scouts, etc. and over 2,500 teachers were punished in a 5 year period since 2000 for inappropriate sexual relations with our nation's school children, and women teachers are sexually preying on children at an increasingly alarming rate, which is why PHYSICAL/CORPORAL PUNISHMENT OF CHILDREN IN SCHOOLS MUST BE ABOLISHED IMMEDIATELY!

    Controversy is raging as evidenced by media coverage of 3 Multi-Million Dollar College Football Coaches fired since the end of the season for Abusing College Student Athletes.

    Teachers and coaches are not required to adhere to any standard "Code of Ethics".

    Let us hope all the media attention regarding abuse of students by those paid to be entrusted with their care and education will result in pressure on U.S. Government Officials and local Politicians to stop ignoring Children's Fundamental Human Rights by ABOLISHING Physical/Corporal Punishment of Children in Schools Immediately, the cost is $0! Please contact your Governor/State Legislators/U.S. Congress Representatives to demand legislation to ABOLISH Phyical/Corporal Punishment of ALL Children/Students in ALL SCHOOLS and visit the Center for Effective Discipline website for Alternative Discipline strategies, maps of School Paddling States, Laws and statistics regarding number of children/students physically punished in SCHOOLS.

  • Toni Dorvitt

    Class, repeat after me...

    Shoot from the hip,

    Open mouth.

    Insert foot.

    The silence from the WaPo and from Mayor Fenty's office is deafening.

  • John Sexton

    Does Michelle Rhee really think that she can make a comment about getting rid of teachers who had sex with children and the authorities are not going to respond? If it's true, the teachers should not have been been dismissed - they should have been prosecuted and if found guilty, put away where the perverts could not abuse any more children.

  • Phillip Marlowe

    Rhee is doing just fine. The ad hominem arguments that people use to bring her down are in poor form.

    She does what is best for STUDENTS. We're seeing some success in DC because she is making school better for the STUDENTS.
    ad hominem
    1 (of an argument or reaction) arising from or appealing to the emotions and not reason or logic.

    Jill, you are projecting.
    It is Mrs. Rhee who is engaging in ad hominem attacks. This is the first time that she made the claim that she RIFfed teachers engaging in sex with students.
    As I typed, why the wait?
    And I see that you drank her KoolAid about success.
    Provide us with proof.
    Here's the proof that her actions to date have not shown any betterment in DCPS than over the past years:
    As usual, the press, especially the Washington Post, are eager to give all of the credit to Chancellor Rhee. That is a joke. As you can see in the following graph, which I made from publicly available data on national and DC averages, the trend in DC 4th grade math NAEP scores has been upward for quite some time – since the mid-1990’s, when Michelle Rhee was still trying to get her own act together teaching in Baltimore in a for-profit school that failed.
    I wonder if you manage at your company the same way.

  • Jill Newell

    Rhee is doing just fine. The ad hominem arguments that people use to bring her down are in poor form.

    She does what is best for STUDENTS. We're seeing some success in DC because she is making school better for the STUDENTS. Those 266 teachers, if they're good teachers, will find new jobs. They will. And if they're not, then get out of education.

  • Betty Williams

    Could an African Americn go into Michelle Rhee's community and do what she is doing and get away with it?

  • Betty Williams

    Michelle Rhee's comments about firing teachers who hit and molested children and abused sick leave is evident that something is not quite right. As a professional psychologist I have followed the claims from Michelle Rhee regarding the educational system in DC and its staff and believe that first of all strong prayers are in order for her social and emotional stability. There is one thing to protect children but I think this mantra is becoming self imposed as Rhee begins to possibly act out her own childhood. Rhee has noted that her childhood was marked with feeling like an outsider, one who was constantly teased in the midst of not only her own but various other cultures. She claims that she was constantly in trouble because of the things she said to people and how she said them. In an interview, Rhee claimed that her parents constantly chided her about her "mouth" and warned her that it would get her in trouble someday. From the mouths of those who knew her personally she was bossy, crass, and found it difficult to have true friends in her life. Today, she is called a "Chancellor". Not many in history and certainly never in the history of education has anyone been called a "chancellor" accept Adolph Hitler. Hitler, the Chancellor, had a similar childhood, flanked with disappointment, bullying, and low self-esteem until one day he made good on all those who wronged him - whether they were the actual people who wronged him or not. He also found followers as many people find themselves victims of this same type of situation - even today when violence is at one of its most undefineable peaks - arises Michelle Rhee. She rises in the midst of the worst economic recession in history. She rises when there are more blacks in prisons than in schools. She rises in the black community where it is easier and encouraged to test and categorized black boys as Special Ed students. She rises while Principals are encouraged to expel and suspend low performing students from the schools so as not to reduce standardized test scores. She rises as alternative schools increase as a means to shove these students to the side in programs to be treated differently from "mainstream students". She rises as (in her own words)parents of private school students (meaning white children)complain about how expensive private school education is and how they want their children in public schools but don't want black teachers teaching them. She rises also in the midst of gentrification. She rises as the status quo grows for African American professionals and role models to be challenged, attacked, televised, and jailed, and as black teachers are escorted from their classrooms and offices in handcuffs. She rises in the midst of our first African American President. I think we should do research on the relationship between gentrification and standardized test scores in Washington, DC. Rhee is obviously not only out for self-aggrandizement in the name of "the children". I just wonder which children she speaks of, certainly not "all" children - just the ones who score high and who have parents with the economic means to place her higher among the social echelon. Which way is up for Michelle Rhee? Clearly, Michelle Rhee needs prayer of which she will receive while in the Black community. And when the Black community begins to pray for Michelle Rhee she needs to be concerned. Black people believe that prayer moves mountains as it has been our only weapon in time of need and despair. Prayer will not harm her but it will set wrongs to right and crooked to straight. At the risk of sounding condescending which is certainly not this attempt, we also offer and pray that Michelle Rhee also seek serious long term therapy as we would not like to see her harmed but healed. Imagine her power used to help instead of to detroy as she has done so well her few years in office as head of the education in a predominant African American school system.

  • Crystal Proctor

    I am SO SICK of Micheel Rhee and her lies. I am SO tired of people talking to her and not talking to any other people involved in this situation. Go talk to the parents and the students, the teachers that were RIF'd. There were almost 400 people fired on October 2nd, 266 of them were teachers. I am sure you could have found someone to talk to. She has fired over one thousand people since she has been in DC. I would like to see the proof of what she stated today, and shame on you for printing it with out also printing the proof. She keeps changing her story depending on her mood. She has also stated that the RIF was NOT based on performance. Make up your mind MIchelle Rhee, there were a lot of hard working dedicated teachers that were fired. Talk about the people that have lost their home, car, had to pull their children out of college because they were fired with out cause based on lies this whole situation makes me sick to my stomach.

  • Phillip Marlowe

    This lady is nuts.
    She used a RIF to get rid of a sex offender?
    Why the wait?
    And why did she cover up for Kevin Johnson, her now fiance, when it was alleged to her that he was sexually harassing young female staffers at St. Hope in Sacramento:

    She lied about her "success" in Baltimore at Harlem Park ES (her Baltimore Miracle)
    She lied and said she received acclaim from the Hartford Courant, Wall Street Journal, the Home Show and Good Morning America

    She went behind the back of the principal, staff and parents at Hardy MS.
    She's trying to go around the principal, staff and parents of Duke Ellington.
    This lady has no shame.
    She reminds me of what Mary McCarthy said of Lillian Hellman:
    Every word she writes is a lie, including and and the.