August
29th 2008
Momentous Showdown between Michelle Rhee and D.C. Teachers Union

Posted under Denver & School Choice & Teachers & Urban Schools

I earlier told you about the tough teacher union negotiations here in Denver that got resolved at the last minute. But there’s even more momentous negotiations going on in Washington, D.C. – a school district that has earned a poor reputation for wasteful and corrupt bureaucracy and dismal academic performance.

New D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee (of Teach For America fame) is trying to clean house, though, as the Washington Post‘s Steven Pearlstein notes:

Negotiations are stalled over Rhee’s proposal to give teachers the option of earning up to $131,000 during the 10-month school year in exchange for giving up absolute job security and a personnel-and-pay system based almost exclusively on years served.

If Rhee succeeds in ending tenure and seniority as we know them while introducing merit pay into one of the country’s most expensive and underperforming school systems, it would be a watershed event in U.S. labor history, on a par with President Ronald Reagan’s firing of striking air traffic controllers in 1981. It would trigger a national debate on why public employees continue to enjoy what amounts to ironclad job security without accountability while the taxpayers who fund their salaries have long since been forced to accept the realities of a performance-based global economy.

It’s a pretty radical proposal that Michelle Rhee is putting on the table. Trading tenure for the opportunity to make more performance-based money? Sounds like what was attempted (unsuccessfully) in Colorado’s rural Ignacio School District about 5 years ago, but on a much larger and more dramatic scale.

Spurred by Denver teachers and leaders in tough schools, Colorado has made some small progress toward reforming the union contract – mainly through the Innovation Schools Act. But as far as imagining the real possibilities for instituting effective reform in challenging urban districts, all eyes should follow what transpires in Washington, D.C. Best of luck to Rhee and the reformers there.

More freedom, competition, accountability, and efficiency in our Colorado schools would be wonderful to see, too.

3 Comments »

3 Responses to “Momentous Showdown between Michelle Rhee and D.C. Teachers Union”

  1. Ed is Watching » Challenge Grows for Michelle Rhee’s Washington DC Teacher Innovations on 24 Sep 2008 at 9:48 am #

    [...] Rhee is fast approaching a critical crossroads that will put her bold leadership to the test, as her showdown with the teachers union reaches the moment of truth. The Washington Post reports that union leaders are giving in to cries [...]

  2. Kim on 12 Oct 2008 at 3:47 pm #

    The $131,000 sounds great for a salary in education to go teach and make a difference. Is there a doctor of education running the school building and or how experienced is the principle? How solid operationally is the building and how progressive Guskey and Marzano is the the vision , mission and philosophy ? That’ll take serious team work to achieve and all operations in the building up and running smoothly. Are the teacher’s selecting their own curriculum ? Open Court and Saxon Math with flexibility is excellent. What ever the curriculum, do the children have books,paper,pencils and school supplies ? Not interested in this robot teaching to a NCLB test ! How much creativity and school spirit is in the building ? Have we got the pep band for a rally in reading ? Is there a parade to enhance and motivate the concept characterization for reading and what story book character will you dress up as ? “Curious George ?” Is there drama,music,TD,psychology and is resource on top of GS 94-142 with social services in the hall way ? Is there someone running the computor department ? Are your partner teacher’s fun, and positive ? What resources are set up in the building and how stable is operations ? What is the % of teacher retention in the building ? Will parents that don’t own cars ride the school bus in to be a part of their child’s progress ? How is the PTA ? What kind of neighborhood support organizations and community organizers are working with the school in partnership ? How is displine handled ? How much administrative support does the principle have to get out of her office and in the classrooms to help with instructional feedback and be more hands on and effective in teacher instructional support and leadership ? What is the literacy coach like ? Find the CEO’s of Publishing Companies and you’ve scored ! You’ll be spoiled rotton on all the literacy creative fun going on ! Is the radio station in the building blasting music at 6:30 AM ? Is the principle dancing with her teacher’s down the hall ways ? Does the school have social events and dances ? A whole lot needs to be in place to make $ 131,000 ! Who is the principle connected with as outside community business partner’s and how many more has she signed up ? Are the copy machines working in the building ? Is there an art teacher,music teacher and PE teacher ? Merit Pay ? Umm ! You better make sure operations and all needs are met in those school buildings before you jump into that !Is there balance with the centralization and decentralization going on within reform efforts ? A positive school environment can create magical results of endless possibilities ! How conventional is the principle viewing methods of instruction ?How much creativity are teacher’s allowed in following the curriculum for intellectual enhancement and creating an engaging, instructional classroom atmosphere ? Is American history taught K-5 and what are the books used with curriculum concerning ? How many week-end retreats for fun does the principle set up for she and her staff ? A little training and some fun ! Would have loved to have seen this $131,000 in “one” school building out of several experienced in an inner city that would have made it happen ! The rest would have failed short and depends a lot on leadership and the team you’re working with and most certainly operations solid !The neighborhood and environment around the school makes no difference and have experienced that reality ! Pilot the program in 10 schools and compromise to evaluate results ? $131,000 ? Okay,you pick you’re curriculum and allow our team select and we’ll evaluate who’s team aces in scores viewing instructional accountability at the end of the year in comparision ! Empowerment of teacher choice and flexibility with creativity soars scores ! Make sure the school has a debate and chess team too and gets to travel nationally for competitions !Is the traveling science bus this week ? What are the field trips planned for the school year ? NCLB and 10 % ? That’s not working and highly qualified isn’t either and view national percentages on that ! We’re not asking for a $700 billion dollar bail out and over $400,000 to spend at a spa ! Let’s see what the “Ready Schools Initiative” team findings are ! Are the basic needs met in the school buildings for teacher’s and principles to be successful prior to agreement of contractual changes ? If not, iceberg ahead and find a float with a whistle !

  3. anonymous on 21 Dec 2008 at 12:34 pm #

    Are the gym teacher, music teacher, and art teacher going to be on merit pay? If so, how will they be assessed? Will they ride on the backs of the reading and math teachers? There is a very big question to answer here.

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