Sorry, no long post today. I’m sad, and reeling a bit. My edu-crush and reform hero Michelle Rhee has announced her resignation as chancellor of Washington, D.C., public schools. Guess I knew it was coming, but was probably in denial. The place to go for thoughtful reactions is School Reform News, where many respected education reformers weigh in (H/T Jay Greene’s blog) — including Robert Enlow, Virginia Walden Ford, Greg Forster, Matt Ladner and Lisa Snell. They offer an important reminder:
“Rhee was overhyped in the sense that reformers need to put broad systemic reforms in place, like the DC charter law, in addition to strong leaders,” Ladner said. “Rhee lasted approximately the average tenure for an urban superintendent. Leaders come and go, but the struggle for reform goes on.”
“Rhee was not overhyped,” said Forster. “What was overhyped was the whole heroic reformer model that says the system can work as long as we put the right people in charge of it.”
“Now we know that if you ever really do get the right people in charge of it, the unions just pull out all the stops to destroy those people,” he said. “We need to change the system in a way that breaks the unions, and only universal school choice can do that.”
Snell agreed, calling Rhee’s tenure “a cautionary tale” against relying to heavily on one strong individual rather than legal and structural reforms.
“Charter schools are a case in point,” Snell explained. “While there are many charismatic charter school leaders, these schools still only thrive in states where the laws make it easier to open a charter school.”
Hopefully reflecting on their insights will have me feeling better by tomorrow.