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Michelle Rhee. She wants to “reform” veteran teachers out of the profession.

January 16, 2009
Michelle Rhee.

Michelle Rhee.

As part of DC school boss Michelle Rhee’s effort to “reform” district schools, she has placed an unknown number of teachers on a 90 day remediation plan. Allegedly these are teachers who have been marked as unsatisfactory in six or more categories by their administrator.

But when the DC teachers union asked for the names of these teachers, Rhee refused.

Why would she refuse? And why is this important to the union?

One issue is that Rhee is a liar. On the one hand she has already admitted that her intent is to fire the teachers, rather than remediate them. Remediation is the intent of the bargained process.

But, according to the Washington Post:

The 90-day plans are part of Rhee’s attempt to remove “a significant share” of the 4,000-member teacher corps, which she regards as “not up to the demanding task of educating our youth effectively,” according to the long-range action document she presented in October.

When busted for this misuse of the remediation plan, Rhee reversed herself and said,

The 90-day plan “is not just a process to terminate teachers, but to identify and support teachers who need help.”

“We think an overemphasis on all the names and numbers will not help us with the environment we’re trying to create.”

Sure, Michelle. Too much emphasis on names and numbers when you want to fire large numbers of teachers with names.

The real issue is that without the names and numbers you can’t tell if there is a pattern to the firings. You know. A pattern that involves race, gender or age. See, that would be against the law, even if  it is helpful to the environment that Rhee is trying to create.

And that’s just what the union suspects.

Nathan Saunders, the union’s executive vice president, said Rhee may be reluctant to reveal the names because she has disproportionately targeted teachers over age 40. Rhee did not respond to a request for comment on Saunders’s charge.

At least one member of the D.C. Council is also asking for more transparency from Rhee. Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) has asked for the number of teachers on 90-day status and their years of experience.

In a Jan. 8 letter to Rhee, Mendelson wrote: “I am troubled by reports that the 90 day plan may be disproportionately administered to senior teachers.”

It just may be that the “environment” Rhee is trying to create is one that would employ mostly teachers who are non-tenured, more easy to intimidate and less costly. This is what the union busters call “reform.” The rest of us just call it discriminatory and illegal. Oh, and scummy.

One Comment leave one →
  1. jessealred permalink
    April 11, 2009 2:03 pm

    I am veteran teacher from Houston seeking a dialogue with current and past Teach for America teachers regarding a pattern of TFA leaders and alumni in leadership positions promoting conservative ideas and profiting from close relationships with reactionary corporations while presumptuously claiming to be the new civil rights movement. I first became aware of this when a former local TFA Director, now a school board member, recently proposed to fire teachers based on test scores and opposed allowing us to vote to have a single union.

    The conservative-TFA nexus began when Union Carbide sponsored Wendy Kopp’s initial efforts to create Teach for America. Union Carbide’s negligence had caused the worst industrial accident in history, in Bhopal, India. The number of casualties was as large as 100,000, and Union Carbide did everything possible to minimize taking responsibility.

    Ms. Kopp wrote in her book she nearly went to work for the Edison Project, and was all but saved in financial hard times by their managerial assistance. The Edison Project, founded by a Tennessee entrepreneur, was an effort to replace public schools run by elected school boards with for-profit, corporate-run schools. Her husband, Richard Barth, was an Edison executive before taking over at KIPP Foundation.

    In 2000, two brilliant TFA alumni, the founders of KIPP Academy, then joined the Bush’s at the Republican National Convention in 2000. This was pivotal for Bush, since as Governor he did not have any genuine education achievements. These charter schools do great service, but they start with families that are committed to education. They claim they are improving public schools by offering competition in the market-place, but they take the best and leave the rest. What sort of competition is that?

    Superintendent Michelle Rhee’s prescription for improving D.C. schools: close them rather than improve them—and fire teachers rather than inspire them.

    TFA teachers do great work. But better schools are only part of the solution. Stable families are more able to be ambitious for their children than insecure, overworked and struggling ones. We need national health care, a stronger union movement, long-term unemployment benefits, generous college funding, immigration reform, trade policy, freedom for alternative lifestyles and reductions in military spending. Specifically, we need to enlarge the middle class by any means necessary.

    Our society has failed our schools by permitting the middle class to shrink. It’s not the other way around. Economic inequality and insecurity fosters the achievement gap. Its not the other way around. Blaming teachers, public schools and our unions feeds corporate ideology and their power. Corporate domination of politics, and the weakness of counter-balancing forces like unions, are the obstacles to progressive change.

    Ms. Kopp claims to be in the tradition of the civil rights movement, but Martin Luther King would take principled positions—against the Vietnam War and for the Poor Peoples March—even when it pissed off powerful people. His final speech was for striking sanitation workers. His last book argued for modifying American capitalism to include some measure of wealth distribution. I would like a dialogue about what I have written here. My e-mail is JesseAlred@yahoo.com. You as an individual TFA teacher have a responsibility here because your work gives TFA leaders credibility. Its not the other way around.

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