Rhee Out in DC

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vincent gray and fenty.jpg

Got sad news in the middle of a screening of Waiting for Superman last night. Somewhere right after the section on how bad the DC schools are, I got a text message that Michelle Rhee would be stepping down today.

Yup. Today Michelle Rhee is announcing that she is resigning in a “mutual” decision aimed to refocus the schools on kids and learning, rather than on the tug of war that might ensure between her and newly elected Mayor Vincent Gray (above, at right). The Washington Post is reporting

She will be replaced until at least the end of the school year by Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson, a close associate.

Rhee and presumptive mayor Vincent C. Gray recently reached a “mutual decision” during a phone conversation that it was best for her to step down, said people close to both, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “They both agreed the sooner they could put this to bed, the better for the kids and the community, ” an official close to Gray said.

Under the deal, the school system’s senior leadership team will also remain in place under Henderson through the school year to reassure parents that there will be minimal disruption.

What does all this mean?

  1. In the short term, there will be no huge changes in the set of policies put into place by Rhee. Henderson was a hands on lieutenant to Rhee, a hard worker, and someone who worked behind the scenes. In some ways, that may help glue the reforms down because the unions liked her better than Rhee.
  2. That said, “liked her better than Rhee” is a fact of the past. Now that Rhee is out, the unions can smell blood. Henderson will face some hard choices if she wants to stay in the saddle. My guess is that Henderson is gone after Christmas.
  3. Rhee was a magnet for all kinds of young teacher talent. It is doubtful that the flood of recruits will continue, no matter what Henderson and Gray do.
  4. The foundations that poured tons of money into DC schools because of Rhee will now have to do more than scratch their heads and wonder what they could have done better. They need to re-evaluate. As noted in a previous post, the idea that we can throw millions of dollars at the pipe dream of shoring up a heroic reformer has been disproven many times. Given the talent of Rhee and the commitment of Fenty, if they could not do it, well,…
  5. The arm-wrestling between Mayor Vincent Gray and the US Department of the Education will be interesting to watch. Gray’s intentions are likely much more in line with the DC teachers unions; US Ed Secretary Duncan’s more in line with Rhee’s policy approach. Short-term, we will likely see a compromise. Long-term, the teachers unions will win.

Finally, what grade would you give Rhee for her job performance? For those of you who are interested, here is an online poll on Rhee’s performance based on 3000 “grades” (therefore not attendible in terms of results, but perhaps a poll that gives you a bit of a gut check on Post readers):

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I gave her a “B.” “A” for effort, “A” for intelligence, “A” for guts, and “A” for commitment to kids. Given the outcome, which is likely a reversion to a set of schools that is somewhat but not significantly better than what was there before, on results I have to give her a “C”. Looking at it from the perspective of the kids in the system, which is what Waiting for Superman was all about, schools that are somewhat better than some of the worst schools in the US is not a great outcome.

Superman ran into politics, and in the world of education that’s kryptonite.