Ignore for a moment the ideas you might already have about Rhee, and read these quotes from the article:
- "Rhee wants more teachers who share her central belief about education reform: All children can become high academic achievers, regardless of the disadvantages they face outside the classroom."
- "Rhee plans to move the District away from the regimen of courses and workshops that have defined continuing education for teachers. Borrowing from best practices in surrounding suburban districts, she is building a system of school-based mentors and coaches to help instructors raise the quality of their work."
- "[Rhee] also wants to import a nationally prominent Massachusetts consulting firm with a reputation for improving teachers' skills."
- " She had hoped to winnow out poorly performing teachers by weakening tenure protections in exchange for higher salaries."
- "Rhee has dropped the school system's direct support for instructors seeking certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, a rigorous one- to three-year teacher development program, citing a lack of evidence that the training improves student achievement."
Of course, this plan is not being evaluated by most educators on its merits because most educators that I've talked to in DC (especially older teachers, but teachers of all ages and races) think Rhee is out to get them. And they think that because Rhee continues to give them evidence that it's actually what she believes. Her plan might be great, but no one gives it a chance because it is couched in phrases like, "She promises to 'identify and transition out a significant share' of instructors, through buyouts or dismissals," or "Those who don't improve could face termination by the end of the school year." Simply put, she's not nice and people don't like her.
This is what Rhee should be saying in every interview when she talks about teacher quality:
"All research shows that teacher quality is the most important factor in determining how well low-income students will perform in school. Research also shows that students who experience 3 years of bad teachers will never recover. We have thousands of dedicated, intelligent, hardworking teachers in DCPS, but the work of these brilliant educators is being undone by those few teachers who are not doing their jobs well. For too long, these teachers have been allowed to remain in the classroom. We need to create a system that develops good teachers, rewards exceptional teachers, and gets rid of bad teachers."
Isn't that nicer? Doesn't that make you think happy thoughts? Rhee has said numerous times that she isn't interested in making people like her. Well, guess what: she should. When people like you -- when you're nice to people and they feel valued -- they do what you want. Every good classroom teacher knows this -- students will do whatever you want if they believe you care about them. My guess is this is one of those teacher best-practices that carries over into good management as well.