Michelle Rhee, failed Washington DC school superintendent and renegade public school privatizer, has given New Hampshire and 10 other states F’s for not privatizing fast enough. Rhee’s group, StudentsFirst, “advocates expanding privately run public charter schools, weakening teachers’ unions, increasing the weight of high-stakes standardized tests and, in some cases, using taxpayer dollars to fund private tuition through vouchers as the keys to improving public education.” (Salon) She is part of a national privatization movement that we began tracking last year when we traced the roots of the voucher proposal here in New Hampshire. We listed some of the groups here.
The New York Times article on the report has a pretty good perspective. The net of it is, no one in New Hampshire should feel that an F from Michelle Rhee has any meaning for our public education system. Or, as Mr. Zeiger of California says below, maybe it’s a badge of honor. Here are some excerpts:
In just a few short years, state legislatures and education agencies across the country have sought to transform American public education by passing a series of laws and policies overhauling teacher tenure, introducing the use of standardized test scores in Michelle A. Rhee says her group wants to create an “environment in which educators, parents and kids can operate.”
Such policies are among those pushed by StudentsFirst, the advocacy group led by Michelle A. Rhee, the former schools chancellor in Washington. Ms. Rhee has generated debate in education circles for aggressive pursuit of her agenda and the financing of political candidates who support it.
In a report issued Monday, StudentsFirst ranks states based on how closely they follow the group’s platform, looking at policies related not only to tenure and evaluations but also to pensions and the governance of school districts. The group uses the classic academic grading system, awarding states A to F ratings.
The two highest-ranking states, Florida and Louisiana, received B-minus ratings. The states that were given F’s included Alabama, California, Iowa and New Hampshire. New Jersey and New York received D grades, and Connecticut a D-plus. The ratings, which focused purely on state laws and policies, did not take into account student test scores.
Some of the policies covered by the report card have been adopted by very few states. Only eight states, for example, require districts to base teacher pay on performance rather than on experience or the attainment of a master’s degree. StudentsFirst also recommends that districts make individual teacher evaluations available to parents and require that districts inform parents when their child is placed in the classroom of a teacher rated “ineffective.”
States that have adopted policies aligned with the StudentsFirst platform have in some cases met with public opposition. In Idaho, the Legislature passed a package in 2010 that eliminated tenure, introduced performance pay for teachers and based their evaluations on student test scores. Voters overturned the measures in a referendum in November. (The state received a D-minus grade from StudentsFirst.)
State officials who had seen their ratings reacted differently, with some viewing the StudentsFirst report as a kind of blueprint, others seeing it as an à la carte menu, and some spurning it outright.
Richard Zeiger, California’s chief deputy superintendent, called the state’s F rating a “badge of honor.”
“This is an organization that frankly makes its living by asserting that schools are failing,” Mr. Zeiger said of StudentsFirst. “I would have been surprised if we had got anything else.”
“This group has focused on an extremely narrow, unproven method that they think will improve teaching,” Mr. Zeiger said. “And we just flat-out disagree with them.”