Sunday, November 30, 2008

To Tenure or Not to Tenure...That is the Question...

Look...I've been following the Michelle Rhee 'thing' for a few months now. DyDan loves her, Shareski--well, maybe not so much.

Personally, I like Rhee's approach. She is flying in the face of the conventional approach to the education management model. Tenure? What the hell is THAT in private industry? I can not remember a time when my job was secure "just because." Ummm...."Eddie, what have you done for me lately?" rings a loud and resounding bell. Why in God's name should a teacher's job be secure just because he/she is a teacher?

I left business/industry with a passion to help students--specifically secondary students. I spent way too much time as a sales and/or marketing manager looking for part time help that couldn't put together a decent resume/application, didn't know that first thing about interviewing, etc. I have had numerous instances where applicants answered their mobile phones during interviews...not to mention their dress, demeanor, etc...excuse me???? Just where have we lost it with young people??

As a teacher (as in industry), I work hard to be innovative...teaching in a Title I school (my choice), I realize that reaching students is more of a challenge...but...I love a challenge! I recognize and value the diversity in my students. I teach them to value their uniqueness and use that to become successful students, graduates, employees, entrepreneurs.

I believe Michelle Rhee to be an innovator, a reformer of sorts. She was considered to be possibly under qualified for her position, but her passion with regard to the success of students (not the convenience of staff/faculty) won her the position...and won her that position INSIDE the beltway...things that make you go hmmmmm...

Where I differ from Rhee is in the 'standardized testing' as THE measure for GREAT teaching. While I do believe that students needs to demonstrate they 'have gotten it' for ANY subject, I don't believe that the fate of a teacher (or a student) should hinge on a yearly standardized test. Too often (I have seen it), teachers will teach to the test to 'look' successful when in reality no true learning has taken place (see Tony Wagner's research for verification).

It eludes me completely that so learned of a group (our educational managers--the 'powers that be') has been so slow to reform systemically an educational system that clearly is not meeting the needs of most students. Why can we not develop an effective system that analyzes effectively student learning and evaluate teacher effectiveness? Are we SO drenched in the status-quo that we ignore the possibilities? I believe that Michelle Rhee is hope is that she doesn't get SO caught up in standardized testing that she misses out on the necessity of developing the WHOLE child.


  1. My only knowledge of Rhee comes from the Time article. My post, while referring to Rhee, was more about the approach than her. However, reading a few of the comments in my post, the Time article may have flattered her.

    While I applaud her desire for improvement, her misdirected approach may do more harm than good and you've alluded to this as well.

    I'm not really interested in the merit pay issue as much as the continued emphasis on test scores and one-size-fits-all learning. These attitudes come directly out of industrialized education when mass education was necessary to address the shift from one room school houses to trying to educate all children. We can do better. We can offer much richer, individualized learning and schools that address the needs of each learner, not assumptions that everyone should learn the same things at the same time from the same people.

    Again, I could care less about tenure but do care about helping kids. Rhee's approach in my opinion is helping.

  2. I agree completely. In an effort to hold schools accountable, 'education' has lost sight of what's really important here--the students.

    A one-size-fits-all approach is not only antiquated, but also counter-productive. Rhee's approach is/will help so long as she focuses on what's best for the learner (developing the whole child) and not solely on some standardized testing score.

    I will continue to follow her progress; I'm intrigued...