Today, we’re continuing our series about education reform. Here in Washington, DC, Michelle Rhee has received a lot of attention for the changes she’s undertaken: firing hundreds of school employees, paying students for good attendance and behavior, challenging the teachers union, and more. She’s a product of Teach for America, a program that places recent college graduates for two years in the nation’s poorest schools. We plan to interview Rhee in January. It made sense to first interview her mentor, Joel Klein. He’s been the chancellor of New York City Schools since 2002, so he has a bit more of a track record and has provided the framework for these contemporary reforms.
Klein’s story is particularly interesting because in a former life, he was the US Assistant Attorney General who led the antitrust case against Bill Gates and Microsoft in the late 90s. What’s even more interesting about his change of career is that since becoming chancellor, he’s received millions of dollars from the Gates Foundation to build new (usually smaller) schools.
Reformers like Klein and Rhee say they are dedicated to improving schools for the betterment of our children (and not to appeasing adults, e.g., parents and teachers). It’s risky (some might say admirable) to take on a big union like the United Federation of Teachers, but the question is: are children really learning more? Today, Joel Klein says “yes, they are” and defends his reforms – tomorrow Diane Ravitch says “not exactly.” Between the two, they raise many good points – points we hope to address throughout this ongoing series.
Which reminds me -- do you have an opinion or a story to share on this matter? Do you have a child in one of these school systems? Please let us know by emailing us . We’ll try to work it in somehow.