These are interesting times for education reform in America today. A lot of politicians on both sides of the aisle are calling for "reform," but no one seems to know what "reform" really looks like.
The issue reached new levels of salience just a few weeks ago when "Waiting for Superman" - the new Davis Guggenheim documentary following five students and their futures in charter schools - opened to nationwide critical acclaim.
There's no question this country must have a serious debate on what reform is needed in our education system. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), U.S. students in 10th grade rank 28th in math and 22nd in science out of a total of 39 countries in proficiency.
Once the hotbed of innovation, medical and technical advancements, America is now sucking the exhaust fumes of revving machines such as India, China and other advancing nations. We are beyond arrested development. We are regressing. It's one thing to grasp this reality. It's quite another to do something about it.
That's why the departure of D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee in the wake of a new mayor in our nation's capital is such a major loss, both for the reform movement and the District's future.
Following the primary loss of D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, it was fairly evident that Miss Rhee's head would be first in line on the chopping block. Her reform initiatives aggressively pushed overhaul over the status quo, which upset many in the education community. She was moving too fast for them to keep up, and certainly too quickly for them to cut her off.
For too long, education "elites" have repeatedly bashed pioneers such as Miss Rhee for their views.
When asked why they oppose them, teachers unions can't nakedly admit, "Because it disrupts the status quo[...]" or "It undermines our power."
So instead, they proffer phrases that sound more benign and well-meaning. "We welcome proposals for reform," they numbly chant, "but only if they are inclusive of our ideas."
Read another way, that means if the unions aren't at the table with their thumb on the scale to guarantee outcomes, there ain't no way reform is gonna happen.
It's almost mafia-like in the school systems in the District and other struggling big cities. If you try to do things differently, Rocko and Paulie pay a visit to help you get back in line. Sadly, Michelle Rhee was politically gunned down by her opponents for standing up and saying we ought to look for a better way of teaching kids in the District.
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