Thompson: Rhee Defenders Increasingly Desperate
Despite what he says in "More Rhee!," Andrew Rotherham must realize that Richard Kahlenberg is correct and we have two ways of testing whether Rhee's theories could work. Schools in the American South, where unions are not powerful, have lower student performance. Surely, Rotherham knows that his next argument strengthens Kahlenberg's case. If we were to "blind taste test schools between different labor contexts (eg Maryland and Virginia for instance)," he writes," you’d have a hard time knowing what state you’re in."
Rotherham correctly questions many of the "various rules, regulations, and practices [that] are codified in state law." Those frustrating regulations are legacies of complicated dilemmas created by a range of maddeningly complex problems. Unions are just a small part of the issue. In other words, Rhee's vendetta against teachers and unions was doomed because she laid the blame on one part of the system. She failed for the same reason why all simplistic quick fixes of interconnected problems fail.
Rotherham then makes the curious argument against Kahlenberg's second test - which shows that the shortcut of nonunion charters has not worked.
So, why do I say that Rotherham knows better, but that he's playing word games? After his fervent defense of Rhee, he links to an article which documents the modest record of charters. He then acknowledges in regard to charters that "reasonable people can disagree on how replicable those elements are and what they mean for public policy." Can anyone imagine Rhee sincerely making such a statement? And, why would her allies gamble so much on charters that have had such a modest record?
Rotherham is a reformer who defends his allies, even though he says they are "sitting in the 'Green Zone'" and they "talk about their savvy while most of the country is untouched or has resistors blowing things up at every opportunity." Follow Rotherham's link, and you will read his conclusion, "But the real education story of the 2012 election is the fragility of the reform consensus and the high-wire act the President and Republican reformers have ahead of them." He must know that Rhee's bombast is the last thing his movement needs if they really have a goal other than scapegoating teachers.
Rotherham concludes with a truism. Yes, it is easier to blow things up than to build. Undoubtedly, that explains why Rhee's political spin has been much more successful than her education record. To improve schools, Rotherham should distance himself from Rhee-style "reformers," stop denying that unions have been unfairly targeted by them, and work with the educators, and scholars like Kahlenberg, who want to tackle the challenge of improving poor schools.- JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.