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Thompson: First Rhee, Now Baltimore

Drink-out-of-a-hoseTennessee Governor Phil Bredesen articulated the conventional wisdom that so-called reform must happen all at once - and that educators must "be prepared to be overwhelmed" like "drinking from a fire hose." But the rejection of the Baltimore Teachers Contract is an indication that we should slow down the pace of change.  The Baltimore Sun reports that teachers balked at "signing a blank check" by endorsing an evaluation system that had not  been developed.  Union leaders must rush through agreements to keep up with the overwhelming rate at which the Obama administration seeks to impose change.  The first risk is that the rank-in-file will rebel.  The greater danger is that haste will wreck the actual implementation of reforms.  - JT


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Unfortunately, I don’t think we have an option to slow down or to implement piecemeal efforts. Drastic changes must be made, and quickly. Too many students are receiving sub par educations now, today.

Yes, we should ensure that the reforms and strategies align to each other and are well thought-out, but we cannot lessen the pressure. The status quo has prevailed for too long and it’s time to change how things run, how decisions are made, and how the political process influences education.

If Michelle Rhee’s tenure proved one thing it’s that one must press hard and make changes quickly to get anything done in education. Her reforms were abrupt, many strategies were implemented simultaneously, were at times overwhelming, and not all of them worked. But, she managed to make some major improvements for DC’s children without worrying how decisions impacted her popularity, and she demanded that the public, the unions, and teachers look at alternatives. Leading an education system is political, and leaders must make changes when they have the chance.


Julie, your ugency sounds like a finely crafted sales pitch more than reflecting a real understanding of how education works and how children learn. Sadly, Rhee's efforts where underminded by her rush to push things through too fast. Why on earth would a teacher vote for an evaluation that is yet finalized? Because they learned from their brothers and sisters in DC. Build coalitions, that is how democracy works, that is how education works. Trust people, trust teachers. And understand standardized testing and teacher evaluations, which is what Rhee pushed for so fast, are not going to change anything over night. In fact, they may make things worse.

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