Huffpo reports Rhee about to depart StudentsFirst. The fierce criticism of Rhee has always fascinated me — criticism I endured after publishing a book arguing that D.C.’s public schools needed the kind of stiff reforms that Rhee brought. (Was I right? Maybe., maybe not. I’ll let the federal NAEP scores be the judge of that.)
My sense is that the unions (correctly) got a glimpse of the future through Rhee. She was able to use the unusual powers afforded to a DCPS schools chief to unilaterally make changes (such as disrupting the seniority rules that unions rely on) that only now are being challenged elsewhere, such as in California’s Vergara case. The anti-Rhee strategy was simple: Stop Rhee and stop those changes nationally. In some ways it worked. It certainly limited Rhee’s effectiveness as a national school reform leader. Rhee had plenty of flaws, but she was right on the really big things that needed changing.
I always viewed the DC reform attempt as the last best chance to turn around a troubled urban school district. When Rhee was forced out I decided to look for other pathways to creating great schools for urban kids, which resulted in my latest book about high performing charter schools. My take-away from those two books: Given the number of parents who already have the power to choose schools, the only thing that matters in the end is creating great schools, charter or traditional. The “end,” however, seems very far away — too far in the distance to help students who really need it.