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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Here comes Michelle Rhee




5 P.M. UPDATE: Michelle Rhee has responded to the blog post linked to below relating to her student results as a teacher, calling it misleading. Go to the bottom of this post for her reaction, or click here.

ORIGINAL POST: Former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, the celebrity face of the national push to end teacher "tenure" and rate teachers on test scores, makes her debut before the Florida Senate Pre-K-12 Committee at 1:30 p.m. today. (You can watch here.)  

Expect her to stick with the general "America's schools are broken" theme that she's brought to Indiana, New Jersey and other states where leaders are heeding Rhee's advice. Not all Republicans are on board, though. Just this week GOP-heavy Wyoming dumped the idea of eliminating tenure for teachers, with lawmakers suggesting that such a move would stop teachers from innovating to improve for fear of losing their jobs.

It's also interesting to note that Rhee is talking about holding teachers accountable for their students' results even as retired D.C. teacher/blogger G.F. Brandenburg points out that she probably would have failed to meet the same standard as a Teach for America teacher in Baltimore back in the 1990s. Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews writes that Brandenburg unearthed information that for the first time shows Rhee overstated her successes as a teacher.

Will all that matter in Tallahassee? Perhaps not. Lawmakers have made clear their desire to change the way teachers are evaluated, paid, contracted, hired and fired -- something they tried to do last year but failed to convince Charlie Crist to approve. This year Gov. Rick Scott is on board, and what's better than a little star power of Michelle Rhee -- Scott's informal adviser -- to drive home the points?

Maybe she'll even distract from all the negative vibes Scott's education budget has created.

Rhee's group, Students First, reacted to the Brandenburg post:

"Our public schools are in crisis. Instead of talking about how to fix them, we're getting unfounded attacks on Michelle. To get back to the debate about public schools, we want to address this misinformation head-on.

A blogger has posted some error-laden numbers, based on a 1995 study, claiming that Michelle was not an effective teacher. A couple of mainstream journalists have picked up and re-broadcast this storyline without reviewing the underlying analysis.

Here are the underlying facts about the 1995 study:

This was not a study of Michelle's students. It was a study of the school's entire grade level, which had four teachers.

There is no way to know if any of Michelle's students were even included in this study. The study included only certain students at the school, and excluded large numbers from their sample.

Some have expressed surprise that credible journalists would swallow a blogger’s analysis without looking at the facts for themselves. We were quite frankly surprised ourselves. To our members, this episode is further proof of what we're up against and why we need your support to get the message out."


[Last modified: Thursday, February 10, 2011 6:20am]


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