Former chancellor of Washington, D.C. public schools Michele Rhee wrote an op-ed piece for the Seattle Times this week. In her editorial, she continues to advance her core argument that public schools are failing, that unions prevent poor teachers from being removed, and that assessment and data should not only drive instruction but should be the measures by which teachers and schools should be judged. She writes, “It is criminal that, in many communities throughout America, we send children every day into classrooms that are failing them.” Rhee was commenting specifically on Seattle’s Garfield high school teachers’ grassroots protest against one assessment, the Measurement of Academic Progress. She mistakenly believes that the protest is led and organized by the union, in this case the WEA.
Rhee taught for only three years, after being trained for 5 weeks in the Teach for America program. She exited teaching as quickly as possible to set up a company that trained teachers and then later inexplicably parlayed her self-promotion into educational leadership. She’s now seen as an expert on public education by many.
I believe that we should use the WEA’s organizational potency to lead a well-thought-out and well-planned series of coordinated actions in service of our core values, to counter those—like Rhee—who work tirelessly against us, and to begin to bend the dominant narrative away from a corporate view of public education to one that is more liberal, progressive, and humane.