This Newsweek arti­cle about Michelle Rhee, the for­mer chan­cel­lor of the Washington D.C. pub­lic schools, and her plans for a Studentsfirst, is an excit­ing one. She, like many oth­ers in the coun­try (and indeed in our very own city!) is con­cerned about the dis­mal state of pub­lic edu­ca­tion in this coun­try: the United States is cur­rent­ly 21st, 23rd and 25th among 30 devel­oped nations in sci­ence, read­ing and math, respec­tive­ly. In fact, chil­dren in school today will be the first gen­er­a­tion to be less edu­cat­ed than the pre­vi­ous one. Rhee points out this is not always just a short­age of finan­cial resources, but a com­bi­na­tion of oth­er fac­tors.

Many of Rhee’s obser­va­tions as men­tioned in the arti­cle are par­tic­u­lar­ly ger­mane to Do The Right Thing For Kids, includ­ing:

  • The impor­tance of mon­ey and influ­ence: there are groups rep­re­sent­ing teach­ers, text- book man­u­fac­tur­ers and var­i­ous oth­er ven­dors who use their pow­er to influ­ence gov­ern­ment deci­sion. HOWEVER, she points out, there is no large, orga­nized group with a mis­sion to defend and pro­mote the inter­est of chil­dren. (Hence her new endeav­or: Studentsfirst and ours in DTRT.)
  • This lack of empha­sis on the chil­dren leads instead to an empha­sis on adults…and the needs they demand. She cites the propen­si­ty of school boards to focus on con­tracts, jobs in the dis­trict, cuts, addi­tions etc…without the words chil­dren, stu­dents, kids even being men­tioned. (Hence the DTRT Report Card)
  • Rhee talks about the impor­tance of fam­i­ly involve­ment as being key to stu­dent achieve­ment, but also says the entire com­mu­ni­ty must be engaged in the effort to improve our schools.
  • Rhee also points out the impor­tance of under­stand­ing the role of pol­i­tics in effect­ing pos­i­tive change. She sup­ports non-par­ti­san­ship, but reminds us all that we must endorse and sup­port school board can­di­dates and politi­cians seek­ing City, State and Federal elect­ed office.
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