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Since Bill is too modest to mention his column in the Wall Street Journal this morning–and I’ve given the man all day–I’ll mention the column myself.
In “Giving Lousy Teachers the Boot,” Bill reports on Michelle Rhee, the chancellor of the District of Columbia’s public schools. Ms. Rhee just fired 241 teachers for scoring too low on an evaluation that measures them according to student achievement. She put another 737 teachers on notice. That’s almost a quarter of all the teachers in DC whom Ms. Rhee has either put on notice or shown the door–probably the most dramatic step toward holding teachers accountable that has every taken place in any public school system.
[W]hy has Ms. Rhee succeeded where others have come up short? One huge reason is the advance of school choice and accountability throughout Washington. Though reform has come fitfully to D.C., today 38% of the district’s students are in charter schools. Until the Democrats killed it, there was also a voucher program for a few thousand more. The result of all this ferment is that the teachers union is feeling pressure it has never felt before….
Another way of putting that is this: Ms. Rhee is smart enough to know that when she negotiates with the unions, the shift to charters and choice in the district gives her more leverage for the reforms she needs.
Ponder that. Whereas we hear over and over again that school choice—that is, the creation of charter schools, private schools, and voucher programs—would harm the public schools, the truth is just the reverse. Force the public schools to compete and they’ll do just that. Lousy teachers may pay a price, but students will only benefit.
Keep an eye on Michelle Rhee. If she can hold her ground—her action has provoked a firestorm of protests and legal threats—she’ll be able to bring true reform to DC schools, turning around one of the worst school systems in the country. And if she does that, Michelle Rhee will become a figure of national importance.