Top critical review
3 people found this helpful
I don't like it
on July 28, 2014
This book should be retitled: Michelle Rhee: The Autobiography. The book traces Michelle's rise from a scrappy youth to a hard edge executive of StudentsFirst. Along the way she provides humorous anecdotes and praises those who have helped her along the way. It's all good stuff but that's an autobiography not a book about putting students first. I assume she wrote this book from the angle of "let me tell my story and people will see how the system works without being preachy" but she doesn't provide to much details and raises as many questions on school reform as she answers.
The most notably lack of info comes from the funding for her pay for performance program. To not mention who the contributors were that made this possible but Rhee notes where her husband proposed makes this an autobiography not a book about school reform. That's a glaring omission.
Other questions dealt mostly with lack of detail on curriculum beyond math and reading. For example:
By seventh grade my school had team teaching with individual teachers responsible for Reading, English, and Math - we also had History, Foreign Language, and Science. How does pay for performance work for teachers who's classes aren't captured in nationwide testing? What does the curriculum look like and how is the class day divided between these subject areas? What about high school teachers?
For a self-proclaimed data wonk so didn't see to grasp that test score fluctuations from one year to another could be a statistical anomaly so I was confused as to why a bonus would be paid off a one year result vs. multi-year trending. What if a teacher's students perform really well in their final year before retirement raising the teachers pension base salary then the same class takes a dive the following year? There's bad teachers out there - which teachers do you think are more likely to game the system and teach to a test for a potential bonus?
I pulled back and wondered if we even have a problem with education in America? I looked at the OECD/PISA rankings and three of the Top Ten aren't even countries. One is a city/state. Two are quasi city/states. Only two are "real" countries comparable to the US: South Korea and Japan...which are two countries education models I would never want to see copied in the US. After those Top Ten it's not a huge drop between the major European countries to the US but all of those countries do not have the income inequality that we have in the US. So is the real issue that we have more poor people taking the test than Germany? Is this a chicken and egg debate that: education lifts the poor, poor struggle with education? How do you break the cycle? Michelle Rhee states with great teachers and to attract them you need to pay them more...that makes sense but her decision to use "charities" to fund the gap between the higher costs and tax revenue should be a red flag.
So to solve a problem we may or may not have America's wealthiest citizens have decided to lend assistance...
Let me see if I understand this correctly...the family of one of the most despicable companies in America, Walmart, refuses to pay its employees a living wage, thus limiting their upward mobility and lowering their tax base to fund adequately schools in their home communities, and in some cases leads to a single parent to get a second job which prevents the parent from being home with the child to assist with homework, etc., has decided to create a personal charity, that when they make a contribution helps to lower their effective tax rate to less than mine, and then use this charity to "contribute" to local politicians so that schools teach children, who aren't their's, what they think should be learned, without any input from local citizens or in some cases a notification of the changes that will be coming. Is that correct?
So Walmart heirs want us to reach other industrial nations' standards of education but when it comes to matching similar standards for worker's rights, wage equality, job security, and time off, etc. they'll preach "free-market" and that they are applying the same "free-market" principles to education in America. Since when has "free-market" meant the buy-off of politicians to write the rules of the economy in your favor and send tax dollars to private companies?...oh right since the early 1980s. And how was that turned out for the American worker? So how do you think "free-market" education will turn out for the American student?