President Barack Obama said DC public schools were below the standards needed for his kids. True. Definitely, his prerogative. But as president of the United States speaking on a national/international stage, it seemed like a cheap shot.
You can’t compare an upper crust school, like Sidwell Friends, to a garden variety public school. Most public schools can not compete with facilities where tuition costs $30,000 per kid. The Obamas sent their kids to private schools in Chicago. They can afford to pay the tuition. There are decent public schools in Washington, DC, Obama acknowledged. A recent WPost article talks about it. I wish he would have made that point more clearly.
District of Columbia is an easy city to push around. Anyone can take shots and no one will question it – sort of like saying liberals are crazy or that Black men need to take care of their kids. DC was the murder capitol 15 years ago. Voters elected Marion Barry AFTER he was busted for smoking crack. It’s disappointing to see Obama advance his Race for the Top reform agenda by reinforcing negative view about the City without giving this area credit IMPROVING local test scores before there was a Mayor Adrian Fenty, Chancellor Michelle Rhee or Race to the Top. (Will update when I find the stats)
Obama should analyze recent elections as a potential canary in the coal mine. DC’s been a high profile lab for Obama’s educational reform agenda — but as a 2008 Atlantic Monthly article outlines, it has NOT been so popular. It’s been divisive and acrimonious highlighted by mass firings, student protests and a lot of anger. One troublng part of the DC story is teachers are bearing the brunt of all that is wrong. Also, Rhee has dismissed poverty and violence from the education puzzle. In the end, Adrian Fenty, Obama’s reform cheerleader was voted out. It’s worthwhile to dig deeply into the implications. Forget what the Washington Post says about race. It wasn’t just the Marion Barry crowd or locals not wanting reform. It was a repudiation of top down governance and liberal elitism. Fenty (and Rhee) were unpopular among the working class and professionals, in part because of their education reform efforts — even if it had Obama’s name attached to it.
At the national level, RTT is controversial. Some do not agree with Race to the Top’s competition for dollars and others say it won’t work. According to a recent study Race’s pay for performance, a key RTT mandate, does not increase educational outcomes. Also, some states have flat out rejected the administration’s approach namely VA, CA and Texas (suspect, i know). There is certainly more to learn and according o this WPost blog, it is important to challenge many underlying assumptions on how we got here. But if the New York City teacher protest of ‘Waiting for Superman” is any indication, America’s in for a bumpy ride.
- ‘Blunt’ on schools – Is Obama too harsh? Parents think so (politico.com)
- Michelle Obama: A Lesson from Sidwell (blogs.wsj.com)
- What If Teachers Were Paid As Much As Engineers? (education.change.org)
- “President Obama Talks Unions, Race to the Top, and Money” and related posts (blogs.edweek.org)