Topics We Gotta Talk About This Morning

by Prince Of Petworth — October 13, 2010 at 10:00 am 73 Comments

Photo by Flickr user angela n.

Last night word finally came that Michelle Rhee had announced her resignation:

“D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee will announce Wednesday that she is resigning at the end of this month, bringing an abrupt end to a tenure that drew national acclaim but that also became a central issue in an election that sent her patron, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, to defeat.”

Photo by PoPville flickr user BrennaLM

And this is a disturbing story from the Washington Post:

“In a section that suggests ideas for attacks inside the United States, the publication says that using firearms to carry out “a random hit at a crowded restaurant in Washington D.C. at lunch hour for example might end up knocking out a few government employees” and attracting widespread news media attention.”

  • Anonymous

    gray’s base wanted rhee out. they got it. more of the same for dc public schools.

    • Anonymous

      Ever thus to deadbeats.

      • P


    • Anonymous

      If the DC schools backslide (and they most certainly will), Gray and his supporters will find something else to blame, rather than recognizing it is the unions and the crappy parents who are at fault.

    • Anonymous

      i’m not Gray’s base, but i voted for him, and I’m thrilled beyond words that Rhee is finally gone. Ding dong the witch is dead! Now school reform can be done fairly and correctly.

  • anna

    Topic 1 – In my opinion, Rhee was not a genius or messiah, but a decent person who attacked the OBVIOUS deficiencies of DC schools rather than blindly ignoring them. Her shoes COULD be filled, but sadly they will not be.

    Topic 2 – Welcome to New York. Or Tel-Aviv. All those raging “Go back to the ‘burbs if you can’t handle it” comments suddenly seem correct and appropriate. We all know DC is kinda a target.

  • Herb

    Both are serious topics–wish you had separated them into 2 different posts.

    Rhee–Tragic. Sad that some can’t connect the dots between DCs high unemployment and the poorly performing schools.

    Terror threat–Of course DC is a target! But that shouldn’t change how we live our lives here!

    • briefly

      I dunno, if schools are so important to getting a job, why are all the immigrants from poor countries so often working? They got great schools there? Two words: work ethic. That’s what’s missing locally and I am not sure it can be taught in any school.

      • pru

        Yes, actually, they do have great schools there. There’s a movie to see, it’s called “Waiting for Superman”.

        • briefly

          Go through El Salvador and Honduras and Mexico where most of our immigrants come from and tell us how many great rural schools you see. I know China and India set the bar but there’s a lot of jobs that don’t require calculus and such, like being a chef or a driver and such. But I confess I ain’t seen that movie yet.

        • Anonymous

          that movie is full of more holes and bullshit than a 100 acre farm.

        • Jen

          Yes, they DO have some great schools here. But I’m not spending $40k/year to send my future child to first grade.

      • dcdude

        Umm… Immigrants come here to do back-breaking work that requires little to no education so that their children can get an education and not have to do the same back-breaking work. Education matters.

        • pru

          dcdude, tru dat. Immigrants also come here to be our doctors, though: http://blogs.ilw.com/gregsiskind/files/AMA-IMGworkforce2006.pdf

        • Agree with briefly and not really with dcdude – I’ve been called bs for telling this story before on this blog but whatever – in 2005 we had 2 legal immigrants with no kids live with us in Petworth and they spoke zero English – they each had 2 jobs in Bethesda and DC about 3 weeks after getting here. So I agree it’s all about work ethic and not every immigrant comes here for the sake of their children.

    • fl

      +1 on these being separated into separate posts. Much easier to follow the comments/debates…

  • Anonymous

    Funny that we’re all of a sudden concerned that DC has become targetville from outside sources, when it seems to have been targetville from local children for years now. As my firend says, let those foreign terrorists try to make hay in some of our most violent neighborhoods, who needs the police there, we’ve already got a youth militia!

  • Tree Spoonduck

    Haha – as a bureaucrat, I’m flattered they think I matter so much.

    great captcha by the way: FUKN

  • StubsDC

    Does anyone else keep hoping Rhee wil take a job at either Dept of Ed or Gates Foundation, overseeing DC schools and whether or not they get to keep the grant money? How awesome would that be?

    I always told my friends that I’d rather live in DC and get taken out in the attack than deal with the aftermath. Although I agree with an earlier post – the youth of this city have been homegrown terrorists for a long time. So what else is new?

  • briefly

    Rhee may be an educational genius but was politically incompetent. I don’t see how you can reform a public school system without at least paying attention to politics and outsmarting your opponents. Its sad she was so dumb in that regard, if school reform were as easy as firings and new paint, wouldn’t someone have done it already?

    Re: the attack, the biggest threat to all of us is still random street crime. Terrorists are a potential threat, while thugs are a clear and present danger. Of course, vastly richer contracting opportunities exist for the terrorist stuff so that’s where we’ll see a lot of attention in the form of reports and conferences. Meanwhile in DC the killing continues.

    • 11th

      +1 if you haven’t read this, do:


      you can do school reform in a way that isn’t divisive. rhee was criminally politically inept. i think we’ve got a good chance to move forward without her. hopefully folks on the flip side don’t root against her successor (and the kids) the same way rhee’s opponents rooted against her for no good reason.

      i am not afraid of terrorism. i am not really afraid of random street crime. i am afraid of careless drivers.

      • Ragged Dog

        That article is long on pronouncements and short on data.

    • TonyS

      I agree with you to a certain degree about Rhee… but wasnt that her strength in a way? she was a blunt instrument and wasnt concerned about the political ramifications of her actions (Fenty losing, her being pushed out). She paid the price for it… but hopefully made a lasting difference first.

    • Anonymous

      Ditto on Rhee. She did what needed to be done. But, seriously, the problems in DC are so freakin’ obvious, that it does not take a genius to figure out what to do. Actually implementing steps that are really going to improve schools to excellent levels is not something I saw her doing, she was taking the low-hanging fruit — fire incompetents, attract middle class back to schools. What nexts? Test, test, test? That clearly is not the answer, and I didn’t see her having an answer. Partially that may be because the real answer is halt juvenile crime so more middle class folks stay in the city and send their kids to schools. My problem with Rhee is that she was more about self promotion than real reform. She was asshat who largely did the right thing for the schools, but that does not change that she was an ass. And, by being an ass she made it almost inevitable that there would be backlash against the reforms.

      As for terrorists, you biggest risk is probably getting your car and driving on the beltway, after that local youth, then, way down the lists, terrorists.

  • Rhee supporter BUT…

    I am a big supporter of Michelle Rhee. Her style really works for me and the results she and her team produced impressed me. HOWEVER, I believe we are living in a new city and country, where regression is just harder, and I think Vince Gray will do a good job – with appointing a credible new school chancellor and plenty else. He is what this city wanted and just because it isn’t what I wanted, doesn’t make it wrong or dumb or ignorant. So I’m getting behind him.

    • Living on Mt P

      good reasonable comment. i’ve gotta say that i agree. i didn’t vote for gray, but i’m willing to give him a chance… that’s the only choice we have anyways. we’ve got to get past what divides us and unite for the common good.

      • Anonymous


  • Snuggle

    Rhee made her bed. I’m willing to wait and see what Gray does before I lose hope. Keeping Kyra Whatshername as the interim seems to be a good(ish) sign.

    I’m worth more dead than alive thanks to the wonders of life insurance, so if Al Quaeda or the Trilateral Commission want to put Junior through private school (now that Rhee is gone) fire away.

  • rooty tooty

    the mockery that DC is going to receive as a result of the timing of this move with the release of “waiting for superman” will be brutal. anticipate news anchors nationwide commenting on it, while casually mentioning that barry is still in office with a quick discussion of his recent rap sheet.

    who really needed a vote in congress anyway?

    • Tres

      Regardless of anyone’s position, that’s the truth. Not the first time we’ve been regarded as backward by the rest of the nation. Oh well. If the Obama administration adopts her, it’d be damning for our image.

  • Darth Fabulous

    So terrorists may use firearms for an attack against innocent people, but the innocent aren’t allowed to carry guns in DC, when they’re obviously a target. Terrorists go after easy targets. If more people are armed, the less chance of success a terrorist shooting spree has.

    • dcdude

      Tell that to the Ft. Hood victims.

      • Rukasu

        +1 Zing!

        • Marcus Aurelius

          Actually, the comment is not that zing worthy. Believe it or not, soldiers on military bases are generally not permitted to carry firearms – for obvious reasons. That’s why the Ft. Hood shooter was able to shoot so many people. He was eventually subdued by MPs, who are armed.

          • 11th

            glad someone made this point. zing is not appropriate.

          • **DOLPH STRIKE**

            Yeah thanks for helping choke the ignorance out of dcdude.

            Even if you know nothing about what goes on on military bases, do you really think that one guy would get off that many shots if EVERYONE was armed on base? He would have been taken out after one to three shots at most.

            What a foolish thing to assume, and to say it in that manner about *those* victims proves what a terribly worthless person you are. Blindly quote something and try to spin it into a point without any factual basis whatsoever, and I bet you often cite that little WMD’s thing ,too, by Bush/Cheney when making some other foolish point. Awful.

      • TonyS

        dcdude you have proven yourself to be uninformed

    • hey

      You are so right — our police need guns! Arming them only with beating-sticks is totally outdated.

      Oh wait — they have guns. But I guess you were fantasizing about gunning down some evil A-rabs at Lucky Bar? Could be fun…

      Finally — although I would agree that terrorists SHOULD (logically) go after easy targets, they seem to have an infatuation with airplanes and high-profile landmarks. Not exactly easy targets.

      • Darth Fabulous

        Right, because police are everywhere at all times right? There are shootings every day in Petworth and cops can’t even show up for those.

        And terrorists only attack the high-profile stuff in the US, where there aren’t as many angry youth to go around as cannon fodder. Elsewhere around the world, if you’ve ever read a newspaper, you would know that the low tech crimes of opportunity are the norm for terrorists. It’s only a matter of time before they try it here.

    • Anonymous

      is that you NRA?

      • Darth Fabulous

        The National Restaurant Association expresses deep concern abbout the impact of a terrorist attack on our nation’s dining estbalishments.

  • Ragged Dog

    I think Gray is a decent man, but I don’t think anyone who supported him wants school reform at the pace Rhee/Fenty were going at or even the extent. It’s inevitable that there will be a change in pace, even if the direction stays roughly in line. For some, like me, I consider a reduction in pace to be a problem in and of itself. I also don’t believe in professional training, except maybe around the margins, but certainly not as a wholesale solution to what ails DCPS educators. The problem comes back to hiring practices and burnout and the effect is that DCPS lowered education standards to match the teachers’ capabilities and motivation.

    As to the terrorism thing, eh. You’re more likely to be killed by WMATA or a MD driver at this point than a terrorist. Everyone should by heavy plastic and duct tape.

    • jellyroll

      DCPS has not lowered education standards to match the teachers’ capabilities and motivation. I am so tired of uninformed people making statements that suggest as much.

      Try going into your place of work without having the necessary tools and resources available that almost every other public school has. After teaching for many years elsewhere, I came to teach in DC last year. My students did not even have books to read during reading class!

      I have written numerous grants to bring resources to my classroom.
      Are those of you who are not teachers busily forced to write grants so that you have pencil sharpeners and pencils to use each day? The Superman that DCPS needs partly has to do with resources.

      The other ironic thing is look at the schools west of the park…check out what resources they have, and then look at some of the schools elsewhere in the district. Talk about inequity…

  • JRL

    I admire Rhee’s passion and courage but there is very little evidence that her approach to reform (merit pay, firing teachers) actually works so it was very annoying when she and Fenty would act like anyone that criticized their methods didn’t care about DC schoolchildren. That said I do wish she had stayed at least until the end of the school year.

    • DCster

      I think her approach to reform may have worked, but she didn’t exactly seem to ‘care about DC schoolchildren’ enough to stick around and see it out to fruition. So much for not treating the position as a stepping stone…

      • Ragged Dog

        That’s not a fair assessment of the situation. Gray made it abundantly clear that he did not and was not going to support her mission. When the mission isn’t supported you move on.

        Allowing the status quo is not caring about kids. Stepping in the middle of a reform that actually had measurable improvement (test scores) is anti-kid.

        • DCster

          We will have to wait and see – I hope Gray can buck the unions and continue teacher performance evaluations, and I’m certaintly not convinced Rhee was altruistically focused on the best intentions of DC schoolchildren.
          Regardless, there are a lot of issues on the horizon – special ed mismangement, a teacher contract renewal (without someone as inclined to reach a deal as Parker), less funding to go around – await the new education team.

          • rooty tooty

            if Rhee wasn’t “altruistically” focused on the best intentions of the school children, what would you suggest she was focused on?

          • DCster

            I think she is concerned with her career. Not that that’s unreasonable in itself, but if she felt her reforms weren’t going to be as effective in the third and fourth years, it would tarnish the ‘successful reformer’ record (or at least perception) that she has now.

      • TaylorStreetMan

        she resigned because she was going to be fired. It’s the old “you’re fired, but let’s just say you resigned to spend more time with your family.” It’s all semantics to save political face all around.

  • opportunist

    You guys have this all wrong. Now that Rhee’s out, I’m quitting my job, becoming a teacher and joining the teachers’ union. Good luck getting me off my fat a** before retirement, suckers! *Throws tax dollars in the air.*

    • **DOLPH STRIKE**

      haha genius.

    • DC parent

      You are so ignorant. How many times do teachers have to be scapegoated? Do you also believe that all African American men are criminals and all African American women have 10 babies each and are living off of welfare?

  • WaitingForSuperman…Still

    Rudy Crew, Janey, Huberman, Arne Duncan, Rhee,
    Ackerman. Vallas. All have run big city school systems. Not one, has had any success. I repeat not one. Arne Duncan is secretary of education. Yet, he has never taught. No experience in education.
    While people are Waiting for Superman, someone is walking out the back door with the money.

  • Marcus Aurelius

    No need to feel sorry for Michelle Rhee. I liked Rhee and supported her. But I think she made a mistake by politicizing herself. She should not have been campaigning for Fenty. And she should not have characterized Gray’s election as a disaster for DC schools. She put herself in a position where she could not be retained if Gray won, which may have been what she was looking for all along. But Rhee has a brighter future than the DC school system does. Her ticket has been punched. I hear Newark has a half-billion dollars in school funding it needs help in spending over the next 5 years. Would not be surprised to see her end up there.

    In terms of the future of DC schools, as I’ve said before, Fenty and Rhee did the hard work and paid the price for it. Now Gray gets to come in and play good cop – let’s talk to people, try to reach concensus, explain things, blah, blah, blah. But is he going to reverse any of the things that have been put in place? Fat chance. The schools that have been closed will stay closed. The teachers and administrators that were fired will stay fired. The woman who is taking Rhee’s place on an interim basis is basically Rhee without the baggage. At the end of the day, the people who voted for Gray thinking that what has been done would be undone will be sorely disappointed.

    • hey

      Good comment. I think what you said makes a lot of sense.

    • Anonymous

      I think this is the best argument and best hope for continued school reform under Gray. Do I think it’s the best bet for what will happen? No. Gray has already said that he would consider rehiring teachers fired under Rhee, for starters.

      • Marcus Aurelius

        Gray said he would consider rehiring teachers who were fired purely for budgetary reasons. Rhee had testified at hearings that some of the teachers fired last year were good performers but let go because of the budget. Gray is “open” to rehiring those teachers. The problem is that as far as I can tell the District’s budget has not gotten any better. So I don’t see that the budgetary problems that led to firings last year have been sufficiently resolved to allow for rehirings next year.
        The school system did win one of the “race to the top” grants from the feds. I’m not sure if that money can be used for teacher salaries. In any event, that money was awarded to states based on changes they instituted – including changes to teacher evaluation systems and ratings. It would not look good for Gray to back away from the programs and changes that got DC this money.

    • Anonymous

      +1 I just hope that whomever Gray brings in is willing to keep some of the momentum moving forward and not just pander to the wishes of the WTU who spent > 1mil campaigning against fenty.

      That last firing that happenened was probably discussed as a parting gift for Gray.

    • Ragged Dog

      There’s no evidence, written or spoken, that Gray has the good intentions that you attribute to him.

      Gray was encouraged to run by the union and supported by the union. The local unions, when they are aligned, are the strongest force in DC politics today (as you see in the latest election). There will be no second term for Gray if he doesn’t back the unions.

    • Resident

      +1 !!

  • #2 just reminds me why I hate the Wash Post so much.

    • jt$


  • VGray


  • jt$

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned a further detail from the post story:

    “Another article, under the headline “The Ultimate Mowing Machine,” proposes attaching a steel blade to the front of a four-wheel-drive truck and using the vehicle to strike pedestrians in a crowd.”

    These people are an absolute joke. If they can’t muster the stones to shoot civilians in the U.S. I don’t forsee this A-team like plan coming together. Not a worthy adversary

    • Anonymous

      It’s not a matter of will as much as it is operational incompetence. They have had their asses repeatedly handed to them by the Israelis for 50 years despite an overwhelming amount of collective resources.

      9/11/01 was thier high-water mark.

      • Anonymous

        which “they” are you referring to?
        you realize not all terrorists are the same right? there are more than 2 sides in the world.

  • Jack5

    There are 6.8 billion people in this world… Americans get so fixated on dynasties in politics. They want successors to be related, and they want people they like to hold positions forever, when that’s quite contrary to the process that being elected/appointed seeks to implement.

    To think that Michelle Rhee is the only person that can make DC schools better is pretty short sighted. If she thinks resigning before her job is done proves a point, I hope she lined up a new job first.

  • Anonymous

    Quitters never win. And winners never quit.

    • Jack5

      That’s why I’m voting for Sarah Palin in 2012! LOL.

  • DC parent

    I wish that more folks who really knew what is going on in schools would speak up. The reality is that Rhee likes to claim all kinds of miracles but when you look at the numbers they don’t support her. That is why she was not transparent– she could not be if she wanted to claim victory.

    The AYP scores tanked this past year. Where are the miracles. Please don’t be fooled.

    • gardyloo

      Everybody likes to talk about Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) tanking, but none of the critics will allow that the bar was raised last year. For reading in 2009, three out of five elementary students needed to score proficient or better for the school to make AYP. In 2010, that jumped to three out of four. For elementary math, the number jumped from 2009’s five out of nine to 2010’s seven of ten.

      It gets worse: in 2012, the pass ratio for elementary reading jumps to six out of seven and math goes up to five out of six.


      That’s why AYP is becoming increasingly discounted, both in DC and elsewhere. The metric isn’t reasonable.

      I credit Clifford Janey with the way this has worked out. He brought in a stringent, standards-based test so that virtually no schools would meet AYP. In a district with open enrollment, having half the schools meeting AYP and half falling short would be a prescription for chaos.

  • Anonymous

    Our local DCPS elementary in Petworth (not our in- boundary school but one in walking proximity) has made great strides in the past few years. I am not sure how much of that is due to Rhee or just hard work by the school’s teachers, parents and leadership. Unfortunately the other nearby school has terrible test scores and the middle school is a disaster. There are several charters that are doing well in Petworth, including E.L. Hayne’s new expansion at the old Clark School.
    Longtime locals tell me our school used to be a rough place with a bad reputation, and it’s true that there’s still a lot of local gang violence. But you couldn’t tell that meeting the little kids that are going there now. I hope they never harden or abandon hope as so many DC youths obviously have.


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