Education Celebrity

A headline on the Post front page this morning declares “Rhee embraces education celebrity”. For the online version of the article, the top line becomes: “Michelle Rhee, the education celebrity who rocketed from obscurity to Oprah”.

But don’t read this long piece expecting to gain any understanding of major education reform issues. That’s not modern “journalism”.

The writer is far more interested in lining up the sides, slapping political labels on them, and laying out the conflict. The Tea Party loves her! Teacher unions hate her! She’s controversial!!

However, buried in this promotional piece (she has a book about herself to sell) is one important fact about the reform concepts she supports: they don’t work.

“She’s got a very simple message that is highly seductive because it appears to give an answer to our difficult education problems,” said Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a liberal-leaning* research group.

It would be great if her ideas translated into good results for kids, Kahlenberg said.

“But, in fact, we’ve got two grand experiments of her theory,” he said. “The first is the American South, where teachers unions are weak and the schools are not lighting the world on fire. The other is charter schools, which are 88 percent non-unionized. In charters, you can do everything that Michelle Rhee wants to do — fire bad teachers, pay good teachers more. And yet, the most comprehensive studies looking at charter schools nationally find mediocre results.”

I know it won’t happen, but I keep hoping that a high profile news organization like the Post would use actual results as a starting point for a front-page article on education reform. And push all the celebrity crap back to the Style section.


* According to the wise and ever-quotable Stephen Colbert, “Reality has a well-known liberal bias”.

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