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Cuban op-ed: "Rhee's Biggest, and Most Costly, Failing"

Cuban op-ed: "Rhee's Biggest, and Most Costly, Failing"

If DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee leaves by the end of this year, it will be because she failed to connect to teachers, says Larry Cuban

Rhee's biggest, and most costly, failing

My guest is Stanford University Professor Larry Cuban. He is a former high school social studies teacher (14 years, 7 at Cardozo and Roosevelt high schools in the District) and district superintendent (7 years in Arlington, Virginia). He spent 20 years at Stanford and has been an emeritus professor since 2001.

By Larry Cuban

I do not know if Michelle Rhee will continue as D.C. schools chancellor even if Mayor Adrian Fenty, the man who brought her to the District, beats back his mayoral challengers in November. If he loses, Rhee will exit the parking lot of District offices on North Capitol Street for the last time.


Rhee has brought enormous energy, determination and rock-star glitz to a position usually inhabited by low-profile, dark-suited men who whisper in the ear of the mayor and confer quietly with key City Council members. Since August 2007, she has jolted the District’s Richter Scale with 7.0 temblors and repeated after shocks. That's what the D.C. schools needed.

But in one crucial area, she has not succeeded. If Rhee leaves by the end of 2010, it won’t be because test scores have either dipped or slowly risen or a combination of both. If she leaves or stays for only a short time, it will be because she failed to crack the hardest nut that "change-agent" D.C. school chiefs face: connecting to teachers.

Ask big-city superintendents Alan Bersin (San Diego 1998-2005) and David Hornbeck (Philadelphia 1994-2000) about their nasty struggles with teacher unions and how that doomed their change-agentry even after they negotiated new contracts with teachers...Read more

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