Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Reform: Education

Michelle Rhee, the fired ex-superintendent of the very troubled Washington D.C. school system, is still committed to reforming public education.

She’s now head of “StudentsFirst,” which she calls “a national organization to defend and promote the interests of children in public education and to pursue an aggressive reform agenda to make American schools the best in the world.” According to Rhee, “StudentsFirst” signed up 100,000 people and collected $1 million in its first 48 hours, and aims at “a frontal attack on the educational status quo.”

Specifically, Rhee is pushing a three-part agenda:

1. Treat teachers like professionals. That means basing compensation, staffing decisions and professional development on teachers' effectiveness, not seniority. It means implementing a strong performance pay system for the best teachers, and discontinuing tenure for ineffective teachers. When budget problems require layoffs of school staff, honor quality over seniority.

2. Empower parents with information and choices. Remove barriers that limit available seats in high-quality schools, allowing the best charter schools to grow and serve more students. Give poor families publicly funded scholarships to attend private schools. Expand use of California's "parent trigger" law, which forces the restructuring of a poor performing school when more than 50% of the school’s parents sign a petition.

3. Ensure accountability for every dollar spent. Today, billions of dollars are wasted, for example, on paying for advanced degrees for teachers that have no measurable impact on student achievement. Also, to ensure states aren't draining their budgets with pension payouts, the current pensions structure must shift new employees from defined-benefit programs to portable, defined-contribution plans, with employees contributing to their own retirement.

If you want to join and contribute to “StudentsFirst,” sign up here.

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