Cities try ‘Michelle Lite’

Since Michelle Rhee left her D.C. schools job, everyone wants a kinder, gentler version of her reforms, writes Richard Whitmire. But “Michelle Lite” won’t be enough to change the worst urban districts, he fears.

The thinking on the former D.C. Public Schools chancellor goes like this: True, she had to focus on teacher and principal quality, but not exclusively. Yes, she had to close underutilized schools, but not without collaborating. Finding a better way to reward teachers was admirable, but not by riling the unions so much.

I’ve come to think of this conventional wisdom as Michelle Lite. Improving teacher quality, streamlining schools, giving teachers new pay incentives — all good ideas, but only if done gently, quietly, cooperatively.

Baltimore, Tampa and Miami are trying to reform schools collaboratively, but they’re not likely to match the changes Rhee forced in D.C. schools, Whitmire argues.

His book on Rhee, The Bee Eater: Michelle Rhee Takes on the Nation’s Worst School District, comes out in a few weeks.

About Joanne