Systemic changes in Washington, DC

˙ PREAL Blog

We are pleased to share with you an article that was recently published in Education Week, which discusses the first year in office of Michelle Rhee, the schools chancellor of Washington, DC.

As the article points out, unlike her predecessors, Rhee has pursued two priorities in her administration so far. On the one hand, she has held officials of the DC public school system accountable for their performance on the job—she fired central office employees that were not doing their job properly, and she fired teachers that had been unable to improve their students’ achievement. On the other hand, Rhee has focused on attracting and retaining top-notch candidates to the teaching profession—she plans to raise the wages of all teachers, and she is currently in negotiations with the local teachers’ union to enact a new merit-pay system. Rhee’s ambitious reforms have earned her the respect of various experts in education in the United States, and while she has faced significant opposition from teachers’ unions, she has known how to sort through the obstacles to press ahead with her reforms. Rhee’s case seems to suggest that the type of systemic changes that some education systems need may be controversial, but that it is not impossible to tackle them.