Three important characters in the education reform conversation met yesterday on This Week with Christiane Amanpour: Education Secretary Arne Duncan, American Federation of Teachers head Randi Weingarten, and D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. The discussion is a good primer of the biggest issues facing reformers today—the biggest one, in the wake of The L.A. Times' recent revelation of Los Angeles teacher data, was teacher evaluation. (Full video below.)
For the non-casual education wonk, the discussion isn't going to reveal anything too mind-blowing. There was, however, an interesting exchange between Amanpour and Rhee, regarding civil rights groups' objections to the Race to the Top because it's not need-based—but rather innovation-based. Whereas Duncan and Weingarten engaged in some sloganeering ("We have to educate our way to a better economy." and "No one—myself included—wants bad teachers.") throughout the proceedings, Rhee, as is her reputation, was more direct.
AMANPOUR: But, of course, many in the civil rights movement, amongst minorities and blacks here are saying that, in fact, we should be giving -- you should be giving the stimulus money not based on performance and innovative proposals, but based on need, because there's such a need. How do you deal with that in your schools, Michelle?RHEE: Well, first of all, I mean, we totally disagree with the notion that the -- the right thing to do in terms of putting resources into the school districts is to continue the formula funding of the past that has completely failed children, and particularly poor and minority children in this country.What the secretary and the president have done through Race to the Top has said we're going to incent innovation. We don't want the -- we don't want to maintain the status quo. We want people who are going to be aggressive about really reforming their districts and who are serious about that. And we're going to give the resources to those -- to those states and to those districts.And I think that this idea that somehow by just continuing to give all of the districts that same amount of money over and over again is going to produce a different result is absolutely mad.\n