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  • Students First: Michelle Rhee Releases Agenda for National Education Reform

    Treating teachers like professionals, giving parents school choice, and using education dollars wisely: these three priorities frame the agenda of Students First, the newly established nonprofit headed by former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

    The plan, released Tuesday on StudentsFirst.org and outlined by Rhee in The Wall Street Journal and an on Fox News Wednesday, provides further detail regarding the agenda, which she calls “a comprehensive set of policies and legislation that … create the right environment … where transformational school reform can take hold.”

    The three priorities are described as follows:

    1. “Treating teachers like professionals” by “valuing their impacts on students.”

    “Compensation, staffing decisions and professional development should be based on teachers’ effectiveness, not on their seniority. That means urging states and districts to implement a strong performance pay system for the best teachers, while discontinuing tenure as job protection for ineffective teachers. This will ensure that the money spent on teacher salaries goes to the hard-working professionals who are improving student achievement every day.”

    2. Empowering parents with school choice.

    “States and school districts must remove the barriers that limit the number of available seats in high-quality schools. This includes allowing the best charter schools to grow and serve more students. It also means giving poor families access to publicly funded scholarships to attend private schools.”

    3. Ensure accountability for taxpayer dollars.

    “Over the past 40 years, per-pupil funding has more than doubled, but students have little to show for it. … This funding/achievement disconnect exists because in many cases states have spent money on some ‘feel good’ things that have not been proven to increase student achievement, such as smaller classes or raising salaries based on advanced degrees instead of effectiveness.

    “StudentsFirst will advocate for aggressive reforms in critical structural, operational, and budgeting activities throughout the country.

    “States and districts must shift new employees from defined-benefit pension programs to portable, defined-contribution plans where employees can contribute a proportionate amount to their own retirement savings. This will help ensure that states aren’t draining their budgets with pension payouts.”

    While Rhee clearly states that “we do not pretend that we are the first to advocate for the ideas in this agenda,” she asserts that the nation’s current fiscal situation, along with the continued failing scores of students can “focus the nation on the need for change.”

    The ideas struck host Steve Doocy as common sense during his interview with Rhee on Fox & Friends: “Why haven’t we been doing this … for a long time?”

    Good question. It’s time for opponents of sensible education reforms to put the needs of children before the demands of special interests—as Rhee’s aptly named group suggests.

    As the new year unfolds, parents, policymakers, school administrators, and advocates have the opportunity to put “students first” by allowing such common-sense ideas to take root, helping to ensure the best educational opportunities possible for the nation’s children.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    10 Responses to Students First: Michelle Rhee Releases Agenda for National Education Reform

    1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Students First: Michelle Rhee Releases Agenda for National Education Reform | The Foundry: Conservative Policy News. -- Topsy.com

    2. Bobbie says:

      I respect Michelle Rhee, her views and her strength to advocate common sense. I would've appreciated more input to where the money is being wasted and her views on government school unions who are of no benefit to the student or the tax payers and have confiscated most money. Removal of these government unions disrupting student education, while filling the pockets of the undeserving, would help out immensely.

    3. Pingback: Michelle Rhee : Students First ~ Agenda for National Education Reform | Just Piper

    4. Steven A. Sylwester, says:

      On November 23, 2010, I e-mailed the following letter to President Obama at nstc@ostp.gov , which is the address for The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) — see: http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp

      In our incessant departmentalizing of government, it seems to me that the wrong people are sometimes asked to play while the right people are left on the sidelines to watch. In this case, the reflex response to the topic of my letter would state: education is for the educators. But I disagree, so I directed my efforts toward the NSTC. The educators will certainly get their mitts on things before all is said and done, but I would put them at the last, not at the first.

      * * *

      President Barack Obama,

      On 11/19/2010, I wrote the following response to an article by Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) that you can read at this link: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/education/

      Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) better mean "each and every child" when he writes: "The international achievement gap will also close as we employ all the tools in our toolbox to ensure that each and every child is successful."

      Civil Rights are not just for poor people, or for people who are functionally illiterate or who are flunking out of school. Civil Rights are also for the most brilliant young people in America — The Top One Percent — the geniuses.

      I have proposed a national public high school for the most brilliant young people in America who have career interests in mathematics and the sciences. I call my proposed school "NASA Academy of the Physical Sciences" (NAPS), and my proposal can be read at:

      NAPS was designed with the national security interests of the U.S. in mind. Please read:

      I participate in an online forum regarding NAPS at:

      The guiding light for NAPS should be found in a U.S. commitment to meaningful National Education Standards. In my thinking, the basic National Education Standards should be: Every Child 21st-Century-Literate at No Less Than Grade Level While Being Actively Challenged and Fully Facilitated to Achieve Personal Potentials in All Core Academics. At the top end where NAPS exists, the National Education Standards should be simply this: Students Must Be Advanced to the Academic Level at Which They Can Succeed While Being Challenged.

      NAPS is doable. Please read my proposal.

      Steven A. Sylwester

      * * *

      In what I have read about StudentsFirst, it seems like something very basic is missing, which is a National Education Standards recommendation.

      I suppose Michelle Rhee thinks the phrase "Students First" is enough, but it is not. "Students First" describes a place in line, but it is a meaningless phrase in terms of mission, purpose, and vision. It really does not matter if you spend every dollar and every bit of energy on the students if you do not clearly articulate why you are gathering the students in the first place. To take for granted that "to educate them" actually means something regarding what will be accomplished when students are gathered is to take for granted that tomorrow is another day — it begs the question: So what?

      Former President George W. Bush articulated "No Child Left Behind" during his presidency, but that "mission, purpose, and vision" did nothing for any student other than those who were previously being left behind. Nothing about "No Child Left Behind" helped America keep pace with the rest of the world, so America continued to fall farther behind other nations in terms of measurable academic performance in mathematics and science.

      To articulate "Students First" promises nothing except a nebulous priority. It calls for no change in the status quo of education itself as a focused activity for learning something. Rather, it deals with bureaucratic priorities first and foremost (and maybe only), those being for starters: 1) “Treating teachers like professionals” by valuing their impacts on students, 2) Empowering parents with school choice, and 3) Ensure accountability for taxpayer dollars.

      In my letter to President Obama and his top Science & Technology advisers, I articulated a National Education Standard of my own making, which is: Every Child 21st-Century-Literate at No Less Than Grade Level While Being Actively Challenged and Fully Facilitated to Achieve Personal Potentials in All Core Academics.

      Furthermore, I also articulated a National Education Standard for America's most brilliant students, which is: Students Must Be Advanced to the Academic Level at Which They Can Succeed While Being Challenged.

      Imagine what would happen to public education in America if my proposed National Education Standards were put in place. A "standard" according to Webster's Dictionary is "something set up and established by authority as a rule for the measure of quantity, weight, extent, value, or quality," with a "rule" being "a prescribed guide for conduct or action — a standard of judgment." Without question, a whole lot of everything would change in America's schools overnight, and the end result would be a return to excellence.

      I believe America's commitment to public education can most easily be measured by observing whether the most brilliant students are being advanced to the academic level at which they can succeed while being challenged. The fact is simply this: that is not happening. Instead, all across America, the most brilliant students are being held back — essentially equivalently flunked — because our current system cannot meet their needs; rather than advancing them to a level of strenuous challenge at which a "B" grade would be an honest achievement, we mire them in mediocrity with a guaranteed easy "A" — and we mindlessly wonder why our nation is falling behind the rest of the world.

      I say: put the standards first, and everything else following will fall into place.

      Steven A. Sylwester

      P.S. The above linked online forum thread stopped accepting new replies on November 29, 2010, but it still has a significant ongoing readership that usually numbers 100 to 200 views per day according to the available analytics. As I write this, the thread has had 25,552 views.

    5. Pingback: Rhee Popular with Republicans | FrumForum

    6. Janice McNeal says:

      As a retired teacher working parttime in school improvement, I am excited about this agenda. It is time for reform in our schools. Teachers need support, guidance and immediate feedback to problems they face daily.

    7. Greg Ludwig, New Flo says:

      This is what we need in the educational system in this generation. I am from an area in western Pennsylvania that has seen some recent consolidation turmoil. The district that I live in, and my children attend school in, is one of the largest geographical districts in the state of Pennsylvania. Approximately 20 miles seperated the two high schools that were within the district. One high school was in the wealthier part of the district, the Ligonier area, and that end of the district ended up with a majority on the school board. The members from the Ligonier end of the district told the voters that they could close the high school in my end of the district, the "poorer" end, and taxes wouldn't go up and the children of the Ligonier end wouldn't have any longer bus rides. The high school in our end of the district was closed, students are being subjected to hour-plus bus rides in the treacherous western PA winter weather, and many students in our end of the district decided to pursue other educational options such as cyber-school or private school. Now the district is facing a budjet crisis and possibly raising property taxes up to seven mills. The district is trying to seek exemptions to prevent the tax increases going to referendum, thus not allowing the voters to vote on the tax increases. I will mention that the land that the closed high school sits on is part of the properous Marcellus Shale. The shool could have obtained free gas for itself and the adjacent elementary school that sits on the same property and still have made the district over a million dollars a year in gas royalties. Last, and certainly not least, a grass roots group decided to take the school district to court over closing the school and lost the trial that extended for a week of testimony. Several board members lied on the stand and were not prosecuted. Just another example of the fleecing of America by the rich and powerful.

    8. Charles S. Merroth, says:

      To alleviate what I believe to be a major universal obstacle in education today, I have proposed an idea;, My Child: For a Better World. A simple program for education of future parents and implemented in the present mandated school system by means of a one course addition.

      Step 1: A curriculum manual at the 7th or 8th grade level of a semester in length emphasizing human and family relationships that keeps kids in school and from harmful relationships at least to the 12 th grade.

      Step 2: A curriculum manual for 12th grade emphasizing how to instill non-cognitive virtues as future parents in child rearing for the first two years after birth.ie.a semester course on the most important vocation of life,parenthood.

      Step 3: A curriculum aimed at any post high school students before entering the family sphere also emphasizing child rearing values for the first three years of life.

      These could all be a semester of interesting real life multi-media material designed by educators and child development practitioners.

      Execution of this sure but simple idea within the existing framework of mandated schooling is a painless method, that if prudently managed, will result in universal peer adoption and gradual acceptance over several generations. This will, again with patience and perseverance, result in establishment of the family as a center of wisdom and a seedbed for peace.

      No progress will significantly improve education until family function is addressed.Thank you.for this opportunity.

      This can be a new idea for a NEW organization.

    9. uscggmdv says:

      everything I read is very good! One thing no one ever answers me on is: What do you do with the student that interupts the class on a regular bases, and the others have the same right not to be left behind. Are there not some that reach a limit and need to be removed, so others can learn? Were is that fine line that removes the trouble maker? Many a school are being run a many corperations and airbushing the number to meet Nation Goals. Every region of every STATE is differant, and their needs have to be adjusted in order to climb the ladder. There are rules and regulations for everything, were are the riles and regs for the ones that want to learn, so the unruly are removed and as we know,,,they do not deserve an education if they don't want to respect the other 98% of the class!!!

    10. Sue says:

      Dear Michelle, Thanks for your recent program on T.V. I agree that public education costs have skyrocketed. All forms of secondary and post secondary have skyrocketed in cost. My concern is achedemics: What bang are we getting for our buck? I have in my possesion an eigth-grade test for graduation(required) for the year 1919. Do you know that most junior-year college students could not pass this test today? This test contains the culmination of mid-level math(higher algebra and trig.),Physics, understanding two foreign languages, world history and geography astronomy, english, graphics, and more. Eighth grade! The public school system of today are a disgrace and the laughing stock of many countries. I will be willing to let you look at this test if you are interested. Lets get back to basic achedemics . Good luck in your endeavors. Sue W

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