If you read my non-endorsements for the 2007 Fairfax County School Board election, you probably got the distinct impression that I don’t like the over-democratization of our schools. Educational decisions should be made by educational professionals with the limited oversight of elected city councils or county boards of supervisors or mayors. This allows for democratic input on the management of our schools without it degrading into the political BS you see in our school boards every month.
So you might guess that I was pretty happy when Washington, DC, Mayor Adrian Fenty (D) was elected with a strong mandate to sack the entire city school board and schools superintendent and replace them with a chancellor that answers directly to him. I was. I’m even more happy to learn that DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee—a former teacher who has been heavily criticized locally for her supposed ‘inexperience’, for firing hundreds of under-performing teachers and administrators, and for closing under-enrolled schools—has successfully led students in the DC school system to significantly improved test scores after only one year in office.
Critics have already begun claiming that the scores are a fluke, or that reforms from the preceding school leaders (what reforms were those, again?) had as much impact as the Fenty/Rhee reforms. It’s probably too early to tell. That said, I strongly suspect that DC schools will continue to thrive and improve under Rhee’s culture of professionalism and accountability, and DC’s schools will (against all odds) become a model for reform nationwide. Step 1: Depoliticize by dissolving elected school boards.