If you work for the Washington, DC, city government, you can usually be sure you’re doing something right if the City Council hates you. If you work for public schools, it’s also usually a good sign you’re doing something right if the teachers’ unions hate you. If you happen to be leading the Washington, DC, public schools (DCPS), and you manage to piss off both the City Council and the teachers’ unions, well, you’re almost definitely on the right track.
DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee has managed to accomplish exactly this. Her leadership, now entering its third year, has drastically improved DCPS’s average test scores. The worst teachers and administrators are being weeded out of the system, while the best are being retained. Slowly-but-surely, waste, fraud, and abuse in the system is being eliminated. Johnathan Swift once said, “When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” Well, the dunces are now in confederacy against Michelle Rhee.
I don’t really approve of what Rhee did in her most recent controversy—when the DC City Council instructs that something be done, no matter how stupid it may be, it should be done. But Rhee’s approach of actually trying to do her job, even in the face of moronic decrees from the Council and union bosses, is laudable. I’ve slowly come to the conclusion that some times the best way to get something done is to ignore the ‘process’ and just do it, especially in government (and other dysfunctional organizations) where the ‘process’ hurts more than it helps.
In this case, the DC City Council, the now-dissolved school board, teachers’ unions, former mayors, and educational administrators have conspired for decades to destroy the city’s schools. Rhee has been weeding through the school administrators, she doesn’t have to deal with the non-existent school board or former mayors, but the Council and unions are still thorns in her side. They helped make the mess; I’d humbly suggest that they shut up and let Rhee fix it.