"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Did Michelle Rhee or one of her TFAers Write These Rambling Letters?

Her words are empty and vague.  So are her educational reform ideas. See if you can discern what they are and what she wants...other than your money. 

Michelle Rhee and her organization StudentsFirst just won't leave Missourians alone with her talking points on educational reform sent via email.  She's about as vague on her reform plans as Arne Duncan saying we need "great teachers".  What's the definition of educational reform and what's the definition of a "great teacher"?  Who and what organizations define and implement those plans for public education?  It's increasingly becoming clear it's not the public.

Parents and taxpayers have no say in educational reform (it's been spelled out for us in Race to the Top and Common Core standards written by private corporations and bureaucrats) and the "great" teachers will be decided by accountability measures not set by local districts.

Ms. Rhee's poorly constructed letter (below) begging for support for educational reform ended up in a Missourian's email inbox.  Her idea of educational reform is as clear as mud and the links provided in her letter don't give the reader additional information on how Ms. Rhee wants to transform education.   If Ms. Rhee wants parents to trust her with educational decisions, it might behoove her to explain what she has in mind for American children.  She does make it clear she wants your donations but she doesn't explain how she will spend your $10.00 or her educational reform plans.

We have questions for Ms. Rhee highlighted yellow in the letter:

From: Michelle Rhee admin@studentsfirst.org
Date: August 15, 2012
Subject: Working for reform in Saint Louis

Hi member, Be careful if you sign up to receive emails...you are now considered a member.

To put the needs of students first in every school in America, we need people committed to reform in every community. What specifically are the needs of students?  What kind of  people do you need "committed to reform" and what type of reform are you promoting?

Education is a local issue with national implications. How is education a local issue when school boards are impotent to make educational policy decisions?  Missouri schools need advocates to get involved with the reform effort and make a difference.   What is the reform effort and what difference does Ms. Rhee want to see? 

In the last year, we have successfully worked with our members to make progress in states across the country, including passing groundbreaking laws in Georgia, Ohio and Maine.  What groundbreaking laws were passed in those states?  Why would laws that work in other states necessarily mean they are appropriate laws for Missouri school children? This is a great start, but we all know our education system is far from fixed. We have so much more work to do to put the interests of students first.  What work do you have to do in local districts since you are a national group?  What are the interests of students?

Will you work with us to bring comprehensive reform to schools near you? What IS comprehensive reform and why should parents sign onto your idea of reform?  Sign up now to take local action:

http://studentsfirst.org/local-action  Read about the REAL reform needed: Common Core standards rescinded, data mining stopped in public schools and local control restored (not Rhee's national power grab) at truthinamericaneducation.com.

Time and again, we have witnessed those with a vested interest in continuing the status quo rise up and squash local reform movements with their money and power. But allowing the status quo to continue means denying millions of children the chance at the American dream they deserve.  What is this status quo Ms. Rhee refers to and would Ms. Rhee please explain why she wants to raise a billion dollars to push her reforms...whatever they may be?

We cannot let the reform movement be trampled once again. To make real reform possible, we need the resources in place to go out and fight for every child in America.  Tell me what "real reform" means to a billion dollar organization and how that billion dollars will help children....OR will it enrich private businesses to deliver educational products deemed necessary by private organizations while using taxpayer money.

Can you donate $10 to StudentsFirst right now?  No.  You have not laid out your plan of educational reform and these one-liner educational reform talking points make no sense.  When you tell me you want to reduce federal spending and/or control in education, I'll donate to that cause.

http://studentsfirst.org/donate-10-now  Instead, read what Michelle Rhee's bipartisan reform REALLY means for students and taxpayers at this site: RheeFirst!

The excitement and interest pouring in from every corner of the nation is incredible. Keep spreading the word and building this movement for reform.  Jeez, who wrote this letter?  The movement for reform is coming from the corporations, NOT the grassroots.  Nobody asked parents and taxpayers for their votes on Race to the Top or Common Core standards. That was a $4.35 Billion check given to Arne Duncan for HIS (and Michelle Rhee's "vision" for reform).  Unvoted on by citizens. 

We're at the beginning of something remarkable.  Yes, indeed we are.  We are witnessing something remarkable....the destruction of local and state autonomy in any decisions for students and the schools the taxpayers fund.

-- Michelle

Michelle Rhee
CEO and Founder

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The following letter from StudentsFirst  was received by a Florida reader and forwarded on to MEW.  The reader writes:  Don't be fooled by this trickery.  I would add to that statement.." and a narrative that can't be explained except that "it's students first" ":


(For background information, please read this recent Tampa Bay Times opinion editorial by speaker-designate Will Weatherford of the Florida House of Representatives where he discusses the importance of accountability and testing.)

Florida has led the nation in its efforts to establish strong systems of accountability. These systems hold adults accountable for serving all of our students well, and ensure our kids are learning and receiving the education they deserve. Unfortunately, Florida's precedent-setting accountability system is under attack.  From whom?  What group?  Explain.

Local politicians in twelve Florida school districts caved under pressure from special interests (as if Michelle Rhee is not pushing a special interest agenda?) who are working to derail our (who is "our"?  Bill Gates? Arne Duncan?) state’s education reform efforts and adopted a resolution against testing. Could this possibly be the testing to be done every three weeks due to Common Core mandates?  Could that be a reason these districts pushed back against the CCSSI and the NGA?  These groups (what groups?) are working to remove any sort of accountability from our schools. Do these "special interest" groups want to remove ANY accountability in schools or just YOUR idea of accountability?  Several other school districts are being pressured to adopt similar resolutions in the coming weeks.  Shouldn't and don't LOCAL school districts have the authority to set their own accountability measures?  Who is Michelle Rhee to tell LOCALLY  ELECTED officials how to run their school districts?

Florida cannot afford to turn back the clock on its accountability system.  Wow, she sure is concerned about students in ALL the states, isn't she, bless her heart.

In the nearly fifteen years that Florida parents, teachers and elected officials have been using accountability systems to measure our students’ progress, the improvement in Florida’s educational system has been undeniable.  So why is Rhee trying to undermine parents, teachers and elected officials for HER version of accountability?  Who made her the queen of education?

Education professionals across the state of Florida - at all levels - should stand up for the accountability systems that have successfully transformed Florida's education system!  If the systems have worked for 15 years, then why any district or official follow Michelle Rhee's system when she doesn't even LIVE in Florida?

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