When Education Next ran its Braveheart story on D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, Beltway insiders scoffed, saying it was only a matter of time for her, just as it had been for the medieval Scottish nobleman. Teacher unions have too much clout to be confronted directly, went the conventional wisdom, and United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten is just too clever for this political neophyte, it was said. Any sensible school superintendent knows you don’t fight the unions, just settle for small-scale changes. To learn how to survive, just check out Boston. That’s the conventional wisdom.
But, lo and behold, test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress for students in Washington, D.C. have risen more than those of students from any other participating big city. And this week we learn that Michelle Rhee has negotiated a pay-for-performance contract that sets a standard for other cities to match.
Meanwhile, the nervous governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, is wondering whether he should sign the merit pay bill that is landing on his desk. Let’s hope braveheartism is contagious.