Thoughts on Michelle Rhee and Vince Gray’s next move
iwasjustsayin replied to your link:D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee to announce resignation Wednesday (WaPo)
What is Vince Grays vision?
That is the big question, and here are my quick thoughts (in as many complete sentences as I can pull together at 10 p.m.).
In the campaign, Gray made his arguments about style, rather than about changing specific policy decisions made by Rhee or Fenty. Here’s the quick blurb from the Post:
Gray has repeatedly said that he supports an ambitious program of school reform but does not think that changes depend on a single person. In aninterview with The Washington Post last week, he said that if Rhee leaves, he will seek to name a replacement who shares many of her values and not a veteran who has spent several decades in top school jobs. He ruled out Rhee’s predecessor, Clifford Janey, whose name had circulated as a possible replacement.
While I think Gray will take his time and consider young talent, I still wouldn’t be too surprised to see another reasonably big name in ed reform circles come in, such as Rudy Crew, former superintendent/chancellor in New York City and Miami, among others. On the other hand, the expectation is that Kaya Henderson, Rhee’s deputy, will be named Interim Chancellor, and she could be an intriguing candidate, with stronger D.C. roots than Rhee.
While some policy changes will be rolled back, I think some of Fenty and Rhee’s most positive and lasting legacies are the repairs made to all of the schools in the District, and the significant shortening of a maintenance backlog that had previously included broken windows that hadn’t been replaced in more than a decade in some schools. These infrastructure pieces are generally seen as a total positive (though some critics pointed out that not all schools had their repairs done as quickly as others, or pointing out differences in how the district is handling the renovations of Wilson and Ballou High Schools). A well-maintained school can make a statement to students about how much the community cares, and these facility upgrades, along with generally improved data systems, allow for more people to focus on the quality of education. I think Gray will benefit from the fact that many of these changes have happened, and that the central administration of DCPS, while still far from a high-functioning organization, seems considerably more responsive than it previously was.
As to the IMPACT system and other accountability measures put in place by Rhee, we’ll see how Mr. Gray approaches them. The $75 million in federal Race to the Top funding will lock in a few systems, at least in the short term, and changes in federal education policy will continue to nudge DC in the accountability-based direction of many of Rhee’s reforms.
While we don’t know yet how Mr. Gray’s vision for education reform will play out on the ground level, we do know that he has an understanding of building alliances and support that the outgoing administration certainly lacked, and so while he may not move as quickly as Fenty and Rhee did in the “no excuses” direction, he is also not likely to alienate the supporters of those steps by moving 180 degrees in the opposite direction, and he will also likely make some moves to keep some of the talent that was brought in with a strong inclination to help revamp D.C.’s failing schools. Those retention efforts will be critical not only from a human capital standpoint (keeping talent), but also for basic continuity of operations of this complex and important system.
On the other hand, the huge budget gap facing D.C. government for the next fiscal year means he will have to make some tough choices about what to cut, and it is not likely that he will be able to make a lot of headway in the immediate term on his campaign promise to focus on “the entire educational spectrum” from Pre-K to community college and beyond.