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July 26, 2008

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Why criticize Rhee? It is obvious that she is doing exactly what she was hired to do. Clearly she is just a mayoral stooge. Dare we speculate that the mayor is in the pockets of business, or some other special interest?

I assume that DC Mayor Fenty, (like most politicians) knows little about education. He hired Michelle Rhee because he assumed she did know something about schools and how they work.

Given her background, one would expect that to be true. That's why I direct my criticism toward Rhee and not the Mayor. There is an implied criticism in my post, however, of Fenty's decision to dissolve the school board. Apparently Fenty --a lawyer-- thought he was better able than the elected school board to run the city's schools.

I plead ignorance about most matters relating to teaching, education, and school administration. However, I do know that the District of Columbia school system has, for decades, been a disaster. The vast majority of students do not graduate from high school, teachers are chronically unable to maintain even a modicum of discipline in most classes, and the system produces bottom of the barrel test results at every level.

Fenty hired Rhee to fix the system. I have no idea whether her methods are sound or whether anyone can fix a system whose disasters may be more related to what happens outside the classroom than what happens in it.

As Rhee's only been on the job for about a year, it's too soon to see any results. But the old system clearly was not working, so something needed to be done.

As an aside, I've never heard anyone accuse Mayor Fenty of being in the pocket of business or any special interest. Even if he were, it's not clear to me what the relationship would be between that and the hiring or Rhee.

Vicki Phillips' southern charm? I failed to notice that when she was here.

This might be a little off the subject, but not entirely. I had a conversation this evening with someone who said they read in the Oregonian this week that PPS is going to get an infusion of federal money to open charter schools. Now I know that most of our school board members seem against the charter school agenda (thankfully)...so I am wondering how this will play out. Anyone else read the article? I can't find it on Oregon Live.

The "infusion" is for the State Dept. of Ed. to dole out to new charters all across the state. At this point, there isn't much reason to think that PPS will get any of it.

In Portland, a lot of this fed grant money is frittered away on failed charter applications.

For example, I believe the organizers of New Harvest charter received and spent a $50K grant in their failed bid to start a charter school in North Portland.

More on the fed grants....

The money Oregon Dept. of Ed. (ODE) just got is a continuation of money received under NCLB in 2005.

ODE gives $50K grants for development of a charter (in a competitive application process). If/when a charter is approved, they give the grantees up to $225,000 a year for two years.

This is known as the "Charter School Incentive Grant Program."

For 2008, they've approved one of these for Emerald Charter in PPS, and seven other proposed schools in the state.

ODE also gives out money for schools who have been in operation for at least three years to share their experience with other charter schools (the "Dissemination Grant Program").

The ODE Web site is a frustrating mess, but the Oregon Public Charter School Handbook (636.46 KB) contains the salient details of the ODE charter school grant programs.

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