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Education policy maven Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute think tank offers straight talk on matters of policy, politics, research, and reform. Read more from this blog.

States Opinion

DC’s Mayor Gray Throws Schools Chief Under Bus

By Rick Hess — February 16, 2011 2 min read
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Last fall, Vincent Gray upset incumbent DC mayor Adrian Fenty in a momentous election. The outcome was denounced by champions of tough-minded reform as a crushing setback--especially after the resignation of Chancellor Michelle Rhee. However, when Gray promised to stay the course on DC’s promising reform efforts and welcomed Fenty’s decision to name Rhee’s deputy Kaya Henderson as interim Chancellor, reformers crossed their fingers and hoped (especially since Gray knows that any serious retreat from the DC reform agenda risks tens of millions in philanthropic support, and an equal amount in federal Race to the Top funds).

Well, Gray’s hand-picked education transition team yesterday made it clear that reformers can pretty much pack it in. Gray’s transition team, headed by Michael Lomax of the United Negro College Fund and Katherine Bradley of CityBridge, unfurled the threadbare tapestry of “can’t-we-all-just-get-along?” reform. They called for remaking DC’s nationally regarded evaluation instrument into one more professional development tool. Lomax and Bradley deemed it problematic that DC’s pioneering IMPACT system for teacher evaluation “is seen by many teachers as a sorting and terminating tool.” (That suggests DC teachers to be perceptive, because all serious evaluation systems are conceived in part as tools for sorting and terminating personnel. It’s kind of management 1A, and all.)

This whole sorting and terminating notion quite bothered Lomax, Bradley, and their 30-member (!!) team of educators, parents, students, and activists. So, they recommended bringing in outside experts to declaw IMPACT and turn the system--crafted under Kaya’s supervision--into one more tool for professional development. Apparently very concerned with ensuring that the Washington Teachers Union’s preferences are fully aired, Lomax and Bradley will be including the union’s own report in their final draft.

Meanwhile, just to pile on, Gray went out of his way to inform the press that Kaya has been lusting after the chief’s job. (I’m skeptical, to say the least, given that she had mixed feelings about taking the interim job in the first place. And given that she’s said nothing publicly on the question so far, it’s a hell of a thing for Gray to give the impression that he’s dangling the job in front of her.) Oh, and Gray took pains to say he’s working closely with anti-IMPACT Washington Teachers Union chief Nathan Saunders to name the 16-person panel that will select the new chief. The panel will be co-chaired, conveniently enough, by...Lomax and Bradley.

I’ll say this for Gray: when he throws someone under the bus, he does it with vigor.

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