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John Merrow

John Merrow

Posted: February 15, 2011 01:24 PM

On Michelle Rhee, Cyber Bullies and Teacher Pay


Dear Friends,

This is a big week for us at Learning Matters, because of the unofficial release of The Influence of Teachers. It has received some wonderful advance praise, but I thought perhaps you'd like a sneak peek at what's inside the book.

Below are excerpts from a few of the 17 chapters.

The book is available exclusively on Amazon, right here; I hope you consider going and getting your own copy. I am donating 100 percent of the royalties to Learning Matters.

Thanks,

John

From Chapter Ten, "Following Leaders"


"I'm going to fire somebody in a little while," the young superintendent said. "Do you want to see that?"

In our world, see means videotape. Washington, D.C., Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee was actually inviting us to film her as she fired one of her employees.

My colleagues Jane Renaud and Cat McGrath had spent the morning in Chancellor Rhee's office, filming her meeting with parents, community groups and principals. A dynamo, Rhee moved easily from meeting to meeting, seemingly unaware of the presence of our camera.

Jane and Cat were stunned by her invitation, but not so much that they didn't accept on the spot. As Jane recalls, "She told us to come back at a specific time, and so we got a sandwich, returned to her office, set up the equipment and shot the meeting."

That event, shown on national television on the NewsHour, helped create the media persona of Michelle Rhee: the fearless and determined reformer who puts the interests of children first.

From Chapter Six, "Paying Teachers"


Picture the typical salary schedule for teachers. It's probably just a page of small boxes. One axis notes years of service; the other denotes academic credits beyond the basic Bachelor's degree; as you go up in years and out in credits, you make more money. In the upper right hand corner, in the last box, is the maximum you will earn.

It's like having a crystal ball, because on your very first day on the job you can look well into the future and see just how much (or how little) you will be earning 25, 30 or 35 years from that moment; it won't matter whether you're the best teacher or the hardest working teacher -- or the converse, the worst and laziest. Your salary is set.

From Chapter Nine, "Leadership's Revolving Door"


Just as the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball seem to play musical chairs with their coaches/managers, search firms recycle superintendents. No matter how long and hard these companies search, they inevitably seem to turn up the usual suspects: career educators, most of them white men.

In the fall of 2004, for example, only 16 of the superintendents in the 63 largest districts were women. Five years later, in the 2009-2010 school year, the needle had barely moved: Women were leading just 18 of the nation's 66 largest big-city school districts. According to Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, "This percentage is actually way above national averages. While women are still a minority among urban superintendents, they are even more underrepresented in the suburbs, small towns and rural areas."

From Chapter Thirteen, "Making Schools Safe"


Cyber-bullying can be stopped. Adults have to set the right tone in a school; they have to intervene instead of standing on the sidelines. They have to empower children rather than simply shutting down computers, for example. Above all, they must pay attention. And in order to know what to watch for, parents must understand that in many ways the face of bullying is changing.

Schools are supposed to be safe havens: physically, intellectually and emotionally. We don't need anti-bullying laws (although about 40 states now have them) because of laws already in force that require school leaders to act. Bernice Sandler, one of the forces behind Title IX (1972) holds that view. Title IX prohibits sexual harassment, and most bullying falls into that category, she explains.

"Most cyberbullying and other forms of bullying, as well, include sexual references. Girls are called 'sluts' and 'hos,' boys are called 'fags' and other sexual names. Sexual rumors and comments are frequent."

Dr. Sandler says Title IX requires schools to act, no matter where the cyberbullying occurs.

 

Follow John Merrow on Twitter: www.twitter.com/john_merrow