The Governor, The Reformer, & Superman

I didn’t get invited.  The Columbus Dispatch reports that Governor Kasich is hosting a private showing of Waiting for Superman tonight (at an “Athletic Club”), joined by Michelle Rhee (one of the stars of the film).  According the story

In a meeting with Dispatch editors and reporters last week, Kasich said he recently had a phone conversation with Rhee to discuss his reform agenda.
“Michelle Rhee called me this morning hyperventilating about the fact that she wants to really get us to create a mechanism whereby, working with principals, we can have a better way to be able to judge what they should be paid,” Kasich said.
“Now, we didn’t go that far, and I kind of held it off, but we’re going to listen to what she has to say. She is a great reformer.”

As anyone reading the papers over the past few days probably already knows, Rhee’s credibility is in considerable doubt.  According to a USAToday report, one of her flagship school success stories in DC (upon which she showered large bonuses) seems to have, well, perhaps, helped the kids a bit by erasing wrong marks and bubbling in the right answers.  The story is here.  (Rhee first used the same strategies she employed as Chancellor — attacking her critics as “enemies of school reform” — when that didn’t fly, she endorsed a probe — how dare they cheat!   But as Diane Ravich points out elsewhere, Rhee’s celebrity:

is not built on her success in D.C., however, which now appears to be a chimera. Her celebrity results from the fact that she has emerged as the national spokesman for the effort to subject public education to free-market forces, including competition, decision by data, and consumer choice. All of this sounds very appealing when your goal is to buy a pound of butter or a pair of shoes, but it is not a sensible or wise approach to creating good education. What it produces, predictably, is cheating, teaching to bad tests, institutionalized fraud, dumbing down of tests, and a narrowed curriculum.

And that, I would argue, is exactly what you would expect from bringing in a corporate manager and a corporate orientation. It’s a variant of what’s called “milking.”  High-level managers in short-term positions (and that’s what big city superintendencies seem to be).  In manufacturing, for example, a boss might cut off or defer capital expenditures, investments in R&D, anything that that can be cut in the short term to make profits look better, safe in the expectation they’ll be gone before the crap hits.  As one of the managers Robert Jackall quotes in Moral Mazes explained “And you know what happens when you do that?  The guy who comes into that mess is the one who gets blamed, not the guy who milked it” (p. 92).  Rhee (Paul Vallas, Rod Paige) do this well — not that many don’t try to pin the blame on them; but they don’t seem to suffer, and it’s been up to their successors to either find new means of milking or take the heat.

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