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The issue with ‘The System’

Seamus Donegan | Monday, April 4, 2011

It seems as though every time I am in the dining hall and around campus I hear yet another person talking about the event “The System: Opportunity, Crisis and Obligation in K-12 Education.” I consistently hear about how excited they are to hear that Michelle Rhee is coming to campus. I am really feeling the hype around campus for this event coming up soon. But, could some of the panelists’ ideas and policies be overhyped?

Sure, Michelle Rhee took a depleted Washington D.C. school district, made radical changes and saw high school graduation rates increase, but that was one unique experience. Now she has started an education advocacy group, Students First, which is trying to tackle the education issues in the entire country. She had a monumental task in trying to save Washington D.C. schools and now she is trying to take on the country. I really respect her for trying — it is a very noble cause. But I’m just not convinced that she can really reform an entire country’s failing education system.

In this advocacy group, Students First, Rhee has three main policy goals. In short, they are trying to get teacher evaluations, give parents choices and make sure taxes are used effectively. Qualitative teacher evaluations have historically never worked, though Rhee is trying to evaluate based on student performance. But what if the students are just not strong learners? Also, what does she mean by giving parents “real choices”? Just because you give a parent data and choices doesn’t guarantee they will change the status quo or even make the right choice for their student. How does she know exactly where taxpayer money is most efficient for each and every school district? I feel as though every school district is different and there is not one fix-all solution.

Overall, I feel like the task is monumental and I’m not sure that there is one solution to fix the failing educational system for each district across the country. The issue being discussed at “The System” is definitely one of great importance, for the sake of our generation and our children’s generation. I’m just not sold on the policies presented and how effective they will be. I am very eager to hear what Michelle Rhee and the panel have to say.

Seamus Donegan


Keough Hall

April 3