Former Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools wants to put StudentsFirst

Like some of you, I had the opportunity to view the documentary Waiting for Superman, which attempted to chronicle the chaos of our nation’s education system. 

It was in viewing this documentary that I became familiar with the somewhat controverisal Michelle Rhee, the embattled and now former Chancellor of Washington, D.C., Public Schools. I was particularly intrigued with Rhee’s response to both teachers and the teachers’ unions, so I was eager to find out what she was doing next, especially since she was in Florida a few months ago.

I’ve since learned that Rhee is behind a grassroots movement known as StudentsFirst, an organization with the mission “to build a national movement to defend the interests of children in public education and pursue transformative reform, so that America has the best education system in the world.”

Regardless of your position regarding teachers’ unions, tenure and pay for performance, we should all be able to agree that:

  • Our education system needs improvement.
  • The focus should be on children − not on teachers, testing, or bureaucracy.
  • Ineffective teachers may not produce the outcomes we are looking for.

StudentsFirst has launched a state action center with a goal to pass laws that will give Florida’s schools the tools to identify, reward, and save great teachers. 

According to the video above, StudentsFirst is looking to “save great teachers” by ending the “Last In, First Out” (LIFO) method of laying off teachers in reaction to a budget deficit (Senate Bill 736 and House Bill 7019, which will require school districts to base layoffs primarily on performance of teachers).

It doesn’t appear that Rhee is too far off the mark, especially after reading Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas’ recent article, “New merit-pay bill will revolutionize teaching profession.” In it, he discusses the historical perspective of the current teacher tenure system and what the passing of new legislation could mean both for Florida’s teachers, and more importantly, our children. 

JahKiya Bell, MNM
Director, Community Investment
Heart of Florida United Way


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