Education Reform in Wisconsin Cannot Penetrate a Thick Padding of Insulation

George Lightbourn:

Thanks largely to the efforts of President Obama, more Americans are paying attention to education reform. In Wisconsin, many people were forced out of their comfort zone (we are pleased about ranking either #1 or #2 in ACT scores) when the Obama administration snubbed our request for federal “Race to the Top” money.
Just as the public is coming to understand the vulnerability of the Wisconsin economy, they are beginning to see the vulnerability of our K-12 school system. Dropouts are up, test scores are down, and we have never spent more on education. Increasingly, people are beginning to demand more performance from their education dollar.
In education, like so many aspects of our lives, we look for success stories. Today’s rock star of education reform is the diminutive head of the Washington D.C. schools, Michelle Rhee. She is shaking up the world of education based on her passion around one simple concept; performance. Enabled by changes in federal and city laws, Rhee has put in place a teacher evaluation system, 50% of which is based on teachers’ impact on student learning. Using this tool, Rhee laid off dozens of teachers. If they were not performing, they were gone.