Last week was the first time I’ve seen Michelle Rhee since taking on DC schools.  She is a compelling speaker with an honest data-driven message about what needs to happen to make things better for kids.

She’s facing a firestorm about a recent layoff that included 229 of the city’s 4,436 teachers.  Layoffs are second only to school closings on the list of hardest-things-for-a-superintendent-to-do list.  It would have been difficult to cut last-in first-out as is the custom but would not have created a controversy.  Because of unique contract language, Rhee had the opportunity to consider performance as well as other factors when making the cuts.

With all the talk about teacher effectiveness, we need to have a conversation about removing ineffective teachers.  States competing for Race to the Top will need to confront this issue to have a chance at winning.  While improving data and evaluation systems, states will need to remove barriers to firing teachers that don’t respond effectively to coaching and development.

A string of three good teachers puts kids on a positive trajectory.  A string of three bad teachers can destroy a child’s life options.  Rhee is engaged in the fight for kids.  More of us need to join her.

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Tom Vander Ark is author of Difference Making at the Heart of Learning, The Power of Place, Better Together, Smart Parents, Smart Cities and Getting Smart. He is co-founder of Getting Smart and serves on the boards of Education Board Partners, 4.0 Schools, Digital Learning Institute, Latinx Education Collaborative, Mastery Transcript Consortium and eduInnovation. Follow Tom on Twitter, @tvanderark.


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