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Elevating the Education Reform Conversation | LinkedIn

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September 03, 2013

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A few months ago I led a discussion on education reform at a library in one of our active states. At one point the head of the local teachers’ union stood up.

Why, she demanded to know, does StudentsFirst refuse to work with or even have a dialogue with her union?

Absolutely not true, I told her. We welcome an honest, substantive discussion with any individual or group that is passionate about great schools—including teachers’ unions. As chancellor in Washington, D.C., I personally worked with a teachers’ union to put education reforms in place.

I later got her contact information and emailed her, extending an invitation to meet and discuss education policy.

No response. So, one month later, I reached out again.

Three weeks later I finally received back a lengthy, strongly-worded message ticking off all the reasons she now refused to meet with me.

How can we solve big challenges in America—whether it is fixing health care, creating jobs, or improving schools—if people with differing views refuse to even sit down and discuss an issue like grown adults?

This needs to change.

That is why, beginning this Thursday, I am co-hosting a series of town halls across the nation. We are inviting teachers—and their union leaders—along with other educators, community leaders and any citizen interested in an honest, substantive debate about education reform. In fact, one of my co-hosts is the former head of a teachers’ union.

Let’s allow facts, data and real-life experiences to drive our discussion.

Let’s talk about Michael Bloom, a middle school teacher who left a successful law career after 25 years to follow his passion. He inspires his Social Studies students with congressional mock hearings, brings history to life with re-enactments of ancient Greek rituals, and mentors younger teachers at his school. Last month—after a parent’s nomination—my organization honored him as one of our All-Star California teachers.

Instead of name-calling and politicking, I want to talk about how we can recruit, retain and elevate more great teachers like Michael.

Instead of engaging in ad hominem attacks, let’s talk about kids in Florida—a model for education reform—who just ranked second in the world on a prestigious international reading test, and figure out how to replicate that success in other parts of the country. Instead of accusing reformers of wanting to “privatize” education—an absurd claim— let’s debate the impact of our reforms in D.C., where recent test scores show the strongest growth for students since 2008.

Rather than refusing to even meet with someone we may disagree with, let’s figure out if we can work together to create a system that treats students and teachers fairly.

Only through a sane, reasoned dialogue can we cut through the rhetorical fog and talk about what matters: giving every kid a fair chance to succeed. This is true not only for fixing our schools, but for solving the other big challenges of our time.

Featured on:Social Impact

Posted by:Michelle Rhee

via Elevating the Education Reform Conversation | LinkedIn.


Born in 1964, business owner, from Woodbridge, VA, owns ExcitingAds! Inc. ( and blog ( He was born in Mirpurkhas, Sind, Pakistan. His elementary school was ST. Michael's Convent High School, Mirpurkhas, Sind, Pakistan. Graduated high school from ST. Bonaventure's Convent High School, Hyderabad, Sind, Pakistan. His pre-med college was S. A. L. Govt. College, Mirpurkas, Sind, Pakistan. Graduated from Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences, Jamshoro, Sind, Pakistan in 1990. Earned equivalency certification from Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, Philadelphia, PA in 1994.

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