Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s leadership continues to drive students away from DC public schools and to shrink the public school system

Since this post on Friday on the disappearing public school students in Washington:

Washington DC: How to Wipe Out a Public School System

and its attendant graphic

there have been some developments that make the situation worse than it seems and we may see these lines cross sooner than we thought. I actually heard another favorable report on Rhee on NPR (funded by Bill Gates) today where the commentator actually said Rhee was struggling to keep kids in the public schools. I had to pull over to the side of the road. They just don't get it. That Rhee - and Klein, et al. - were chosen to preside over the demise of the public school system, not its resurgence. Their goal is to one day have zero schools under their direct management so they can be left to go to press conferences at successful charters, whose $370,000 a year CEOs will bow and scrape in genuflecting thanks.

Gary Imhoff writes in DC-based themail

Leah Fabel’s article in the Examiner is well summarized by its headline writer:

“Enrollment in DC Schools Plunges as Students Go Elsewhere” (

“By Monday’s first school bell, charters project at least 28,000 students, or about 2,400 more than last year, while DC Public Schools expect about 45,000, or 2,000 fewer than in spring.”

Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s leadership continues to drive students away from DC public schools and to shrink the public school system, and she continues to escape public criticism for it.

But she realizes that her Teflon coating can’t last forever, so she also continues to make optimistic predictions that stand little to no chance of coming true: “Rhee said she expects regular public schools’ declines to level off by next year and enrollment to creep up soon afterward.”

One person who understands the importance of keeping an urban school district’s enrollment figures up is Robert Bobb, DC’s former city administrator and school board president, who this year is in Detroit as the emergency financial manager of its schools, trying to persuade and beg parents to keep their children in the public schools (

Gary Imhoff

And Bill Tourke (thanks to DR for the tip) in the Washington Post.

37,000 to Start D.C. Public Schools Today, Well Below Budget FigureWritten By: Washington Post

  • 24-8-09

  • Despite an advertising campaign and an early push to sign up students, the D.C. public school system will begin classes Monday with an enrollment of about 37,000 -- 17 percent below the total at the end of the last academic year, officials said over the weekend.

    Rhee, City Had Agreed to Plan on Almost 45,000 Students

    By Bill Turque
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Monday, August 24, 2009

    Despite an advertising campaign and an early push to sign up students, the D.C. public school system will begin classes Monday with an enrollment of about 37,000 -- 17 percent below the total at the end of the last academic year, officials said over the weekend.

    Enrollment in regular public schools often grows during the year, as students and parents complete paperwork and some transfer from public charter schools. But a spokeswoman for Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee declined to predict whether the system would reach 44,681 -- the audited enrollment figure from last school year and the basis for its $760 million 2010 budget.

    Moreover, because the school system moved up the start of its annual enrollment process from July to April, the late surge could be smaller than usual.

    "We anticipate a much smoother start to school with fewer families needing to enroll during the first few days," said Jennifer Calloway, Rhee's spokeswoman. She added that last year at this time, only 15,000 students had completed enrollment.

    In addition to a radio and bus sign ad campaign ("Go public and get a great free education!" said some spots), principals visited homes, held community barbecues and conducted enrollment fairs in concert with immunization clinics held by the District's health department.

    Regular public school enrollment in the District has declined by more than half since 1980, while the public charter community has grown dramatically since the independently operated schools began in the 1990s.

    More than a third of the city's public students attend charter schools, which project an enrollment of about 28,066 this fall, up more than 10 percent from last school year's 25,363. Some analysts say public charter enrollment could surpass the regular school population by 2014.

    The vastly different trends have made enrollment politically contentious. Rhee has said she expects persistent declines to bottom out, with the school system's numbers perhaps starting to edge upward. But the D.C. Council voted May 12 to hold back $27 million of the 2010 budget, because it found implausible her projections for an increase of 373 students, to a total of 45,054.

    Council members contended that the charter schools would be drawing more students from regular schools. The council projected regular public school enrollment at 41,541, based on trends from the previous three years. Both sides eventually agreed to use last school year's number -- 44,681 -- as the benchmark.

    D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) said Sunday that the 37,000 total is "probably low," given the school system's history of late enrollment. But he added: "I do question the likelihood of getting 7,681 enrolled between now and the first of October," when the first official count is taken.


    1. The declining enrollment in Washington D.C. schools is an inevitable outcome of a Superintendent whose ear is not to the ground, whose focus is her own career at the expense of the youngsters and teachers.

      I spoke with one of the students mentioned in a Time article about Michelle Rhee and the poor quality of the education system she is tending.

      This teen ager is truly a budding entrepreneur. First, he wanted to know how much money he would get for an interview. I responded with a "No money, yet I will offer you some books and a direction to help you in deciding on a next step for your career, something I do in my own job".

      We did talk and he shared his mistrust and disappointment with Dr. Rhee. She visited his school, made promises that looked good in the press, and never responded when he set up a next discussion time that she had agreed to.

      What saddened me is first, this bright, creative teen who came from a world of mistrust in his neighborhood felt yet again betrayed by his school world.

      Next, the thousands of teens like him who reach out time after time only to be burned by those on a personal journey to fame and success.

      Most teachers and superintendents I have met are people who believe in the mandate of caring about and educating the next generations. Yet, they rarely get the high profile attention of a Rhee.

      End of my story. I offered to talk with this young man again and he said only if he would get paid. I declined and sent him some books. I wonder if they were ever read. I wonder when the education visionaries will be on the cover of Time. I know them, set up programs with them, dream with them. It's about you, it;s about me it's about time!

    2. First of all, Rhee does not have a doctorate.

      Secondly, why not pay the kid? Right now some DC kids are being paid just for going to school in the capital gains program.

      This kid is going above and beyond. Don't think of it as an press interview - think of it as a public opinion research interview which routinely offer stipends to participants.

    3. An insightfull post. Will definitely help.

      Karim - Mind Power


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