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Michelle Rhee to principals: 'Go hard, or go home'

Monday, August 23, 2010; B02

An Aug. 19 excerpt from Bill Turque's blog on education reform battles in the nation's capital.

Sounds as if the D.C. schools chancellor was channeling Mike Shanahan, but that was her message to principals at a recent "academy" at Gallaudet University. According to an attendee who shared notes with me, Michelle A. Rhee said that with the installation of the new IMPACT system, principals now have unprecedented ability to remove ineffective teachers.

"Unless you are comfortable with putting your own child in a classroom, that teacher does not have to be there," Rhee said. "You have the tools you need to be successful. Our expectations are high. So either go hard, or go home."

Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson also took her turn motivating the group, reinforcing Rhee's core message: that poverty and other conditions outside the classroom are not an excuse.

According to the notes, she said: "Our responsibility is to deliver the goods, no matter what the situations our students are in. The reform is in the schoolhouse. You are here because we believe you are the right people to deliver this reform. The election is not our concern; the election is not your concern. Go hard, or go home!"

Rhee said in an interview that the locker-room aphorism is one she has used with her senior staff, but as she begins her fourth school year as chancellor, she wanted to use it to put principals on notice.

Readers Respond

Linda/RetiredTeacher wrote: So "poverty and other conditions outside the classroom are not an excuse." Let's look at an imaginary conversation Rhee might have with a friend or relative:

Friend: Michelle, my daughter isn't making good progress in reading. I don't think she can see properly.

Rhee: No excuses! You tell her she must learn or else!

Friend: Michelle, I was laid off from my job. I have no food for my son. Can you help me?

Michelle: No excuses! He doesn't need food. Just send him to school and let them take care of it!

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