Choosing Chicago’s next Schools CEO: Diane Ravitch, Michelle Rhee

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Catalyst Chicago is asking readers to submit names of candidates they believe would be a good pick to run the Chicago Public Schools. In the coming weeks, we’ll post short profiles of these candidates, and others who might be in the running. We’re inviting other readers to share their views in our “Comments” section below.

Catalyst Chicago is asking readers to submit names of candidates they believe would be a good pick to run the Chicago Public Schools. In the coming weeks, we’ll post short profiles of these candidates, and others who might be in the running. We’re inviting other readers to share their views in our “Comments” section below.


Diane Ravitch, education historian and author

Experience: Under Republican President George H.W. Bush, Diane Ravitch served as assistant secretary of education in the early 1990s. From 1997 to 2004, she was a member of the board that oversaw the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which administers the same standardized assessment to samples of students across the nation.

 

She is currently a New York University education professor and Brookings Institution senior fellow. With the recent publication of her book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, she’s now best known for reversing course in her political views: She has changed from an advocate of school choice and accountability to one of its harshest critics.

Why she’s a good choice: “She has worked at the highest level of education (policy) in this country,” one survey respondent noted. “She knows the education system in this country inside and out…. and wants the best for children.” Ravitch also is a critic of the influence of corporations in education and believes they intend to siphon away public money through privatization.

Why Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel might select her—or not: Since Ravitch has built her recent celebrity by going on the attack against the very policies Emanuel has voiced support for—the federal competitive grant fund Race to the Top, charter schools, and turnarounds—her appointment isn’t likely, to say the least. As one reader put it, “Unfortunately, whoever is chosen will likely have business connections and a passion for charters and vouchers.”


Michelle RheeMichelle Rhee, former chancellor, Washington, D.C. Public Schools

Experience: A Teach for America alumna, Rhee founded The New Teacher Project—which runs alternative certification programs for teachers in a number of cities—and served as chancellor of Washington, D.C.’s public schools for three years. Currently, she serves as founder and CEO of StudentsFirst, “a national movement to transform public education,” which advocates eliminating teacher tenure, reforming teacher evaluation and layoff rules, and instituting pay-for-performance initiatives.

Why she’s a good choice: “She has headed a large urban district, and understands the demands of the unions, the obstacles to reform and the politics of big cities,” one respondent noted. “She puts the interests of children before those of adults.” When she was in D.C., Rhee also made an effort to recruit more middle-class families to the city’s schools.


Why Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel might select her—or not: The initiatives Rhee is known for—lengthening the school day, reforming teacher evaluation, and taking on unions—seem like a good fit for Emanuel’s education agenda.  “She’s the same type-A personality as the Mayor-elect; he got to know her during his days in D.C.,” one survey respondent pointed out. However, Rhee is a complete outsider to CPS, which is also a much larger district than D.C. Her selection would undoubtedly be polarizing, given her controversial track record and clashes with Washington’s teachers union. “We’re still a strong union town,” another reader noted.


Previous profiles:

Terry Mazany, interim CEO Chicago Public Schools


Robert Runcie, Chief Area Officer


Timothy Knowles, University of Chicago, Urban Education Institute


John White, New York City Schools Deputy Chancellor


Jose Torres, Elgin School Superintendent


Jo Anderson, Jr. , senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan


Andres Alonso, CEO, Baltimore City Schools


Yvonne Brandon,superintendent, Richmond, Va., public schools


Donald Feinstein,executive director, Academy for Urban School Leadership

Who is your pick? Take our survey.