Several weeks ago, I responded to an article that was written by Michael Lomax, CEO of the UNCF, and Co-Chair of the Education Equality Project, that first appeared on www.theroot.com, and was later republished on www.edreformer.com. In the detailed articlle which analyzed the Adrian Fenty loss for mayor of Washington, D.C. and its implications for education reform, Dr. Lomax wrote:
“There’s a lesson here for education reformers in other cities. Real education reform is disruptive. You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. Beloved teachers lose their jobs. Neighborhood schools that have anchored communities are closed or reconstituted. But with the disruption comes a rebirth of education, a rising tide that lifts all parts of the community.
To which, I responded:
“I don’t believe the “substance and suddeness” as you put it, nor the fact that some teachers were fired lead to Fenty’s loss in voter support. Real education reform should also be collaborative, Bro. Lomax. Instead of thinking that lower income Black citizens of the District “just didn’t get it this time”, how about validating their referendum? Surely, if Rhee’s (and Fenty’s) interpretation of education reform was the best method to increase the academic achievements of lower income Black students, Fenty would still be mayor. Could it be that maybe, just maybe, the PEOPLE want a say in what their ed reform looks like?
You are right. You cannot make an omelet without breaking eggs. But in D.C., the eggs belong to the poorest of the citizens, and we didn’t even ask them if they wanted them hard boiled or scrambled. Personally, I hate omelets.”
When Douglas Crets, Editor of www.edreformer.com, asked me to comment further, I said (amongst other things)
“Rhee should be applauded for some things, and I believe some of her initiatives should be replicated. To speak to the mass firings of D.C. teachers specifically, It is hard for me to believe that each of the “clock-punching, no-good” teachers did not at some point say, do, or model something that positively affected the life of at least one student. Teachers in low-income and low SES schools often serve as teacher, counselor, nurse, legal advisor, motivator and sometimes, quasi-parent between the opening and closing school bells. The firings did not appreciate this, and more importantly, the citizens were not respected enough to be gauged as to determine if they were in agreement or not prior to the firings. Once again, ed reform (an action word) was done TO them.”
I really liked that “done TO them” part at the end. I even thought that I should take the idea further, which I have, and start to collect and read of other situations where reform (change) is done to students and even districts without the benefit of input from those most affected stakeholders. This is why I was more than honored when I read today in Mr. Lomax’s most recent article summarizing the lessons learned from the departure of Michelle Rhee. In this article, published in the National Journal Online, Mr. Lomax wrote:
“From the day that her surprise appointment was announced to the City Council (after Fenty had promised to vet his choice with them before announcing it), both Fenty and Rhee treated elected officials and their constituents not as partners in but intruders in education reform. D.C. African Americans perceived reform not as something being done with them but to them.”
All I can say is THANK YOU Dr. Lomax. I have long respected your scholarship. I could not be more flattered to learn today that you respect mine.
- Michael R. Hicks
To view the original article from Michael Lomax, and the comments (Update: Sorry, they have removed the comments from this particular piece, hummmmm) provided by Michael Hicks, click here.
To view the article from Michael Lomax, published in the National Journal Online, click here.