By Lauren Poteat, AFRO Staff Writer
What was defined as a definitive moment in education and a national model in school reform—is now being lauded for its corruption.
Over a decade ago in 2007, when Michelle Rhee first assumed her role as former District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) chancellor, nationwide praise from President Barack Obama to Oprah Winfrey, was given to the nation’s capital, for maintaining “one of the best” school systems in the nation.
Jeff Canady is a former DCPS teacher who was fired under the Michelle Rhee regime and is owed millions of dollars in back pay from DCPS. (Courtesy Photo)
Now in 2019, after the blow up of many DCPS school investigations, including Ballou High School, where countless dishonest graduation rates were revealed, the authenticity of Michelle Rhee and her hand-picked former predecessor Kaya Henderson’s turbulent reign, is now up for question, leaving many to re-evaluate the explosive firing and long-standing lawsuit of long time educator, former National teacher of the year recipient, student advocate and former Board of Education candidate Jeff Canady.
“Michelle Rhee basically came in and lied about her resume from the beginning,” Canady, who has been battling to get his job reinstated and make ends meat for over 10 years said. “We sat back and gave her an opportunity to show some of the things that she wanted to do and it was always, ‘I need more authority, I need more authority’ and for people are who are not real leaders, that’s the first thing they always ask for to hold over people.”
“When she came in with this impossible performance story in Baltimore, you knew it wasn’t true, because there were only a few people in the country who could actually do what she said she ‘did’ and I was actually one of them,” Canady continued.
During Rhee’s term as Chancellor, the three-year elementary school teacher who taught in Baltimore, implemented highly praised new methods of teacher evaluations.
For the first time in the District’s history and nearly throughout the nation, teacher evaluations would be tied to standardized test scores, making every adult in the school responsible for improving student achievement data—that many scholars proclaimed, was a sublime method of eugenics.
“Eugenics as a whole is a way of weeding out those who are weakest, but how do you determine whose weaker, who’s stronger, when you’re in a position where you’re actually supposed to be educating them?” Dr. Shantella Sherman, historian and specialist on eugenics said.
“It’s almost as if they are diametrically opposed to each other. You don’t know if a child’s cognitive skills are being impeded by environmental forces or dietary issues. I came through DCPS, so I understand a different type of testing mechanism, where trained guidance counselors and teachers were supposed to spot certain things that would say, ‘it’s not about the child’s aptitude or genetics, but something environmental that could be fixed.’ You understood that every child has the potential to reach specific targets,” Sherman continued.
“At this point, standardized testing, the way it’s been used, is basically saying that these kids are genetically impaired and that they are unable to meet certain standards, no matter how you try to teach them and that’s what I have a problem with, it basically weeds them out based on poverty and zip code.”
To date, achievement gaps particularly among Black and Brown students and those poverty stricken have widened, with statistically far less effective teachers.
Since 2007, at the start of Rhee’s reign, more than 300 hundred long-term experienced teachers have been fired, most of which have been Black Americans and an estimated 60 percent of poor Black students are still below proficiency levels in math and reading, which Canady says is not a coincidence.
“I’m not even sure if Michelle Rhee even knows what eugenics is, but I do know that she was trained at Harvard, which has a long history of a school that has been an advocate of the practice of eugenics, which they apologized for last year,” Canady said. “But you have this school of thought that if you expose these affluent people to these poor students, that all of a sudden the rich people will change the poor ones and that was the fable that Michelle Rhee exposed people to.”
“In many ways, the school system has gotten better for the affluent in Washington, D.C., but for those in middle class or poor, it has gotten worse. You have a dual school system where those non-affluent are on the outside of society.”
According to a recent story published by WUSA9, in July of 2018, an arbitrator ruled that Canady deserved his money and job back. However, in 2019, Canady is still waiting for compensation.
“The Chancellor and the Mayor can change this any time they choose,” Canady told WUSA9.