The Post and Courier is to be commended for its extensive reporting on the well-known mediocre performance of public schools and students in South Carolina. There are no magic bullets. However, I believe that in “turnaround” situations the answers are almost always found in the toughest medicine possible: new leadership taking drastic and mostly unpopular action.
The leadership of Michele Rhee, hired as chancellor of the Washington, D.C., public schools in 2007, comes to mind. She eliminated central office jobs, closed schools, replaced principals, fired teachers and instituted rigorous testing.
Chancellor Rhee offered teachers a second career track in which their salaries would be tied to student performance. If they gave up their tenure, they could have earned up to $140,000. Most, if not all, of her reforms were opposed by the teachers union.
When D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, who backed her efforts to remake the public school system, was defeated in 2010, Rhee was forced to resign. I don’t know what Michelle Rhee is doing today, but I imagine it will take someone like her to turn around education in South Carolina.