In Most Bay Area Schools, High-profile School Reform Ideas Remain Hypothetical

Monday, February 13, 2012

Members and supporters of the Oakland teachers union picketed outside the Paramount Theatre this week. Michelle Rhee, one of the nation's most prominent school reformers, was about to address a sold-out crowd of 3,000 about the failures of the nation's education system and the importance of effective teachers.

"No Rhee-forms," one of the placards read.

The notion of treating teachers more like private-sector workers -- as Rhee promoted while she was chancellor of Washington, D.C., schools and now, as founder of the StudentsFirst advocacy group -- has gained traction and publicity. But in the Bay Area, with the exception of nonunionized charter schools and a handful of others, it remains mostly hypothetical.

Calls to end the practice of laying off the newest teachers, regardless of other factors, or to offer financial incentives based on performance, rather than years of experience, often are countered by protest, framed by union supporters as attempts to blame teachers and weaken the labor movement.

In an interview before the event, Rhee said she thinks the public is ready for the changes her organization is advancing.

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