StudentsFirst is an anti-tax group

StudentsFrist, the lobbying organization ran by Michelle Rhee, puts itself forward as an education reform organization, but when one carefully looks at their agenda it is clear what they really are is another extreme right wing anti-tax group.

Their goal is to transfer as much money from public schools to private enterprise, while eroding public schools themselves. Let's look at the clear evidence.

The NYT reports

In just a few short years, state legislatures and education agencies across the country have sought to transform American public education by passing a series of laws and policies overhauling teacher tenure, introducing the use of standardized test scores in performance evaluations and expanding charter schools.

Such policies are among those pushed by StudentsFirst, the advocacy group led by Michelle A. Rhee, the former schools chancellor in Washington. Ms. Rhee has generated debate in education circles for aggressive pursuit of her agenda and the financing of political candidates who support it.

In a report issued Monday, StudentsFirst ranks states based on how closely they follow the group’s platform, looking at policies related not only to tenure and evaluations but also to pensions and the governance of school districts. The group uses the classic academic grading system, awarding states A to F ratings.

With no states receiving an A, two states receiving B-minuses and 12 states branded with an F, StudentsFirst would seem to be building a reputation as a harsh grader.

Ohio received a C-. StateImpactOhio talked to StudentsFirst about this report.

You mentioned that we’re a C but there are things in action that – according to your standards – will improve education in Ohio. What are those things?

A: Currently we have a system where regardless of how a child performs, teachers’ evaluation, pay, performance is pretty much divorced from the students’ outcomes. When you evaluate teachers you have to factor in student performance in those evaluations, and so Ohio has now passed legislation saying that student performance has to play a role in terms of teacher pay and promotion. We think it needs to go further, we think tenure decisions need to be based on student performance.

This comes as no surprise. StudentsFirst supported SB5 which had similar goals. What should be eye opening is this policy goal itself. If the goal is to put students first, why would this organization choose to pursue a failed policy?

In Washington DC where Michelle Rhee was head of the schools, she implemented this system, and as we reported last year it has been an unmitigated disaster.

Washington DC has purged a vast number of experienced teachers pursuing the policies of Michelle Rhee and the results have been terrible for students

D.C. public schools have the largest achievement gap between black and white students among the nation’s major urban school systems, a distinction laid bare in a federal study released Wednesday.

The District also has the widest achievement gap between white and Hispanic students, the study found, compared with results from other large systems and the national average.

The study is based on the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, federal reading and math exams taken this year by fourth- and eighth-graders across the country.

The country already has a teacher attrition problem. We need policies that will retain experienced teachers, not drive them faster from the profession

In what other policy arena would a group be taken seriously by arguing for policies that eliminated experience? It is clear that what StudentsFirst aim is then, is to reduce the cost of teachers in order to pursue low taxes and siphon that saved money to private enterprise.

Furthermore, the recent 2012 elections demonstrated that ideology, not putting students first, is the main goal of Rhee's organization

Rhee makes a point of applauding “leaders in both parties and across the ideological spectrum” because her own political success — and the success of school reform — depends upon the bipartisan reputation she has fashioned. But 90 of the 105 candidates backed by StudentsFirst were Republicans, including Tea Party enthusiasts

Many of those endorsed candidates include legislators who cut Ohio public schools funding by by $1.8 billion - a move decried by the majority of public school supporters, but found StudentsFirst silent on the matter.

When you separate the rhetoric from the results and the goals, it becomes far easier to understand StudetnsFirst not as an education reform group but instead as a right wing anti-tax group - something all the available evidence demonstrates.