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The Haynesworth – Rhee Connection

It’s not surprising at a time when the idea of individual players getting high salaries isn’t questioned that the Washington Redskins Albert Haynesworth might forget that football is a team sport.

Unfortunately, ignoring that fundamental truth is not an option for Mike Shanahan, the teams’ coach — who is held individually accountable for the results that only a team can achieve.   That universal principle applies whether the leader is called a coach, CEO or school system superintendent.

Unfortunately Michelle Rhee never learned it — and judging by the cover article of the current Newsweek — apparently still hasn’t.   Instead, in DC “her team” was the enemy. It’s “players” she saw as self-serving bureaucrats and union leaders – who then served as the focal points for continual “battles” that first had to be “won” before all students could be “put first.”

Unfortunately for those children, she never understood that (like Shanahan) she was the only one accountable for integrating all the players in ways that would create a sustained capacity for “winning” – i.e., meeting the needs of each child every day.

And now according to her words on Newsweek’s cover — “I’m not done fighting” — The real battle for school reform begins now” — she’s taking this game plan national with a new political organization –  “StudentsFirst.

But how many of her well-intentioned supporters will understand

(1) that at the end of that game, the losers will once more be those same students they hoped some Superman would make “first.”  And

(2) that there is a better putting-students-first game plan that actually works.

The evidence is right “next door” in the larger and more complex Montgomery County Public Schools which this month received national recognition for “winning” its puttingstudents-learningfirst game when it received a Broad Foundation’s Prize in Urban Education and the federal government’s Baldrige Award for Performance Excellence.

Significantly, both objective observers acknowledged that in Montgomery County the kids were winning because of a “team” effort.

A team with a game plan that effectively integrated the work of a school board with its diverse interests, three unions (not one), and a bureaucracy of former teachers and principals so that on the playing field of daily schooling they together had ways to make decisions that actually kept students first.

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