A story about Michelle Rhee that no one will print

Michelle Rhee lobbies across the country for greater test-based accountability and changes in teacher tenure rules, John Merrow blogs in Taking Note.  She often appears on television and in newspapers, commenting on a great range of education issues.  Easily America’s best-known education activist, she is always introduced as the former Chancellor of the public schools in Washington, DC, the woman who took on a corrupt and failing system and shook it up. The rest of the story is rarely mentioned. The op-ed below has been rejected by four newspapers, three of them national publications. One editor’s rejection note said that Michelle Rhee was not a national story…

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‘Radical’: Education reformer Michelle Rhee argues that tough love is best

Michelle Rhee headed the District of Columbia public school system from 2007 to 2010, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. She launched her administration by closing 23 schools, laying off 266 teachers and firing 36 principals, 22 assistant principals and 98 district office workers. She resigned in 2010 when the mayor, her political backer, lost his bid for re-election. Not surprisingly, she has come under withering criticism. Teachers and education activists have called her anti-teacher, ineffective and authoritarian. But it is hard to argue with her assertions…

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Rhee: ‘Probably’ shouldn’t have fired school principal on national TV

During her three years as Washington D.C. public schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee raised eyebrows with her tough-love approach to fixing a failing school system, ABC OTUS News reports. And when I sat down with Rhee on “This Week,” the controversial education reformer made no apologies for her rough-and-tumble philosophy.

“My style is very deliberative and very focused on doing what’s right for kids. And so I wouldn’t change that so much,” Rhee told me. “Should I have fired ineffective principals? Absolutely. Should I have done so on national TV? Probably not.”

Rhee’s tenure in D.C. was met with plenty of controversy: Unions and city residents criticized her for ending teacher tenure and closing 23 schools in one year alone……Read More

Rhee at GOP convention: Reform will require ‘getting ready for a fight’

Former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee called for classroom teachers unhappy with the system to brace themselves for battle, says the Hechinger Report. She spoke during a panel following the showing of “Won’t Back Down,” a film to be released this fall about a parent and teacher fighting to take over a failing school.

“There is a difference in my mind between teacher union leadership and rank-and-file teachers,” she said, adding that most teachers got into the profession wanting to have a positive impact. Fixing problems, she said, is “going to require teachers steeling themselves up and getting ready for a fight.”

“Won’t Back Down” features Maggie Gyllenhaal as the parent of a dyslexic daughter with a clearly incompetent teacher, and Viola Davis as a teacher who is convinced to try to shake up the system……Read More

Opinion: The impact of Michelle Rhee’s ‘culture of urgency’

It is an almost universal tribute offered about Michelle Rhee’s 3 1/2 -year tenure of the Washington D.C. school district—that if she accomplished one thing, it was to instill a sense of urgency in the city about the need to fix broken schools that had failed children for decades, says Washington Post columnist Valerie Strauss. Actually, it was Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who hired Rhee and gave her carte blanche, who made school reform the city’s top priority. Rhee got all the attention because Fenty wanted it that way. And because he did, she rushed to move the needle by implementing half-finished and poorly thought-out initiatives. Her speed helped fuel the sense that she was more committed to change than everybody else—which wasn’t true then and isn’t now…

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A former schools chief shapes her comeback

Ever since Michelle Rhee resigned under pressure as chancellor of the Washington, D.C., schools in October, rumors have flown about her next move. Would she relocate to Newark to spend the $100 million gift from Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook to fix its troubled schools? Would she become education commissioner of New Jersey or Florida? Ms. Rhee, one of the best recognized, and most polarizing, figures in public education, answered Monday with timed appearances on “Oprah” and the cover of Newsweek. The media splash said as much about her ability to market herself and her brand of school reform as the details of her next chapter. She announced she would lead a new advocacy group, StudentsFirst, setting a highly ambitious target of raising $1 billion to promote “transformative reform,” primarily by backing laws and political candidates, from local school boards to Congress, reports the New York Times. The group will solicit memberships for as little as $5 per month, but it will also take advantage of changes in campaign finance laws that allow it to broadcast political advertisements paid for by rich individuals and corporations.

“The ultimate goal is to shift the power dynamic of education in this country, which I think for far too long has been dominated by special interests, whether the teachers’ unions or textbook manufacturers,” Ms. Rhee, 40, said in an interview.

One issue she would tackle, she said, was the practice of laying off teachers, according to their contracts, by seniority rather than classroom effectiveness……Read More

Schools reformers mull meaning of Rhee’s departure

Michelle Rhee became a public face of education reform during her tenure as head of the District of Columbia’s schools, but she found out that reform isn’t always popular, especially when it involves school closings and teacher layoffs, reports the Associated Press. Rhee stepped down Wednesday, several weeks after the man who appointed her, Mayor Adrian Fenty, was defeated in a Democratic primary where Rhee’s celebrated yet stormy tenure was a factor.

“We have agreed that the best way to keep the reforms going is for this reformer to step aside,” she said during Wednesday’s announcement, adding that the decision was one both she and Fenty’s presumed successor, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray, agreed on.

Education observers suggested that the fast pace of change and Rhee’s abrupt personality might have contributed to her downfall, though not everyone agreed. Others stressed the importance of getting stakeholders to back sweeping change……Read More

Putting our ideas of assessment to the test


How we evaluate students, and teachers, is at a crossroads.
How we evaluate students, and teachers, is at a crossroads.


Default Lines column, October 2010 issue of eSchool News—Here’s a pop quiz: What are the skills that today’s students will need to be successful in tomorrow’s workplace?…Read More