|Chancellor, District of Columbia Public Schools|
|June 2007 – October 2010|
|Birthday||December 25, 1969|
|Place of birth||Ann Arbor, Michigan|
- 1 Biography
- 2 Career
- 3 Activism
- 4 Educational philosophy
- 5 Criticism
- 6 Videos
- 7 Published works
- 8 Recent news
- 9 See also
- 10 External links
- 11 References
After training with Teach For America, Rhee worked as a teacher in Baltimore, Maryland for three years. In 1997, she founded and began serving as CEO of The New Teacher Project, a non-profit focused on training and supplying teachers for urban school districts. Rhee was named as Chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools on June 12, 2007 by D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and served in the position until October 2010. Her main endeavor currently is serving as founder and CEO of StudentsFirst, a movement to mobilize education reform in America.
Rhee is married to Kevin Johnson, a former NBA player and current mayor of Sacramento, California. Rhee has two children with her ex-husband, Kevin Huffman. Huffman has served as the Tennessee Commissioner of Education since April 2011.
- Maumee Valley Country Day School, 1988
- B.A., Government, Cornell University, 1992
- Master's Degree in Public Policy, Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government
- Advisory board, National Council on Teacher Quality
- Advisory board, National Center for Alternative Certification
- Guest speaker, 2008 State of the Union address
Public school teacher
After finishing her time with Teach For America, Rhee spent three years working as a teacher at Harlem Park Elementary School in Baltimore, Maryland. Her students were, at the time, the lowest performing in terms of behavior and achievement. Rhee said her first year teaching was "rough going," and that she had difficulty controlling her classroom. Student test scores dropped in her first year teaching, and Rhee spent the summer after working on ways to improve lesson plans and involving her students in the achievement process. She also dedicated time to preaching to both parents and community leaders that time spent doing homework is better than "hanging out, playing video games, or watching television." It was successful, and her test scores improved significantly the following second and third years.
Chancellor of D.C. public schools
In 2007, Rhee was offered the position of D.C. chancellor by newly elected mayor Adrian Fenty. Despite inheriting a failing system, Rhee began to make a series of radical changes. These included emphasizing top-down accountability and a heavily stressing the importance of performing well on standardized testing. In her first year as chancellor, Rhee closed 23 schools, fired 36 principals and cut staff by 15 percent. Rhee backed up her actions, stating it was necessary because only 12 percent of the District's eighth graders were proficient in reading, and only 8 percent in math.
The New Teacher Project
Rhee founded and began serving as the CEO of a non-profit called The New Teacher Project in 1997. The organization's goal is to aid urban school districts and states to recruit and train new teachers, provide capable staff to struggling schools and retain teachers who have improved student achievement.
On December 6, 2010, Rhee announced on The Oprah Winfrey Show that she was setting up StudentsFirst, an organization focused on reforming school districts one community at a time. With the hope of getting one million members and raising $1 billion for public schools, Rhee stated, "I'm going to do something different. I am going to start a revolution. I'm going to start a movement in this country on behalf of the nation's children."
Main objectives of the group have been abolishing teacher tenure and supporting school choice. StudentsFirst backed 105 candidates in the 2012 elections, 90 of whom were Republicans. Of the 105 candidates supported, 86 won.
Rhee's approach to education reform focuses on both teacher and parent empowerment, abandoning party-infused agendas and spending education dollars wisely. Her methodology remains highly criticized, with naysayers citing her aggressive style of reform and focus on standardized testing.
Rhee is an advocate of Common Core. According to her organization, StudentsFirst, Common Core "ensure[s] schoolchildren are ready to compete with their peers in other states and around the world" and "establishes high learning expectations for students that are consistent regardless of district or state." Rhee has been heavily criticized by those opposed to Common Core, the main argument being that the static excessive testing examines every child, including the mentally disabled, sick and homeless whose scores are then "lumped together."
Rhee supports the expansion of charter schools and open enrollment for students across districts. She has also stated that she is an advocate for "parent-trigger proposals" which allow parents to vote and convert struggling schools into charter schools.
Initially opposed and aligned with Democratic dogma, Rhee changed her view on school vouchers after her time as Chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools. She continually faced parents wanting to pull their children out of failing schools and enroll in one which, in their view, would provide a more promising future. Rhee maintains that vouchers allow both parents and their students to seek the best education possible. In her new book, Radical: Fighting to Put Students First, Rhee states:
After my listening tour of families, and hearing so many parents plead for an immediate solution to their desire for a quality education, I came out in favor of the voucher program. People went nuts. Democrats chastised me for going against the party, but the most vocal detractors were my biggest supporters.
“Michelle, what are you doing?” one education reformer asked. “You are the first opportunity this city has had to fix the system. We believe in you and what you’re trying to do. But you have to give yourself a fighting chance! You need time and money to make your plan work. If during that time children continue fleeing the system on these vouchers, you’ll have less money to implement your reforms. You can’t do this to yourself!”
“Here’s the problem with your thinking,” I’d answer. “My job is not to preserve and defend a system that has been doing wrong by children and families. My job is to make sure that every child in this city attends an excellent school. I don’t care if it’s a charter school, a private school, or a traditional district school. As long as it’s serving kids well, I’m happy. And you should be, too.”
Here’s the question we Democrats need to ask ourselves: Are we beholden to the public school system at any cost, or are we beholden to the public school child at any cost? My loyalty and my duty will always be to the children.
Rhee's approach to reform has received heavy criticism from both educational conservatives and liberals due to her aggressive style of reform and alleged anti-union sentiments. Diane Ravitch, American education historian and frequent Rhee critic, has repeatedly denounced Rhee's support of standardized testing, arguing, "How can teachers be evaluated by student test scores, when the scores are so often manipulated and inaccurate?” Ravitch has also disparaged the personnel decisions made by Rhee during her tenure as Chancellor of the Washington D.C. school system, stating, "It’s difficult to win a war when you’re firing on your own troops." Other critics of Rhee's polices have claimed that her brief time as a teacher provided her with insufficient knowledge and experience about instruction and curriculum. Rhee's supporters consistently point to the improved test scores and graduation rates during her time as Chancellor in defense of her policies.
Reports to discredit Rhee
In 2011, two separate studies were conducted that sought to discredit Michelle Rhee's record as Chancellor of D.C. schools. Alan Ginsburg, a former director of Policy and Program Studies in the U.S. Department of Education, conducted the first study and argued that Rhee was less successful than her predecessors. The second study, administered by the National Research Council, stated that the gains Rhee saw while in office weren't necessarily a result of her leadership or policies. Neither report escaped criticism from Rhee's supporters, who have generally condemned the statistics as "misleading."
Public Education - Are We Under, Over or Just Misspending?
Why Teach For America Works
Michelle Rhee "This Week" Interview: Author of "Radical: Fighting to Put Students First
Michelle Rhee Discusses "Waiting for Superman," Charter Schools and School Vouchers
Rhee recently published her first book, Radical: Fighting to Put Students First, in February 2013. The book uses personal narrative to document Rhee's quest to "[found] a national movement aimed at dismantling bureaucratic barriers that path the way to outstanding public schools." She was also the subject of the 2011 biography, The Bee Eater by Richard Whitmire. She is featured prominently as a counterpoint in Diane Ravitch's book, Reign of Error.
This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term "Michelle + Rhee"
- All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.
- Michelle Rhee invites Twitter queries, gets a screenfull - Washington Post
- Michelle Rhee gives the nation a D+ in school reform - Washington Post (blog)
- The influence of Michelle Rhee and Chris Christie: Education reformers ... - Salon
- DC teachers union files grievance with school system over erroneous evaluations - Washington Post
- Nine educated education predictions for 2014! - Washington Post (blog)
- Guest Column: Test scores are apples-to-oranges comparisons - The Daily Advertiser
- Anne Arundel County and Howard County home sales - Washington Post
- Andy Shallal, Activist and Owner of Busboys and Poets, Makes a Progressive ... - The Nation. (blog)
- Hooray for Joan Watson: Why well-rounded Asian-American characters matter - Salon
- They (Not We) Shall Overcome: Private Largesse and Public Education - The Nonprofit Quarterly
- The New Teacher Project
- Radical: Fighting to Put Students First, by Michelle Rhee
- The Bee Eater, a biography of Michelle Rhee
- The Sacramento Bee, "Michelle Rhee just getting started on shaping California education policy," January 27, 2013
- CAA Speakers, "Michelle Rhee," accessed January 28, 2013
- StudentsFirst, "About StudentsFirst," accessed December 26, 2013
- Tennessee Department of Education, "Commissioner of Education," accessed November 23, 2012
- Harry Jaffe, Washingtonian, "Can Michelle Rhee Save DC Schools?" September 1, 2007
- Kate Bolduan, CNN, "'100 mph' school chief seeks 'radical changes'" September 9, 2008
- TNTP, "About TNTP," accessed January 3, 2014
- Oprah.com, "Michelle Rhee's Big Announcement," December 6, 2010
- Salon, "Michelle Rhee’s right turn," November 17, 2012
- StudentsFirst, "Policies," accessed December 26, 2013
- Eric Lerum, StudentsFirst, "Uncommon Equity and Rigor: StudentsFirst Supports the Common Core, February 21, 2013
- Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post, "Eight problems with Common Core Standards, August 21, 2012
- Sean Cavanagh, Education Week, "Michelle Rhee Talks Vouchers, March 21, 2012
- Michelle Rhee, Women in the World, "Michelle Rhee: My Break With the Democrats, February 4, 2013
- Dana Goldstein, Washington City Paper, "Diane Ravitch, the Anti-Rhee," June 24, 2011
- Rachel Levy, The Washington Post, "What Michelle Rhee did in D.C.: Point by point," November 2, 2010
- Paul E. Peterson, EdNext, "The Case Against Michelle Rhee," Summer 2011
- Radical: Fighting to Put Students First, "Home," accessed December 30, 2013
- The Bee Eater, "About," accessed January 14, 2014
- Diane Ravitch, TPM CAFE: OPINION, "Book Club: Michelle Rhee Is The Face Of The Corporate Education Reform Movement," accessed January 14, 2014