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Michelle Rhee: The self-proclaimed radical

Michelle Rhee brings her take on education reform to Seattle.
Protestors at Seattle's Town Hall during Michelle Rhee's visit.

Protestors at Seattle's Town Hall during Michelle Rhee's visit. Alison Krupnick

Michelle Rhee marching in the 2010 D.C. Pride Parade.

Michelle Rhee marching in the 2010 D.C. Pride Parade. Photo: Erin M.

“If you never take your head out of the sand, then no one can knock it down,” a friend once commented after being criticized for proposing changes to longstanding PTA procedures at our kids’ elementary school. At issue was her attempt to develop a strategic plan with measurable outcomes for the PTA, which did not sit well with longtime volunteers, who were used to responding to school needs rather than initiating change.  It was a struggle I saw played out year after year, through several PTA administrations.

The tug of war between operating a school like a business with measurable “best practices” and creating a welcoming learning environment for a wide range of kids is at the crux of our national debate on education.

Depending on whom you ask, Michelle Rhee, the controversial former chancellor of Washington D.C. public schools, founder of The New Teacher Project and founder and current CEO of the education advocacy group StudentsFirst, is either on the right or the wrong side of the rope.

The protestors outside Seattle Town Hall last night, where Rhee was scheduled to speak about her new book “Radical, Fighting to Put Students First” complained that her reliance on standardized testing reinforces institutionalized racism and limits creativity in the classroom. They are wary of her corporate supporters and political alliances. They question Rhee’s limited teaching experience (She served one three-year stint with Teach for America in inner city Baltimore and gained notoriety for admitting that she taped her unruly students’ lips closed for the walk from the classroom to the lunchroom).

During her Town Hall presentation and in an earlier conversation with Crosscut, Rhee explained that her book was written in part to dispel the myths that she is anti-teacher and is trying to privatize education. “I wanted to tell my story – how my views were formed, to let teachers see where I’m coming from and give parents a road map for action. I ran a public school system and increased its enrollment for the first time in four decades,” she says. “If I was trying to privatize education, I didn't do a very good job.”        

She claimed she is glad to see protestors — better engagement than apathy. As for her own self-proclaimed radicalism: “It’s interesting that in D.C., which was a low performing school district, I took aggressive steps (such as firing principals, closing schools and shrinking the central office bureaucracy) that seemed obvious to me, but were called radical by others. If bringing common sense to a dysfunctional system makes me a radical, so be it. Everyone should be a radical.”

Rhee will tell you that the education debate has become unfairly polarized.  Rather than being on extreme sides of the rope, most people fall somewhere in the middle.

Though her book feels rather hastily put together, with moments of false modesty, Rhee in person makes a compelling case for the principles she is fighting for. The heart of her philosophy rests on three policy pillars: Elevating the teaching profession, ensuring that families are given options in choosing the right schools for their kids and using tax dollars wisely.  

“No matter what environment kids come from, they can thrive if they are in effective education environments,” Rhee asserts. She believes that cumbersome bureaucracy is often a roadblock to the success of a school or a student. “Children will either rise or fall to the expectations we set for them. It’s our job to create an environment where values are reinforced every day.”

But within these principles lies controversy. In Washington, D.C., Rhee negotiated a differentiated teacher compensation package in which the highest performing teachers were given bonuses (using funds raised from outside donors), enabling them to earn as much as $145,000 in a year.

Later, allegations surfaced that standardized tests in D.C. schools had been altered to improve scores during Rhee’s tenure. She says those charges of systematic cheating did not hold up under scrutiny from outside auditors and the D.C. inspector general and D.C. students continue to make measurable gains on standardized tests.


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Feb 20, 6:15 p.m. Inappropriate

This article will provide insight regarding Studentfirsts grading systgem. Enlightening.

http://nepc.colorado.edu/newsletter/2013/02/review-Students-First-Grades

Studentsfirst are in line with ALEC. Rhee is not the sweetheart she would like to believe. Rather, an aggressive politician.

http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/dismantling-public-accountability-transparency-in-the-name-of-accountability-transparency/

Watching

Posted Wed, Feb 20, 8:25 p.m. Inappropriate

Rhee will tell you that the education debate has become unfairly polarized.

Really? And how did that happen? As teachers, across the country, were demonized almost as if on cue?

As students are staggering under the weight of unending testing (they test 46 days out of a 180-day school year in Texas and even Texas legislators are saying "enough").

When local Dem (and moneyman) Nick Hanauer ridicules any Dem who doesn't support ed reform?

That kind of polarization?

Yup.

Rhee has so little in real accomplishments to stand on. Watch the Frontline report and be horrified. This new gentler, kinder Rhee is NOT on display in this piece (and the reporter could not believe she was willing to fire a principal - on camera).

Taping students mouths shut? That's Rhee and she tells so many different stories (including her whopper on KUOW today) about how it happened and what happened. At the end of the day, she had students tape their mouths shut. That's not good teaching.

And how about this one? Rhee's moderator last night was hand-picked by...her. It was Blair Taylor of Starbucks who is their Chief Community Officer. That's how he was billed in the City Club press release so you have to wonder if Starbucks is now on the ed reform train. Except that he is ALSO on Rhee's Board of Directors for her ed reform organization, StudentsFirst.

Very brave of her to pick someone who would lob her softball questions.

This particular emperor truly has no clothes.

westello

Posted Thu, Feb 21, 10:45 a.m. Inappropriate

Blair Taylor is also on Arne Duncan's team. A very cozy relationship between Taylor, Rhee and Duncan.

Watching

Posted Thu, Feb 21, 9:13 a.m. Inappropriate

From the article on Rhee:
====
Though her book feels rather hastily put together, with moments of false modesty, Rhee in person makes a compelling case for the principles she is fighting for. The heart of her philosophy rests on three policy pillars: Elevating the teaching profession, ensuring that families are given options in choosing the right schools for their kids and using tax dollars wisely.

“No matter what environment kids come from, they can thrive if they are in effective education environments,” Rhee asserts. She believes that cumbersome bureaucracy is often a roadblock to the success of a school or a student. “Children will either rise or fall to the expectations we set for them. It’s our job to create an environment where values are reinforced every day.”
=========================
Let's examine....

Three policy pillars:
(1) Elevating the teaching profession,
(2) ensuring that families are given options in choosing the right schools for their kids and
(3) using tax dollars wisely.
((only mom and apple pie might be less controversial))

Plus
cumbersome bureaucracy is often a roadblock to the success of a school or a student.
----

The above apparently are Rhee's justification for changes that unfortunately are rarely solutions as the changes she proposes are NOT solutions.

Consider Common Core State Standards ... a huge expenditure to create a massive cumbersome bureaucracy ... yet Ms. Rhee fails to address CCSS because her big buck funders are all in favor of CCSS. Ms. Rhee is a great opportunist and is on message for big money interests.

Her actions are largely for the de-professionalization of teaching.

========
She pushes "Children will either rise or fall to the expectations we set for them".

Complete nonsense => Without adequate support in the form of sound instructional programs and providing effective interventions the raising expectations is a cruel hoax.

When Ms. Rhee started in WA DC measures showed DC as lower in Ed attainment than all 50 states .. and when she finished still lower than all 50 states.

It also seems Rhee failed to "Elevate the teaching profession"

Rhee identifies problems and then presents sham solutions so typical of Corporate backed Education Reformers. .... yup upon inspection this Ed Reform stuff always "feels rather hastily put together." (like her book) .... Rhee is just another agent of the oligarchy.

Want solutions? Read John Hattie.... evidence based solutions rather than Ed Reform nonsense.

Posted Thu, Feb 21, 9:52 a.m. Inappropriate

The article states:
"The tug of war between operating a school like a business with measurable “best practices” and creating a welcoming learning environment for a wide range of kids is at the crux of our national debate on education."

So what are these "Best Practices" as determined by measurement?

It seems that "best" is determined by ideological alignment and not through the intelligent application of relevant data.
=====

StudentsFirst, which is active in 17 states, gave Washington a D+ ranking on its National Policy Report Card.

That WA State "D+" is not determined by anything other than "degree of alignment with current Reform Ideology" as advocated by StudentsFirst. ...

Posted Thu, Feb 21, 10:36 a.m. Inappropriate

I'm not sure she's actually made the D.C. schools any better. The proof is in the pudding.

Posted Thu, Feb 21, 6:39 p.m. Inappropriate

Have her successors improved anything?

One measure of success in the DC school system might be, How many members of Congress enroll their children in DC public schools? Has that number changed, before Rhee or after her?

simorgh

Posted Sat, Feb 23, 10:29 a.m. Inappropriate

Which members of Congress are young enough to have children who are still in grades K - 12? Certainly not the majority.

I agree however, the majority of parents with income enough for private schools in DC do not send their own children to public schools.

When private schools are chosen over public ... the parents have voted with their pocketbooks.

Posted Thu, Feb 21, 2:10 p.m. Inappropriate

Gee, I wanted to attend this controversial and controversy-fueling event, but I had to stay home and watch The Golden Apple Awards.

The award recipients are truly inspirational. Each and every one of them. Listening to the students from the Wenatchee Mariachi Program perform? Pure joy.

Dos Equis

Posted Fri, Feb 22, 5:06 p.m. Inappropriate

I watched too, keeping a box of Kleenex handy. Funny thing... as I was watching, I had the thought, "I wish I could sit a couple of those Crosscut commenters down and make them watch this." This show, to my mind, demonstrates what teaching is really all about. It takes time, work, effort, awareness, etc., more than most jobs. And I'd bet that few of those commenters could handle it.

s_calvert

Posted Thu, Feb 21, 9:51 p.m. Inappropriate

It hard for me to hear what Michelle Rhee says when her actions speak so much louder. The actions are contrary to the words. I don't think her mass firings of teachers "elevated" teaching. The notion of school choice is empty because schools have a finite capacity - as everyone in Seattle learned. I don't think throwing money at individual teachers is a wise use of tax dollars, especially when the teachers would have done the work without the money. They are not money-motivated. If they were, they wouldn't be teachers.

coolpapa

Posted Fri, Feb 22, 11:42 a.m. Inappropriate

Oh, no, they say she's got to go
Go go Godzilla
Oh, no, there goes Sacramento
Go go Godzilla

Posted Mon, Feb 25, 9:19 a.m. Inappropriate

"The heart of her philosophy rests on three policy pillars: Elevating the teaching profession, ensuring that families are given options in choosing the right schools for their kids and using tax dollars wisely."

We sure can't have any of THIS nonsense, can we? Say no to anything Michelle Rhee advocates...our schools are doing just great the way they are.

Posted Mon, Feb 25, 2:20 p.m. Inappropriate

GuiltyBystander repeats the lie that anyone who opposes corporate education reform supports the status quo.

That's simply untrue; there isn't anyone who supports the status quo. It isn't a choice between the reforms promoted by Ms Rhee or nothing. The real choice is between the reforms promoted by Ms Rhee and a list of other reforms. The difference is that Ms Rhee's reforms have proven ineffective and the other reforms have proven successful.

coolpapa

Posted Wed, Mar 13, 10:36 p.m. Inappropriate

Michelle Rhee - The famous former Washington DC School District Chancellor

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=215125001967375&set;=vb.145530532162873&type;=2&theater;

Michelle Rhee on OPRAH

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPsqO17f6Lw

Michelle Rhee on abc's ThisWeek
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nep1mcaFthU

Michelle Rhee on The DailyShow with Jon Stewart
http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-february-4-2013/michelle-rhee
http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-february-4-2013/exclusive---michelle-rhee-extended-interview-pt--2
http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-february-4-2013/exclusive---michelle-rhee-extended-interview-pt--3

pbs.org FRONTLINE: The Education of Michelle Rhee
http://video.pbs.org/video/2323979463/ http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/education-of-michelle-rhee/

Why Teach For America works - Michelle Rhee
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUs_hsHaqSA

A Two-Tier Proposal for Teacher Pay - Michelle Rhee
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pii96AoTPw

Time Magazine: Rhee Tackles Classroom Challenge
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1862444-2,00.html

Michelle Rhee Discusses "Waiting for Superman," Charter Schools And Sch... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLih24QdwH8

Stanford University: A Conversation on "Waiting for Superman" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xzrjo7Fvs1A

"Radical" Fighting to Put Students First should be a must read for all studentsfirst.org members! Michelle Rhee's new book, "RADICAL: Fighting to Put Students First," is now in stores! For more information about where you can find it, to read an excerpt from the book, and to share your story about education in America visit the official site at http://www.edradical.com/ or http://www.facebook.com/edradical.
http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/michelle-rhee/510ff3b02b8c2a138f000747

Michelle Rhee at the ACE 2011 Spring Luncheon https://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature;=endscreen&v;=mO9F-amHDuw

Michelle Rhee and Kevin Johnson (4/20/11) https://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v;=OCcNzh7C_Tk&feature;=endscreen

Michelle A. Rhee 03.17.11 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KD0g8Jb9l78

Cornell Alumni: Olin Lecture 2012: Michelle Rhee '92https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwFD-wkAEi8

Harvard Public Health: Michelle Rhee, Former Chancellor of Washington D.C. Public Schoolshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jH0twXcxNUY

Geoffrey Canada - Conversations at KCTS 9
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxP6Ov5PSG8
Geoffrey Canada interviewed by Julian Bond: Explorations in Black Leadership ...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2f5MZKf6Uu4

"Waiting for Superman" the documentary and Bloomberg documentary "Risk Takers" Michelle Rhee should a required screening for all studentsfirst.org members. I saw them on Netflix and became an instant member of studentsfirst.org and Michelle Rhee follower.

"Won't Back down" the movie is another example to screen to all studentsfirst.org members.

Share the reasons you fight for education reform. Your story will inspire others to get involved. So tell us: Why are you working to put students first? http://www.studentsfirst.org/facebook-story

Check out today's blog by StudentsFirst staffer Charity Hallman, "One size fits all, or so they said," on The Fordham Institute's "Education Gadfly Daily: FLYPAPER" blog.

To view the Fordham study, "When Teachers Choose Pension Plans: The Florida Story," visit http://www.studentsfirst.org/fordham-study-on-fl-teacher-pension-reform

Watch MAKER videos on StudentFirst Founder Michelle Rhee visit www.makers.com/michelle-rhee

ajain31

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