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Posted at 4:25 PM ET, 12/15/2010

What Rhee wrought

By Valerie Strauss

Anyone who thinks that Michelle Rhee was a whiz as chancellor of D.C. public schools and should be heading a national "reform" movement ought to read about a high school she attempted to “transform” in the nation’s capital.

Rhee recently announced that she is heading a new organization, created around her celebrity, called Students First, that is aiming to raise $1 billion to effectively lobby against teachers unions and in support of business-driven reforms.

She has become the rock star of the education world, with an accompanying myth that she came into the nation’s capital with a broom -- her imagery, not mine; she clutched one in a 2008 Time magazine cover picture -- and with fierce determination removed bad teachers and closed or fixed awful schools with a mighty sweep.

The truth of her tenure is less compelling. In fact, some parts are disturbing.

The tale that my colleague Bill Turque wrote about Dunbar Senior High School reveals the bad assumptions and decisions Rhee made in trying to transform a long-troubled school, and, further, exposes some of the mindlessness driving school reformers today across the country.

Turque wrote about how the private organization that Rhee brought in to run the school has fared. Privatizing public education is the name of the reform game these days. The dominant group of reformers believe that running schools like a business will make them better places of learning. They have nothing on which to base this faith, but they cling to it anyway.

Turque reports that more than two years after Rhee brought in Friends of Bedford, a New York-based contractor, to run the school, the school “remains plagued by a litany of troubles: Nearly half the senior class is not on track to graduate, more than 100 students are taking courses they’ve already passed and the campus is growing increasingly unsafe.”

And this was with an entire year of planning by Friends of Bedford before the organization actually started running the school.

Things are so bad at Dunbar that Rhee’s successor as interim chancellor, her ally Kaya Henderson, who would not want to sully Rhee’s legacy, wrote in a letter to Friends of Bedford that the school environment had "deteriorated significantly." She has now ousted the contractor from Dunbar.

This belies the claims Rhee made in media interviews when she quit her job as chancellor in October, that if the academics had not improved at Dunbar and a few other schools with private management, then at least the atmosphere and culture had.

She was wrong then. And she was wrong in thinking that Friends of Bedford was up to the task of turning around a large, unwieldy, chronically troubled school. She selected the contractor based on its success at Bedford Academy, a highly regarded Brooklyn public school, which is smaller than Dunbar and which screens its students. Dunbar doesn't.

The schools have little in common, but there's this: The head of Friends of Bedford, Chief Executive George Leonard, shares an ignore-the-parents management philosophy employed by Rhee when she ran D.C. schools.

Now that she is trying to raise $1 billion to become a big-time lobbyist, parents, presumably those with checkbooks, are suddenly important to her.

Dunbar is not the only D.C. public school run by an outside contractor that is having problems. Anacostia Senior High School, which was placed under the control of Friendship Public Charter Schools by Rhee at the same time she hired Bedford, has also had leadership changes and discipline issues, Turque has reported.

What this tells us is that fixing failing schools is a very, very difficult task, and that the private contractors today’s reformers embrace are hardly the answer.

Some private managers may do just fine, but, then again, so do some public school superintendents. The notion that the private sector can run public schools better is nonsense.

And the idea that Rhee is somehow ideally suited and experienced to be the voice of school reform doesn't make much more sense.

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By Valerie Strauss  | December 15, 2010; 4:25 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. Schools, Michelle Rhee, School turnarounds/reform  | Tags:  d.c. schools, dunbar, dunbar high, dunbar high school, friends of bedford, michelle rhee, rhee, school reform, school transformation, transformation schools  
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Comments

Thank you Valerie for telling the truth. Somebody needed to say it out loud!

Posted by: regina2204 | December 15, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Now that Rhee is gone, and the dust has settled somewhat, I am happy. But I benefitted from her tenure in certain ways and she personally intervened on my behalf in a positive way. So, I think she is a mixed bag.

I am pleased because Henderson's conduct and rhetoric appears to be more reasonable, although time will certainly tell. She seems more willing to listen and to work collaboratively with teachers.

Now, I think someone has to take Jason Kamras and the IMPACT team to task. This "document" is not worth "defending" as the master educators say. It is a prescribed piece of orthodoxy in a field that does not need an orthodoxy. It is subjective and teachers with acute issues to deal with (behavioral and academic) do not have the time to parse the meanings of Teach 1-9 when 20-25 livekids futures are are in front of them each day.

Please, Valerie, Bill, someone. Take this IMPACT team to task. They are shredding teacher morale this year. My opinion is that they are incompetent to lead a large, diversified school system. Everyone is saying that Jason K is running IMPACT. Shine the light on him as he is attempting to shine the light on the teaching corps.

Posted by: thetensionmakesitwork | December 15, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

And don't forget an earlier blog entry: "Rhee's Testing Legacy: An Open Question"
on The Answer Sheet (by Valerie Strauss)
written by Matthew Di Carlo, senior fellow at the non-profit Albert Shanker Institute,

http://shankerblog.org/?p=1155
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/dc-schools/rhees-testing-legacy-an-open-q.html

Posted by: interested8 | December 15, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Wow--

Talk about someone with an agenda. This story just oozes vitriol towards Rhee. Sorry Valerie and other Rhee haters-- you and your kind have had two generations to ruin our city's schools. And you've done a remarkably effective job. I'm glad we had someone to take on your sacred cows, point out your lack of clothing and hold you accountable for your COMPLETE and utter failure. Most of your arguments are about the small, tactical issues of Rhee's tenure-- since you can't refute her basic strategy of pushing out the established, failed and self-serving "leadership" that our schools have suffered under for far to long.

Posted by: Bigbobhooter | December 15, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Bigbobhooter, your comments are a bit naive and uninformed. I'm not a "Rhee-hater", a member of the union, or an old-timer.

The policymaking decisions, however, of Rhee, Kamras, and the other TFA zealots are not taking DCPS in the direction it needs to go. Teachers are not the sole answer to the woes of District school children. Data-driven instruction is also not the answer. The prescriptions these people are forcing upon the teaching corps are not well-thought out and are doing more harm than good.

I would agree with you that the Union leadership has largely been obstructive to progress in DCPS.

What direct involvement do you have in the school system?

Posted by: thetensionmakesitwork | December 15, 2010 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Pardon me....but should not people be prohibited from serving in any public offices when diservicing tax-payers like she did DC? Would someone please FW this article to FL? Fenty, I hope you are reading this between your many job searches and countless failures as a mayor. Rhee is your error. She is the despot you brought in and gave an autocracy to ravage employees, students, and funds every which way she pleased. Bless her soul she was only incompetent enough not to touch special ed. But, then. Dr. N-Cory made a mess on her behalf. And, let's not forger Jason Kamras and his group of PHD candidates who worked on their dissertations for human capital (IMPACT). They are NOWHERE to be found in DCPS any more. So, if you have questions how students success rates correlate with teacher success, the inteligencia that created the Impact to equate such rationale is gone to graze on the greener grass. So is Rhee. Incidentally, so Is Fenty. Odd, ha?!

Kaya, good luck, darling. You have work to do. It is not fair that it was thrown into your lap like that. If I am right, and I know I am, you are a woman of honor...fire those Rhee-istic leftovers and do what you have to do to get DCPS where it needs to be.

Much luck, sweetie. Rhee, eat dirt. Fenty, you missed you paper route this morning. How dare you.

Posted by: inickdc | December 15, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

While I support Rhee's reforms the schools in DC won't improve dramatically until parents start putting reading to their kids and insuring they do their homework over getting high or watching TV.

Kids need stable two parent homes with dedicated parents

Posted by: marctrain1 | December 15, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Wow! is right. Why did Answer sheet and WAPO wait until Rhee left to jump her effectiveness. I think it is almost a gutless act, but I understand the politics.

Rhee did not deserve the front cover of TIME magazine with a broom in her hand in a classroom. No way! Rhee also did not deserve the front cover of NEWSWEEK at the end of her tenure because of points made here. It is these bookend covers that typifies what is wrong with the mass media covering education.

All that being said Rhee has some good points about the Teachers' Union and the powers they sway in state legislatures and Congress. However, no one is advocating for children particularly Black children who suffer the most under a corrupt public educational system (e.g. Dunbar).

Thanks Answer Sheet just be a little more proactive in your analysis. I saw the overselling of Rhee years ago.

Posted by: Concerned3 | December 15, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

Rhee is a brilliant woman, but not in education. Her skill is in earning top dollars in education without teaching a single child, or managing a single school, or helping other people to run a school successfully. By her own account she would not have passed "Impact." Like many other people, she left teaching after only two years.

Now she is raising $1 billion. How much of that do you think she'll keep?

There is a name for someone like Rhee but the word eludes me.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | December 15, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Ms. Rhee will claim that Fenty's loss encouraged her opponents to dig in to make her look bad.

Posted by: edlharris | December 15, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

Interesting, Michelle Rhee appeared on "Hardball" tonight. Host, Chris Matthews, thinks she is wonderful and agrees with what she is trying to do. Teachers' unions exist, solely (they believe) to protect the interests of teachers. I suggest both Matthews and Rhee read the mission statement of NEA.

If you remember, Matthews admits to voting for Michael Steele, the current chair of the National Republican Party.

Posted by: lacy41 | December 15, 2010 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Lida/Retire/Teacher: I just Love You and I don't even know you. I love what you write and that is all I have to know. They need you in DCPS; come back. Kaya Henderson...loke this Linda Lady up on Google and give her some sort of human capital job for teacher recruitment and development in DCPS. I cannot tell you how demoralizing Rhee has been for DCPS has been. This woman, along wit FENTY, has been a complete and utter disaster. She more mess than any other super before her and left us in deeper morale-abyss than we've seen in decades. Don't worry, though-that broom she was parking on that magazine cover will be pretty soon be hexing her life 9x9 without end in perpetuity. Need I say that she saw DCPS schools as the most...how did she call them....and I quote...'segregated'...oh yes...Dr. Neahncory....she used you....she called our special education population as the most segregated population in the country....well if so....why DIDN't you FUND US? Instead....do you know what she did? She misspent it on REFUNDING the private schools AGAIN. So neither she NOR Fenty kept their part of the deal to return the sped kids back to the public schools. It was not the public schools teachers who were not ready to accept the sped students. It was Rhee and Fenty who did not allocate the funds correctly. May the history see both you Michelle Rhee and you Adrian Fenty as two who caused educational crimes against humanity in DC. You failed the YOUTH of DC. It serves you right, Fenty not to have been re-elected. Sorry...did you mention in your resume you were a mayor of DC. TAKE IT OFF. NO FAVORABLE REFERENCE will be given. YOU FAILED SPED students of DC.

Posted by: inickdc | December 15, 2010 8:56 PM | Report abuse

We are often swept away by folks that are good looking, fashionably dressed, very energetic, and talk rapidly. Then we discover, sadly, that there is little follow up, lots of things unravel, or fall through the cracks. As a retired educator, let me say this, success in education requires perserverance, patience, imagination, a love of people, and a high I.Q. with sufficient academic preparation. Good looking sales people type just don't hold up in educational settings.

Posted by: windmill3 | December 15, 2010 9:27 PM | Report abuse

We are often swept away by folks that are good looking, fashionably dressed, very energetic, and talk rapidly. Then we discover, sadly, that there is little follow up, lots of things unravel, or fall through the cracks. As a retired educator, let me say this, success in education requires perserverance, patience, imagination, a love of people, and a high I.Q. with sufficient academic preparation. Good looking sales people type just don't hold up in educational settings.

Posted by: windmill3 | December 15, 2010 9:28 PM | Report abuse

The whole notion of "failing schools" is nonsense. It is the students and their families that fail, mostly because the expectations put on them are unrealistic. These are 80-IQ individuals being asked to fulfill the requirements of a 100-IQ society which stupidly pretends to believe that all are equally capable. The inevitable results are dissapointment, resentment and contempt for the entire educational process.

Posted by: CharlesMcKay1 | December 15, 2010 9:54 PM | Report abuse

It's always been true that Rhee deserves a mix of criticism and praise. She's hardly the cause of the decades of steady DCPS decline that faced her. The teachers union, some admins and teachers who have given up or can't cut it, most former Board of Ed members, many council members, and others are together mainly responsible for the decline. With Rhee gone, there's no one to deflect attention from the ineffectiveness or plain incompetence of DCPS employees. The people who want chaos to delay and obstruct reform are screaming the loudest now. And DCPS teachers as a group continue to show their professional and career interest by very low voting numbers, even for their own leaders and contract. We need to pray that Gray will install the right permanent supt., but who with the right skills and experience would take this on?

Posted by: axolotl | December 15, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

"We are often swept away by folks that are good looking..."

That's one angle I never expected to see in comments on a story about Michelle Rhee. :-)

Posted by: CharlesMcKay1 | December 15, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Straight off the bat I'll say I'm an Aussie and having travelled through the US for the last few weeks on a study tour looking at different educational models, I have to say it is very concerning the level of importance placed on Standardised Tests.

I just heard Michelle saying on "Spitzer & Parker" that the Number 1 objective of this movement will be to ensure you have "great" educators infront of the kids. An applaudible aim Miss Rhee I thought... until she then told the nation that how kids do on standardised tests wouldn't be the "only" way... but it would form the majority of the judgment of whether the teacher is a "great" teacher or not.

Take a tip: Teachers who think their job depends on the kids' performance in a standardised test will teach purely to the test. Didn't you suffer the same problems with the No Child Left Behind program? Sure literacy rates went up, but at the expense of other areas of the kids learning.

Kids entering elementary school in 2010 will be retiring in 2070! They will have had careers in jobs that don't even exist yet... Some of the most sought after jobs in 2010 didn't even exist in 2000! What is important for kids of the 21st Century to learn is creative and critical thinking skills. They need to learn about themselves and their role in making the world a better place... not becoming machines that can regurgitate information... that machine exists already... Google.

Education as it stands right now is still in essence the same as it was over a hundred years ago. Maybe it isn't the teachers that are failing as Michelle would have us believe, but rather the model of education. Put simply: How can a model of education created to meet the needs of the Industrial Revolution possibly meet the needs of a 21st Century child?

Michelle's caption of "Innovative Educator" on the Spitzer & Parker program gave me hope of an interesting segment... unfortunately (and I have nothing against people including Michelle trying to shake up the system and actually get great teachers infront of every kid) I think the word "innovative" in this instance is slightly over stating things.

Having said that, I wish Michelle luck in any attempt to innovate education... all around the world it is needed!

Check out: www.danhaesler.com maybe chat some more?

Posted by: danhaesler | December 15, 2010 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Superb, Valerie. Let's hope the Post doesn't punish you for revealing their edu-profiteer empress, Michelle A. Rhee, has no clothes. Rhee's simply the product of relentless hype and PR by hidden corporate interests.
___

A William Bennett-style "thought experiment for you:

How long could part-time Post journalist and full-time Rhee cheerleader and publicist, Jo Ann Armao, stay inside supposedly Rhee-formed Dunbar High School before sustaining permanent serious bodily injury?

a) one hour
b) two hours
c) fifteen seconds
d) who cares?

Posted by: broadwayjoe | December 15, 2010 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Inickdc:

Thank you! You made my day.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | December 15, 2010 10:37 PM | Report abuse

Valerie, in recent months the Post reported/implied Michelle A. Rhee would:

-become Secretary of Education,
-get hired as the head of the public school system in Atlanta, Newark, or Montgomery County,
-be appointed New Jersey Secretary of Education,
-accept, soon after Mayor Gray Rhee-leased her, one of hundreds of six- and seven-figure job offers, and
-marry her, er, "fiance" Kevin Johnson.

Let's see. How much of the Post's Rhee-diculous reporting was correct? LOL.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | December 15, 2010 10:46 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Strauss, one class you did not pass is logic. Your comment here is false on its face. You argue that because two (terrible) schools did not improve under private management (they didn't get worse, just not better), therefore, "[t]he notion that the private sector can run public schools better is nonsense." That is simply fallacious reasoning. You complain that the idea of private management is not backed by evidence, but accepted on faith. Then you point out that the Bedford organization had one past success. That's evidence, not faith. Maybe problematic evidence, but evidence none-the-less.

Posted by: straydc | December 15, 2010 11:27 PM | Report abuse

It is very telling that, despite her relentless shilling for herself, no one has offered Michelle Rhee a position. Methinks the bloom is off the rose.

I cannot help but be reminded of this timeless classic: "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! I am OZ, the Great and Powerful..."

Posted by: nan_lynn | December 16, 2010 12:27 AM | Report abuse

Valerie Strauss- I am surprised the Post continues to employ you when they could just get the teachers unions to pay for the free advertising space you offer them. How does it feel to advocate no performance related job measures for one of the most important roles in our society? I guess you are getting paid to do so, but you should have to pay the Post for them to let you run this tripe.

Of course there are many successfully privately run schools and publicly run schools. By the idiotic measures of success many use, it is mostly the students which are measured, not the schools effects on the students. I would expect that you will never have the sophistication to understand that.

Sadly, you keep writing anyway. Please stop!

Posted by: staticvars | December 16, 2010 12:51 AM | Report abuse

There are zero examples of privatization "working" without cherry picking students. In fact, there is zero evidence of any of the Duncan-Rhee-Klein "reforms" working without cherry picking the student population.

But this is, of course, the hidden intent. Michelle Rhee wanted to please the wealthy whites of DC, and conversely, her actions make clear that she wanted the poor and African-American kids to fail. Just as Bloomberg-Klein's NYC policies have increased the performance gap there, in Rhee's Washington 'the rich got richer and the poor got Dunbar."

Actual school reform - http://speedchange.blogspot.com/2010/11/blogging-for-real-reform-real-ideas-not.html - public school redesign, is something entirely different, and seeks, through working with the whole child in real context, to improve the learning opportunities of every child. But actually doing that would threaten the wealth and power structure in the United States, and Rhee and her Ivy League crew might find themselves a bit less "entitled."

- Ira Socol

Posted by: irasocol | December 16, 2010 2:21 AM | Report abuse

Staticvars,

I'm hoping you can verify to me that you mean that educators must be held "accountable" for results? I'm assuming that's what you mean.

Accountability works both ways, and the question is evolving into "how do we hold incompentent central office staff accountable for reckless policies/mechanisms that interfere with our ability to raise student achievement?
Rhee and Fenty are gone partly because they took the accountability line too far. Its not a panacea and it will NOT fix the problems that DC students face.

No teacher I know does not think accountability is important, but the mechanism (IMPACT) that Rhee and Kamras has wrought is tearing down teachers, not building them up. I would argue that you are really off the mark if you think a punitive system is going to raise student achievement. Its designed to cut and slash the teaching corps.

What perspective in this mess do you have? Do you have anything at stake?

Posted by: thetensionmakesitwork | December 16, 2010 3:44 AM | Report abuse

Snark, snark, snarky: Let it go, Valerie. Let it go.

Posted by: IncredulousAsEver | December 16, 2010 4:05 AM | Report abuse

Valerie, this is the last column of yours that I will read. You've ceased to add anything meaningful to the discourse. Seems like you yourself can only write Rhee-bashing columns. Your columns on other topics are written by other people. Rhee is GONE. You're stuck looking backwards, and becoming more marginal by the minute. What a shame.

Posted by: lucillecolbert | December 16, 2010 5:30 AM | Report abuse

WELL, WELL, WELL...IF NOT NOW...DAMN-IT "WHEN"???

Da DOLPHINS DID WAT DEY D0 BEST 0N Da ROAD -- "WIN" -- BUTT, WILL Da MIAMI DOLPHINS CONTINUE 2 PLAY HIGH LEVEL PHYSICALLY TOUGH, HARD NOSE, INSPIRED FOOTBALL 4 THEIR MANY, MANY "LOYAL H0METOWN FANS" or DO WE GET Da JEKYLL n "HIDE" SHOW 4 Da DOLPHINS BOSS n OWNER STEVE ROSS 2 WITNESS AT HOME ONCE AGAIN -- (THEIR IN-EPT n PIZZ POOR GAME PERFORMANCE n APPLIED GARBAGE SKILLS) -- IS IT FAIR 2 SAY DAT JEFF IRELAND WILL Be ATTENDING Da MIAMI / BUFFALO GAME 2 WITNESS HIS "HIGHLY FAILED n INEPTITUDE QUARTERBACK PRODIGY CHAD HENNE"??? -- (DAT GUY COULD'NT HIT A BULL IN Da @ZZ WITH AN IRONING BOARD -- HE HAS EXCEPTIONALLY WEAK SKILLS n BLIND 2 MATCH!!!)...Da DOLPHINS NEED A MUCH BETTA n "IMMENSELY TALENTED QUARTERBACK n SOON" -- MR. DAN MARINO CANNOT BELIEVE HIS OWN EYES AT WAT HE SEES AT HIS "HIGHLY SKILLED n ELITE POSITION" -- ("HENNE GETTS ABSOLUTELY NO PAT ON Da HEAD HERE") -- CHAD HENNE IS ABSOLUTE GARBAGE -- 2 SAY Da LEAST!!!

p.s. See More -- U DAMN RITE "EYE DO"???...miami dolphins, da bills r cumin 2 sunlife stadium 2 win da fuc'n game --"DEY HAVE ONLY 2 WIN Da FOOTBALL GAME 2 PLAY 4 NOW" -- (WITH or WITH-OUT SKILLS CHALLENGED CHAD HENNE AS Da DOLPHINS QUARTERBACK & PLAYOFF HOPES r n HIS HANDS -- SCARRY)!!!

question..."MR. DON SHULA KNOWS PEOPLE & HE KNOWS FOOTBALL MATTERS & HE KNOWS FOOTBALL PLAYERS & HE KNOWS TALENT & MOST IMPORTANTLY, HE KNOWS EXACTLY HOW 2 GET YOU 2 THE BIGG DANCE STEPHEN ROSS" -- "WHY" IS'NT MR. SHULA THE GENERAL MANAGER OF THE MIAMI DOLPHINS???...HE GETTS OUR VOTES 2 BE THE DOLPHINS GM -- HE IS THE FACE OF THE MIAMI DOLPHINS & ORGANIZATION!!!

Posted by: MRjavinbur | December 16, 2010 5:54 AM | Report abuse

Rhee on the cover of Newsweek talking about her DC experience. Rhee on Hardball.
Strauss, the blogger responds...

Legitimate response since Rhee is waging her campaign in the national media.

Posted by: thetensionmakesitwork | December 16, 2010 6:12 AM | Report abuse

thetensionmakesitwork -- don't get too hopeful about Henderson. She is just like Rhee, as she said herself just yesterday in the Examiner:

"People keep asking me how I'm different from Michelle Rhee. I'm different than her because she's a petite Asian woman and I'm a large black girl," http://washingtonexaminer.com/local/dc/2010/12/battles-not-over-dcs-new-schools-chief

Posted by: efavorite | December 16, 2010 7:01 AM | Report abuse

Liberals are some truly sick and disturbed individuals. They'll throw their children to the wolves to spare leftist ideology.

Posted by: DCer1 | December 16, 2010 7:13 AM | Report abuse

As it was before, so it continues now....it's ALWAYS been about Michelle Rhee, and not kids.

Rhee's latest venture will enable her to stay in the spotlight and make false claims about her education "successes," which range from her inflated and unsubstantiated miracle-work as a teacher to her very marginal achievements in the DC schools.

As I and others have pointed out repeatedly, the biggest gains in DC test scores are more directly tied to Rhee's predecessor than to her "reform" efforts. Gain scores declined consistently during Rhee's tenure, and in some cases the test scores themselves went down.

Worse, Rhee embraces "reforms" that have no research basis. Charter schools (see the CREDO study) are not the answer and those in the District, under Rhee, are a classic example.

More standardized testing is the pedagogical equivalent of bleeding sick patients; it doesn't help and usually makes things much, much worse. NCLB has harmed public education, not helped it.

Performance pay for teachers simply does not work (see Jeffrey Pfeffer's March 2007 testimony to Congress). It's the kind of "reform"pushed by big business, which doesn't seem to relish much accountability for itself.

Michelle Rhee is what she is: a self-promoter and a charlatan.

Sadly, there are many in the mainstream media who hype her false claims of educational success, and who view her as a genuine leader.

And there are likely to be plenty of Wall Street types who'll be quite willing to buy her snake oil.

Like the so-called "faith healers," Rhee can laugh all the way to the bank.

Posted by: mcrockett1 | December 16, 2010 7:25 AM | Report abuse

I dont see rhee raising a billion dollars for anything.

those people who supported her included people who stood to gain financially from her "reforms". they wanted and got money from rhee. they are not interested in real reform or actually having to give up money to improve the lots of students they couldn't care less for.

Lobbiests do make a lot of money, but they don't raise a billion dollars.

Posted by: MarilynManson | December 16, 2010 9:01 AM | Report abuse

I know the precise moment this whole Rhee topic sunk to the level of damn-and-dish, reality-show guilty pleasuring: after the meeting with Mayor-to-be Gray where people became transfixed by the how and why of the chancellor's sad face.

Months have passed, but the above post with its run-and-tell-that finger-wagging can still generate three dozen comments.

This volume of comments is very important. It may very well be part of Ms. Strauss's "value-added" score in whatever version of IMPACT that WaPo uses to guide the blade of the budget axe.

Posted by: gardyloo | December 16, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Wow! I think you've got the story all wrong. Rhee has admitted time and time again that she made mistakes. But are you seriously criticizing her for giving Friends of Bedford a try? They had some similar (granted not identical) experience and they WANTED to help. It's a pretty monumental challenge and frankly it stinks they couldn't meet it but it's not like there is a long list of alternative and successful contractors she could have brought in instead. She didn't choose a bad option to benefit a friend. She made what she thought was the best choice.

Like nearly all critiques of the former Chancellor, there are detailed complaints but no actionable suggestions. What Rhee does better than anyone in education reform is bravely and boldly take action. She'd be the first to admit not everything she does works but the reason her approach has the best chance of succeeding is that she puts kids first 100% of the time and TRIES things. She is not afraid to fail and she sees that doing things the same way we have been nearly guarantees failure.

As a DCPS parent, I am extremely proud of her and her legacy of giving new ideas a shot. I am sorry for the parents of Dunbar. They deserve better and they are getting a crapping education -- as Rhee would say "I don't THINK they are, I KNOW they are."

I encourage all of you to go to StudentsFirst.Org and join her organization. I've joined and made a small monthly donation ($5 a month). I am in it for the long haul. All kids deserve a chance at a good education. Ms. Rhee could get a cushy corporate job and save herself a lot of misery from these attacks, but she keeps fighting for kids and putting her neck on the line to try new ideas. THAT is leadership. The author of this article should give it a try and report back. I hear Higher Achievement is looking for mentors.

Posted by: alauriam | December 16, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Valerie, thanks again for hanging in there. I know the nastiness of some of the respondents you don't take personally. It's just their way of venting their own frustrations without having to get really involved or know much of the reality of classroom activities. Real teachers in the trenches appreciate your accuracy and persistence.

Posted by: 1bnthrdntht | December 16, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Valerie, thanks again for hanging in there. I know the nastiness of some of the respondents you don't take personally. It's just their way of venting their own frustrations without having to get really involved or know much of the reality of classroom activities. Real teachers in the trenches appreciate your accuracy and persistence.

Posted by: 1bnthrdntht | December 16, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

"But are you seriously criticizing her for giving Friends of Bedford a try?"

No - for letting three years go by as things got worse at Dunbar, without giving FOB the security support they asked for and needed.

I agree - she has boldly taken action -- but that is not necessarily a good thing. Bank robbers take bold action too.

Posted by: efavorite | December 16, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Valerie - thanks for continuing to tell the truth even though it goes against corporate interests.

Posted by: educationlover54 | December 16, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Just when is anyone going to expose Rhee's history of abusive conduct toward children, including taping kids' mouths shut in her own classrooms, and 'fixing' allegations of child sexual abuse against former basketballer, now mayor of Sacramento, CA, and founder of St. Hope charter, also in Sacramento, by offering payoffs to victims...

If THIS is the caliber of people fawned over by well heeled foundations bent on breaking public schools in America, and the teachers who slavishly work on the front lines, their 'rock star' status, fueled by tripe like WAITING/SUPERMAN, is mere imagery and fluff, utterly lacking in substance and the core skills of intellect, compassion, and wisdom necessary to guide ANY major process, ESPECIALLY with regard to children and their education...

Rhee has NONE of these qualities, but seems guided merely by her own career ambitions rather than her touted 'for the kids' mantra.

She and her ilk, a la Geoffrey Canada, are quite frankly DANGEROUS for coming generations of students, and under their tutelage, will no doubt remain poor, pregnant, and woefully stupid, to perpetuate the dictatorship of right wing bigots and corporate elites, unknowing of the harm these fake leaders do...

SHAME ON HER! SHAME ON THE WHOLE LOT OF THE 'REFORMERS'!

Posted by: bbbbmer1 | December 16, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

I hear the usual suspects, as usual, celebrating perceived failures and hoping for more failure. It's their way of keeping the status quo, ya know, the one that has produced such well educated young people for decades in the Nation's Capital. Well done, oh yeah.

Posted by: axolotl | December 16, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Sarah, A Professor of Applying the Status Quo Argument in Every Situation,

Tsk. Again with the status quo arguments. I would have thought that my satire would have taught you some perspective--and perhaps some good judgment--before using it again. How easy it is for you, like a drug, to fall back on the banal, overextended, exaggerated, and unintelligent argument of generalization used by Gates and others like him. Certainly your glory years as a high school debater prepared you for this highest honor. "Well done, oh yeah."

Posted by: DHume1 | December 17, 2010 12:03 AM | Report abuse

Dunbar was not successful in great part because the parents of these hoodlums have never created a partnership with the teachers. What Dunbar is now is not Michelle Rhee's creation. The school was like this 30 years ago and has not changed to this day. I commend Michelle for her effort and don't feel the effort was given enough support. DC students deserve what their parents (the voters) have given them.

Posted by: ffordjr1 | December 17, 2010 3:47 AM | Report abuse

David,
The more you protest, the more you implicate yourself in the ed. mess and tag yoself as outdated and out of ideas. You love the status quo, as shown by your "logic" and content focus. Have a nice weekend. Watch Airplane--it will lighten the heavy load weighing on or in you.

Posted by: axolotl | December 17, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

To an Organism Between a Snake and a Shark,

I only protest your handling of the blanket and shotgunned approach to the "status quo" argument. There are many educators, parents, and even politicians who do not like specific reforms and the "status quo." YOU are implicating and generalizing a huge assortment of people with that fallacious argument. If anything, I stand with sound thought and sound judgment. And it appears that you like to just sound off. Looks like you picked the wrong week to give up on your brain.

Happy holidays.

Posted by: DHume1 | December 17, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

The 2010 test scores in DC are down in every elementary grade and Rhee never provided and explanation. Dunbar is just a symptom of a much larger problem, and Valerie is on spot about the failure to effectively manage and make decisions that can qualitatively improve education. Things are not looking good in DCs youngest students or the students at Dunbar and now Rhee is looking to get paid while selling her supposed DC success. She reminds me of Sarah Palin.. A quitter who can't work for or with anyone or with any consistency of purpose. The only thing I can say now for Rhee is that she is finally being honest that her game is primarily political not educational. Thanks Valerie for continuing to lift the veil on the nonsense.

Posted by: rastajan | December 17, 2010 9:03 PM | Report abuse

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