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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 01/ 5/2011

A satirical look at Rhee's 'Students First' (or how students fell to a tie for third)

By Valerie Strauss

Below is the lead “story” from a satirical Onion-esque publication designed for those of us who religiously follow education policy. The publication is called Education Tweak (, and it’s anonymously authored and published. The new issue is actually #14; the other 13 issues were published back in 2009, and this full issue and all the back issues are available at

By Education Tweak
Just weeks after launching her Students First campaign, former Washington D.C. Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee announced that Students have now fallen into a tie for third. “Students have to earn first,” Rhee explained. “Life is a competition, and Students seem to think I’ll let them remain in First even if they don’t show results.”

Rhee set the first-year fund-raising goal for Students First at an amazing $1 billion. With that sort of prize money, it’s hardly surprising that others have stepped forward in a healthy competition with students to be First.

Currently in the lead, according to Rhee, is Michelle Rhee herself.

“Just look at our web site,” she explained. “It’s all about me. I’m the one out there every day busting my hump and pretending to be so concerned and earnest. I’m the one with my mug on Newsweek’s cover. If students want to beat that they’re going to have to do more than just phone it in.”

After Rhee in the competition are Oprah Winfrey (in second) and Wall Street (currently tied with Students in third). Oprah gained major kudos for her courageous decision to host Rhee TWICE over the past six months.

As for Wall Street – how would Students First ever succeed without the hard work of billionaires? Besides, billionaires have been given their wealth by the Almighty as a sign that they are among the Elect.

Students, meanwhile, are not conceding. They plan to kill off their weakest 5 percent each week, or maybe just lock them in the basement, until those remaining meet Rhee’s standards for excellence.

“We considered trying to improve instead,” explained Becky, the group’s leader, “but there’s no support for that.”


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By Valerie Strauss  | January 5, 2011; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Laugh and cry, Michelle Rhee  | Tags:  edtweak, education tweak, michelle rhee, students first  
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I'm thinking Rhee is going to create for teachers who want to make students first.
She'll help "reform-minded" teachers who want to go it on their own and not join the UNION. She'll help them negotiate their own contracts with school districts to help them avoid paying UNION dues.

Posted by: edlharris | January 5, 2011 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Love great satire.....Education Tweak really nailed some elements in the tragicomedy being called education reform.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | January 5, 2011 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Fabulous satire - LOL

Before sending $ to “studentsfirst” request that Michelle Rhee (TFA) armed with her masking tape teach a minimum of two years at Central Falls HS to test her TFA highly-qualified skills and to pad her resume. Monitor the progress of her students every three weeks with software on a PDA and at the same time send profits to the multi-million dollar corporation and the company’s shareholders. Send test-prep homework home every night with profits going to a related test-prep mom/pop small business enterprise. Have her teach to the PDA results with matching bar graphs and charts in small groups. Send more test-prep homework home every night. Walk through her classroom to monitor the students’ progress.

Force Ms. Rhee’s students to take high-stakes practice tests every six weeks to “practice” for the state’s high stakes assessment in March. Send more test-prep homework home every night. Have her teach to the high-stakes practice tests. Walk-through her classroom to monitor the practice test results. Send more test-prep homework home every night with this round of profits funneled to certain “researchers” for the purchase of their aligned test-prep intellectual property developed with a federal grant. Send royalties to the "researchers."

Test Ms. Rhee's students with the “real” high stakes tests and funnel profits to the national testing conglomerates. Evaluate Ms. Rhee with the value-added merit pay system with profits funneled to the “value-added” developers and statisticians.

Feature Ms. Rhee’s reform methods in the national, state, and local media without disclosing she's on an improvement plan for low test scores.

Then, decide if your $ should be funneled to Michelle Rhee’s “studentsfirst” reform experiment based on her students’ test data collected in the big-brother database operated by multi-million dollar for-profit technology executives.

Posted by: nfsbrrpkk | January 5, 2011 2:16 PM | Report abuse

I went to Rhee’s website and saw this guest blog by Eric Bethel

The introduction states “Eric Bethel was a fifth grade teacher in the DC Public Schools when the new IMPACT teacher evaluation system was introduced last year,…” Among other things, he says, “In the next few weeks, I am set to receive a highly effective bonus that is about half of my entire teacher’s salary from last year.”

This is a clue that his article was written well before Rhee’s “StudentsFirst” website went up, as the bonuses were distributed before she left DCPS. Also “WAS a fifth grade teacher” is a clue, if you’re paying close attention, that perhaps teaching is in his past.

Only if you click on the link at the end of the article to “learn more about Eric Bethel” do your find out that Bethel is no longer a teacher at DCPS; he’s now a master educator. His accomplishments are touted: “Over the past four school years, Eric’s students averaged a proficiency rating of 76% per DC CAS. During the 2009-2010 school year, his students outgrew their peers by six DC CAS point with 48% proficient and 36% advanced.” The same description is on the DCPS website

You can’t help but wonder why his current position isn’t mentioned in the main article. Plus why mislead people about this? It’s no surprise that Bethel would go for the promotion, after he’d given up his job protections to accept the bonus. So now instead of having a "highly effective" teacher in the classroom, raising student achievement, we have a master educator who is rating other teachers on how many times they repeat the objective and how many students are paying attention, instead of sharing his knowledge on how to get the impressive gains he got. Notice that there is no discussion of how he did it, just that he did it.

The deception continues.

Posted by: efavorite | January 5, 2011 2:53 PM | Report abuse

efav: I enjoyed your satire. I guess you can no longer post such on TWT, but the Post is willing.

Just remember where Gray puts The Children compared with every one else, including DCPS employees.

Posted by: axolotl | January 5, 2011 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Good satire.

Posted by: educationlover54 | January 6, 2011 1:20 PM | Report abuse

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