That’s Right Nate

Thoughts from a right thinker.

Michelle Rhee and the Washington Education Miracle Part I

with 19 comments

Previously, I have posted about the wonderful work done by basketball player turned educator Arne Duncan in Chicago.   Tonight, we  look at the dynamic young go getter who is  saving the Washington DC public schools.  Her accolades are many with education luminaries like Oprah and George W. Bush singling her out for praise.

Michelle Rhee began her teaching career where it ended at Harlem Park Community School in Baltimore from 1992-1995.  According to her official biography, Rhee was praised in the Wall Street Journal and on Good Morning America for her success as a classroom teacher.   Unfortunately, when the Daily Howler did a search they could find no record of any Good Morning America appearance or writeup in the Wall Street Jorunal.   This is a shame as I am sure they were amazing.  Her claims of huge gains among her students also couldn’t be substantiated, but I’m sure they were likewise amazing.  We were able to find one newspaper article that praised the cleaner hallways at the school, but I am not sure if she actually had anything to do with the cleaning detail.

Michelle Rhee’s recent comments on her teaching career are even more inspiring.   Rather than being the educational wunderkind of her official biography, Rhee struggled in the classroom at least  initially.   In the recent article on her in Time Magazine, it states, “Rhee suffered during that first year [of teaching], and so did her students. She could not control the class. Her father remembers her returning home to visit and telling him she didn’t want to go back.  She had hives on her face from the stress.”

That really doesn’t matter.  What matters is that somewhere in her second two years of teaching, Michelle found the secret to being an outstanding teacher and immediately left the classroom.   It’s a very good thing she did  because had she stuck around in the classroom, her teaching experience would have disqualified her from most positions in education reform leadership.  After leaving the classroom, Rhee went into teacher recruitment before being hired in 2007 to be Superintendent [Chancellor–see comments] of DC Public Schools.

Rhee represents the new thinking in education reform that believes that the biggest impediment to education is teachers who have different concepts of how a classroom actually works than business people and politicians do.   These people believe that the main reason companies outsource production overseas is not because they can pay employees 17 cents an hour, but because our schools are not as good as Haiti’s or Sri Lanka’s.

In the second part, I’m going to look at the way Michelle Rhee has found to get rid of older teachers and replace them with more energetic new teachers who as a bonus also cost the district less money.

[Click here to read part 2]


Written by thatsrightnate

October 21, 2009 at 7:08 pm

19 Responses

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  1. […] Blogger lauds the ‘Washington Education Miracle.’ […]

  2. The nail has been hit on the head!


    October 22, 2009 at 12:00 pm

  3. Her title is Chancellor, not superintendant. I’m a DCPS parent and the combination of mayor take-over (Mayor Fenty), the new crowd at central administration (Chancellor Rhee and her group, and the “Modernization Czar” Allen Lew (brought the $600m+ give-away stadium for the Nats in on budget/schedule) have made a WORLD OF DIFFERENCE in the most positive ways. Leads me to a question — why was it SO BAD FOR SO LONG? What about holding some public officials accountable for the long slide — Williams, Pratt/Kelly, Barry, Washington, et al? Because we had an elected school board all those years? Please don’t insult my intelligence. This city, governed by a majority vote, was more interested in patronage than educating and helping our children. Sad. But true. (And once the patron’s beneficiaries ate at the trough, they moved out of the District to the ‘burbs!)

    Tom M.

    October 22, 2009 at 12:58 pm

  4. Yes, the mayoral takeover in Chicago has done wonders as well. That’s why 14 years later, Chicago is the envy of other cities. I think it’s awesome that the Nats $600 million dollar stadium was brought in on schedule so that their $30 million ballclub now has a fitting place to play. I hope you’ll stay tuned to my story in part 2 tonight. There are so many positive things going on in Washington’s schools that I couldn’t fit it all in one article. By the way, do you think Rhee was a struggling teacher who became an educational genius or do you think she was always an educational genius? I think so highly of this woman that I love both her biographies.


    October 22, 2009 at 1:50 pm

  5. Hi, Tom M – could you cite some evidence of how Rhee has made a world of difference?

    And how do you feel about her lying on her resume?


    October 22, 2009 at 2:55 pm

  6. I’m a DCPS parent and while I was in the pro-Rhee camp at first (she does give a great interview!) I have to say I’m ready for her to “work her magic” elsewhere.

    She has made things much, much worse at the school my children attend. Of course everyone, including myself, are afraid to say much. I really like our experienced and highly-skiled principal (who is not a Rhee-under-40-wunderkid) and I know speaking out about the disasters that Rhee has brought about could bring repercussions down on our little elementary school.

    I can’t wait to see part II.

    DCPS parent

    October 22, 2009 at 3:12 pm

  7. Thanks DCPS parent. I hope it’s worth the wait


    October 22, 2009 at 3:48 pm

  8. […] very thoroughly, there is no substitute for your first hand comments.  If you missed Part 1, you can read it here. ] Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Michelle Rhee and the Washington Educational […]

  9. She’s still saying it – just yesterday on the AFRO blog:

    “During my experience in Baltimore, I taught in one of the poorest communities in the city, in one of the worst performing schools. In my second and third years of teaching we took a group of kids who were performing at the absolute bottom and took them to the top in terms of their achievement levels.”

    Gotta hand it to her – a well-respected Dean at MIT got fired ater 28 years on the job, once it was found that she had lied on her resume when she first applied there.

    According to the NYT account, “she admitted that she had fabricated her own educational credentials, and resigned after nearly three decades at M.I.T. Officials of the institute said she did not have even an undergraduate degree.”

    “‘I misrepresented my academic degrees when I first applied to M.I.T. 28 years ago and did not have the courage to correct my résumé when I applied for my current job or at any time since,’ Ms. Jones said in a statement posted on the institute’s Web site. ‘I am deeply sorry for this and for disappointing so many in the M.I.T. community and beyond who supported me, believed in me, and who have given me extraordinary opportunities.’”

    I wonder when Rhee’s apology is coming?


    October 22, 2009 at 8:12 pm

  10. Well, at least she is sticking with the second story. She hasn’t been telling that one as long.


    October 22, 2009 at 9:20 pm

  11. I also would like Tom to return and tell readers of this blog which D.C. school(s) his child or children attend, and detail the many significant changes he has witnessed first hand at this school or schools. My son is a 2006 graduate of Wilson High (discussed in Part II), and I was aghast at the forced separation of Dr. Siebens. However he was not the only excellent teacher let go under the guise of adjusting the faculty to make AYP. One correction though: the termination of a group of teachers was done prior to Mr. Cahall’s arrival by an interim principal of a couple of months’ duration who knew essentially nothing about the school. Dr. Cahall repeatedly declined to re-examine the decisions made by his predecessor, probably because of pressure from “downtown”–although Ms. Rhee insists that she gives her principals complete autonomy.

    Andrea Rosen

    October 23, 2009 at 9:40 pm

  12. […] the first month of school.  If you haven't read the other parts of this exciting tale, please start with part I] Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Michelle Rhee and the Washington Educational […]

  13. […] [As always, I appreciate feedback and comment whether you are in DC or not.  If you missed the other 3 parts of this story, please go to part 1.] […]

  14. Regarding her 13th-to-90th-percentile claims, one must conclude that Michelle Rhee is—to borrow a phrase from a Lousa May Alcott—“a lying cunt.”

    Jack Covey

    October 27, 2009 at 1:40 pm

  15. Hope you will check out a local DC education blogger who writes stories in real time about Chancellor Rhee’s (not qualified to be a superintendent) dismantling of public education. The goal of Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee is to privatize Washington, DC all in the name of reforming our city. Their goal is to break all the unions in DC and give hefty contracts to their already rich friends and associates.

    The title of the blog is The Washington Teacher @

    It is a real time blog with insights from a DC insider as well as many DC teachers and parents telling you the other side of the reform story that rarely gets told. Hope you check it out.

    DC Teach

    November 9, 2009 at 7:48 am

  16. Thank you for the link. This is very much the same thing Daley is trying in Chicago. The more control the mayor has, the more patronage he has control over.


    November 9, 2009 at 8:21 am

  17. Jack Covey, you are soooo right!

    Five to go

    December 6, 2009 at 5:06 pm

  18. […] now, ready to be illuminated by corporations with heart.   One of the big stars of this movie is Michelle Rhee who I wrote a 4 part series on previously.  You’ll find it […]

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