Entries in Michelle Rhee (4)


Michelle Rhee: ‘Probably’ Shouldn’t Have Fired School Principal on National TV

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- During her three years as Washington, D.C. public schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee raised eyebrows with her tough-love approach to fixing a failing school system.

And the controversial education reformer made no apologies for her rough-and-tumble philosophy on “This Week” Sunday.

“My style is very deliberative and very focused on doing what’s right for kids.  And so I wouldn’t change that so much,” Rhee told me.  “Should I have fired ineffective principals?  Absolutely.  Should I have done so on national TV?  Probably not.”

Rhee’s tenure in D.C. was met with plenty of controversy: Unions and city residents criticized her for ending teacher tenure and closing 23 schools in one year alone. Rhee left her position after the mayor who hired her to lead the school district lost his bid for re-election, in part because of public opposition to Rhee.

Now she’s the author of a new book, “Radical: Fighting to Put Students First.” It’s an education manifesto inspired by Rhee’s own lessons learned in and out of the classroom, which Washington Post education reporter Bill Turque said portrays Rhee as ”a radical humbled by a dose of realism.”

Rhee said Sunday she’s OK with that characterization.

“When I first got to D.C., people, they said, ‘Well, gosh, she’s so radical. She’s a lightning rod.’ And in my mind, I was doing the things that seemed obvious to me, you know: closing failing schools, removing ineffective people, cutting a central office bureaucracy,” Rhee said. “Finally, I came to the conclusion that if bringing some commonsense solutions to a dysfunctional system makes me a radical, then so be it.”

Currently, Rhee heads “StudentsFirst,” a grassroots organization pushing for education reform. The group recently put out a report card on the nation’s schools, where just two states – Louisiana and Florida – earning the highest grades, with B-minuses.

Rhee’s book includes a revealing story about her trying to enlist President Clinton to join her education crusade. But Rhee, a devout Democrat who’s married to Kevin Johnson, the Democratic mayor of Sacramento, said education reform should be a bipartisan issue.

“One of the things that I learned in trying to bring on board people like President Clinton and other Democrats is, we really have to articulate a path forward, a path to success,” Rhee said. “Why Democrats and Republicans alike should take this issue on: because it is the most important issue facing our nation.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Michelle Rhee's Next Move: Florida Governor-Elect Rick Scott's Transition Team

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- An interesting move for former Washington, D.C. schools chief Michelle Rhee. She's joining Florida Republican Governor-elect Rick Scott’s education transition team.

Scott’s office made the announcement Thursday, calling Rhee “a nationally recognized education reformer,” who along with 17 other education leaders and experts -- mostly Floridians -- would help the governor-elect “find innovative ways to create a new education system for a new economy.”

It was less than two months ago that Rhee announced she was stepping down as chancellor of the district’s troubled public school system after a controversial three-and-a-half-year term.

During that period, Rhee ignited controversy for her aggressive efforts to reform Washington’s schools and clashed with teachers unions -- a point that has not been lost on Republicans like Scott.

But in the process, Rhee gained national notoriety and her next move has been the subject of speculation in education and political circles. She remained mum about her decision to join Scott's transition team in an appearance on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report Wednesday night.

"What is next for you? What job will you be forced out of next?" host Stephen Colbert joked to Rhee on the program. "Well, hopefully I won't be forced out of any job," Rhee replied, "but I'm trying to figure out what makes sense right now in terms of a next job."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Tim Pawlenty Blames ‘Corrosive Impact of Teachers’ Unions’ for Michelle Rhee's Resignation

Photo Courtesy - Governor dot State dot MN dot US(WASHINGTON) -- The resignation on Wednesday of Washington, DC public schools chief Michelle Rhee, who has become a lightning rod in the city and the education reform community, has already drawn a reaction from one potential 2012 presidential candidate.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, through his political action committee, released a statement praising Rhee as a “superwoman in education” and condemning the role that powerful unions played in her exit from the top job in one of the most troubled urban school districts in the country.

“Michelle Rhee's resignation is more evidence of the corrosive impact of teachers' unions in American schools,” Pawlenty said in the statement.  “Despite -- or maybe because of -- the early success of her school reforms, the teachers' unions worked tirelessly to stop her, showing no compassion for the thousands of children stuck in failing D.C. schools.”

He added that even though Rhee is leaving her position as chancellor of the D.C. school system, “her leadership is inspiring to reformers everywhere and will make it harder for the unions to defend the failed status quo.”

While it might seem a like a case of strange bedfellows for a Republican Midwestern governor and likely presidential hopeful to wade into local politics in the District of Columbia, Pawlenty’s comments are part of his broader effort to establish himself as a voice on national education issues as well as a critic of the influence of unions.

Last month when Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty was defeated by challenger Vincent Gray in the Democratic mayoral primary, Pawlenty issued a similar statement, criticizing teachers unions for spearheading a campaign against Fenty and Rhee.

“Fenty's loss is further evidence that despite all their rhetoric about 'the children,' what the teachers’ unions really care about is getting more money for jobs they can't lose at schools that produce students who are not prepared to compete,” Pawlenty said in a statement in September.

Fenty’s political fortunes were closely tied to his association with Rhee, who developed a hard-driving reputation during her three-and-a-half-year tenure, rubbing many teachers and parents the wrong way.

Pawlenty wrote an article for the National Review in early September that outlined his views on education reform and took direct aim at what he called a “cartel of teachers’ unions, bureaucrats, and politicians [that] has stood in the way of innovation, reform, and results.”

In the piece, Pawlenty held up Washington, D.C. and New York City as places where school officials were making real strides despite opposition from interest groups.

“The era of education policy written for and by teachers’ unions is drawing to a close,” Pawlenty wrote.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Controversial Education Reformer Resigns As D.C. Schools Chancellor

Photo Courtesy - Kris Connor/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Michelle Rhee, who made a reputation for being a firebrand reformer, resigned from her job as head of the D.C. Public Schools on Wednesday, a casualty of a bitterly fought mayoral race. Though Rhee and her take-no-prisoners education reforms were not officially on the ballot in D.C., when Rhee's champion, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, lost the Democratic primary last month, it was widely assumed that Rhee's tenure as schools chancellor would soon end.

At a press conference Wednesday morning in Washington, Rhee said that her decision to step down at the end of this month was one that she and the incoming mayor, City Council Chairman Vincent Gray, made together.

"This was not a decision that we made lightly, but it is one that I believe is absolutely essential to allow Chairman Gray to pursue our shared goal of unifying the city behind the school reform efforts that are making such a large difference in the lives of the children across the city. In short we have agreed together that the best way to keep the reforms going is for this reformer to step aside," Rhee said.

"I have put my blood, sweat and tears into the children of the District of Columbia for the last three and a half years and I completely enjoyed every minute of it," she said. "The thought of not being in this role anymore is heartbreaking, to put it mildly, but I do know that it is the right thing for the school system and the right thing most importantly for the children of D.C."

During her tenure, Rhee, who appears in the new hit documentary Waiting for Superman, became a national figure for school reform. Student test scores improved and dropout rates declined in the city. Rhee negotiated a controversial contract with the teachers union that enabled her to fire the lowest-performing teachers in the system and evaluate teachers based on their students' performances.

"All across the country now, because of Chancellor Rhee and her team, from the White House to documentaries, people are touting D.C. as a model for how to attack bureaucracy and get results in an urban school system," Mayor Fenty said.

But Rhee's approach to reform was not without controversy. In July, Rhee came under fire when she dismissed 241 teachers and put an additional 737 on notice. She has also been accused by the education community and District residents of alienating those around her. For example, in December 2008, her attitude was called into question when she posed on the cover of Time magazine with a broom in hand under the title "How to Fix America's Schools."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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