The purpose of this blog is to know and understand the teacher's perspective concerning current issues on education reform and the teaching profession. Inputs from the ones who probably knows what is best for students academically -- the teachers -- are rarely considered in decision making of policies. Yet, these so-called education experts and lawmakers dictate how we do our jobs and what we should teach. That's not right!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Profile: Michelle Rhee -- The Poster Child for Education Reform Who Doesn't Embrace The Village

For official biography, click here.

Last week, DC voters ousted incumbent mayor Adrian Fenty for City Council Chairman Vincent Gray. It is said that perhaps the reason Fenty lost was due to his 2007 appointment and unwavering support of DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. An Ivy League graduate and Teach for America alumnus, Ms. Rhee has been shaking up the broken school system at the nation's capital for the past three years. Along the way, she has garnered local and national praises for her reform efforts and her hard-ball approach, while her critics cited her for being too abrasive and uncooperative. In a 2009 piece in Time magazine, it displayed evidence of her tough sentiments:

[Rhee] frequently sounds exasperated. "People come to me all the time and say, 'Why did you fire this person?'" she says. The whiny voice is back. "'She's a good person. She's a nice person.' I'm like, 'O.K., go tell her to work at the post office.' Just because you're a nice person and you mean well does not mean you have a right to a job in this district."

Her passion for education is commendable. Her zeal for change is uncompromising. She definitely has tough skin for the job. However, she doesn't embrace a collegial and collaborative spirit with others in the village to help bring about reform in schools, particularly the poor black communities her district serves. Consequently, according to The Root article on the election, Fenty only gained 19% of the black vote. Although she managed to negotiate a new contract with the local teacher union, her new teacher evaluation system caused the firing of hundreds of teachers, leaving a awful taste in her critics' mouths.

While I have briefly read and heard about her on the news and such, my personal views about her were solidified after watching yesterday's episode of Oprah on the upcoming educational documentary, Waiting for Superman. Rhee and some other education reform advocates were on the show discussing the film and its possible impact on public education. In my opinion, she comes off as an arrogant "know-it-all". I now understand how her critics feels about her lack of people skills. I was too through with Ms. Rhee when she made these comments about her quest of removing "bad teachers" on the Oprah show. In response, I shared with a friend my thoughts on her comments:

First of all, it is highly unprofessional for a principal to ousted a teacher like that in front of parents. Also, I am all for a principal to assist and provide mentors for an ineffective teacher than to throw him/her out of the profession. An effective teacher doesn't grow overnight. Like a plant, [he/she] has to be nurtured and supported.

My friend then shared with me this audio clip of Ms. Rhee speaking to an audience about her teaching experiences. Listen to what she had to say:

Isn't that ironic? Calling the kettle black? Using her own standards, MS. RHEE WOULD BE DEEMED AN INEFFECTIVE TEACHER!

This piece of evidence alone shows me it is not about the children after all. I mean, she doesn't have the credentials to be superintendent or a teacher in fact. This is about for-profit privatization of schools which will bring in revenue...surely not the kids! Consider her thoughts on the mayoral election results and her proposed professional future: 

"Yesterday's election results were devastating, devastating. ... Not for me, because I'll be fine, and not even for Fenty, because he'll be fine, but devastating for the schoolchildren of Washington, D.C."

She's right; she will be fine as another school district or education think tank will scoop her up. As long as the education reform propaganda continues, she will receive some love elsewhere. However, the only thing competent about Ms. Rhee is her thick skin to criticism. Like I said about Dr. Perry, it is a shame for someone like Ms. Rhee, who is well-educated and passionate about change, to overlook basic things; in her case, her failure to reach out to the village for support. Believe it or not, they want it too. Ms. Rhee should be showing them how to get more involved, instead of alienating them. Well, the people showed her and Fenty...

Listen up Ms. Rhee,

Learn not to ignore your constituents...or they will kick you to the curb!

One final note, it is interesting to note the IVY LEAGUE CONNECTION many of these high-prolific education reformer advocates have; most of them has no idea what it is like to be a teacher; yet, they are the "experts" on education reform.

Michelle Rhee
Chancellor of DC Public Schools
Cornell Univ. (Bachelor) and Harvard Univ. (Masters)
Geoffrey Canada
CEO,  Harlem Children’s Zone
Harvard Univ. (Masters)
David Guggenheim
Academy-awarding winning documentary director/producer for An Inconvenient Truth, and the upcoming education film, Waiting for Superman
Sidwell Friends School (private HS where the current US President’s children attending); Brown Univ. (Bachelor)
Bill Gates
Co-Founder and Chairman of Microsoft and philanthropist
Harvard Univ. – didn’t finished
Arne Duncan
US Sec. of Education
Harvard Univ. (Bachelor)
Barack Obama
Current US President
Columbia Univ. (Bachelor); Harvard Univ. (JD)
Roland Fryer
Professor of Economics and education  reform advocate
Harvard Univ.
Steve Perry
Principal, Capital Prep Magnet School in CT; CNN Education Contributor, & education reform advocate
Univ. of Pennsylvania -- graduate
Joe Klein
Chancellor of NYC Public Schools
Columbia Univ. (Bachelor); Harvard Univ. (JD)
John Legend
Award-winning R&B singer and activist
Univ. of Pennsylvania (Bachelor)


  1. I don't like her...but at the same time, I'm not going to write off everyone on that list just because they went to an Ivy League school.

    Columbia's Teacher's College is an excellent school...shoot, if I could, I'd get a degree there.

  2. To Me:

    Ms. Rhee didn't obtain an education degree. In fact, with the exception of Mr. Canada, everyone on that list do not have a Bachelor's degree in Education. Also, Mr. Canada and Ms. Rhee are the only ones with teaching experiences under their belt.

    I mentioned the Ivy League Connection to show how the these individuals are taking more seriously in public opinion regarding education reform issues than anyone else. One of the reasons I believe this to be the case is due to their Ivy League background.