Education activist Michelle Rhee has made quite the name for herself in education reform. While being a chancellor in the Washington D.C. school district, she closed 25 schools and laid off and fired about 300 teachers, principals and district office workers. The reason? “Students first” — Rhee’s slogan and guiding principle in education reform. During her time as chancellor, Rhee boasts that the pay-off for her drastic changes was seeing math and reading scores increase in the Washington D.C. school district, graduation rates rise and education funding increase.
In her new memoir, “Radical: Fighting to Put Students First,” the book begins with a glimpse into Rhee’s first experience as a young teacher in a difficult school district, where she had no control over her classroom and her students. By watching another teacher, she realized that it was not her students who were bad, but it was herself that needed to improve as a teacher. From there, she began to develop the belief of needing to let go of poor-performing teachers, regardless of tenure, and being able to measurably increase students’ math and reading scores.
Michelle Rhee tells AirTalk about her memoir and her current battles in education reform. Rhee supported California Senator Ron Calderon’s proposal to hold teachers accountable by more evaluations. How does she feel about that bill failing to pass? Also, Rhee weighs in on Governor Jerry Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula Proposal to increase funding for low-income students and English learners.
Does Rhee have any regrets about her past actions? Is there anything she would have done differently? What is vital to education reform in California?
Michelle Rhee, author of “Radical: Fighting to Put Students First;” founder and CEO of StudentsFirst; former chancellor to the District of Columbia Public Schools