Education Next Profiles D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee

Education Next Announcement

For Immediate Release: October 14, 2009

STANFORD — On the heels of protests this past week against D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s round of teacher firings, Education Next offers a behind-the-scenes look at the most dramatic education reform attempt in the history of the nation’s capital.

In “D.C.’s Braveheart,” available online and appearing in the forthcoming Winter 2010 issue of Education Next, former Wall Street Journal reporter June Kronholz digs into the substance and controversy of the Rhee-driven reforms.

In the excerpt below, Kronholz captures Rhee’s unyielding commitment to radically changing a broken school system–and the cost it is exacting.

Six weeks into the job Rhee called her staff together with the message that “we are not here to do the bureaucracy better.”

“That’s what all of our friends are doing in reform all around the country: They’re trying to make the trains stay on the track and go faster.” Rhee told her staff. “We are here to derail those trains.”

If upheaval is the goal, Rhee has succeeded. Teachers say she has set black teachers against whites and young teachers against veterans with her controversial 2008 contract offer.  Congressional Democrats worry that she has put them between a policy goal, school improvement, and their teachers-union allies. Education reformers are nervous that her outta-my-way approach will wound their movement if it backfires.

…Two years after Rhee’s arrival, [however], scores on district-administered tests are up: 49 percent of elementary school students were reading at grade level, a 21-percentage-point jump in two years, according to test results released in July 2009. Among secondary-school students, 40 percent were at grade level in math, up 13 points.

When asked to name her most significant achievement in her two years in Washington, Rhee tells Kronholz, “We have begun–begun–begun–to establish a culture of accountability,” with a long pause between each “begun.”

Read “D.C.’s Braveheart,” former Wall Street Journal reporter June Kronholz’s profile of D.C. Superintendent Michelle Rhee, now online at

**New Podcasts at**

  • Listen to the new Education Next podcast featuring Education Next’s editor-in-chief Paul E. Peterson and Thomas B. Fordham Institute President Chester E. Finn, Jr. discussing Chancellor Rhee and the education politics in Washington, D.C.
  • Listen to a special interview with Jason Kamras, deputy to Chancellor Rhee in charge of human capital. Kamras talks with Education Next about the new teacher evaluation system DCPS put in place this year.  Now all DCPS teachers will be evaluated based on student test scores (when available) and classroom observations (by principals and master educators), and poorly performing teachers may be fired, regardless of tenure.

Caleb Offley (585) 319-4541
Hoover Institution, Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305-6010

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