Archives for category: Rhee, Michelle

I came across an article in the Washington Post by Michelle Rhee, in which she chastised parents who opted their children out of state tests. This article made me happy, because it shows that the Queen Bee of high-stakes testing is worried. She is worried that the opt out movement is gaining traction. She is worried that parents are sick of the Status Quo of the past dozen years. If parents opt out, there won’t be enough data to fire teachers, to give bonuses, and to close schools. The Status Quo might collapse. How will we know how students are doing if we don’t test them? How will we know if their teachers are any good without standardized tests? How will we know if their school should be closed?

I must say that I was brought to a sharp halt in my reading of this article when Rhee spoke of what happened when her daughter came home from public school, relieved that the last test was over. This puzzled me because Rhee lives in Sacramento, and her daughters live in Nashville. I wondered, was she visiting Nashville that day? Then I remembered that one of her daughters goes to a public school, and the other goes to an elite private school that does not give standardized tests. How does she know how the daughter in the private school is doing? How can she judge her teachers? How will the principals in that school know if the teachers are doing a good job if the kids don’t take standardized tests? It is very puzzling.

And I wondered about one other thing: Michelle Rhee is a fierce advocate for charters and vouchers because she believes in choice. Why doesn’t she believe that parents should be able to choose to say no to state testing? Many voucher schools are exempt from state testing but I haven’t heard her demand that legislators include them. How will they know how their children are doing?

I wasn’t going to write about Rhee, because she seems so yesterday, but then Peter Greene sent me this hilarious post, and I realized I had to write too. But he is so funny! he calls it: “The WaPo Wastes Space on That Woman.”

We have heard constant patter about who opposes Common Core. According to Arne Duncan, only the Tea Party and a few disgruntled cranks oppose it.

But more interesting is who supports Common Core. Aside from Arne Duncan and the organizations that created it, Common Core has the fervent support of Jeb Bush, Michelle Rhee, a dozen hard-right Republican governors, and corporate America.

Erin Osborne has created a useful graphic to show who supports Common Core. Read it here.

The bloggers at have proposed what they call “the fight of the century” to replace “the fight of the century that wasn’t.”

They refer to the debate that never happened between Michelle Rhee and me.

They refer to efforts by Lehigh University to set up a debate between us on February 6, which did not happen because Rhee kept raising new demands and eventually backed out when she said she could not find a third debate partner.

They offer a few conditions that might make this debate actually happen.

See if you think they suggest a workable format.

Dr. Yohuru Williams teaches history at Fairfield University in Connecticut.

In this post, he condenses the lessons of the best-seller All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, reducing sixteen lessons to only six. They are on point and hilarious.

These are six rules to live by and to learn by. School would be a far better place for learning if everyone took Dr. Williams’ good advice.

Here are two of his rules:


  • Play fair. (Of course, this is impossible when the ultimate measure of a student’s success is reduced to how well they perform on standardized tests). Recent cheating scandals, involving some of the luminaries of Corporate Education Reform, illustrate the danger of a hyper-competitive model of education that substitutes standardization for innovation instead of more organic and battle-tested measures of student achievement.


· Don’t hit people. Or yell at people (Chris Christie), or make up facts (Stefan Pryor), or denigrate parents (Arne Duncan), or brag about taping the mouths of children shut (Michelle Rhee), or lie about test scores. Take your pick. But seriously, the crass manner in which the apostles of corporate education reform have “engaged” parents and teachers from Connecticut to California demonstrates how little respect they have for the communities or “children” whom they claim to value. See also: Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

Michelle Rhee is on a national vendetta against teachers. According to an investigation by a special unit of Al Jazeera, Rhee has poured large sums into a campaign to attack unions and teachers in California, using the services of a politically powerful lobbyist in Sacramento.

Since there is no research to support her campaign to destroy unions and to eliminate due process from teachers, her crusade is either an ego trip or payback for her failure to crush the teachers in DC.


On February 6, Michelle Rhee preferred to speak to the Minneapolis business leadership instead of debating me.

But fortunately, I got a first-hand report from someone who attended the event and explained who spoke and what they said.

Rhee, as is her custom, advised the audience that the path to excellence begins with eliminating tenure or due process for all teachers. That way, they can be fired immediately, for any reason, with no hearing. I wondered if anyone in the audience asked for examples of states or districts that have no due process for teachers and have achieved outstanding results.

There was, of course, a lot of talk about data, data, data. Big data will solve all problems since children are interchangeable widgets.

The last speaker, Kati Haycock, warned that low-income students were assigned far too many inexperienced teachers. The reporter wondered if she was talking about TFA, which is a dominant force in Minneapolis.

One of our Marion’s leading experts on teacher evaluation, Audrey Amrein Beardsley, here evaluates Michelle Rhee’s efforts to promote her failed ideas in South Carolina.

Rhee trots out her familiar rhetoric about bad teachers and failing schools in one of the nation’s poorest states, urging them to buy her snake oil. Will they buy? Or will they do some research?

The Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce announced an “education summit” on February 8, featuring the ever-controversial Michelle Rhee (who canceled out of our debate at Lehigh University on February 6). The original sponsors, in addition to the Chamber, included Target, General Mills, and Thomson Reuters. But then something strange happened, as investigative journalist Sarah Lahm discovered. All the names of the sponsors were removed.


Lahm writes that “controversial education reform purveyor Michelle Rhee will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming Summit, and her pending appearance, along with the Chamber’s national support for the Common Core State Standards, sparked protest from some local and national advocacy groups that organize against corporate education reform movements. Word quickly spread through social media, and some of the local groups, such as Minnesotans Against the Common Core and Save the Kids, organized a call-in protest to the Chamber of Commerce and the event’s corporate sponsors. These groups are also planning a “Stand for Kids” rally at the Summit.

“The details of the Summit, which will include not only Michelle Rhee’s speech but also an appearance by former Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak, among others, were also brought to the attention of the Minnesota Badass Teachers Association (MN BATs), which is the local off-shoot of the National BAT Association, started in 2013. Their Twitter account, as well as that of other local education Tweeters, includes information about the Summit and appeals to Target, in particular, about their alleged sponsorship of the event.”

Lahm tried to find out why the sponsors disappeared or merely hid their names but she was rebuffed at every turn.

The moral of the story: corporations don’t like controversy.

As readers of this blog know, Michelle Rhee promised to debate me at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania last spring.

The date was set, at her request, on February 6.

Then she demanded a second, and I agreed. (Her second was going to be Rod Paige.)

Then she demanded a third, and I agreed.

Then she said she couldn’t find a third, and she canceled.

Now I learn she is speaking to the Chamber of Commerce in Minneapolis on February 6, where she will bring the message that the way to have great schools is to fire teachers and use test scores as the absolute judge of students, teachers, principals, and schools.

She is speaking during the day so it is not likely that there will be teachers or students present.

I wish she would debate me. I would even accept a fourth or a fifth. We could each bring a team and mud-wrestle.

But no basketball. She would bring you-know-who, and I am not that tall.

Come on, Michelle. Just do it.

John Merrow, who doggedly pursued the cheating scandal in D.C. here takes issue with someone named John Buntin who wrote of a fictional match-up between Michelle Rhee and me.

Merrow chides Buntin for ignorance of the facts that Merrow covered. He sent this letter, but got no reply:

“I have a couple of observations about your Rhee/Ravitch piece that I hope you don’t mind my sharing. The first is a minor quibble about the firing scene. We filmed that as part of my NewsHour coverage–we followed the young Chancellor for her entire three years in DC (12 NewsHour reports). Only later did we include it in our film for Frontline. I allowed Oprah to use the footage, and Davis Guggenheim appropriated it without our permission for “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” although he did eventually pay us for using it.
My second objection is substantial and has to do with Rhee’s record as Chancellor. Not long after she departed, USA Today broke the story of widespread erasures on the DC-CAS, the city’s standardized test, during Rhee’s first and second years. We covered that in our Frontline film.

“However, AFTER the film I obtained a copy of a confidential memo that made it clear just how much she knew of the erasures and how she failed to act. That is summarized here:

“While “Rhee vs. Ravitch” is a compelling headline and a sexy feature, it’s a roadblock to understanding American education. Ravitch is a passionate advocate who argues from facts. In contrast, Rhee’s policies were tried, and they failed. By almost every conceivable measure, the DC schools are no better than before her tenure. In key areas of student attendance, graduation rates, and principal and teacher turnover, they are worse. Central offices in abutting districts have shrunk, but DCPS’ has grown considerably. Even DC’s most recent gains on NAEP, which began 12-15 years BEFORE Rhee’s tenure, seem to have been fueled by an influx of better-educated families (gentrification) and quality pre-school. Here’s a summary:

“I urge you to revisit this story. There is a titanic struggle going on in public education, one that is complex and deserving of coverage. Using Michelle Rhee as symbolic of ‘one side’ is misleading, unfortunately. Wendy Kopp and Teach for America might better represent one side and Ravitch another, although the issue has more than two sides.”

A good response from John Merrow. Read the whole thing as it is quite interesting.

Mr. Buntin, not known to me, should have covered–or pretended to cover–the debate I was supposed to have with Michelle Rhee on February 6 at Lehigh University. She agreed to the debate, agreed to the date but then began making demands about the format. First, she demanded that we needed seconds. She chose Rod Paige, who had been Secretary of Education in the George W. Bush administration. After a long silence and no signed contract, she required that we have two partners. My choices: Pasi Sahlberg of Finland and Helen Gym, parent leader from Philadelphia. Again a long silence. Rhee then cancelled, saying she could not find a second partner. All very puzzling.


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