Michelle Rhee's Education Reform

Friday, August 10, 2012

Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of the Washington DC school system and now the head of Students First NY, talks about the New York State advocacy group she's founded that's being described as a counter to the teachers' union. 

Comments [34]


@Stella, "As long as the system relies on homework as part of the curriculum, it will keep on failing."

WTH????????? Constant practice brings mastery! I can't believe some people don't even understand this very basic concept. Neither of my parents spoke English and neither went beyond 3rd grade. Our county had a hotline that we could call for homework help and it was completely free. Even if NYC doesn't have such a thing, as far as I know, telephones still exist; you can call your classmate for help, right?

Aug. 13 2012 06:52 PM
Howard Fischer from Staten Island, NY

I would like to thank Brian for his comments he made on July 30 and on Friday August 10. When you asked, what would young, aspiring students in our universities think when they learn how poor the attitude is towards teachers. I was so elated that you said that on the air. It is so true, and if anything positive could happen, it will be a "flow" of young, bright and enthusiastic young people into the teaching profession. In July, you asked "who is observing the observers" Wow thank you again bringing up a valid point. Rhee and the DOE Academy do not encourage, they only inject the system with a toxic attitude and philospohy.

Aug. 11 2012 02:47 PM

Brian, even the "Students First" website shows Ms. Rhee only has a masters degree. Chancellor & honoraria don't count.

Aug. 10 2012 04:42 PM
Former Teacher from NYC from NYC

To Greg from NYC,

There are jobs in NYC. There are NO Jobs for EXPERIENCED teachers. Once you worked for the DOE and left, it is virtually impossible to get back in. I have been subbing for three years in middle and high schools and have seen multiple new college graduates hired in non-shortage areas. As for reading teachers, they do not want READING teachers, only LITERACY teachers- kind of reminds me of the United Nations designations for third world countries- ARE THE POPULATIONS LITERATE? The more knowledgeable you are about education, the LESS likely you will get a job. Additionally, everyone at the DOE knows this.

Good Luck.

Aug. 10 2012 01:24 PM
Matt from NYC

Re: Earlier comment -

Every time I mention that I believe the fundamental problems with education is in regards to discipline, I get depressed.

I grew up with black people and all other types of people

It seems that, unfortunately, that if you didn't grow up with black people etc., the average white person refuses to have this idea that discipline could be the problem.

When I was in school: you did wrong you got suspended

Let's have the respect, to treat black people the same

Let's identify the problem:

Every kid who walks into a classroom hast to learn. (period)

The average white person, in my opinion, who didn't grow up in an interracial community, just kind of thinks that the discipline problems are inherent rather than created by weird liberal deference to inappropriate behavior.

They're doing every child a disservice with this attitude

Aug. 10 2012 11:18 AM
Chris from NYC

After hearing this discussion about education, something really stuck with me with respect to the reality of public education. My comment really focuses on the comment where teachers give reading material/homework before they are able to teach it in the classroom. That is the way my professors in college and grad school taught, but its completely different because students are expected to be able to complete the work successfully. At younger ages, confidence and comfort levels in the classroom are completely different and it's pretty ridiculous that this could happen. Beyond being against this standardized test focus, it seems that the public school system is in the process of being privatized and this example of teaching methods is an indirect reflection of how the public school system is being privatized.

For the record, I'm an architect and I never did well in standardized tests. Today, I'm a working architect/designer and I'm also an artist. I was always strong in math and I performed above average in the class setting, but when it came to standardized tests, I always performed mediocre. A perfect example of this is my math placement exam going into college. I took AP calculus classes in my senior year of high school, but when I took the math placement exam, they placed me lower than pre-calculus classes. I don't buy into the validity of standardized tests because they never measured me in a way that I agreed with. I am not ashamed to say that I performed poorly in standardized tests, because I am confident in my abilities. Standardized tests could be used as a weapon if calibrated in a particular way and closing schools that perform poorly also correlate to low income areas. Interpret as you like.

Aug. 10 2012 11:14 AM
susan from new york

Hmmm - America as the land of economic opportunity and upward mobility. Schools run by hedge fund managers - that's the solution? Yes, hedge fund managers are definitely the bastions of values we need to ensure economic mobility.

Aug. 10 2012 10:59 AM
Stella from NYC

As long as the system relies on homework as part of the curriculum, it will keep on failing. It is very unfair that some kids have no or few siblings and a stay at home parent to guide them with homework and others have several siblings and working or absent parents.

Aug. 10 2012 10:58 AM

@dba from nyc

It doesn't look like she has a PHD:


"She graduated from the private Maumee Valley Country Day School in 1988, and went on to Cornell University where she received a B.A. in government in 1992. She later earned a master's degree in public policy from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government."

Aug. 10 2012 10:54 AM
Chris Garvey from libertarian

See the works of John Taylor Gatto.

Aug. 10 2012 10:51 AM
Stephanie from Long Island

My concern with Charter Schools is that they get to pick and choose their students. Students apply to the schools and are accepted based on merit. Then, all the low-performing students and special-needs students go to the public schools... the dice are loaded. Yet, the charter schools, statistically, do not perform any better than public schools.

Having worked in a middle-performing school that was consistently improving, I was surprised at how illogical the School Board was in making decisions. Our school had recently begun using the Core Knowledge program and our principal had, upon teacher request, purchased a new, highly-researched, reading program to help our students progress. We had completed our 2nd year in Core Knowledge and the 1st year of the new reading program when we were told we would be shut down. The students in the new programs were improving substantially. They had not allowed for the new programs to fully take effect. I see that this is common practice... the every year or two there is a new program handed down or a new way of teaching and none of them are permitted to take effect. Learning is a process.

Aug. 10 2012 10:42 AM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

Greater than the problem of social mobility is the theft of the earning power of middle class wages. Over the last 50 years, the average wage has increased by a factor of eight but the overall economy has grown 24 times. This is the formula that has pushed the average American earner into poverty. Union workers (teachers) have kept their earnings more closely aligned the overall growth in GDP...No wonder the rest of us resent them.

NCLB was a crock but look at the dunderheaded thinking behind the implementation. If I had spent one third of my classroom time studying for a multiple choice test, I would have been uninspired, too. Our long-term fix is to put our 'best and brightest' into productive industries that build new wealth - engineering, creative fields - not FINANCE where their brains are used to find loopholes in the tax code and move money from one pocket to another.

Aug. 10 2012 10:40 AM
Kate from Larchmont, NY

Some people lobby their way into charter schools, but who cares about all the others? I am a lifelong teacher (doctorate in education) who has been studying education systems in CUBA for the past 10 years. Cuba, a poor island, scores at the top of the charts on international achievement tests--along with Finland, Singapore, etc. How can a poor nation accomplish this while educating ALL of the people? My forthcoming book will address that.

Aug. 10 2012 10:39 AM
Guy from NYC

Brian's referring to Rhee as Dr." was noted by many commentators.

This is evidence of the way the media has to work harder. Here we have Rhee, all of 3 yrs in the classroom before becoming a political attack machine who's tenure was scandalized by cheating, etc.

In the other corner, we have Ravitch, who is actually a Dr., with a Phd and years of study and peer reviewed publishing. Yet Brian presents both voices as equivalent!

Aug. 10 2012 10:34 AM
Greg from NY Metro

My wife is a former NYC school teacher and editor at Time for Kids magazine. She has a teaching masters with a specialty in reading. She's extremely talented and cares deeply about her kids. She's taught in hardcore neighborhood public schools in Red Hook and Harlem. She left teaching to raise our daughter for 4 years and has been trying to get back into the profession for the last year and half but there's one problem: THERE ARE NO JOBS. She has friends in the board of ed who tell her to forget it, no jobs for qualified teachers in her area (middle school social studies and reading). It pains me deeply to hear Michelle Rhee make a plea to college students to join the teaching profession when there are no jobs available in the NYC system.

If you disagree with this comment on the lack of jobs or better yet, if you know of an available reading or social studies middle school teaching role please comment here.

Thank you!

Aug. 10 2012 10:34 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Oh, so this WAS a rebroadcast. Interesting how it wasn't totally obvious.

Aug. 10 2012 10:31 AM
sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

Got it, re-broadcast.

Aug. 10 2012 10:31 AM
Bill from New Rochelle

Here in New Rochelle, 10% of the students are in "special categories" mental limits, ESL, emotional problems) There students use more than 25% of our school budget.

Chater schools cream-skim. Show me a charter school with the same, or more "special students" ratio as their school system.

Aug. 10 2012 10:29 AM
Guy from NYC

Rhee is fact challenged.

Charter schools are not shown to be better than traditional public schools, despite the cherry picking, the counseling out of special needs and homeless students, etc.

Rhee thinks repeating something--that the single most important factor in public education is the "quality of teacher"--makes it true, but every time i hear this, I listen, but no support is given. In this taped segment, Rhee says the research she is talking about the "research" is from talking to parents? That isn't data, that's rumor.

Aug. 10 2012 10:28 AM

There is a simple solution! Pay the teachers at least $60k and hire ONLY top of the class graduating students. Teachers should have degrees in what they teach and ONLY training in teaching. It is silly that people get education degrees, when in fact they should have math, science, history, and english degrees. Education degrees should be only for administrators.

Aug. 10 2012 10:28 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Teachers are powerless. Some are great despite that fact, but the idea that every class is going to get a "great" teacher, i.e., a very popular and beloved star personality that sweeps the kids off their feet, is as unrealistic as for most women waiting for a great lover to do the same.

Aug. 10 2012 10:27 AM
Matt from NYC

Brian, I taught here in Bed Stuy (rough neighborhood) for a couple of years. I also grew up and went to Public School here.

The only difference I found between my education and theirs was a lack of discipline, brought about by the nuetering/dismantling of the Principals union .

There's no appetite for suspension or discipline, because the Principal's jobs are so tenuous, and thus they want no paper trail of suspension etc.

The solution is actually more Unionization of both the Principal's and the teachers such that they both can feel comfortable to do their jobs and thus do right by the kids.

Aug. 10 2012 10:27 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

At least she stays on point. This sounds exactly like an interview from a few months back. Is this a re-broadcast?

Aug. 10 2012 10:27 AM
Sean Pisano

When did schools become a business? How can you have a highly functioning teacher when you do not want to reward them?

Aug. 10 2012 10:24 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Yes, the human condition is largely farcical. But must we so frequently look nonsense in the face and not see it for what it is? And not shut it down?

Aug. 10 2012 10:22 AM
John from NYC

These call-ins by teachers invested in the FAILD system are disgusting.

Aug. 10 2012 10:20 AM
dba from nyc

Michelle Rhee has all of THREE years of teaching experience in the classroom. What qualified her to become Chancellor of DC, and now so-called expert on education is mind boggling. Furthermore, if she was such a superior teacher in the classroom, why didn't she stay in the classroom so that the children could beneift from her expertise? Likewise, if Teach for America hipsters are so superior to veteran "deadwood" teachers, why do most of them abandon the classroom in droves following the end of their commitment period of 2 years or may be 3? Simple reason: teaching the classroom is damned hard work for not much money. Finally, TFA has been around for 20 years, yet low scores in underachieving schools have remained quite stable. The achievement gap will continue to persist until the rate out of wedlock children will decrease so that all the resulting emotional and cognitive problems that teachers have no control over will diminish.

Finally, why does Brain refer to her Dr. Rhee? Is she a PHD?

Aug. 10 2012 10:19 AM
Guy from NYC

Also, I do appreciate Brian's formulation of this segment, but we really do need to stop giving oxygen to this fire until the DOE's Office of the Inspector General finishes the investigation into Rhee's tenure in DC, "erasergate."

Rhee made her reputation on test scores and now advocates "value added" testing of teachers, a horribly flawed and unproven set of evaluations, and charter schools--not proven to outperform public schools--an agenda that has been railroaded down our throats by "reformers."

Keep Rhee out of NY!

Aug. 10 2012 10:19 AM
Tom Pinch

"...his grades, SAT’s and college grades were so ATROCIOUSLY BAD..."

if they are sealed, then you just totally made this up.

And you do know this is not a live show.

Aug. 10 2012 10:18 AM

@Chuzzlewit --

Way to stay on topic.

Aug. 10 2012 10:18 AM

School reform, charter schools and private schools are not necessarily the answer.

Gosh, look at our President.

Barack Obama attended a private school in Oahu (Punahou Academy) that has the wealthiest endowment of any school in America …. and yet his grades, SAT’s and college grades were so ATROCIOUSLY BAD that he has had to keep them sealed from the public. (They must be terrible because his campaign has spent a LOT of money to keep them hidden.)


Aug. 10 2012 10:14 AM
Guy from NYC

Thanks for shining a light on corporate education "reform." Accountability for everyone but the corporate reformer!!

Rhee makes money and gains notoriety by pointing to a bogey man and exploiting public ignorance; nothing she stands for helps "the children" but it sure does further her career and the careers of other soulless opportunists like her.

The public needs to ask serious questions: what union busting has to do with the quality of education (let's see the numbers), how has testing actually has been shown to impact education, what exactly is a "highly effective" teacher or a "great" principle? What exactly are Rhee's qualifications and where is she getting her funding from?

Rhee's strategy is not unlike Bush's Iraq strategy: distract the public with a bogeyman invented from whole cloth ("bad teachers"), wrap yourself in the flag (or the "kids" in this case), and do whatever it takes to further your own interests, no matter what the consequences are for the country.

Thank god this hedge funded garbage is being contested by Ravitch; the public has been woefully misled by the debate so far.

Aug. 10 2012 10:12 AM
Janos from NYC

Ms. Rhee only has a Masters, so you can stop calling her "Dr. Rhee".

Aug. 10 2012 10:11 AM
Barbara from New York City

Ms. Rhee, bought and paid for by ALEX. Her reform is about privatization and elimination of the public school system of the United States. Wake up and smell the roses. Do listen to Diane Ravitch, who has earned her understanding about what makes schools work for the children and the teachers. Thank you for allowing her to address Ms. Rhee philosophy to its purpose.

Aug. 10 2012 10:08 AM

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