The Education of Michelle Rhee

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Producer John Merrow discusses the Frontline documentary “The Education of Michelle Rhee,” about the former chancellor of Washington, D.C., public schools, who is one of the most admired and reviled school reformers in America. The film looks at Rhee’s tumultuous three-year tenure as she attempted to fix D.C.’s school system. "The Education of Michelle Rhee" airs tonight at 10 pm on PBS.


John Merrow

Comments [14]

Ajay Jain from Dallas, TX, USA

The Voting Rights Act (VRA) must be upheld by the supreme court:

The numerous despicable attempts to restrict voting made during the last election cycle are proof of that. Anyone who truly believes the VRA is obsolete needs to recognize, given last year's voter suppression efforts, the Jim Crowe era is biding its time.

Now even if you are dumb enough to believe that all is OK with the world and there are no reasons to have the voting rights act on the books. Then why are the the parties at opposite end's on this? Why are the Republicans in America trying to keep people from the poles ?

The argument is that VRA is discriminatory against Southern states to require them but not other states to seek pre-clearance for voting laws; I actually agree. The Voting Rights Act should require *ALL* states to seek pre-clearance. After what we've seen the GOP try to pass in states all across the nation prior to the last 2012 election, I see no reason this safeguard against voter suppression should be limited to just Southern states as suggested by VRA of 1965 but now should be expanded to apply to ALL 50 states.

Ajay Jain
1209 Creekwood Drive
Garland TX 75044-2421

Mar. 14 2013 10:48 PM
Ajay Jain from Dallas, TX, USA

Michelle Rhee - The famous former Washington DC School District Chancellor

Michelle Rhee on OPRAH

Michelle Rhee on abc's ThisWeek

Michelle Rhee on The DailyShow with Jon Stewart FRONTLINE: The Education of Michelle Rhee

Why Teach For America works - Michelle Rhee

A Two-Tier Proposal for Teacher Pay - Michelle Rhee

Time Magazine: Rhee Tackles Classroom Challenge,9171,1862444-2,00.html

Michelle Rhee Discusses "Waiting for Superman," Charter Schools And Sch...

Stanford University: A Conversation on "Waiting for Superman"

"Radical" Fighting to Put Students First should be a must read for all members! Michelle Rhee's new book, "RADICAL: Fighting to Put Students First," is now in stores! For more information about where you can find it, to read an excerpt from the book, and to share your story about education in America visit the official site at or

Michelle Rhee at the ACE 2011 Spring Luncheon

Michelle Rhee and Kevin Johnson (4/20/11)

Michelle A. Rhee 03.17.11

Cornell Alumni: Olin Lecture 2012: Michelle Rhee '92

Harvard Public Health: Michelle Rhee, Former Chancellor of Washington D.C. Public Schools

Watch MAKER videos on StudentFirst Founder Michelle Rhee visit

Mar. 14 2013 10:46 PM
guy from nyc


Merrow admits that reporters love her because she is "remarkably candid" and media friendly, at the same time mentioning that the kind of tests Rhee and her reform types push to evaluate educators are not designed to measure any such thing. This alone undermines her entire approach, yet she is continually given a national stage because of the power of money. So we continually have to sit through Rhee's cynical "it's all for the children" nonsense.

NPR's reporting continues the lazy reporting strategy of false equivalency when Burstein says the issue is difficult because the temperature is so high "on both sides"--the temperature of Rhee's backers is not high because they have all the money and have locked up support at the highest level of government. Temperature runs high because it is hard to understand why such a discredited and obviously self-serving demagogue continues to be treated with media kid gloves.

Jan. 08 2013 12:40 PM
Jon from Bensonhurst

I'll reserve judgment 'til I see the program...but so far this sounds like a total "puff piece". The aging Mr. Merrow, an NPR and PBS lifer, comes off like a classic insider with platitudes about the state of education & lots of bureaucratic jargon--but in the end, just hollow words from a sycophant of Ms. Rhee.

Jan. 08 2013 12:33 PM
CF from NYC

Thank you for mentioning Campbell's Law so prominently. In our "data-driven" age it's going to be more and more important to understand that.

Jan. 08 2013 12:32 PM

Mr. Merrow seems far too hesitant to call Michelle Rhee what the evidence proves she is--a cheater and a fraud. She oversaw a school system that had wrong-to-right erasure rates that were far beyond statistical norms. She created an environment in which principals couldn't "succeed" by her standards without cheating. And then when they were caught cheating, she swept it under the rug so she could preserve her legacy. The DC govt and the Washington Post were complicit in the cover-up.

Jan. 08 2013 12:28 PM
Guy from NYC

What, none of these journalists can google Rhee to give some balance to their reports?

Her experience as a teacher? She taught for 3 years! Again, repetition of Rhee's self-promoting PR by reputable journalists is hard to explain if they are not influenced somehow.

My hypothesis:
The reason media accounts replace the words "fraudulent" with "controversial" and "scandalous" with "tumultuous" in their accounts of Rhee, giving implicit credence to the awful and continuing impact of this woman's agenda, is because she is backed by enough money to curb media independence.

Prove me wrong.

Jan. 08 2013 12:24 PM
David from New York, New York

Any good psychometrician worth his or her salt will tell you that when you disaggregate test scores down to the individual, there is a high degree of volatility. Therefore, a single test score should NEVER be used to determine a student's proficiency. Michelle Rhee has done incredible harm to the idea that teaching is a PROFESSION where you are supported along the trajectory of your career to improve. Rhee sees teaching as something you do for 2 or 3 years and then you go onto your "real" job. She's awful, just terrible!!!!

Jan. 08 2013 12:20 PM
Pablo Alto from da Bronx

Ms. Rhee has gotten much more coverage from the media than she earned as a so-called leader in the "education reform" movement. She fostered an atmosphere of intense mistrust among serious educators in the Washington DC school system, and her focus on standardized testing, charter schools, bashing teachers unions, and putting technology in the classroom without understanding whether or not there is sound pedagogy behind its use.

She and the major players (technocrats and serious $$$$) all have bought into the notion that those four factors are more important than anything else. Let me ask these questions:

1) Are the best schools in the nation beholden to the same restrictions?
2) What are the best practices in place in the best schools?
3) What can be done to share best practices rather than raising up more straw men to beat down?

Jan. 08 2013 12:19 PM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

I appreciate Mrs. Rhee's willingness to shake things up but ultimately - much of her reliance on standardized tests and results was flawed.

All of Stalin's apparachiks had near perfect grain yield numbers but we all knew better.

Jan. 08 2013 12:18 PM
Victoria Zunitch from Forest Hills

This Michelle Rhee fan is not talking about what children actually need from schools educationally, physically or developmentally: Latin and Real math, gym every day, play-based Kindergarten.
The current educational "reform" movement is actually an educational distortion movement.
Kindergarten and pre-K students are now sitting in desks all day doing worksheets to no positive effect.
Meanwhile, students are still not getting the optimal education previously afforded to our parents and grandparents in the 1930s and 1940s -- the kind where they study history and graduate high school know who Charlemagne is, Latin so they can be truly educated in letters, art history and gym. It's all about cutting education budgets and digitizing learning to benefit the corporation Bill Gates still chairs.

Jan. 08 2013 12:17 PM
Leo from Queens

Michelle Rhee, as well as the people running the Education department in NYC are driven by the numbers. It's about cooking the numbers long enough so they can get the money, promotions and accolades and then pass it on to the next group which has to figure out how to cook the numbers.

This is ENRON - except that instead of pocketing the investment and retirement funds of workers, these people are profiting by destroying the future of millions of children.

There is really no observable improvement here - It's cooking the numbers while children are being cheated out of an education.

Jan. 08 2013 12:16 PM
Guy from Brooklyn

Where, oh where will the media sympathy for this grandstanding, idea-less, most likely corrupt sociopath end?

Why don't the loving profiles of Rhee in the media go beyond her own talking points. Sure they mention in passing that her tenure in DC was "tumultuous" but rarely consult academics as to the quality of her ideas and influence? Most other NPR segments rely on university experts, why not their coverage of Rhee? Who "admires" Rhee? I want to know which big money funders are spreading this idea.

Also, please NY media, look into the pernicious influence of the unelected Rhee-founded TNTP on NY and US education policy!! Why are her organizations wielding so much power right in our own backyard?

Jan. 08 2013 12:16 PM
Wayne Johnson Ph.D. from Bk

Please ask Mr. Merrow about the cheating scandal under Rhee which was documented by USA Today and about which she refuses to speak with the reporters from USA Today. The woman is an anti-union fraud.

Jan. 08 2013 12:12 PM

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