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Where Rhee went wrong

Love her or hate her, you've got to give Michelle Rhee credit for one thing: she's not afraid of change. The outgoing D.C. schools chancellor, who resigned yesterday after more than three controversial years trying to reform Washington's public schools, made radical changes to the district's education system, earning both admiring fans and vocal critics for closing schools, firing under-performing teachers and making the system far more test-score driven.

Now that the dust has settled on the news of her departure, Rhee's tenure has plenty to teach leaders about managing change. While the views on Rhee's record are decidedly mixed, even supporters are likely to agree she violated one of the fundamental rules of change management: Rhee was never really able to enlist support from the people--namely teachers and parents--who would ultimately implement the changes she hoped to instill.

There appear to be many reasons that didn't happen. For one, Rhee had a bold, confrontational style that turned off many. She used words like "crappy" and "criminal" to describe the school system and the district's math scores. As a result, her candor seemed too far at times. According to this report, she told teachers and parents "I'm not going to pretend to solicit your advice so you'll feel involved, because that's just fake." While her supporters may argue that Rhee's approach was essential for shaking up the D.C. system, for many she was simply too brash, too blunt and too brutally honest.

In addition, she spent too much time criticizing the very organization she was trying to change. The education D.C. children received was something "every single citizen in this country should be embarrassed by," to hear her tell it. While the state of public education in Washington may indeed be dismal, statements like that can sound like an insult. When managing a turnaround, there's often little to be gained by so caustically condemning the system of which the people they need to rally are a part.

Moreover, she oversimplified the root causes of the problem, implying that D.C.'s poor schools were the result primarily of bad teachers, rather than the complex web of poor teaching, poverty, bureaucratic obstacles and parental neglect. Leading change demands that leaders offer frank, candid assessments of why things aren't working and recognize that the people on the ground are much more in touch with the real story behind a problem--and will call you on it if you're not.

And finally, it became too much about her. She was featured on the cover of Time Magazine with a broom, as if she were sweeping out the trash. She became a media superstar, featured not only in magazine articles but in a widely acclaimed documentary, "Waiting for Superman," about the woes of the country's education system.

And in a telling coda, she told the film's premiere-goers just after the primary election that saw her boss, Adrian Fenty, defeated, that the outcome would be "devastating" for D.C.'s children. She might have stopped the sentence there. But she didn't. "Not for me," she went on to say after her comment that the results would be dire for D.C. kids. "I'll be fine."


Also by Jena McGregor:
Kaya Henderson: The new and improved Rhee?

By Jena McGregor

 |  October 13, 2010; 2:19 PM ET |  Category:  Bad leadership , Change management , Leadership advice , Public leadership , Women in leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Posted by: xhx123 | October 18, 2010 4:46 AM

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Posted by: xhx123 | October 18, 2010 4:44 AM

What Michelle Rhee isn't: an experienced, qualified, public education leader and change agent

What Michelle Rhee is: an immature, bombthrowing, patronizing and self-serving dilletante

For the "children's sake," let's hope she figures out what she wants to do when she grows up that doesn't include education!

Posted by: LongTimeRez | October 17, 2010 8:54 PM

Leaders do not quit. Period! Anyone considering Michelle Rhee a leader is surely trying to fool themselves.

The Manifest co-authored by Rhee provided an over simplistic view of how to improved education and fails to take into consideration poverty, individual learning abilities, drugs, uninvolved parents/guardians, etc.

Where Rhee truly failed as a leader is not accepting the blame herself. I, me, mine, is not the battle cry of a true leader.

Posted by: johnpenn76 | October 17, 2010 8:05 PM

Where were all these critics of Chancellor Rhee before the primary election?

Robert Vinson Brannum
rbrannum@robertbrannum.com

Posted by: robert158 | October 17, 2010 6:12 PM

she brought to light every major problem, and their causes, in the system. can't solve the problems until the causes are are brought to the forefront.

unfortunately - the causes highlighted the shortcomings of many people - some with politcal clout - including the union leaders.

her job was not to get someone elected. she did quite well in her efforts.

will her successor have the guts to follow up?

she'll have plenty of job offers by tommorrow morning.

Posted by: boblesch | October 17, 2010 1:30 PM

@morrisday1:

Rhee simply stated a fact: DC public school kids now have a bleaker future, and she will be fine. What she could've added but didn't was: Everyone who exits DC is always better off.

Posted by: streetnoise | October 17, 2010 1:10 PM

Rhee's problem was her own mouth. When she said she'd fired 250 teachers because they were child abusers when abuse was the issue for only 2 of them, she showed appallingly bad judgment and showed how glib and superficial she was. When she started publicly working for Fenty's reelection campaign while pretending she was just a "private citizen," she again stepped over the boundaries.
Also, even if her ideas were just great, no, she did not have a "proven record" of anything before she got here.

Posted by: fmjk | October 17, 2010 12:20 PM

The repair and reconstruction of the physical school buildings was a huge accomplishment, but for that, Rhee deserves no credit. It was Alan Lew, head of the Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization. And Fenty deserves credit for having the good sense to ask him to do it.

Posted by: fmjk | October 17, 2010 12:12 PM

A major issue that is being passed over is how Rhee blew up the DCPS bureaucracy. Having tried to work with DCPS for many years, and knowing many other organizations and people who also did so, the unanimous conclusion was that it was hopeless. They had their own little kingdom and were not interested in any changes or improvements or bringing any new resources to the children.

Ask how many new schools were built in the past four years, how many old wrecks were closed. In the past four years the annual theater of whether the schools would be repaired enough to start in the Fall went away.

This year I was involved in a major proposal with about forty other organizations in DC. It had a short fuse of less than a month to be put together and required DCPS participation which came at light speed.

We lost (the reviews were great but it was winner take all). If the competition runs next year we will submit again. An acid test for Gray is going to be whether this new concern for working with others and getting things done continues or the old elephants take over and move the system back into the graveyard.

For this alone, if nothing else, Rhee deserves unlimited praise.

Posted by: EliRabett2003 | October 17, 2010 12:01 PM

"She might have stopped the sentence there. But she didn't. "Not for me," she went on to say after her comment that the results would be dire for D.C. kids. "I'll be fine."
*****************************************
"Me" and "I'll" and other self-promoting was a downfall. For those saying what a leader was, hard to lead with a paperweight and lightweight resume everyone know about.

At your 9 to 5, do you respond well to 3 year experience in non-leadership roles to be your leader? No

And lastly, blaming teachers is like blaming Metro bus drivers for the daily kids behavior on the bus. And she quit, just like Palin quit. Who wants a quitter around?

Posted by: morrisday1 | October 17, 2010 11:29 AM

These are some of the most racist post I have ever read in this forum. Rhee in spite of her reforms, was highly divisive and insensitive. None of that would be tolerated in a suburban school district where parental involvement is paramount. As a former DC School PTA president who received many calls to help cut the grass, paint the school hallways, plant trees, interview principals, I too felt that in spite of the modest test score gains and major improvements to capital infrastructure, she was far too divisive to remain. We have thrived in the former segregated but unequal schools 50 years ago, and still need radical change today, but there will undoubtedly be life after Rhee. There can be achievment and mutual respect although some of these posters would like for us to have neither.

Posted by: sandyloam | October 17, 2010 8:46 AM

Waldmant, who obviously is impressed with Ms. Rhee, posts that "[s]he thought it was more important to be a change agent than a leader." Actually, the two are not mutually exclusive. Competent leaders know how to make necessary changes while bringing others along. That, obviously, Ms. Rhee could not do -- quite possibly because, as a number of posters have suggested, she was more interested in getting publicity for herself. The best way to do that is to create as much turmoil as possible. The media loves conflict.

Posted by: AdrianMole | October 17, 2010 6:53 AM

What is obvious to visitors to the District is that it problems are not the failure of progressive, dedicated personnel but the racial inferiority of the general population. Demographic studies, interpreted by foreighn visitors who do not have the racist taboos of Washington, will easily indicate that every failed school is in an area occupied by people who are themselves failures because of their preoccupation with racial politics. A true prolitarian revolution that eliminates the black racial neighborhoods of the city is the only way to bring progress to a decadent, ignorant society like urban Washington.

Posted by: levsedov | October 17, 2010 6:21 AM

Rhee did nothing wrong...
but gray was chosen by the unions...
and the mob wanted her out...
time for the district to be absorbed by maryland...

Posted by: DwightCollins | October 17, 2010 6:20 AM

Ms. Rhee will have no problem getting a job. Good try Michelle.

Posted by: Hx6MkxhW | October 17, 2010 5:50 AM

Ms Rhee made the mistake of not recognizing that she was dealing with the "T-Ball" generation. No one strikes out, no one loses, no one needs to practice, everyone wins, and at the end of the season everyone gets a trophy. An that is an ENTITLEMENT!

Life isn't easy, it isn't fair, and the departure of Ms Rhee highlights that even when you do well, you can still lose. That is unless you belong to a species protected by a union......

Posted by: Spitfires | October 16, 2010 6:38 PM

she made the mistake of telling people the truth, and they were embarassed by that because they were responsible for it . . . apparently in Washington D.C. an 'effective leader' is one who tells you what you want to hear and allows you to wallow in substandard schools . . . you folks are doomed and you are dooming your children . . . give your world to the teacher's unions if you must, they won't care about the life your children have to live because of their incompetence.

Posted by: RBCrook | October 16, 2010 5:13 PM

*

Both Rhee and Henderson are nothing more than "headhunters" who sold bodies(teachers) to school districts. All good headhunters talk/adopt the language of their markets. Usually, talking the language reflects superficial knowledge at best. Don't mistake Rhee's and Henderson's headhunting sales pitches for substantive ability to manage and lead school districts. Neither one is qualified to do so.

Posted by: why231 | October 16, 2010 10:17 AM

Rhee was so wrong that she was right...

Posted by: edmundsingleton1 | October 16, 2010 4:43 AM

Uh...If she is "not afraid of change", then why is she running away after the change in bosses? Perhaps you should consider that question first given that it's a rather obvious refutation of your premise!

Posted by: familynet | October 16, 2010 2:37 AM

McGregor seems to be confusing Chancellor Rhee with President Obama. On November 3rd, with a few reference changes she can run this same article with the President as the subject.

Posted by: frankiemry | October 16, 2010 1:06 AM

Leaders are supposed to be strong, and some of the best are autocratic. People who place their needy desire to be pandered to above their need for quality will get what they deserve.

Posted by: Compared2What | October 15, 2010 11:48 PM

Anybody who listened to her talk would realize that she does not listen. And unless you have absolute, military-like command over an organization, you can't change it without listening. Her ideas might have been brilliant, but if you beat them into people, harangue them, embarrass them, they'll desert you.

Posted by: stmr | October 15, 2010 10:39 PM

Well, the parents who wanted Rhee out won out. We'll see what happens; hopefully the D.C. schools continue to evolve for the better. On the other hand, I saw a parent yesterday remark that they need more spending per child. As if D.C. was the lowest in spending per capita. Some things will never change, I guess.

Posted by: Almazar80 | October 15, 2010 9:46 PM

I think of all the times when our former school board members listened to parents who told them that they wanted their children to walk to the neighborhood school (Ward 7/8 parents...not Ward 3) Of course, all parents want their children to walk to school and yes, the parents want to run over to school at lunch. But, the reality is that we had schools that held 800 students and had 170 enrolled. Closing schools is so mean and asking parents to help close the neighborhood does not work. School Board members used to get elected...some still do, but to remain in office...keep parents happy.
Good news: Schools opened on time ,with teachers and with books this year! I remember all the years when our children were so excited to start school - even wearing their new wool clothes on a hot day..and they did not have teachers, books, no one even cut the grass by the front door to welcome the students. Thanks, to Ms. Rhee for small improvements.Change is difficult...Ms. Rhee had to make room for Vince Gray and she did! Ms. Henderson will do just fine! Vince Gray loves the parents and the the children of our city! Enough of the critics and the racists...time to help children first! We are all here to learn. The "outsiders" need to help out in their own communities.Best wishes to Ms. Rhee, Mayor Fenty, Vince Gray,and to the children of DC, who are our future! We are all in this together. We can do it and we will do just fine!

Posted by: judithclaire1939 | October 15, 2010 9:41 PM

This is the best analysis to date. I would only add that you can't enlist the support of the people you need to effect the change, namely minority parents whose children comprise the majority of the student population, if you spend your time courting majority parents who may support your efforts in theory, but continue to send their children to private schools.

Posted by: OneStop1 | October 15, 2010 8:39 PM

she sounds just like Obama except her change was working as expected.And knew when to quit.

Posted by: jmounday | October 15, 2010 7:28 PM

Michelle Rhee was inexperienced and overhyped by the media as a "savior". She believed the hype and became autocratic. Rhee knew she wouldn't stay long enough to be judged on her performance so she blew the place up and then left. Unfortunately, she will be lionized by the rightwing and will get a high paying job in a conservative thinktank where she will continue to throw bombs. The rightwing is all about demonizing unions instead of seeking commonground and achieving positive results.
Until this country seriously addresses poverty, crime,and the socio-economic issues urban children have to deal with everyday and night reform of the schools will not work.

Posted by: jp1943 | October 15, 2010 4:44 PM

Ms Rhee did not "go wrong." It is the District of Columbia that went wrong.

Posted by: Prof-Dr-G | October 15, 2010 4:21 PM

Where did she go wrong? Thinking she could understand the mind-set of the black-residents of the District of Columbia. Look at Obama and the black people he's surrounded himself with. I don't get it. There really is a difference in thinking between blacks and whites. We're just not on the same planet.

Posted by: georges2 | October 15, 2010 4:17 PM

The smartest thing Rushern Baker could do, right now before taking office as P.C. Co. Executive, would be to meet with Ms. Rhee and come to a deal that would put her in charge of the P.G. Co. school system.

DC's stupidity should be PG's supreme gain!

Posted by: tcmits | October 15, 2010 3:33 PM

I am really sick of people making it about race..and then turn out to say they care about a school system that is mostly African American after insulting black people.


Look, the bottom line is this...you could be selling liquid gold at a dollar an ounce---if you throw it at people and spit on your customers you would not be in business a week.

And if you have bad news to tell your boss---I would offer anyone in here 1,000 dollars fresh from my bank account if they would tell it to their boss while berated him/her. You will need it along with your job search.

The reality is her results were mixed. She did something truly important that everyone would have cosigned had she let them. But that important act does not give her a bazooka gun license to act like she is Annie Oakley.

Effectiveness and leadership REQUIRES consensus building--there is no public change without the public.

Posted by: CultureClub | October 15, 2010 3:26 PM

I do not think Ms. Rhee was wrong. All the wonderful attempts to get the people charged with executing the education system has not worked. One only has to look at the schools' students' performance records to realize that. Many people have tried to "motivate" those involved and it appears that they could not be motivated. So the old addition "Do something or get out of the way" applied. It is a shame she is leaving. I predict that within 1 year all the gains will be lost and within 2 years DC will be vying with Detroit for worse schools in the US.

Posted by: staterighter | October 15, 2010 2:48 PM

STO123

I guess if every teacher was outstanding, we wouldn't have any problems. I suppose if every child was talented and gifted, we might also be fine. Funny how the world somehow manages to keep moving on when it is filled with merely average folks? Frankly, I find it ridiculous to think that there are folks out there who find nothing wrong with expecting everyone to be exceptional. Get a dictionary.

Posted by: daweeni | October 15, 2010 2:21 PM

Keep hope alive.....

Posted by: SilverSpringSteve | October 15, 2010 1:44 PM

"Moreover, she oversimplified the root causes of the problem, implying that D.C.'s poor schools were the result primarily of bad teachers, rather than the complex web of poor teaching, poverty, bureaucratic obstacles and parental neglect."
------------------
Maybe she was less than articulate in her approach.

But the bottom line in the daily life of a classroom, is that an outstanding teacher, can radically advance the skills, knowledge, and abilities of his or her students...no matter the obstacles.

Average or incompetent teachers make matters worse, especially when other challenges are present for the students.

So glad you killed the messenger.

Real improvement.

Posted by: sto123 | October 15, 2010 1:43 PM

Keep hope alive.....

Posted by: SilverSpringSteve | October 15, 2010 1:42 PM

RESEARCH Michelle Rhee’s ongoing
CONFLICTS OF INTEREST machinations, financial gaming the system, and legal violations ---
in Washington, DC and also in Sacramento.

Did you know that every time she brings in a new inexperienced, unqualified “Teach for America” intern that she pays her ex-husband’s organization
(he’s the “TFA” Communications Director) a fee of several thousand dollars for each recruit —
which goes toward his salary and he then
repays back to her as child support ! ---
that’s self-dealing. ======= Investigate the rattling skeletons in both Michelle Rhee’s and Kevin Johnson’s closets, while they’ve been protected from consequences by their big-money financier and corporate backers [eg. deliberate prevarication, budgetary machinations & financial scandals (including misappropriation of over $400,000
in federal grants), sexual misconduct with students (teen minors) and staff subordinates, cover-ups
and ‘hush money’ deals
behind-the-scenes).
——————————————
Must-read important
news article:
http://www.sacbee.com/2009/11/20/2338165/kevin-johnsons-accuser-says-he.html


See website:
http://sacchartergate.blogspot.com/

===========================

Posted by: honestpolicy | October 15, 2010 1:29 PM

Ms. Rhee did what she thought was right and put her heart into it. I think she was raised in a culture which seems to be more authoritarian and brusque. I don't know her ethnicity other than asian but I know many Koreans are by culture brash, and waste few words getting their point out. This can clash with a culture who is traditionally more sensitive to real or imagined disrespect due to years of discrimination.

She did not understand this and it cause a situation where it became us vs. them. It did not have to be this way. But, in the end, though it may have cost her and Fenty their jobs, I think she did light a fire under D.C., as another poster put it. Lets see if the flame progressess.

Posted by: sandnsmith | October 15, 2010 12:10 PM

The DCPS decline in test scores
in elementary schools
(Reading and Math) now reflect 2007 levels.
In actuality the drop was 4 points of proficiency.
These drops in elementary reading and math represent
an overall drop of 9-10% fewer elementary children
scoring proficient compared to last year.

One of the realities of Rhee’s brand of reform leadership is that our youngest children
are not being taught well.
See here= />
http://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2010/08/20/detailed-results-on-the-dc-cas-for-2010-3rd-grade/


If the reforms were having an impact one would expect
that the third graders who entered the school system
when Rhee did 3 years ago, and are taking the DC CAS
tests for the first time, would have shown great promise now. Unfortunately the opposite is true;
the test scores show declining proficiency rates.

The most difficult thing about being a parent of a child in DCPS is the huge lack of analysis in the mainstream media and the general spread of misinformation about the nature of educational gains (or lack there of).
We have a lot to learn from our third graders and owe them a qualified educational leader who can truly enable them to have high-quality learning experiences.

Unfortunately for DC teachers, the greatest beneficiaries of Rhee’s lack of real educational leadership have been the charters — because people have flocked to them for cover as Rhee closed 20 some schools. But perhaps as a teacher you and your colleagues at the charter should ask yourself why isn’t the quality of the schools good enough. Why aren’t all children everywhere being provided with the curriculum rich learning experiences you benefited from at the private school?
What needs to happen next to ensure that goal?

I assure you it is not it has nothing to do with the desperation and other articulate passions expressed by people like Rhee.
It has to do with getting to the hard work of providing children with significantly enhanced academically rigorous curriculum and learning experiences —
including their families in the process.
Passion (and broom-mongering) aside, Rhee
really didn’t bring it ---
nor was she headed in that general direction in my view.

I have heard Gray speak on the educational issue and he has stated that he will move forward with reforms just not with the expansion of testing as Rhee planned. Hopefully that will mean that our children are getting higher quality instruction here in
DC, rather than Rhee’s’ ‘teaching to the test’ approach which has
hijacked meaningful, viable real education.

==========================

Posted by: honestpolicy | October 15, 2010 11:54 AM

So to those who are critics of Ms. Rhee, what is the answer? So she was brash and made people mad and uncomfortable. Some experts say when a system is so dysfunctional then a person like Ms. Rhee is needed to actually change it.

So she is gone now, Gray will be mayor, you can be happy as perhaps things will go back to the way they were before Ms. Rhee came here and messed it all up.

They say in a democracy, you get the governmet you deserve...and DC will get the school system it deserves and wants. I am amazed that this is the nation's capital and so many parts of it are like a third world country.

The lesson here is that someone cant really come in and change things. People, unfortunately dont want change forced upon them. They have to come to the realization that they are part of the problem and being willing to "own" the change themselves. From the posts here I can see that many don't really want change unless it feels good and comfortable..which in reality equals no change and status quo.

Posted by: JakeMac24x | October 15, 2010 10:52 AM

HillRat, you give up too easily.

Posted by: keithrjackson | October 15, 2010 10:36 AM

Rhee had only one forward gear, no brakes, and no ability to steer. Now she's in the ditch.

Posted by: blasmaic | October 15, 2010 10:20 AM

Michelle Rhee was appointed because of her proven expertise. It is nice now to talk about why she failed and lessons learned, etc. The bottom line is - when you read all the "comments" for the recent articles in the Washington Post, it is obvious that many of the people in DC don't really want change - or, excuse me, they do want change, but they want the same teachers and the same physical plants they had before Ms Rhee. Any outsider charged to make the needed changes would have had great difficulty - and probably would have not able to really effect change - in such a hostile environment. It is not a democratic process - she was the expert and the DC schools needed drastic measures to save them. So let's not dwell upon her attitude, etc. when it really she was challenging the status quo and a vocal minority made sure she was ousted. Too bad for the children, DC. I know there are probably 10 cities out there who will love to have her expertise.

Posted by: dianefromPlantation | October 15, 2010 8:48 AM

As a parent of a child in a DC public school, I saw first hand the good that was being done. yes, she may have offended some, but I saw the changes for the better in the classroom where it counts. I was hoping she would stay as my child would enter middle school next year. Because Rhee is gone, we will be withdrawing from the DC public school system to opt for something better for our child. I have no hope the system here will get better under Grey. I am saddened for the future of my child's best friends who will have to remain as part of this fail DC school system.

Posted by: HillRat | October 15, 2010 8:12 AM

As a parent of D.C. public school children, who acknowledges the desperate need for change, I am glad Ms. Rhee has left. She failed utterly because of her top down, dictatorial style that showed little understanding of how to educate children. She often fired the best teachers--not the worst--including at least three at Wilson High School--teachers with graduate degrees and many years of patient service, whose students excelled on the AP exams and in universities afterward. Her way of evaluating teachers was pathetic and made teachers and the teachers' union the scapegoats for an educational dilemma that was far more complex than she admitted or understood. I read a blog by one teacher who complained that,only days before school began, he was forced to teach an AP course in history for which he himself had little training! And by another teacher whose only fault was of being too honest about what was really happening in his school. And by another who had pulled off amazing achievements, getting his students active in creating and performing in plays. Why did she fire them? Was it that they had benefits and pensions? That she could save money by getting rid of the more experienced teachers? Ms Rhee was a failure. And the D.C. schools are still waiting for superman.

Posted by: Go9003 | October 15, 2010 8:01 AM

Where I would criticize this criticism of Rhee's tenure as Chancelor of the DC public schools is that sometime in a complex problem with entranced interests, to create a productive change you just need to violently break off a piece and start with a new dynamic. Rhee did that. Let's hope it continues.

Posted by: KStepman | October 15, 2010 7:53 AM

I was a contractor at a federal agency...
some changes were made and they had to have a liason or project leader for the work that was being done...
they brought in a black guy who was always late and only talked about getting laid...
I put my 2 weeks notice...
no way he benefits from my work...
when he didn't earn my respect...

Posted by: DwightCollins | October 15, 2010 7:44 AM

she is better off leaving...
now the district can truly be the laughingstock of the world...
lets show the world how blacks lead...

Posted by: DwightCollins | October 15, 2010 7:40 AM

What seems clear to me is that Rhee displayed pleasure in ruling by fear -- she made clear that she enjoyed that part. That is the character of a bully, not a leader.

Posted by: dorofacol | October 15, 2010 6:24 AM

Say what you will about Ms Rhee and her management style, she is NOT QUITTING!!!! She is being asked to leave by GRAY. Keep it real people. She would stay if he let her. Politically, he has to ask her to go! Personally, while she is brutally honest in her assessments and communications, I know what she was up against. Many teachers in DCPS have failed to UPDATE their skills. ADOPT technology etc. and are INDIFFERENT to learning NEW or ANY technology skills. The new teachers don't have that problem as they already have these skills because they were graduated having to utilize them to matriculate. This doesn't excuse her brash decision-making in trying to effect change, but IT IS A REAL CONCERN in DCPS. DC is a political fishbowl that if it's not careful will get what it deserves!! Raise your expectations, "DC Teacher's Union" and I'm not talking about from the SCHOOL SYSTEM. Michelle, you were doomed from the start, but if it's any consolation, your initiatives may actually ROOT!! Pray for the CHILDREN SAKE and hope the adults recognize their shortcomings and get HONEST!!

Posted by: DC_JOE | October 15, 2010 2:31 AM

In the long run, Rhee accomplished EXACTLY what she needed to do for the reform movement. Anyone who studies change management knows that in many cases of radical change, you need a person to go in and blow up the system, but that person can never be the person who stays and works out the kinks. That person cannot lead by consensus, they cannot fall into emotional traps of the past (but that teacher worked here for 15 years!), and they must be single minded. For the record, as a leader, I do not agree with Rhee's approach, but I recognize that it is what was necessary to change the culture. Can you imagine how long change would have been in coming if she had gently suggested to teachers that some of their worst performers be fired or then took a poll to see if parents wanted to close some of the schools? Good luck Kaya, you'll need it, although it's hard to understand why anyone would put up with the short-sighted ingrates of DC (and I don't mean the kids).

Posted by: blackandgreen | October 14, 2010 5:57 PM

realwashingtonian1, agreed
100%

Posted by: morrisday1 | October 14, 2010 2:40 PM

realwashingtonian1, agreed
100%

Posted by: morrisday1 | October 14, 2010 2:36 PM

I think this article touches very deeply on the essence of Michelle Rhee's failed attempt to manage a school system properly. You can not solve the District's Public School issues by simply claiming to fire all bad teachers. We (Teachers) are on the ground and no one cared to take our role, or input seriously. Michelle Rhee placed herself on one side and the entire teaching body, (Union and Council included)on the other. The question I would like answered, which I have not heard asked is, "Has Michelle Rhee ever taught school for any serious length of time? Can anyone offer any information on her effectiveness as a classroom teacher, and what grade levels she taught?" You cannot judge a teacher until you have walked considerably in their shoes. We are not the enemies of education. Just the escape-goat!

Posted by: RealWashingtonian1 | October 14, 2010 1:24 PM

Rhee's track record; just like Palin's:
Quit when they lose (or when McCain and Fenty lost)

Quit when it looked like their failures would be peeled away.

Quit after lots of limelight, books, side deals, TV appearances, etc.

Quit after convincing some that it was about kids or Alaskan residents - when it proves now that it was about a steppingstone on the back of Fenty and McCain who lost.

Quit 2 months into a school year or 3 yrs into an elected 4 yr term.

And did I mention "quit".

Posted by: morrisday1 | October 14, 2010 1:23 PM

I am a Black man, college educated. Ms. Rhee was a complete failure. Her decisions destroyed my neighbor when she closed the neighborhood elementary scool. to this day, 3.5 years later, the school is closed. The children all go to different schools throughout the city.

What improvements did she make. She fired teacher with little to no evidence of the teachers inability to teach. She fired the teachers that the principals didn't like or couldn't sleep with and fired principals that the parents didn't like, i.e. the principal at her children's school.

Being uneducated and poor does not determine the success of your child in school. my mother, only has a HS diploma,however, I graduated with honors elementary, middle school, High School, and college. Ha Ha, I grew in Southeast and graduated from Ballou HS. My best friend from HS, the starting QBack, is a doctor.

Ms. Rhee had not a clue what she was doing. Her decision to quit 1 1/2 months after school opened is a clear indication that she was not committed to the children.It was about moving Mayor Fenty's agenda to remain in office, and it backfired. She quit in Baltimore after 3 years of teaching, when she couldn't have her way, and she's quitting again because she can't have her way.

The fruits of her alleged success will show within the next 4 to 6 years.

Posted by: Kevin_J_Jenkins | October 14, 2010 1:09 PM

What a remarkable achievement in such a short period of time: she showed the DC residents "the promised land," the "keys to the kingdom." She jolted the system; had to. Time will tell whether her efforts become the norm; if not, failure will become the common denominator once again.

Posted by: dozas | October 14, 2010 12:57 PM

You write, "Moreover, she oversimplified the root causes of the problem, implying that D.C.'s poor schools were the result primarily of bad teachers, rather than the complex web of poor teaching, poverty, bureaucratic obstacles and parental neglect."

This is the standard ed school orthodoxy (I have an Ed.D.), but the data don't support it. Look at the experience of charter networks like KIPP and Uncommon Schools that show conclusively that great teaching and the infrastructure to promote, support and reward it trumps the other factors that we've used as excuses for failure.

Let's stop worrying so much about the hurt feelings of some entitled adults so much and start worrying about what the consequences of failure are for DC kids. THey will not get a second chance.

Posted by: smpratt89 | October 14, 2010 12:50 PM

It appears that any attempt to dramatically reform public education is doomed by unrealistic expectations, undefined objectives, and ideologies that are out of touch with reality. Michelle Rhee's effort appears to be a particularly graphic example. People expect that the public education system can somehow correct for all the problems of human nature and all the inequalities of human society. But the reality is that Michelle Rhee did not even know how to deal with the standard quality workforce that pretty much every business has to cope with. That is one with variable levels of competence that often are a limiting factor in the quality of the job that gets done. People may want to believe that every child has the same potential and that the only limiting factor in a child's education is the quality of their teachers. But anyone wanting to shape an education system around an ideology that is in such deep conflict with human reality has no useful role in public education. Uncertainty is the pervasive characteristic in our understanding both of the nature of human beings and of the effective techniques for human education. But, there is little doubt that the best prospects for making a significant difference in education is through much better exploitation of technology. We don't try to improve the quality of human entertainment by making the full range of exceptional entertainers available at every local club. Technology could improve education by making the best instructional techniques available to every child, by adapting instruction to the needs of the particular child, and by providing much better feedback on how the child is doing. A big benefit from a systematic attempt to exploit modern computer technology for education would be much more hard knowledge on what works and what objectives are really achievable. Without that knowledge education reform is just part of the endless human debate about religion and ideology. The only factor preventing much better use of technology in education is the will to get the job done.

Posted by: dnjake | October 14, 2010 12:49 PM

Too brash, yes. So what. Some of her comments cited above as mistakes seem to me, a 27 year veteran of Federal civilian service in DC where no one is honest about much of anything, to me were not mistakes but the right way to break through the calcification that has taken place. Too much publicity, yes. All about her, no. She is for children, but you have to be an adult to understand that.

Posted by: SaintJoseph | October 14, 2010 12:33 PM

Jena McGregor left off one important relevant piece on leadership. Using Jim Zorn (former Skins coach) as an exhibit.

Hard for a person to lead - with a lightweight resume - when the followers and customers are very aware of said lightweight credentials. Zorn coached others than were more credentialed than he was, leading to his boss (Snyder) to bring in a 90 yr old bingo playing play caller in midseason. The result of a lightweight resume.

Rhee's lightweight resume didn't help her one bit. It helped Fenty, who would have had a hard time hiring someone for real credentials (prior expeience as an administrator of a city/county, prior experience and success as a principal or asst principal of even Mayberry). Like it or not, Rhee had none. What she did have was a shake-it-up style that many do at your day job when they have 200% support of their boss to do whatever and be acccountable to no one else.

At the end, "about the kids" was a lie. How else does anyoneexplain her quitting just because Fenty got fired?

Posted by: morrisday1 | October 14, 2010 12:21 PM

@morrisday1

Read my comments. "...low-achieving... _older_ African-Americans..." (emphasis added)

Go figure that out yourself. And please re-take Reading Comprehension 101.

Posted by: red_gti2000 | October 14, 2010 12:15 PM

You CANNOT come in and try to make changes and insult the very people you are proposing to help. For those who say it was black vs Asian that's too simplistic. Her color wasn't her problem it was her attitude.

She insulted too many people and was NOT a leader. When she talks it's all about her and not the teachers; principals; students or parents.

Posted by: rlj1 | October 14, 2010 12:08 PM

red_gti2000, and who is her man? Future hubby? A high achieving millionnaire black man named Kevin Johnson, a mayor of a major city (capital of the largest state).

Go figure

Posted by: morrisday1 | October 14, 2010 12:07 PM

It's hard to believe that actually improing student achievment was really Rhee's top goal. If so, why did she quit? It's quite simple actually: She is an egomaniac who was unwilling to cede any power and doesn't seem to take crticism well at all. Under Gray, she would've had to be accountable. Since she couldn;'t have it all, she left. DC was merely a stepping stone to a better, nationalal job and more limelight (how many magazines does a school chancelor need to be in?). Ultimately she'll be remembered as another casualty of the spoiled "Me" generation.

Posted by: thadude33 | October 14, 2010 12:06 PM

As a former Director of Education (32 Years) in the Fed Gov, as well as a former public school teacher and College of Educa. professor, Ms. Rhee would do well to recognize the frutility of her efforts here. Teaching kids to take tests does not equate with providing them with an education (humanistic education at that). I remain very unimpressed by Ms. Rhee, her political divisiveness, and her lack of real understanding of what a great public education must entail...perhaps she should go to grad school.

Posted by: fairness3 | October 14, 2010 12:04 PM

It was a culture clash, pure and simple. Asian mindset versus African-American. The latter won. Done. Not a good sign for this country's future.

Posted by: red_gti2000 | October 14, 2010 11:54 AM

She thought it was more important to be a change agent than a leader. She was right. I think she was incredibly successful at doing important big things that will serve the DC school system well for years to come, unless they are undermined by politics (which they may be).

So, not sure why the fact that she is leaving after 3.5 years is considered a failure of her leadership. She did alot that was politically unpopular and therefore ultimately made it impossible for her to stay. She thought it was more important for DC's kids to do that, than it ws for her to be politically popular. Probably right. Lets keep Gray's feet to the fire. Will be interesting to see how many teachers are fired next year. My guess is - 4, since virtually all the teachers "on notice" made remarkable improvement. That's when you know it is time to move to MoCo.

Posted by: waldmant | October 14, 2010 11:54 AM

She thought it was more important to be a change agent than a leader. She was right. I think she was incredibly successful at doing important big things that will serve the DC school system well for years to come, unless they are undermined by politics (which they may be).

So, not sure why the fact that she is leaving after 3.5 years is considered a failure of her leadership. She did alot that was politically unpopular and therefore ultimately made it impossible for her to stay. She thought it was more important for DC's kids to do that, than it ws for her to be politically popular. Probably right. Lets keep Gray's feet to the fire. Will be interesting to see how many teachers are fired next year. My guess is - 4, since virtually all the teachers "on notice" made remarkable improvement. That's when you know it is time to move to MoCo.

Posted by: waldmant | October 14, 2010 11:53 AM

This was a clash of cultures, pure and simple. Rhee epitomized the high-achieving, take-no-prisoners approach of modern Asian-Americans. Her opponent was the low-achieving, bureaucratic, entitlement-preserving culture of the older African-American generation. The second group won out. Not a good sign for the country's future.

Posted by: red_gti2000 | October 14, 2010 11:49 AM

She failed (yep, failed as in didn't achieve the desired result be4 quitting) the same way the Palin failed Alaska; and failed McCain. Cause they have the same management style. Didn't work for them, didn't work for Dick Cheney or Hitler or Custer or MJ as executive in DC or many others. The my-way-or-the-highway style always leads to the highway. In this case, for she and Fenty. Whether you like them, the situation, outcome, or not.

Posted by: morrisday1 | October 14, 2010 11:30 AM

"Rhee was never really able to enlist support from the people--namely teachers and parents--who would ultimately implement the changes she hoped to instill."

What an idiotic statement. Does anyone honestly believe the teachers unions would allow their members to subject themselves to performance reviews voluntarily? The parents? Have you taken a close look at the parents (many of them single mothers) of these DC school children? Most are living at poverty levels for a reason--lack of education which translates into the inability to get a decent paying job. If the parents are uneducated, how, precisely can one person make them understand that a large portion of their child's success at school is parental involvement? Riddle me that, Batman.

Posted by: kavalair | October 14, 2010 11:05 AM

I think the analysis of Rhee's remarks at the film premiere is diametrically opposite her plain meaning. Somehow, Ms. McGregor interprets it as demonstrating an "all about me" attitude. On the contrary, it's pretty obvious that her remarks were intended to deflect the criticism that she was unhappy only because she would lose her nice job -- denying that her concerns are "all about me." You may think she is lying about such altruism, but you'll need better evidence than those particular words.

Posted by: ScienceTim | October 14, 2010 11:01 AM

Consider this passage: "Moreover, she oversimplified the root causes of the problem, implying that D.C.'s poor schools were the result primarily of bad teachers, rather than the complex web of poor teaching, poverty, bureaucratic obstacles and parental neglect."

In this list of "root causes", there is a total of one component that the chancellor can do anything about, the teachers. It should be no surprise that Rhee focused her attention on the teachers and replacing them with better teachers and better standards of instruction. The chancellor can't replace the parents, can't alter the bureaucracy outside of DCPS, and can't make the kids less poor over night. Complaining about those issues, while they certainly are important, is nothing but whining and excuse-making. She picked the only tool she had available, and she cranked that tool for all it's worth. That is not evidence for over-simplifying the problem, it's evidence for over-simplifying the analysis of the proposed solution.

Posted by: ScienceTim | October 14, 2010 10:46 AM

I too agree with Allie7's comments 100%. I am a lifelong DC resident and I have followed coverage of Michelle Rhee throughout her tenure. I have found it hard to focus on the substance of her policies because of how condescending, and downnright insulting at times, she was towards both teachers and parents in implementing them.

Everybody agrees that the DC public school system is frightening and has been for decades. But, how could she expect teachers and parents to be on board with her policies when she treated them like second-class citizens? I remember when she tried to insinuate that the most of teachers who were laid off all had misconduct issues and she even mentioned molestation. It was only after intense pressure that she cleaned up her comments and she seemed hesitant to do so. As the article indicated, teachers are the ones who ultimately had to implement and live with her policies.

I am NOT expressing an opinion on the substance of her policies, one way or the other. I just think her communication skills were non-existent - the budget miscalculation controversy was a prime example of that. You cannot be a solid leader without communication skills.

Posted by: linz2 | October 14, 2010 10:46 AM

I never got her strategy of, first, saying we need great teachers as the solution, and second, nearly all the teachers are scum. How can that ever work? Where was she going to get 5,000 new "great" teachers? Didn't any teacher in DCPS know anything from their years of service? Does treating people like trash motivate them? It sure didn't motivate Rhee; when she encountered her first significant setback she bailed out pronto.

Posted by: davel7 | October 14, 2010 10:42 AM

Please read what Diana Ravitch wrote about Rhee in Sept. Ravitch is a historian of education, an educational policy analyst, and former United States Assistant Secretary of Education who is now a research professor at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
-------------------------------
Diana writes: "Rhee believed that mayoral control gave her the power to work her will and to ignore dissenters or brush them off as defenders of the status quo. Mayoral control bred arrogance and indifference to dialogue. She didn't need to listen to anyone because she had the mayor's unquestioning support. Mayoral control made democratic engagement with parents and teachers unnecessary. It became easy for her to disparage them and for the media to treat them as self-interested troublemakers.

Mayoral control of schools short-circuits democratic processes by concentrating all decision-making in the hands of one elected official, who need not consult with anyone else. If D.C. had an independent school board, Rhee would have had to explain her ideas, defend them, and practice the democratic arts of persuasion, conciliation, and consensus-building. We now have an "education reform" movement which believes that democracy is too slow and too often wrong, and their reforms are so important, so self-evident that they cannot be delayed by discussion and debate. So self-assured are the so-called reformers that they can't be bothered to review the research and evidence on merit pay or evaluating teachers by test scores or the effects of high-stakes testing. If they can find one study or even a report by a friendly think tank, that's evidence enough for them. Mayoral control gives them the mechanism they need to push ahead, without regard to other views or collateral damage.

The trouble with this anti-democratic approach to school reform is that it alienates the very people whose votes are needed by the mayor to continue what he started. Although one can find exceptions, it is usually the case that voters don't like autocracy. They expect to be treated with respect, not condescension. They expect democratic institutions to operate with democratic processes. They expect their leaders to explain and discuss their decisions before they are final and to change course when they are wrong. The very behaviors that schools are supposed to teach—how to think, how to participate, how to reason with others, how to find common ground—are the same behaviors that we expect to encounter in public life."
-
Here's the link to the complete article

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2010/09/why_michelle_rhee_and_adrian_f.html

Posted by: GoldCoast | October 14, 2010 10:41 AM

Please read what Diana Ravitch wrote about Rhee in Sept. Ravitch is a historian of education, an educational policy analyst, and former United States Assistant Secretary of Education who is now a research professor at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
-------------------------------
Diana writes: "Rhee believed that mayoral control gave her the power to work her will and to ignore dissenters or brush them off as defenders of the status quo. Mayoral control bred arrogance and indifference to dialogue. She didn't need to listen to anyone because she had the mayor's unquestioning support. Mayoral control made democratic engagement with parents and teachers unnecessary. It became easy for her to disparage them and for the media to treat them as self-interested troublemakers.

Mayoral control of schools short-circuits democratic processes by concentrating all decision-making in the hands of one elected official, who need not consult with anyone else. If D.C. had an independent school board, Rhee would have had to explain her ideas, defend them, and practice the democratic arts of persuasion, conciliation, and consensus-building. We now have an "education reform" movement which believes that democracy is too slow and too often wrong, and their reforms are so important, so self-evident that they cannot be delayed by discussion and debate. So self-assured are the so-called reformers that they can't be bothered to review the research and evidence on merit pay or evaluating teachers by test scores or the effects of high-stakes testing. If they can find one study or even a report by a friendly think tank, that's evidence enough for them. Mayoral control gives them the mechanism they need to push ahead, without regard to other views or collateral damage.

The trouble with this anti-democratic approach to school reform is that it alienates the very people whose votes are needed by the mayor to continue what he started. Although one can find exceptions, it is usually the case that voters don't like autocracy. They expect to be treated with respect, not condescension. They expect democratic institutions to operate with democratic processes. They expect their leaders to explain and discuss their decisions before they are final and to change course when they are wrong. The very behaviors that schools are supposed to teach—how to think, how to participate, how to reason with others, how to find common ground—are the same behaviors that we expect to encounter in public life."
-
Here's the link to the complete article

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridging-Differences/2010/09/why_michelle_rhee_and_adrian_f.html

Posted by: GoldCoast | October 14, 2010 10:40 AM

Michelle Rhee's performance as chancellor of DCPS should be a case study (How Not to Run an Organization) in all organizational behavior and management classes in every business school and in education administration and public administration degree program's. While her stated intent may have been to improve instruction and learning in the District's schools, her style couldn't have been further from the appropriate methods needed to advance her goals.

If public school reform means competing or operating in the same vein as the corporate world...administrators and other management level employees need to be subjected to the same management philosophies taught in all successful management programs. Classsroom strategies and human management strategies are not mutually exclusive.

If we continue to discuss the failure of education programs to develop effective teachers, we need to include a discussion of how school division's appoint administrators and the inadequate training they received in organizational behavior and management.

Poor management should be no longer covered up as should poor teaching.

Unfortunately her displayed incompetence isn't confined to DCPS.

Posted by: ilcn | October 14, 2010 10:36 AM

Good analysis . . the only thing I would argue is that someone had to be brash enough to "break the china" in order to break through the status quo. Too many teachers were comfortable in a losing school system that rewarded things like tenure and increased pay when their end product was sufering.

Michele never was going to be the one to finish the reform, but she sure got a fire started.

Posted by: sarno | October 14, 2010 10:31 AM

Allie7, I cannot add anything more to what you said. It's like you asked me my thoughts, then commented. LOL

I agree 110% with your post. Very well said, which covers her tenure - whether one likes her or not.

Posted by: morrisday1 | October 14, 2010 10:21 AM

This is exactly what I felt. I'm not a DC resident but she was too brash to be a true leader. A leader has to promote change by motivating those whose charge you have to manage. I thought she was arrogant and am displeased that she has accepted so much publicity. To me, that shows she was never in it for the children of DC but for her own promotion. She is good at promoting herself. Can't deny that. She also has some great ideas but it takes more than great ideas to be an effective leader.

Posted by: allie7 | October 14, 2010 10:15 AM

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