Michelle Rhee has definitely been making the rounds recently. If you don’t remember her, she was the head of D.C. public schools, where she seemed to focus on firing people and increasing standardized testing. When her political patron Mayor Adrian Fenty failed in his reelection bid (with fine help from Rhee), she quickly “resigned” her position.
While she worked in the public school system, she’s now come out in favor of vouchers – taxpayer-funded tuition for private schools. Boiled down (through years of research and my own metanalyses), this money is removed from the public school system and sent to private and religious schools that not only don’t have to meet the same requirements as public schools but also haven’t shown any increase in student performance. Kids in public schools, charter schools and vouchers all do about as well. The difference is that funding public schools helps all children and not just those who are chosen to attend a private or charter school. There aren’t enough private or charter schools in Texas to place all the students who, if you believe politicians’ sophistry, will academically benefit and provide a great return-on-investment (such a barbaric way to look at education – not by strategy, but by funding).
As my friends and education policy wonks Kimberly Reeves and Debra Haas have said, Michelle Rhee is doing nothing to improve the entire education system and did little while she was in D.C. Instead of a book tour, she should be focusing on fixing the system. Her current “solutions” are far too simplistic. Those seriously interested in improving schools are in the trenches; not playing “Taps” on talk shows.
Diane Ravitch came around. Did Rhee miss out on the studies and research Ravitch finally got around to reading before changing her mind in the opposite direction from Rhee? (Note to self: Send Rhee a copy of Ravitch’s The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education when you are no longer broke.)
Below is a very illuminating interview of Michelle Rhee with Jon Stewart. I urge you to watch all three parts (‘cause it just gets better and better). He takes her on better than most.