Michelle Rhee resigns in D.C., schools everywhere lose

Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools Michelle Rhee at a NOAA conference.

Michelle Rhee is out of a job in D.C. Will her education reform efforts go to waste? (Photo Credit: Public Domain/Scanlan/Wikipedia)

Michelle Rhee, hard-nosed Chancellor of Washington, D.C., Public Schools, has decided to resign rather than face a new city government that will not support her education reform programs. According to the Boston Globe, Michelle Rhee’s resignation was a “mutual” decision made by herself and newly elected Mayor Vincent Gray. Rhee’s term will be served until at least the end of the current school year by Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson, indicates the Washington Post.

Michelle Rhee challenged the teachers’ union

Public schools in the District of Columbia consistently ranked near the bottom in the most important achievement categories before Michelle Rhee’s arrival. Rhee fought to make schools better by forcing under-performing teachers to either shape up or ship out. The number of teacher firings in Washington, D.C., schools earned Rhee many enemies, primarily those who supported the teachers’ union and tenure system. According to Innovative Education Management, the system had enabled teachers who had been at a school for three years or more to become a fixture at that school. Firing under-performing, tenured teachers required a large burden of proof. Tenured teachers were more prone to lack of motivation, as job security was assured so long as they put forth enough effort to skate by.

‘Unions can smell blood’

Now that Michelle Rhee has resigned, it will be up to Kaya Henderson to push her former boss’s education reform agenda. However, as the Globe puts it, “the unions can smell blood.” Tenure programs will likely continue, Henderson will likely be “gone after Christmas” and the stream of teaching talent Michelle Rhee drew to D.C. Public Schools will likely dry up.

The foundations that funneled fast cash into D.C. Schools because of Michelle Rhee’s passion for education reform may be re-evaluating their investment plans. D.C. Schools may be on the road to recovery, but some critics say even Rhee’s drive and focus were unable to produce results, and if Michelle Rhee can’t do it, who can? Those who support education reform may need another hero, but Mayor Gray is reportedly a supporter of the D.C. teachers’ union. The forecast appears to call for more business as usual for D.C. Schools. Plus, America’s public schools lose a reformer who could have inspired others.


Boston Globe

Innovative Education Management, Inc.

Re-establishing a culture of accountability