February 7th, 2008

Michelle Rhee in Washington, DC
Michelle Rhee in Washington DC Episode 3: Facing Resistance

This program was made by possible by support from the Annenberg, The Eli and Edythe Broad, Bill & Melinda Gates, William and Flora Hewlett and Wallace Foundations.

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When Michelle Rhee assumed control of Washington, DC’s public schools in June, she told us that she expected her direct, no-nonsense approach to stir things up. And it has. Now, seven months into the job, her plans to close 15% of the schools under her control and fire central office workers at will are drawing fierce criticism from unions, teachers, and parents.

In this episode, we meet some of the teachers, parents and union workers who aren’t too pleased with Michelle Rhee and Mayor Adrian Fenty’s plans to restructure schools and the district.

(Originally aired February 7, 2008)

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You can watch the entirety of the Michelle Rhee series here:

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I greatly appreciate the attention you’ve paid to education for so many years; it’s so important but too widely undervalued in our country, and you’re often the only voice in the national media keeping a focus on the subject. All of us owe your our gratitude.

I think your News Hour report this week, on changes newly-hired Chancellor Michelle Rhee is proposing for the Washington, D.C. school system, could have benefited from a bit more emphasis on how deeply dysfunctional the system has been for so long. As it was, a viewer unfamiliar with Washington’s particulary dreadful situation could have come away thinking that Ms. Rhee is perhaps just an extreme A-type personality, too sure of herself and unable to work with others; isolated from the context, your report could have left the impression that she was a loose cannon, rushing ahead for the sake of rushing ahead, with no thought of concensus building.

I believe that the school system in Washington is far beyond the point where an incremental approach will work; Ms. Rhee might not succeed, and perhaps her methods could stand tweaking here and there, but I’m convinced that it’s going to take a strong-willed, deeply impatient person like her to make any difference in D.C.

[...] 2: Facing ExpectationsMichelle Rhee in Washington DC Episode 6: Tough Changes and ControversyMichelle Rhee in Washington DC Episode 3: Facing ResistanceMichelle Rhee in Washington, DC Episode 12: The ImpactMichelle Rhee in Washington DC Episode 8: [...]

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