In this entry: quotes, warm up questions, discussion questions, resources
In this video report, part of a series on education reform in New Orleans and Washington, D.C., Education reporter John Merrow investigates the reform efforts of new D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee.
Rhee has been tasked with drastically improving the decrepit D.C. public school system, but her tough approach has been controversial.
Merrow talks with teachers from one of the 23 schools that Rhee closed because it was under-enrolled. He explores Rhee's aggressive strategy of clearing out longtime employees from the school district in order to make big changes to the district, where students on average perform poorly compared to their peers.
"If by dictator, you mean somebody who, at the end of the day, is fully comfortable being held accountable for, you know, the results and is going to be incredibly decisive about the direction that we're heading in, then yes [I am a benevolent dictator]." - Michelle Rhee, Chancellor, D.C. Public Schools
"You can have a person with a great deal of power and fully benevolent intentions who make some serious mistakes that set the system back." - Mary Levy, parent
"She has been given the message that she answers to the mayor, and so she doesn't have to necessarily worry about what parents say." - Iris Toyer, parent
"We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make this school system excellent. And to the extent we can allow her to do that, as free from outside obstacles as humanly possible, the faster she will move." - Adrian Fenty, mayor, Washington, D.C.
WARM UP QUESTIONS:
Who is in charge of your school? Who is in charge of that person? If there were serious problems at your school, who do you think would try to solve them? What problems do you think need to be solved?
What is your impression of Michelle Rhee? Do you think her approach is good or do you think she is too aggressive? Do you think she is acting like a dictator? Is that a good or a bad thing?
What are some of the reasons students perform poorly in school? How do you think those students could do better? How might parents, teachers and students have different ideas about how to improve student performance?
Take some time to look up information about D.C. public schools. Compare and contrast the D.C. schools to the schools in your own district. What are some of the major differences or similarities?
Transcript of this report
D.C. Teachers Struggle to Adapt to School Reforms
New Orleans School Reforms Target Young Readers
Listen to Podcast Interviews With Michelle Rhee and Others