Examining Michelle Rhee’s Legacy in Education Reform

BY News Desk  January 8, 2013 at 12:20 PM EST

Editor’s Note: This post was edited on January 10th to include Thursday’s live chat with John Merrow.

Tuesday’s Frontline examines one of the most controversial figures in education reform in recent memory: Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of the Washington, D.C., public schools. During her three-year tenure, education correspondent John Merrow was granted incredible access to document her efforts in trying to fix a failing system.

While Rhee made national headlines from the start of her appointment, most notably as a young Korean American without prior experience running a school, she received even more attention over her policies on teacher evaluations and accountability.

Under a new evaluation system that tied teacher performance to student test scores, Rhee fired 241 teachers in July of 2010, a move that teacher unions called too harsh while supporters agreed it was the right course. The conflict worsened when enormous gains in student achievement raised questions about cheating.

According to a USA Today investigation, one school in particular, Noyes Education Campus, saw a 50 percent improvement in reading between 2007 to 2009. “There was one school where the fourth graders were erasing on average almost 13 wrong answers and correcting them to right answers,” explained Marisol Bello of USA Today to John Merrow. “Statisticians are telling us, ‘Your chances of winning the Power Ball are higher than this happening by chance.’”

Here’s a look back at John Merrow’s series on Michelle Rhee during her tenure as chancellor.

Weigh In:

Join a live chat with education correspondent John Merrow and a panel of journalists and experts Thursday at 3:30 p.m. ET.