Daily Video

January 14, 2009

Washington, D.C., School System Reacts to Changes

Washington, D.C., schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee is a controversial and influential public official: during her first few months in office she has made big changes to a school system with many problems.

In an effort to adapt to big changes and make big academic gains in a short period of time, Rhee has closed 23 schools, relocated 3,000 students and 400 teachers, and fired 40 teachers in summer 2008.

She is making drastic changes to 27 schools that have been failing for years under the federal law known as No Child Left Behind.

In this part of a series looking at troubled school systems in New Orleans and Washington, D.C., John Merrow, NewsHour Education correspondent, talks to principals, teachers and Chancellor Rhee to assess if the changes are improving the quality of schools.


“Human capital, absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts. If you have great people, they can overcome.” Michelle Rhee, Chancellor, District of Columbia Public Schools

“You could send me to any school, and I think we will be able to improve and turn around the school as far as discipline and management, but that instructional piece has always been the biggest challenge.” Darrin Slade, Principal

“A lot of times, it feels like people are coming in to see where you messed up or to document how you messed up. And it is really hard when you’re, you know, trying everything you can to be this great teacher for the kids,” Rebecca Millner, teacher

“Every teacher has — at Ron Brown, has 125 kids who are counting on them. And what happens in our schools while they’re here will make or break what their futures look like.” Michelle Rhee, Chancellor, District of Columbia Public Schools

Warm Up Questions

1. What is a principal’s job?

2. Who is your principal’s boss?

Discussion Questions

1. Chancellor Rhee said that if you have the right teachers and principals a school can and will improve. Do you agree or disagree?

2. What do you think is the most important improvement that your school or school district could make?

3. At Ron Brown Middle School, the student body has doubled in a year because it received students from two neighboring schools that were closed. What would happen in your school if it doubled in student population?

4. Do you think you would like to be a teacher? Would you like to be a chancellor?

Additional Resources

Read this transcript

Obama Chooses Basketball Buddy to Shape Education Policy

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