Washingtonians familiar with Michelle Rhee’s hard-charging, full-steam-ahead approach to education reform knew it would not be long before she emerged as something more than the city’s former chancellor of education.
The day has come, it appears. And true to form, Rhee emerged from her brief sojourn in the chrysalis as a butterfly.
She appears on this week’s cover of Newsweek, released after the broadcast of the taped segment for today's "Oprah," in which she announced she is launching StudentsFirst, a non-profit organization that bills itself, according to its website as, "a movement to transform public education."
"Together, we'll demand that legislators, courts, district administrators, and school boards create and enforce policies that put students first," the StudentsFirst mission statement reads. "We'll make sure politicians and administrators recognize and reward excellent teachers, give novice teachers the training they need, and quickly improve or remove ineffective educators. We'll work to ensure that every family has a number of options for excellent schools to attend, so that getting into a great school becomes a matter of fact, not luck."
Three and a half years ago, when I first met with Fenty about becoming chancellor of the D.C. public-school system, I had warned him that he wouldn’t want to hire me. If we did the job right for the city’s children, I told him, it would upset the status quo—I was sure I would be a political problem. But Fenty was adamant. He said he would back me—and my changes—100 percent. He never wavered, and I convinced myself the public would see the progress and want it to continue. But now I have no doubt this cost him the election.
StudentsFirst has set goals of signing up 1 million members and raising $1 billion in the first year.
Rhee has been busy fending off job offers since she and Mayor-elect Vincent Gray announced she would not be continuing to lead city schools. She agreed last week to take an unpaid advisor role on incoming Florida Gov. Rick Scott's education transition team.