WASHINGTON — Why won’t Michelle Rhee talk to USA Today?Read on here.
Ms. Rhee, the chancellor of the Washington public schools from 2007 to 2010, is the national symbol of the data-driven, take-no-prisoners education reform movement.
It’s hard to find a media outlet, big or small, that she hasn’t talked to. She’s been interviewed by Katie Couric, Tom Brokaw and Oprah Winfrey. She’s been featured on a Time magazine cover holding a broom (to sweep away bad teachers). She was one of the stars of the documentary “Waiting for Superman.”
These days, as director of an advocacy group she founded, StudentsFirst, she crisscrosses the country pushing her education politics: she’s for vouchers and charter schools, against tenure, for teachers, but against their unions.
Always, she preens for the cameras. Early in her chancellorship, she was trailed for a story by the education correspondent of “PBS NewsHour,” John Merrow.
At one point, Ms. Rhee asked if his crew wanted to watch her fire a principal. “We were totally stunned,” Mr. Merrow said.
She let them set up the camera behind the principal and videotape the entire firing. “The principal seemed dazed,” said Mr. Merrow. “I’ve been reporting 35 years and never seen anything like it.”
And yet, as voracious as she is for the media spotlight, Ms. Rhee will not talk to USA Today.
At the end of March, three of the paper’s reporters — Marisol Bello, Jack Gillum and Greg Toppo — broke a story about the high rate of erasures and suspiciously high test-score gains at 41 Washington schools while Ms. Rhee was chancellor.
At some schools, they found the odds that so many answers had been changed from wrong to right randomly were 1 in 100 billion. In a fourth-grade class at Stanton Elementary, 97 percent of the erasures were from wrong to right. Districtwide, the average number of erasures for seventh graders was fewer than one per child, but for a seventh-grade class at Noyes Elementary, it was 12.7 per student. At Noyes Elementary in 2008, 84 percent of fourth graders were proficient in math, up from 22 percent in 2007.. . . .
"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972