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Michelle Rhee: What's Not to Love?

Michelle Rhee is coming to South Carolina to push for harsh, punitive accountability for educators. 

It's long-past time for such measures to be applied to Rhee herself.

Rhee's entire career has been built around misrepresenting student achievement data to further her own interests and her agenda.
  • As DC's Chancellor, Rhee covered-up evidence of widespread cheating caused by her punitive evaluation and merit pay system. 
Thousands of inflated test scores were left in place, rather than admit that her renowned "DC turnaround" was a sham. 

She allowed students to be denied needed remedial services rather than damage her own public image.
She has denied ever seeing her own investigator's report on that evidence.  Several witnesses recall meetings with Rhee where it was discussed.
The mayor who appointed her was drummed out of office in a reelection campaign that became a referendum on Rhee's unpopular vision of school reform.
  • When she applied to become Chancellor of DC Public Schools, her resume included bald-faced lies about improvements in student test scores during her three years of teaching.
Publicly-available data contradicts her story

It is estimated that her actual first year's scores would have led to her firing under the teacher evaluation system she implemented in DC (and now advocates for South Carolina).
  • As head of StudentsFirst, Rhee has built a lucrative second career out of cherry-picking data to paint a misleading picture of state and national achievement trends.

Rhee points to lackluster international rankings without acknowledging the role of child poverty in those rankings.  Expect her to do the same in her testimony.


Countries that are beating us have something in common: dramatically lower poverty rates.  Poverty is the strongest known predictor of academic struggle.


The US has 22% poverty.  Australia has 12%.  Finland has 3%.   


When US schools with similarly low poverty rates are compared to these nations, it’s not even close.  Our students rank first in the world.


Only three states have higher child poverty than South Carolina, yet our test scores ranked between 34th and 39th in the nation in 2011. 

They were even better before we made the largest recession-era cuts to education in the US (24%), but have stagnated as we failed to restore those cuts. 


  • Rhee's credibility rests on a characteristically overhyped "DC Miracle", in which a low-performing urban district became a superstar under her reforms.

Aside from rampant cheating, any impact of Rhee's DC reforms is hard to find. 

A large body of evidence contradicts the test-based evaluation and merit pay policies she promotes, and no peer-reviewed research supports them. 

The limited research she touts was never peer-reviewed, and has drawn criticism from independent researchers.

There is strong evidence that Rhee's only accomplishment was trading out low-income students for affluent ones.
She neglects to mention that DC has rapidly gentrified over the last decade, and still has the nation's largest achievement gap between black and white students (a trend that accelerated under Rhee's policies).

She also neglects to mention that DC's scores were steadily improving at a similar pace during the decade before her arrival.
She cites data on NAEP growth in DC and Tennessee as proof that her brand of "reform" is producing results.

She neglects to mention that Tennessee radically overhauled its curriculum between NAEP tests.

She also neglects to mention states like Louisiana, Colorado, North Carolina, Delaware, Louisiana, Rhode Island, Ohio, Connecticut, and Wisconsin that saw no significant gains with her preferred policies.


Anyone would be wise to think twice before accepting policy recommendations (or a used car) from Michelle Rhee. 

Tell Legislators to Reject H. 4419!


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