Why Michele Rhee’s Education ‘Brand’ Failed in D.C.| The Atlantic

Published

This 2008 myth-making magazine cover unintentionally reinforced impressions that Rhee regarded the people in DC public schools as dirt.

I was honored to be selected as a journalism fellow at the 2010 Aspen Ideas Festival. Until that week, I had been a supporter of then- District of Columbia Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. But as a former DCPS PTA mom, I blanched at her blackmailing D.C. voters using corporate philanthropic dollars. Her appalling speech the previous weekend in Aspen, and the many conversations I had there with education activists who just didn’t “get it” led me down the path of critically examining her tenure. I wanted to understand why she bugged me and so many other smart DC voters I knew. I had a hard time getting national outlets to publish my critical piece about Rhee. Many still believed her national press expected DC voters to feel the same.  But when she was definitively rejected by D.C. voters that gave me a way in. You can read my Sept. 2010 piece, published hours after the DC election, in the Atlantic Monthly website here. More recently, a thorough investigation by USA Today about how many of Rhee’s touted gains came from cheating seemed to confirm our suspicion that her nationally touted “miracle”work was highly suspect. Sorry Oprah.