Tiger Rhee

In Radical: Fighting to Put Students First, Michelle Rhee touts her skills at firing people — and buying them off — writes Naomi Schaefer Riley in a Wall Street Journal review of the book.


To get union approval for performance pay and a new teacher evaluation system, Rhee raised millions of dollars from foundations.

Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty backed Rhee — and lost his bid for re-election. Rhee resigned from the chancellorship and founded StudentsFirst to lobby for school reform.

The daughter of Korean immigrants, Rhee “was urged by her Tiger Mom to go to law school,” writes Riley. Instead, she volunteered for Teach for America.  She almost quit after her first year at a tough Baltimore school, but her father told her to finish what she’d started. In her second year, she asked for advice from the best teachers and found new ways to “push her students harder and keep them interested.”

As chancellor in D.C., Rhee “became livid” when she learned a sign at a Washington school that read: “Teachers cannot make up for what parents and students will not do,” Riley writes. As a Tiger Reformer, Rhee thinks effort always pays off.

When she was a child, Rhee attended school in Seoul, South Korea for several months, she writes in Radical. Every child in her class of 70 was ranked, publicly. “Rather than damaging the souls of the less accomplished, the rankings focused every family on moving their children up the ladder.”

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  1. Miller Smith says:

    I’ve always wondered why she was never arrested. She should be sitting in federal lockup for the willful, knowing, and intentional fraud and conversion of dedicated funds she committed.

    Everything she “accomplished” turned out to be fake. Why does anyone pay her any mind?

    • Oh settle down, Miller. It’s Rhee who’ll have the last laugh as support for the district system continues to diminish. Every idea she implemented or tried to implement is showing up all over the country and the momentum’s still building.

      The reason Rhee’s still relevant is because her ideas have merit and her high profile attempt to implement those ideas makes her a bit of a celebrity and a bit of an expert. She may not have climbed Everest but she’s pretty familiar with the route to the top so the people who are following her trail are interested in her experience. Her major sin was in trying to work within the current system and even in that she has the excuse that she had the mayor on her side.

      But that wasn’t enough and rather then dissuade others from trying to reform the district system I believe Rhee’s failure will highlight the obduracy of the district system to reform undermining public support for the district system.

      • Other than improving the distribution of textbooks and pushing the rate of standardized test fraud through the roof, what concrete, measurable influence did she have in DC?

  2. “As chancellor in D.C., Rhee “became livid” when she learned a sign at a Washington school that read….”

    Did the sign actually exist, or is this one of the confabulations Rhee likes to present to make her personal narrative more interesting?

    • The major sin associated with that sign – apocryphal or not – is its accuracy. While DC schools have plenty of problems, no school or teacher can remove the influence of the family and community.

  3. Mike in Texas says:

    Well she DID bring innovations to her classroom, like duct-taping her students mouths shut

  4. Wow… I had no idea there was this much hatred for Michelle Rhee out there. But I agree with Miller; she should be in Leavenworth, KS, for all the liberal lives she destroyed in their youth with her conservative trash. Being a conservative should be a federal offense and considered sedition these days.

    • … and “progressives” accuse conservatives of hate speech and eliminationist rhetoric.

      • You would know better than most! Your posts always come down to one thing: “The minorities are worthless because they all have low IQs.” Never mind that your’e being racist, and using a ‘test’ which was proven worthless and rigged decades ago…

        • Your posts always come down to one thing: “The minorities are worthless because they all have low IQs.”

          Just the low-IQ ones.  Isn’t it strange that racism has no effect on the Chinese and Japanese minorities?  The Man has done a remarkably poor job of keeping them down.

          Never mind that your’e … using a ‘test’ which was proven worthless and rigged decades ago…

          Is it really?  If it’s “worthless”, why do the results relate so well to real-world success in both academic and work pursuits?  I guess that test has remarkably powerful juju.  They must have rigged it centuries ago, when Africans were living in wattle-and-daub huts while Europeans were building cathedrals.  It was the IQ test, reaching centuries back in time before its creation to steal African mojo with its “stereotype threat”, even among Africans who had never heard of White men.

          your’e being racist

          I promote standard English, individuality and a future time orientation, so I guess I am; the Seattle Public Schools said so.  Even worse, I don’t feel bad about it.  Isn’t that just AWFUL?

  5. The IQ test is a measure of one’s ability to reason and think quickly; it’s the brain equivalent to a computer for sale listing how fast its microprocessor can run in MHz/GHz and how many calculations it can do per second (how many logic gates / transistors it has). Now, you can have the fastest, most powerful computer in the world, but it does you no good if you’re just playing Solitaire on it and watching porn on it… So, while IQ measures well what it measures, it by no means is a direct predictor of success. As a random example, were all Presidents geniuses? Even the most loved ones? I’d say becoming President is a pretty good measure of success… (even just getting the job, no matter how the 4-8 years* turned out).

    *Yeah, I know, not always 4-8, due to assassinations, deaths in office, resignation, etc. or in FDR’s case, just serving a whole 4 terms and 16 years. But you get what I’m saying! 🙂