Michelle Rhee cites Baltimore in justification for tough tactics

Michelle A. Rhee, the embattled Washington, D.C., schools chancellor, may not get much love around the region, but yesterday she received the ultimate gold star for her tough tactics in leading the school system: the approval of Oprah Winfrey.

Winfrey hailed Rhee, once a Baltimore teacher, as a "Warrior Woman" in her controversial tenure overseeing and shaking up the D.C. public school system. Rhee appeared on Winfrey's Monday show, which highlighted the film, "Waiting for Superman."


The film, due to be released in select cities on Friday, takes a critical look at the politics of education and how it's failing the nation's students. It's directed by Davis Guggenheim, who also directed "An Inconvenient Truth."  The movie's tagline reads: The fate of our country won't be decided on a battlefield, it will be determined in a classroom."  (I will definitely be checking that out).

As Rhee used her daytime-TV platform to explain her tough reign in D.C. -- which has included a mass and very public exodus of both teachers and principals -- she cited her time as a Teach for America teacher in Baltimore as solidifying for her that "children have the potential -- they can achieve."

"The children are not the problem," Rhee said, "the adults are the problem."

Winfrey offered to the brief Baltimore conversation that the city's dropout rate (which was 6.2 percent in 2009) was poor.

The chancellor went on to explain how hard it has been to fire ineffective teachers, saying that school officials "basically have to meet a criminal standard" to get rid of poor teachers. She also said it's "ludicrous" for children to wait until teachers reach their full potential to receive good instruction.

I couldn't help but notice that Rhee's responses read from a familar playbook here in Baltimore.

Anyone else finding other similarities between D.C. and Baltimore's school system leadership?