Michelle Rhee Out as DC School Chancellor

Michelle Rhee is stepping down as chancellor of DC's school system by "mutual consent" with the newly elected mayor.

Sad if entirely expected news:  Michelle Rhee is stepping down as chancellor of DC’s school system by “mutual consent” with the newly elected mayor.

Rhee survived three contentious years that made her a superstar of the education reform movement and one of the longest-serving school leaders in the city in two decades. Student test scores rose, and the teachers union accepted a contract that gave the chancellor sweeping powers to fire the lowest-performing among them.

But Rhee will leave with considerable unfinished business in her quest to improve teaching, close the worst schools and infuse a culture of excellence in a system that has been one of the nation’s least effective at educating students.

Rhee will be replaced until at least the end of the school year by Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson, a close associate of Rhee’s from their days at the New Teacher Project, a teacher recruiting nonprofit group that Rhee founded and ran before she was appointed by Fenty in June 2007. Henderson was a vice president for the group and is scheduled to be at the news conference Wednesday.

Rhee and Gray recently reached a “mutual decision” during a phone conversation that it was best for her to step down instead of serving in a Gray administration, said sources close to both, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They both agreed the sooner they could put this to bed, the better for the kids and the community, ” a source close to Gray said.

Rhee will find another job the instant she wants one; she’s a rock star in her field.   The District’s school system, on the other hand, will almost assuredly move back into mediocrity before settling into its customary position of truly awful.

FILED UNDER: Education,
James Joyner
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James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. James says:

    James this is a sad day I think.
    Is this the usual Change the Coach throw the team out?

  2. Boyd says:

    I know I can be overly picky about things like elections and so forth, but isn’t Adrian Fenty still mayor? Granted, it’s a foregone conclusion that Vincent Gray will win the election next month, but a whole lot of folks keep overlooking the fact that he hasn’t been elected yet, much less sworn in.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Boyd: Sure, Rhee could certainly stay on through the last days of Fenty’s term. But why would she want to do that? Her authority would be undercut by her lame duck status and, really, what’s the motivation to fight for a program that won’t be implemented.

    One presumes that some sort of severance/buyout provision was negotiated so that the paychecks wouldn’t be the deciding factor.

  4. Brummagem Joe says:

    I agree Jim, a very sad day. She’s a great public servant. It’s a pity all the parents of Washington children are too stupid to see it.

  5. DC Loser says:

    Rhee is a very polarizing figure who believes she is right and anyone who disagrees with her is wrong. She rode roughshod over people who she thought was in her way and did things behind the scenes without any oversight by the City Council or the public. I’m sympathetic to her desire to improve the schools, but ultimately she was too sure of her own hype and pissed off many of the DC populace.

  6. wr says:

    B Joe — I can’t tell if you’re jokiing here when you say that Rhee was a “great public servant” and that the public, the people she’s supposed to be serving, are too stupid to see it.

    It’s part of the job of a “great public servant” to bring the public along with her. She alienated her constituency by trying to rule over them instead of working with them.

    Maybe she was a great administrator, maybe she wasn’t. (God knows firing teachers is better than actually trying to make them better…) But a “great public servant” has to serve the public, not do what she wants and figure the dummies will come along later.

  7. I challenge you to step foot, in one DCPS school or walk 1 day in my shoes as a DCPS parent.

    Do you realize that you are repeating muleymuch with things like improved test scores.

    My kids school Janney Elementary was a #Blue Ribbon school in 2004 in 2005 it NCLB scores peaked. Then every years 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 the got worse to the point where this once BLUE Ribbon school is now in Year 1 of NCLB. Which means special needs students at DC tax payers cost can now attend the best school that these kids can get into, again at tax payers expense.

    Let’s look at my Ward 3 it is supposes to be the good ward in DC with the great schools right that is what you believe if you swallow what is being sold. Here are the numbers

    Eaton: failed Math & failed Reading
    Hearst: failed Math & failed Reading
    Janney: failed Math & failed Reading
    Key: passed Math & passed Reading
    Lafayette: failed Math & failed Reading
    Mann: passed Math & passed Reading
    Murch: failed Math & failed Reading
    Oyster: passed Math & failed Reading
    Stoddard: passed Math & passed Reading
    Thomas: failed Math & failed Reading
    Deal: failed Math & passed Reading
    Wilson: passed Math & failed Reading

    Only three ward 3 schools passed NCLB in 2010 Only 10 percent in the whole District Passed.

    I challenge anyone to look at these numbers and tell me there was improvement and so much for the entire premise of your blog the number don’t lie so stop posting words are opposite of them.


    We have to btw stop looking at issues via-via Dollars and start asking if the Marginal Utility of Public Good is best served with our actions and plans.

    When 91 percent of the eligible students for DCPS are keep out by their parents we have a break down in community. Just look at the Obama failure to enroll their kids; Yet have the nerve to make some guess appearance when media convenient. We can’t blame the Teachers or Government without facing the fact that 91 of the parents already quit on DCPS which might explains why they like Rhee she quit too.

  8. Lori says:

    13:26. I agree with you. It is also amazing to me that so many carrying on about how much 3hee has done for DCPS don’t even have a child in DCPS. The parents out there on the front liones with the schools have overwhelmingly said they don’t like her methods. And if one more person gives her credit for closing schools when the Master Facilities Plan was produced (with community input) by her predecessor Janey I’ll just scream.