Michelle Rhee has a messaging problem

We have been hearing Republican party officials saying lately that they lost the presidential election last year because they didn't tell their story very well. They had a "messaging" problem. A number of other folks, however, dismiss that explanation and believe that Governor Romney lost the election not because people didn't understand his proposals but because they did. The problem was not the style of the communication but the content.

Analogous to that perception, Lynne Varner writes today that people reject Michelle Rhee's message because they don't like her style. I don't think that's the case. I think people just disagree with her. Lots of people. Lots and lots of people. Lots and lots of people with far better credentials in education than hers.


Ask if Lynne Varner has much on credibility side. This little love note to Rhee is pretty sad.
Anonymous said…
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote that ”Ms. Rhee’s weakness is her bedside manner.”

Strange I know a couple of other people with this problem as well. They refuse to admit it as well.

Eric B said…
The little piece I heard on KUOW last night said it all. The person interviewing her brought up a case where she had taped a student's mouth shut in class. Rhee blew it off, saying that it was a measure of how polarized the education debate was that her opponents kept bringing up that little incident. IMHO, someone who does that to a student in class has no business in the education system at any level, but to her, it's just a charming little story that's blown way out of proportion. Analogous to Romney, maybe 47% too large.
Anonymous said…
It's not her messaging or bedside manner. It's her arrogant self-assuredness that she knows best, is always right, and has successfully implemented successful reforms when all of the evidence is to the contrary.

Her methods don't work, yet it's amazing to see her sell them to a willing audience after priming them with a little hate beforehand. B

The "bad teacher" epidemic is to Rhee what the infamous Chicago welfare queen with 3 Cadillacs and 7 Social Security numbers was to Reagan: A completely made-up lie. Yet, it satisfied the urge to scapegoat and hate, while distracting from the real liars and thieves. Rhee is being a good soldier. WSDWG
Catherine said…
I spoke with someone who was at the Rhee talk last night. Here's the quote I got "she said a lot of words, but she didn't say much of anything."
Anonymous said…
Great video of teachers in Oakland powerfully and articulately speaking out about Rhee. Thank you Dora Taylor for posting this on your blog. It's criminal that it only has 500+views.

Oakland Teachers Picket Rhee

Anonymous said…
It's interesting that the blog entries here attacks Rhee. I am curious though what people think of her, whether sincere or not, ideas. Not what people think of Rhee, her lacking bedside manners or the way she goes about getting her agenda accomplished. What do people really think about the ideas?

A friend
Anonymous said…
um... I think her messaging is WORKING! In the Great State of Wishy Warshy, just about all elected Oly Democraps listened to the toadie$ from Gate$-ILL-Vain-ia and passed a bill in 2012 tying teacher evaluations to test scores.
In Massachusetts, the Dukakis-Kerry don't-rock-the-boat cowards in the Massachusetts Teacher's Association caved to Stand On Children and agreed to having test scores in their evaluations last year.
Across the country, union "leaders", with hundreds of millions in annual dues cower before the Rhee-ality of baloney. IF you wanted to destroy public education by turning $600,000,000,000 a year into into a bunch of 7-11 fiefs with grovelling employees, could you wish for better "opponents" than union "leaders" who snivel if you threaten to take away their quarterly meetings with The Big People, and the "leaders" learn how some baloney right wing lie is the latest grown up "compromise"?

Anonymous said…
I believe that the teacher's uniona re looking after themselves. I have seen examples in SPS schools where senoired teachers get to keep their jobs/even pick their jobs based upon their senoirity. example 1: a very good but also old librarian was reduced to 1/2 time but demanded that she get to teacher the 1/2 time PE job at the schoolas opposed to drive 1.5 miles to anotherschool for another part time librarian job. This was not the best deal for the kids.

People at the district office really are not concerned about our kids. example: child scores mid 90s on AL test. Next year same child retakes test scores in the 30s. In my opinion district should red flag this child as something is wrong soemwhere. but no. call into district says this happens all the time and there is nothing we can do about it. the district people do not care about the kids they care about the system.

I think this is the kind of thing Rhee is trying to change.

Not a Rhee fan but not a Rhee hater either. A realist.
The system sucks.

it is all about maintaining jobs for adults not educating kids.

-Rheedy or not I am out

A friend, what are her accomplishments that we should listen to her?
- she fired a lot of teachers in D.C. (and principals, one on camera). She ended up hiring more teachers, then had to lay half off because whoops! she didn't have the money to pay them.
- she fired half the administration. While this "leaning" of administration could be a good thing, I have to wonder who she kept and why. For example, I think SPS is very heavy with data/testing folks and very light on maintenance even as we know that MAP is not a good test and that our buildings are falling apart.

- she wants to get rid of teacher seniority. I can see some adjusting but not necessarily getting rid of it. (Rheedy, your example is not part of what she wants to change. If that librarian is "old but good" then yes, if she got cut back to half-time, in a union she has a right to advocate for full-time work. And your example of AL has nothing to do with what she is advocating.)

What else? She calls herself a Dem but aligns herself with big business and big foundations whose ed reform agenda includes charters, vouchers and a huge pushback of the teachers union. These are things I cannot support.

I'll have a thread today about Rhee after I listen to Dora Taylor on KUOW this morning but I have found out quite an interesting item about her visit.

Her ideas don't have credibility because she doesn't have credibility. It's hard to believe someone who tells different stories to different audiences.
Anonymous said…
Her ideas have been tested, and have not worked. Yet, she lives in denial, believing market-based competition will produce the best teachers, ignoring the power and effect of collaboration on the US teaching corps. She was a bad teacher who makes false claims about her successes. She broke the laws in DC, by exceeding her own authority and usurping the authority of the City Council, which led to the defeat of the Mayor who appointed her and her "shotgun wedding" style resignation. She does not respect the authority of others, nor the law, and perpetuates the ignorant lie that teachers unions only care about teachers. That would mean Medical Schools only care about doctors, not patients. Mechanics only care about cars, not their owners. The mailman only cares about letters, not customers. And on, and on.

The anti-union claim of "only caring about the adult teachers" is perhaps the most ignorant, yet oft-repeated lie circulated throughout and envious, ignorant public many of whom are jealous of teachers, believing they have it easy and are overpaid for the supposed "8 months of the year" they work.

I will not be nice to an ignoramus and cheat like Rhee, because she knows better than what she says. She is all about money and profit for people she believes are simply better than you and I.

Her plans and ideas are spoon fed to her from places like the Heritage Foundation, the Club for Growth, and various, extremely conservative and right-wing organizations, which eschew the teachings of Christ in favor of the money-grubbing sociopath Ayn Rand.

The question is not why some dislike and reject her. The question is why everyone doesn't.

Anonymous said…
my point is that the system is too big to do what it is supposed to do. it is not about educating kisd it is about jobs for adults.

dan dempsey said…
CrossCut article on Rhee in Seattle
Anonymous said…
Rheedy: That's a bunch of hooey. The "system" does a great job of teaching tens of thousands of kids every day. Does administration waste money? Yes, by the millions. Has any Teachers Union ever wasted millions like that? No.

Should we cut many 100k+ per year useless administrators, and shrink administration? Yes, we should.

But that problem has absolutely nothing to do with teachers unions, merit pay, standardized testing, or tenure, all of which Rhee blames for how districts and schools operate today.
Anonymous said…
I should say wants or prescribes instead of blames, but I'm sure most get my point. WSDWG
dan dempsey said…
From the above Crosscut article on Rhee:

Though her book feels rather hastily put together, with moments of false modesty, Rhee in person makes a compelling case for the principles she is fighting for. The heart of her philosophy rests on three policy pillars: Elevating the teaching profession, ensuring that families are given options in choosing the right schools for their kids and using tax dollars wisely.

“No matter what environment kids come from, they can thrive if they are in effective education environments,” Rhee asserts. She believes that cumbersome bureaucracy is often a roadblock to the success of a school or a student. “Children will either rise or fall to the expectations we set for them. It’s our job to create an environment where values are reinforced every day.”

Let's examine....

Three policy pillars:
(1) Elevating the teaching profession,
(2) ensuring that families are given options in choosing the right schools for their kids and
(3) using tax dollars wisely.
((only mom and apple pie might be less controversial))

cumbersome bureaucracy is often a roadblock to the success of a school or a student.

The above apparently are her justification for changes that unfortunately are rarely solutions as the changes Ms. Rhee proposes are NOT solutions.

Consider Common Core State Standards ... a huge expenditure to create a massive cumbersome bureaucracy ... yet Ms. Rhee fails to address CCSS because her big buck funders are all in favor of CCSS. Ms. Rhee is a great opportunist and is on message for big money interests.

Her actions are largely for the de-professionalization of teaching.

Children will either rise or fall to the expectations we set for them.

Complete BS.. Without adequate support in the form of sound instructional programs and providing effective interventions the raising expectations is a cruel hoax.

When Ms. Rhee started in WA DC measures showed DC as lower in Ed attainment than all 50 states .. and when she finished still lower than all 50 states.

It also seems Rhee failed to "Elevate the teaching profession"

Rhee identifies problems and then presents sham solutions so typical of Corporate backed Education Reformers. .... yup upon inspection this Ed Reform stuff always feels rather hastily put together. .... Rhee is just another agent of the oligarchy.

Want solutions? Read John Hattie.... evidence based solutions rather than Ed Reform BS.

Anonymous said…
My favorite part of the Ed Reformers arsenal are all the studies and research they cite and attempt rely upon, 99% of which finds correlations, but ignores causation, the critical factor that research validity depends upon.

Rhee loves to draw upon "research" a "Harvard study" even, to make the point that kids with higher quality teachers will earn more money in their lifetimes, are less likely to drop out of High School, and less likely to be teenage moms.

Gee, Ms. Rhee, you needed a Harvard Study to tell you that?

Now tell me about your "common sense" reforms again. Common sense does not seem to be something she naturally possesses. But, if I had my own driver, five-star hotel accommodations, and got 50k per speech, I wouldn't categorize myself as "common" and wouldn't expect to possess much commoners' senses either.

The ironic thing about Rhee is how her career path tracks that of GW Bush. Every time he crashed, burned and bankrupted another oil company, he always had daddy's rich friends to bail him out and start another company. Must be a "common" Ivy League thing.
Anonymous said…
Data, data everywhere...

Driven to distraction by too much big data

Commerce depends on trust, writes David Brooks. People and companies that behave well in tough times earn affection and self-respect that is extremely valuable, even if it is hard to capture in data.

Full article here:


Charlie Mas said…
There is a circular logic at work. It says that the students who have the higher quality teachers get higher test scores. But how do we know which teachers are the higher quality teachers? They are the ones whose students get higher test scores. The circle is complete. We can positively conclude that the teachers with the higher scoring students have students who score higher.
NESeattleMom said…
I don't have prior background on Rhee, but two things I disagreed with that I heard/read recently--first Steve Scher was trying to find out if her two daughters are in public school. She tried and tried to evade the question by saying she is a public school parent. She was trying not to lie. He couldn't understand her answer and kept asking the question. My guess is that one of her daughters may be in public and one in private. (only a guess). Then, another thing I thought was weird--she was giving an example about education and how students who are not achieving well should not think they are doing well. She used as an example her two daughters who she said were not great at soccer. She said their soccer teams gave them trophies (like young kids' soccer teams often do--not based on winning). She said she explained to the girls that they weren't great soccer players. I think in terms of any skill, it isn't good to say they aren't good at the skill, but instead, if you want the skill to improve, instead to say you are beginning and that you need to practice your skills to improve.
NESeattleMom said…
Rhee also talked about having some percentage of the teacher evaluation based on the students improvement. I wonder, in the cases of students who are either high achievers, or of those who have some disability that limits their academic achievements, if that is fair to judge the teacher's ability if the students cannot improve their achievement more than they already are doing. It doesn't make sense to me.
dan dempsey said…

You wondered about "having some percentage of the teacher evaluation based on the students improvement."

This method has been shown to be completely unreliable. The variation from year to year with most teachers fluctuates wildly because the sample sizes are just too small.

A teacher teaches "too few students" for this method to be valid.
Anonymous said…
Rhee's daughters' futures are already sealed. A collaborative work describing their frigid mother called: "Surviving a Mommy who says I stink." Book them now, Oprah.

Anonymous said…
Wouldn't the best way to evaluate teachers be on the very long term, from a longitudinal study? You'd really like to have the salaries and family background of students 10 years after graduation. Then extensively evaluate all the teachers the students had retrospectively. Teachers should be evaluated retrospectively. If they do poorly - they should refund portions of the salaries they collected over the years. (Or, get a big bonus, even in retirement.)


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