This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks
Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of Washington, D.C., schools, hosted a "Teacher Town Hall" event in Philadelphia on Monday night. Rhee joined CNN contributor and Capital Prep Magnet School principal Steve Perry and former Washington Teachers’ Union president George Parker in the hopes of engaging in "an open, honest conversation on ed reform specifically with educators."
During Rhee’s three-year tenure as chancellor of Washington’s school district, she ignored teacher-seniority provisions, implemented a generous merit-pay system, and caught the national spotlight as the district’s standardized test scores skyrocketed in her first few years on the job.
Soon, though, reports of test cheating tainted Rhee’s reputation, and by 2010, with the election of a new mayor, she resigned. Some who have followed Rhee’s reign closely say she left D.C. schools in worse shape than when she came. Rhee disagrees and now advocates for her brand of education reform on the national stage.
Speaking at Temple University’s student center Monday night, Rhee, Perry, and Parker sought to quell fears about what they called the "misinformation" surrounding the reform conversation.
Instead of relying purely on standardized test results, Rhee said, teacher evaluations must be comprehensive in nature — taking into account students’ demographic information and the teacher’s relationship with the school community.
Rhee assured the audience of mostly teachers that she felt teaching was "one of, if not, the hardest job in the entire country," and said she only implemented reforms by analyzing policy decisions through her perspective as a mother of two children in the D.C. public school system.
"I’m not going to put a policy in place that’s not good enough for my children," Rhee said.
The audience bristled at times, calling Rhee "disingenuous" and questioning the corporate backing behind many education reform organizations. Many audience members also expressed displeasure with the way organizers structured the town hall. Many said that the event didn’t deliver the "honest conversation" that was billed and that the moderator too quickly quashed the room’s dissenting voices.