In the ever-evolving landscape of education in America, Michelle Rhee has been working tirelessly for the past two decades to give children the skills and knowledge they will need to compete in a changing world. From adding instructional time after school and visiting students’ homes as a third grade teacher in Baltimore, to hosting hundreds of community meetings and creating a Youth Cabinet to bring students’ voices into reforming the DC Public Schools, Michelle has always been guided by one core principle: put students first.
Seeing bureaucratic barriers as a key problem in improving the school system, in 2013, Michelle put her thoughts and solutions to paper and wrote her first book, Radical: Fighting To Put Students First. In the book, Michelle lays out the foundation of getting behind a movement to put children before the deteriorating status quo. Encapsulating her well-documented experiences and enlightened knowledge, Radical serves as, “a call-to-arms guide to not only improve our schools, but also build a brighter future for America’s children.”
Michelle first came onto the public stage on June 12, 2007, when Mayor Adrian Fenty appointed her to lead the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), a school district serving more than 47,000 students in 123 schools. Under Michelle’s leadership, the worst performing school district in the country became the only major city system to see double-digit growth in both their state reading and state math scores in seventh, eighth and tenth grades over three years. The graduation rate rose, and after previous steep declines, enrollment rose for the first time in forty years.
Michelle's work in the D.C. Public School System was highlighted in the documentary hit film Waiting for "Superman". The film analyzes the failures of American public education by following several students through the educational system.
Currently, Michelle serves on the Advisory Boards for the National Council on Teacher Quality, the National Center for Alternative Certification and Project REACH of the University of Phoenix’s School of Education. In August 2014, Rhee replaced Jim Scheible as chair of St. Hope Public Schools, a charter school chain run by her husband, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, and subsequently announced that she would be stepping down as CEO of StudentsFirst.
Each chapter of Michelle’s story has convinced her: students of every background and ZIP code can achieve at high levels, and for our schools to become what children deserve, every educator is called to believe this. Even in the toughest of circumstances, all teachers are called to turn the incredible potential that fills their classrooms daily, into the achievements worthy of our children and country.
Michelle has a bachelor’s degree in government from Cornell University and a master’s in public policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
"Michelle Rhee will bring demonstrated excellence backed by enormous energy and commitment to the national discussion on school reform. What she did in Washington, D.C. was game changing, which is precisely what the country needs — bold leadership that is unafraid to put students first.."
"I am proud to march shoulder to shoulder with Michelle Rhee and millions of parents and children as we launch this latest chapter in our pursuit of the American Dream and education equality for all. Si se puede — yes we can!"
"Michelle and her new organization, StudentsFirst, will seek to put the focus back where it belongs — on kids. I look forward to seeing her work progress and am confident that she will be successful. That's why I take the pledge."