A close look at a speech from Michelle Rhee

It is useful to look at the lies coming out of the mouth of Michelle Rhee, one of the main proponents of destroying public education. I just took down, verbatim, what Rhee said at a panel discussion chaired by Henry Louis Gates at Martha’s Vineyard in 2011. (Diane Ravitch was also on the panel.) How many lies, prevarications, and half-truths can you spot?

Here is the passage, starting at 11:22 on this Youtube video where MR is speaking her platitudes:

We as educators have not created a great case for ourselves. We have more than doubled the amount of money that we are spending per child over the last two [few? gfb] decades, and the results have not gotten better. Now if we had doubled the expenditures and the results had doubled as well, then that would have made a very easy case for us to go to politicians and say “If you cut our budget by this much then this is what will suffer,” but we haven’t done that. And you have school districts like Washington, DC and Newark where they are spending $22,000 a year per child, and the results are absolutely in the bottom of this nation. So we’re, it, it, to me the first order of operation is less about more money because I think that more money into a broken system is not going to deliver a different result. I think we have to change the fundamentals of how this system is working. I think we have had lots of conversations today about how to try to do that. But I think we need a fundamentally different system first before we can go and make a case to the taxpayers and other people about putting more money into it.

In fact, as I have shown repeatedly, there are a number of areas in which achievement in public education has gotten way, way better over the past few decades. NAEP scores in general are way, way up: black students today are scoring above where white students were scoring back then. Also, if you look at the growth in passing Advanced Placement scores over the past few decades, well, yes, we have way more than doubled the numbers!

passing + failing numbers of AP exams 1991-2011

If you look at the PIRLS comparisons of American and international students, our kids did rather well, as I showed here.

PIRLS 4th grade benchmarks reading by nation

Even DC NAEP scores have been going up pretty steadily for 20 years, as I showed in this post, and here, and elsewhere, but the black-white gap on those scores in DCPS got wider while Michelle Rhee was in charge.

Not a word of recognition that RHEE HERSELF WAS IN CHARGE OF DCPS while the black-white gap got to be #1 in the nation!!

Not a word of acknowledgement that Rhee, herself, rammed through all those enormous budget increases for central office 20-something failed ex-TFAers, for high-priced consultants, for a completely incomprehensible and untested Value-Added system for evaluating teachers, for poisoned bonuses for cheating teachers and principals, for lots more testing and fees to testing companies, and for other failed experiments like “Capital Gains”.

Things got politically hot in Washington DC for Rhee right before she gave this speech, since a majority of the population of DC thought that her ideas were toxic and counterproductive, so her benefactor (Fenty) lost, so she quit — to go on to make millions of dollars per year giving speeches at $50K per prattle, and through untraceable and unaccountable tax-exempt donations from the very tiny group of billionaires who are running public education today.

Those huge sums of money that Rhee wheedled out of politicians and billionaires didn’t go to students. They went to adults like Rhee!

Another point: I don’t think the main complaint is that schools and teachers aren’t getting enough money. The big problem is what we are doing with that cash: we are wasting it on paying huge sums of money to large corporations for idiotic and useless multiple-choice tests, on gimmicky and unproven high-tech schemes that make huge bucks for corporations, on consultants, and on high-priced experts and ‘coaches’. And on gimmicky charter schools that mostly do worse than the normal private schools. And on demonizing teachers.

Published in: on June 1, 2013 at 8:39 pm  Comments (10)  
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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] this post, blogger and former math teacher G.F. Brandenburg dissects a speech by Michelle Rhee. What he finds […]


  2. […] Click here to read the entire article, view the charts, for the links, and to leave a comment via A close look at a speech from Michelle Rhee | GFBrandenburg’s Blog. […]


  3. The first lie was “We as educators”… She is not an educator. She’s a former failed TFAer and policy wonk who has been the recipient of crony appointments, such as in TNTP and as DC chancellor.

    Rhee’s StudentsFirst organization has been getting millions from the Waltons since 2011, to “shape public policy” See the Grant Reports at the Walton Foundation website for the list of recipients over the years: http://www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/about/2012-grant-report/ Be sure to check out who else the Waltons have been supporting, including major recipients TFA and KIPP.


    • Yes, as a teacher, I felt nauseated by the insinuation that she has somehow linked herself to me.


      • Are there any actual working teachers out there who approve of her programs? If so, what percent are there?


  4. It is possible that Rhee is a bona fide pathological liar who has managed to position herself so as to be paid for her affliction. Alternatively and more likely, it’s a conscious choice on her part to proceed in this manner since the truth cannot serve her or her backers purposes. We have been seeing more and more of this behavior from across the reformer spectrum including a stunningly jaw dropping, incredibly Orwellian speech from Arne Duncan at the recent AERA conference. The cause of these over the top deceptions is quite simple: as more people come to understand how they have been tricked and deceived, they never fall for it again and vent their indignation by spreading the word to their networks of friends and associates. The only strategy left to the reformers is to tell the biggest lies possible to muddy the waters amongst the as yet un-offended while simultaneously trying to consolidate the ground they have taken in what will in all likelihood turn out to be a vain attempt to hold onto it. We’ll know victory is at hand when their lies transition into appeasement in hopes of keeping what they have obtained by fraud and corruption.


  5. Gary, a suggested edit shown in caps. “And on gimmicky charter schools that mostly do worse than the normal PUBLIC schools.”

    Here’s a link to another refutation of one of Rhee’s big lies that made the rounds a few months ago. Thanks for all your great analysis. http://prosserjohn.tumblr.com/post/44848476440/michelle-rhee-is-wrong


  6. Rhee’s entire career is a lie, and it has been financially sucessful for her, why change now?


    • Working for the ‘dark side’ is very profitable. You just have to sell your soul and the lives of millions.


  7. Guy – I hope you distribute this to all the members of that panel.


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