Michelle Rhee

Photo: KK Ottessen

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Testing, Testing: The Power of Hard Lessons: Michelle Rhee
Remember when your teachers told you that school wasn't about being popular? Michelle Rhee, 40, must have been paying attention. In the three years since she took over the ailing Washington, D.C., school system, Rhee has made some very unpopular moves—she fired her own children's principal, closed underperforming schools, and quickly became known for her take-no-prisoners management style—but she's gotten results. Within her first year, the number of schools with proficiency rates below 20 percent dropped by almost half. Have you been taking notes? Good: Here's our pop quiz on one of Washington's most controversial—and effective—figures.

1. Who among the following supports Rhee?

a. Director Spike Lee
b. Washington, D.C., mayor Adrian Fenty
c. NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein
d. President Obama
e. The "Rhee-volutionaries"
f. All of the above

2. How many schools did Rhee close in her first year as chancellor?

a. 2
b. 200
c. 15
d. 23

3. Rhee says most people describe her as

a. Warm and fuzzy
b. Easy and breezy
c. Fire and brimstone
d. "Lots of people say, 'She's too mean.' But I don't know that being nicer would help us get to where we need to go"

4. What does Rhee say when asked if she has the hardest job in Washington?

a. "I do, but don't tell President Obama"
b. "Only on the days that end in y"
c. "Just 8 percent of Washington's kids function at grade level—what do you think?"
d. "No. I was an urban teacher, and compared to that, my job is a walk in the park"

5. Where does Rhee get her confidence?

a. Daily affirmations
b. Every time she fires herself, she makes sure to rehire herself
c. Napoleon's Ten Secrets to Success
d. "I know that if I piss some people off, but radically change kids' learning outcomes, I've done what's right"

(If you answered "d" for each question—except 1, whose answer is "f"—you get an A.)


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