The Bee Eater: Michelle Rhee Takes on the Nation???s Worst School District
This semi-authorized biography of Michelle Rhee tracks her tenure as an elementary school teacher, her leadership of the nascent New Teacher Project, and her time as chancellor of D.C.’s public schools. For those unfamiliar with her formative years, the book provides a compelling explanation of how she came to be obsessed with teacher quality (and with firing incompetent employees). And for those who didn’t follow the Washington Post coverage of Rhee’s D.C. whirlwind, the book offers an inspired narrative. Unfortunately, while Whitmire’s text is rich in research and peppered with interview quotes, his final assessment of Rhee’s legacy in D.C. is too vanilla. The five criticisms he does send her way (e.g. she sometimes had poor media judgment, she fought battles that did not need to be fought) could have come from any D.C. insider or avid Post reader. Furthermore, he doesn’t push hard enough on the question of whether Rhee’s reforms actually boosted student achievement—or are likely to in years to come. Still and all, education reformers interested in gaining a comprehensive perspective on Michelle Rhee (the person, not the action figure), or on finding some Waiting for ‘Superman’-like inspiration, would be wise to seek out and read The Bee Eater.
Richard Whitmire, The Bee Eater: Michelle Rhee Takes on the Nation’s Worst School District (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass: A Wiley Imprint, 2011).
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