The Bee Eater chronicles the extraordinary life and work of the dynamic and controversial school reformer Michelle Rhee. The author delves into Rhee's childhood (as the only Korean American in her graduating class in her Toledo, Ohio school), her first teaching job in a West Baltimore classroom (where she once ate a bee to the amazement of her students), her appointment as chancellor of Washington, D.C. public schools and her launch of Children First, her national advocacy group that draws on the tough lessons of Washington. While the book reveals Rhee's remarkable accomplishments, it also explores many of the fundamental problems in our current education system, the unpredictable politics ofleadership — and her shortcomings.
When Michelle Rhee first arrived in Washington, she found a school district that had been so dysfunctional for so long that many had given up, choosing to blame race and poverty rather than poor instruction. There was no one being held accountable. The district central office had become an adult employment center, a place to deposit job seekers. Rhee was convinced that Washington's inner city students could achieve, but considerable obstacles stood in the way — obstacles that needed removing.
Guided by the principles of outstanding leadership, strict accountability, and the power of effective teaching, Rhee was determined to turn around the Washington, D.C. schools. Her encounters with community politics and long-simmering racial tensions, and her battles with central office bureaucrats and teachers' unions, were so extraordinary that her efforts were featured in Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and a lengthy PBS series.
The Bee Eater holds the promise of educational excellence for today's students and for tomorrow's school reformers.