“Throughout her career, Michelle Rhee has fought for every student to receive a quality education. In Radical, Rhee describes her experiences in the trenches, her challenges and her successes, but what she has learned through it all is that we must always put our students first.”
“Michelle Rhee is a national treasure. . . . As told in this important book, her fight against this country’s calcified education bureaucracy holds lessons for us all.”
“Radical: Fighting to Put Students First is one of the most important and compelling books I have read. Michelle Rhee’s account of her continuing struggles to achieve her vision for American public education is riveting. This engaging and well-written book is a must-read.”
“Radical is much more than a diagnosis of our failing schools. It is Michelle Rhee’s personal odyssey, powered by her conviction that the survival of the American Dream of tomorrow depends on how we educate our children today. Her determination comes through on every page.”
“Michelle Rhee is famous as a hard-charging champion of education reform, but this charming and engrossing memoir is full of surprises as we learn that Rhee is also a strong Democrat and a thoughtful even contrite activist working every day to help kids learn.”
American children are guaranteed an education, but they are not guaranteed a good one. Rhee, founder of StudentsFirst and former chancellor of the Washington D.C. public schools, details drastic changes for how children should be educated, sparking a heated debate over what many consider aggressive reforms. Growing up in a family of teachers in a strict Korean household, Rhee shares the triumphs and tribulations of her childhood. Later, recognizing the struggles of American schools, Rhee uses her experiences initiating a movement to remake American public education to allow each child the opportunity to learn and achieve. Many of her ideas are contentious or counter common practices, and have created a range of responses from impassioned dissenters to rabid fans. Despite Rhee's speeches about the dire need for better teachers, many individuals and organizations were angry at her actions and often questioned her motives. Regardless, she stresses that it is time to change the way the schools are run, how teachers are selected and trained, and how this all relates to the needs of students. Anyone interested in the future of public education will find a valuable guide for gleaning ideas, getting inspired, or perhaps for even instituting these techniques in your own local school.
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An education-reform manifesto from Rhee, StudentsFirst founder and former chancellor of Washington, D.C., public schools. The author's account of her rise as an educational policy advocate is as notable for what it lacks as for what it contains. The moments of inspiration are impressive, and it is easy to be incensed at the corruption and incompetence she describes. Rhee is at her most convincing when she relates problems with the D.C. school bureaucracy, which was so inefficient that its mismanagement kept a warehouse full of books, desks and school supplies from reaching students. At other moments, the sustainability of the reforms she champions seems more doubtful. The author lionizes teachers who spend their own time and money to help students. Though she notes that these are the kinds of teachers we need, she does not explain how that level of personal spending or uncompensated time is sustainable for older teachers with significant family obligations. While serving as chancellor, Rhee's teacher-evaluation system rewarded high performers with increased pay. However, the money that paid for the eye-popping merit amounts she was able to offer certain teachers (one teacher saw an increase of over $20,000) was raised externally. Though this is undeniably compelling, Rhee does not explain how this strategy would scale to school districts across the nation. She responds, briefly, to accusations that the rise in test scores under her tenure as chancellor were fueled by cheating on the part of teachers, who allegedly erased wrong answers and replaced them with correct ones. Her defense is unlikely to be convincing to many in light of the recent revival of the allegations. Rhetorically soaring but somewhat lacking in substance.