She’s lionized by reform advocates who admire her willingness to take on teachers' unions and push ahead on controversial ideas, and was one of the heroes of the recent education documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman.'”
At the same time, she’s vilified by many in the unions, who say her methods – which tend to shun the consensus-building approach that other districts have tried – are counterproductive and unfairly demonize teachers. She stepped down from her post after former Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty lost his primary – a loss attributable at least in part to his education policy.
“Michelle Rhee likes to say that teachers unions are the problem, but the leading states and countries in educational outcomes – such as Finland, South Korea, and Singapore – are heavily unionized,” the American Federation of Teachers said in a statement Monday. “They focus on building on what works … and they do so through collaboration, not conflict or scapegoating.”
In the Newsweek article, Rhee says that across the country, “the rationale for the decisions [in school districts] mostly rests on which grown-ups will be affected, instead of what will benefit or harm children.” And she takes a swipe at the unions, saying that “I don’t think the unions can or should change. The purpose of the teachers’ union is to protect the privileges, priorities, and pay of their members. And they’re doing a great job of that.”