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Published by: Harvard Kennedy School
Published in: 2012

Abstract

The case opens in 2007, when the Washington, DC public school system was failing. Parents, politicians, labor unions and activists all agreed that reform was necessary due to abysmal student test scores, attendance records and safety concerns. But stakeholders disagreed sharply on how to achieve their shared goal of providing a good education to the city's children. Reformers wanted to close failing schools, parents wanted to choose where their children attended school, and the teachers' union wanted more compensation for teachers. Michelle Rhee, a former teacher and 'outsider', was hired by Mayor Adrian Fenty to institute sweeping and speedy reforms. As Chancellor, Rhee came under fire by teachers and their union, parents and the public for her swift move to close underperforming schools and, controversially, to fire teachers rated as 'ineffective' by IMPACT, a value-added evaluation system designed to isolate each teacher's unique contribution to their student's educational achievement based on student test scores. The case discusses the steps Rhee took to reform the DC public schools and the support and opposition she encountered along the way, culminating with her November 2010 resignation.
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Abstract

The case opens in 2007, when the Washington, DC public school system was failing. Parents, politicians, labor unions and activists all agreed that reform was necessary due to abysmal student test scores, attendance records and safety concerns. But stakeholders disagreed sharply on how to achieve their shared goal of providing a good education to the city's children. Reformers wanted to close failing schools, parents wanted to choose where their children attended school, and the teachers' union wanted more compensation for teachers. Michelle Rhee, a former teacher and 'outsider', was hired by Mayor Adrian Fenty to institute sweeping and speedy reforms. As Chancellor, Rhee came under fire by teachers and their union, parents and the public for her swift move to close underperforming schools and, controversially, to fire teachers rated as 'ineffective' by IMPACT, a value-added evaluation system designed to isolate each teacher's unique contribution to their student's educational achievement based on student test scores. The case discusses the steps Rhee took to reform the DC public schools and the support and opposition she encountered along the way, culminating with her November 2010 resignation.

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