Michelle Rhee, the former D.C. public schools chief, will speak to a full house at Kent State University’s Stark campus tonight as part of its Featured Speakers Series. In response, the university’s education faculty will hold their own event later this month to present “an insider’s view of education as a profession.”
The Rhee speech this evening, for which Rhee is being paid $35,000, is free and open to the public, but tickets are no longer available. The Oct. 25 faculty event, which features five Kent State Stark professors, is also free and open to the public. The university will include flyers announcing the Oct. 25 event in the programs for tonight’s event.
Rhee has become one of the spokespeople for a brand of school reform that her organization, StudentsFirst, describes as building “a national movement to defend the interests of children in public education and pursue transformative reform, so that America has the best education system in the world.” Rhee, who appeared in the documentary Waiting for Superman, has criticized seniority-based teacher retention and supported performance pay and improving teacher evaluations.
University organizers invited Rhee because education is a “hot topic,” said Tina Biasella, Kent State Stark’s director of external affairs:
“We’re looking for things that would be of interest to our students and are of a timely interest.”
After Rhee’s speech, a select group of students majoring in education and other fields will have a chance to talk with her at a private reception, Biasella said:
“This is an opportunity for our students to meet people they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to meet.”
Claudia Khourey-Bowers is the director of graduate education at Kent State Stark. She organized the Oct. 25 event to present an alternative to Rhee’s agenda and ensure “the voice of professional educators” was heard:
I felt that the format of the Featured Speakers event was more social than conducive to an exchange of ideas. I believe that the voice of professional educators is too rarely heard, and very rarely heard from their perspective. While we thought it was beneficial to our students to hear an opposing spokesperson, lack of response could be interpreted by them and the general public as support for the ideas that Rhee represents.
The other reason I felt compelled to offer our insights was in the face of increasingly challenging assessment demands placed on student teachers and other teacher-candidates. The disparity in national/state expectations for traditionally-prepared teacher candidates and alternatively-prepared teacher candidates is of great concern.
Here’s Michelle Rhee’s speaking contract with the university: