Eye on Education


Former D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee speaks at a 2010 press conference.

Meet Michelle Rhee, Leader of StudentsFirst


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Michelle Rhee walks with Florida Gov. Rick Scott during a visit to the Florida International Academy charter school on January 6, 2011 in Opa Locka, Fla.

Michelle Rhee is the former chancellor of the District of Columbia public schools and the founder of The New Teacher Project, which works to ensure that low-income, non-white students get great teachers. Rhee grew up in Toledo, where she attended both public and private schools. After graduating from college, she taught in Baltimore through the Teacher for America program.

Today, she is the leader and founder of StudentsFirst, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “build a national movement to defend the interests of children in public education and pursue transformative reform.”

StudentsFirst’s policy agenda includes working to change how teachers are evaluated and paid; to create high-quality publicly funded “school choices;” and to encourage spending only on policies that advance student achievement.

StudentsFirst is active in several states, including Ohio. In fall 2011, Ohio state director for StudentsFirst Chad Aldis said StudentsFirst would lobby Ohio legislators and policymakers on three main issues:

  • Teacher and principal evaluations in which at least half of the evaluation is based on students’ academic progress,
  • Performance-based pay, and
  • A complete prohibition on seniority-based layoffs.

StudentsFirst lobbied in favor of laws on teacher evaluations that made it into the state budget enacted in 2011. And Rhee herself has made several trips to Ohio, including visits to co-host Waiting for Superman screenings with Gov. John Kasich and to speak at Kent State University.

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