Michelle Rhee, Former Chancellor, D.C. Public Schools, on Leading Urban District Reform & the COVID-19 Moment

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on
LinkedIn
+

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and guest co-host Kerry McDonald are joined by Michelle Rhee, founder and former CEO of StudentsFirst and prior to that, former chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). Michelle shares how her liberal arts background and Teach for America experience prepared her for a career in education leadership. Michelle reflects on the reforms she initiated at DCPS, the challenges she faced navigating notoriously difficult D.C. politics, and the rewards of working with her successor, Kaya Henderson, to implement lasting reforms and deliver great results for kids. She offers recommendations for restructuring K-12 schools, especially in larger, urban districts. They also discuss the ways in which schools and districts are being radically decentralized during COVID-19, with virtual schooling, homeschooling, and pandemic pods.

Stories of the Week: Through pandemic pods, parents without a lot of financial resources or home space are getting creative to set up meaningful learning environments across the country. A study on school responses to COVID-19 that appeared in EducationNext shows that leading charter school networks shifted seamlessly to remote learning, within days of the mid-March shutdowns. How did they succeed, and is it replicable?

*NEW DAY, NEW TIME!*

Season Two of “The Learning Curve” will air on Wednesdays at 12 pm ET each week.

The next episode will be available on Wednesday, September 9th, 2020 with guests Jay Greene, distinguished professor and chair of the department of education reform at the University of Arkansas, and Jason Bedrick, director of policy for EdChoice.

*Programming note: “The Learning Curve” co-host Gerard Robinson is off this week. We are grateful to Kerry McDonald for filling in as guest co-host.

Interview Guest:
Michelle Rhee is the founder and former CEO of StudentsFirst, a bipartisan grassroots movement to improve America’s schools. Launched in 2010, StudentsFirst has helped change education policies in dozens of states. In 2007, Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty appointed Michelle chancellor of the D.C. Public Schools. Under her leadership, the district and its teachers union approved a groundbreaking contract that dramatically reformed how D.C. schools operate, streamlined the system’s central office, and freed up more resources to go directly into classrooms. D.C. students have since experienced historic academic success and growth. Her 2013 book, Radical: Fighting to Put Students First has been widely acclaimed. Michelle graduated from Cornell University and earned a master’s degree from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

Tweet of the Week:

News links:

How Big Charter Networks Made the Switch to Remote Learning

https://www.educationnext.org/how-big-charter-networks-made-switch-to-remote-learning/

Parents Join Forces to Rethink ‘Back to School’

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/28/realestate/coronavirus-parents-schools.html

Get Updates on Our Education Research

Related Content

Law Prof. Melvin Urofsky on Justice Louis Brandeis, the SCOTUS, & Dissenting Opinions

This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Melvin Urofsky, Professor of Law & Public Policy and Professor Emeritus of History at Virginia Commonwealth University, and the author of several books, including Louis D. Brandeis: A Life and Dissent and the Supreme Court. Professor Urofsky shares insights on Justice Brandeis’s jurisprudence, and why he consistently ranks among the three most influential Supreme Court justices in American history.

Heritage Foundation’s Jonathan Butcher on Edu Federalism, School Choice, Learning Pods

This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Jonathan Butcher, the Will Skillman Fellow in Education at The Heritage Foundation. They discuss the growing popularity of learning pods, an education innovation propelled by K-12 public education’s failure to meet the COVID-19 moment. With as many as three million children enrolled in learning pods, 35 percent of parents participating in them, and another 18 percent interested in joining one, Butcher shares findings from his report on the role of pods in expanding parent-driven educational choice options.

Georgetown’s Dr. Marguerite Roza on K-12 School Finance, Spending, & Results

This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Dr. Marguerite Roza, Research Professor and Director of the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University. Professor Roza describes the three distinct phases of how American K-12 education has been funded over the last 40 years, and implications for equity and overall student achievement.

Stanford’s National Humanities Medal Winner Prof. Arnold Rampersad on Langston Hughes & Ralph Ellison

This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Professor Arnold Rampersad, the Sara Hart Kimball Professor Emeritus in Humanities at Stanford University and recipient of the National Humanities Medal for his books including The Life of Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison: A Biography.

The Washington Post’s Jay Mathews on An Optimist’s Guide to American Public Education

This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Jay Mathews, an education columnist for The Washington Post and author of the recent book, An Optimist's Guide to American Public Education. Jay describes the three key trends in K-12 schooling that he views as cause for hope.

BBC Classics Prof. Bettany Hughes on Athenian Democracy, Socrates, & the Goddess Aphrodite

This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Professor Bettany Hughes, award-winning historian, BBC broadcaster, and author of the best-selling books Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore; The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens, and the Search for the Good Life; and Venus and Aphrodite: History of a Goddess. Prof. Hughes shares insights from her most recent book about the ancient deity known as Venus to Romans and Aphrodite to the Greeks, and her impact on our understanding of the mythology and history of beauty, romance, and passion.

Dartmouth’s Prof. Susannah Heschel Discusses Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel & the Civil Rights Movement

This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Dr. Susannah Heschel, the Eli M. Black Distinguished Professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College, and the daughter of noted 20th-century Jewish theologian and Civil Rights-era leader, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. They discuss what teachers and students today should know about Rabbi Heschel’s life and legacy.

Hoover Institution’s Dr. Eric Hanushek on COVID-19, K-12 Learning Loss, & Economic Impact

/
This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Dr. Eric Hanushek, the Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. They discuss his research, cited by The Wall Street Journal, on learning loss due to the pandemic, especially among poor, minority, and rural students, and its impact on skills and earnings.

UK Classics Scholar Kathryn Tempest on Cicero, Brutus, & the Death of Caesar

This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Dr. Kathryn Tempest, a Reader in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Roehampton in London, UK, and author of Cicero: Politics and Persuasion in Ancient Rome and Brutus: The Noble Conspirator. They discuss the historical, civic, and moral lessons political leaders, educators, and schoolchildren today can learn by studying the Roman Republic and the lives of key figures from that era such as Cicero and Brutus.

Best-Selling, Netflix Author Loung Ung On Surviving Pol Pot’s Killing Fields

/
This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Loung Ung, a human-rights activist; the author of the bestselling books First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, Lucky Child, and Lulu in the Sky; and a co-screenwriter of the 2017 Netflix Original Movie, First They Killed My Father. Ms. Ung shares her experiences living through genocide under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979, which resulted in the deaths of nearly a quarter of Cambodia's population. 

American Federation for Children’s Tommy Schultz on School Choice & Edu Federalism

/
This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Tommy Schultz, CEO-elect of the American Federation for Children (AFC). They discuss how COVID-19 school closures have increased the interest in alternatives to public schools, and what AFC's polling shows on shifts in attitudes toward school choice options in both urban and rural communities.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, International Best-Selling Author & Human Rights Activist

/
This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and Cara talk with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, founder of the AHA Foundation, and author of the books Prey: Immigration, Islam, and the Erosion of Women's Rights, Infidel: My Life, and Nomad: From Islam to America - A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations. 

WSJ Drama Editor Terry Teachout on Jazz Greats Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington

This week on “The Learning Curve," Gerard and guest co-host Kerry McDonald continue our celebration of Black achievements with Terry Teachout, drama critic at The Wall Street Journal, and author of such books as Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong and Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington.

UGA Prof. Valerie Boyd on Zora Neale Hurston, the Harlem Renaissance, & Black History Month

/
This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara and Gerard celebrate Black History Month with Professor Valerie Boyd, the Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer in Residence and Associate Professor of Journalism at the University of Georgia, and the definitive biographer of Zora Neale Hurston. Boyd discusses why Hurston is such an important novelist and cultural figure, and the influence of Hurston’s 1937 classic novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, on American literature.

Boston Catholic Schools Supt. Tom Carroll on National Catholic Schools Week

/
This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara and Gerard celebrate National Catholic Schools Week with Tom Carroll, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Boston. He shares his view of the value that Catholic schools add; the reasons for their success at improving student outcomes and creating a sense of community; and their commitment to serving children from underprivileged backgrounds, regardless of religious affiliation. 

AZ Supreme Court Justice Clint Bolick on National School Choice Week

/
This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara and Gerard kick off National School Choice Week with Arizona Supreme Court Justice Clint Bolick, co-author with Kate Hardiman of a new book, Unshackled: Freeing America’s K–12 Education System. Justice Bolick shares his experiences serving on a state supreme court, and how it has shaped his understanding of America’s legal system.

Pulitzer Winner Taylor Branch on MLK, Civil Rights History, & Race in America

/
This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara and Gerard are joined by Taylor Branch, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of a landmark trilogy on the Civil Rights era, America in the King Years. They discuss the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, whose birthday the nation observed on Monday. They review Dr. King’s powerful, moving oratory, drawing on spiritual and civic ideals to promote nonviolent protest against racial injustice, and how, as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he shared leadership of the movement with organizations such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Ignat Solzhenitsyn on His Father’s Nobel Prize-Winning Fight with Communism

/
This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara and Gerard talk with Ignat Solzhenitsyn, a pianist, conductor laureate of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, principal guest conductor of the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, and son of the Nobel Prize-winning Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. They discuss his father’s legacy, his courageous work to debunk the Soviet Union’s utopian myths, and key lessons American educators and students should draw from his life, writings, and battle with Soviet communism.

Eva Moskowitz of Success Academy on Charter Schools, Achievement Gaps, & COVID-19 Learning Loss

/
This week on “The Learning Curve," Cara and Gerard kick off the new year with Eva Moskowitz, CEO & Founder of Success Academy Charter Schools, a network of 47 schools enrolling 20,000 K-12 students in New York City. Eva shares her own education path, and how it influences her leadership and philosophy.

USED Asst. Sec. Jim Blew Talks Sec. DeVos, School Choice, & K-12 Politics

/
This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Jim Blew, the assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development at the U.S. Department of Education. Assistant Secretary Blew shares lessons from leading and implementing K-12 public education reform efforts in often contentious policy environments, and the unique challenges of the current partisanship and gridlock in Washington, D.C.