Controversial Education Maven Michelle Rhee Riles Up Minnesota

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Controversial education expert Michelle Rhee, founder of Students First and former chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public school system, brought her combative education reform rhetoric to Minnesota last week, drawing a vocal protest from opponents and challenging state educators to alter teacher seniority systems that Rhee said contribute to the achievement gap between white students and students of color.

Rhee headlined the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce 2014 Education Summit at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in St. Paul, calling for Minnesota to re-do teacher seniority rules she characterized as “last in, first out” in the hiring and firing of teachers. The conference, which included a panel moderated by Alice Seagren, former Minnesota education commissioner (appointed by former GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty) and another featuring former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, a DFLer who is now executive director of Generation Next, prompted a protest by the group Minnesotans Against Common Core.

Rhee, who started her educational career as a Teach for America teacher after a five-week training program, founded the nonprofit The New Teacher Project before becoming head of Washington’s public schools in 2007, a job she held through 2010. During her controversial tenure, Rhee became a polarizing figure who closed schools, fired 600 teachers and principals, and implemented performance-based and test-driven policies. At last week’s conference, Rhee responded to critics who alluded to a cheating scandal under her administration, saying six different investigations have “shown no evidence of widespread cheating.” She said that while the district still has as an achievement gap, “students have made significant progress.” Distributed by OneLoad.com

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