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MAKERS Profile

Michelle Rhee

Education Reformer

More From Michelle

In this video

Michelle Rhee on her early teaching days, mission to improve public education, and controversial term as Public Schools Chancellor in DC.

Michelle's Biography

Cause of Choice: City Year
Most Proud Of: Raising two great kids
Inspirational Role Model: Warren Buffet
Meaningful Advice Received: Former NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein telling her to "lead from the front."

The daughter of South Korean émigrés, and herself educated for a year in her parents’ homeland, Michelle Rhee graduated from Cornell before landing in the principled—and prestigious—Teach For America program. By her late 30s, she had become the point person for one of the boldest and most controversial school reform efforts in American municipal history. As Chancellor of Washington DC’s schools, Rhee instituted merit pay for teachers, fought for art and music classes, and championed charter schools (look for Rhee in the acclaimed documentary Waiting for Superman).  Her push meant locking horns with teachers’ unions and, as Rhee predicted sadly, cost Mayor Adrian Fenty his job. But it did something more: her example helped to drastically reshape the national discussion on teachers and schools. In late 2010, while advising Republican governors in Florida and Nevada, she formed StudentsFirst, a bipartisan grassroots movement committed to enlisting one million members and raising a billion dollars on behalf of American education.

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