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If you have seen the documentary Waiting for Superman and liked it, this is a great followup, featuring one of the people from the movie, Michelle Rhee, who was in charge of the DC Public School system.
The book is a bit more of a biography as her life relates to public education. There is the life of her Korean parents, her upbringing, her college years, working in the Baltimore schools, and then the meat of the book, her role as Chancellor of DCPS. What you get is her point of view, and not an attempt at an unbiased/biased analysis of education reform. You get her views and impression of then Mayor Adrian Fenty and union head Randi Weingarten. You also get her passion for wanting better for inner city kids. The passion and desire come through clearly with the narration.
I am a resident of DC and have lived in the District since the Mayor Williams years. I was very aware of the many challenges Rhee faced. Parts about the sheer amount of waste she found made me very angry, because I know there are parts of DC government that are still that way. I am also very aware that this is just her point of view and she leaves out voices that are not hers, which is understandable. She tries to be inclusive, like with an example of why people wanted to keep a school open for reasons that had more to do with community spirit and nothing to do with education.
I finished the book feeling a sense of gratitude to Mayor Fenty and the changes that he made. I also left with a feeling that too many inner city and poor kids are getting screwed for no good reason and it is up to parents and regular citizens to change things.
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If you could sum up Radical in three words, what would they be?
After watching Michelle Rhee from the side lines, I thought I would read her book to gain more insight into her thought process and tenure as Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools. I must say, I thought she was spot on in her assessments of putting Students First. My wife and I are in the process of looking where to send our child for Kindergarten. Our criteria were pretty simple we were looking at the quality of the teachers, teacher to student ratio, curriculum, differentiated services, and school facilities (classroom quality etc). We looked at the local public school and a few private schools. Although our local public school did offer some services we were still concerned about their differentiated lesson plans. I believe most parents are concerned about the quality of their children education and if it’s subpar what actions do they have to improve it. If you live in a low income/poor community, your options are probably very limited. This book basically states this should not be the case.
Michelle Rhee is absolutely correct when she says that we have to be an advocate for ensuring we have great teachers, access to great schools, and effective use of public dollars when educating our kids regardless of community. Ensuring that we hold ineffective educators accountable and not just move them to another school seems very rational to me. Educating our children is a bipartisan issue and holding our politicians accountable to ensure every community has access to our standing schools and educators should be the standard not the exception.
Several people will be turned off from this book because Michelle Rhee is on the cover, to me that would be a tragedy. After reading this book I went to her website and registered.
What about Shannon McManus’s performance did you like?
She was great.
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