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Preview: New PBS Documentary Humanizes Rhee's Tenure

Critics of Michelle Rhee are gearing up to use tomorrow night's PBS Frontline documentary, "The Education of Michelle Rhee," as an opportunity to try and tear her apart, while her advocates hope the segment will recontextualize her time in DC.  

But in the end, neither camp will be helped very much by the Tuesday night show.  As noted in the Washington Post writeup of the segment, "Much of the film draws on footage previously broadcast in a dozen of Merrow’s PBS NewsHour reports."  Other than a wrap-up interview or two, the piece essentially ends with Rhee's resignation from DCPS in late 2010 -- more than two years ago. 

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That being said, there are a few interesting tidbits that jump out from a rough cut preview of the show, some of which would seem likely to humanize Rhee to a general viewership that hasn't been following the matter closesly: fuzzy snapshots of a much younger Rhee with her students in Baltimore, a cute scene where she awkwardly tries -- and fails -- to win the support of a District councilman but eventually prevails with the held of Vincent Gray, Rhee's assertion that Caveon could have gone further in its cheating audit than it did ("We really believed that they were going to do it in as comprehensive a manner as possible"), and Rhee's admission that she wishes she'd been able to stay on longer in DC: "Would I rather be in D.C. as the chancellor? Absolutely," says Rhee at the conclusion of the show.  “I lost the job that I loved."

What will be most interesting to watch in the next 48 hours isn't who criticizes Rhee but rather who if anyone shows up to support her.  Rhee has stepped out far ahead of most other school reform advocates, including the Obama administration.  She scares and has alienated several in the school reform club, who may stand by and watch rather than standing up for a rival who doesn't particularly respect them.  

Previous posts: Ravitch & AFT Use MassacreTo Attack Political EnemiesStudentsFirst Comms Guru Has Left The Building, Trailer:"The Education Of Michelle Rhee".

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Here is research on the abrupt jumps and sharp drops in tests scores at D.C. elementary schools. It is enough to require a real investigation into the problem of erasures on standardized tests during Rhee's time as chancellor.

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