For the past 18 years, Michelle Rhee has dedicated herself to providing children with the skills and knowledge they need to compete in a changing world. As a teacher in inner-city Baltimore, chancellor of the Washington, DC, schools, and founder of the advocacy organization Students First, she has been guided by one principle: to prioritize the interests of children. Through her own failures and successes in the classroom, she gained a tremendous respect for the hard work that teachers do. She also learned the lesson that would drive her: Teachers are the most powerful influence on student achievement in our schools. But our educational system is broken. American children are being eclipsed by their peers in other countries like Finland, South Korea, and Singapore, and their rank will continue to plummet unless the problem is addressed immediately.
Part memoir, part manifesto, Radical is this fearless advocate's incisive, intensely personal call-to-arms. Rhee combines the story of her own extraordinary experience with dozens of compelling examples from schools she's worked in and studied-from students from unspeakable home lives who have thrived in the classroom to teachers whose radical methods have produced unprecedented leaps in achievement.
Radical chronicles Rhee's awakening to the potential of every child, her rage at the special interests blocking badly-needed change, and her recognition that it will take a grassroots movement to create outstanding public schools. As she outlines concrete steps that will put us on a dramatically different course, she offers inspiration and a sense of possibility for a brighter future for our children.
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.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Fast moving recap of Michelle Rhee's rapid ascent, progress and exit from the Washington D.C. school system. The story underscores the need for leadership and support from your boss, as well as the power of numbers (voters, that is) that the unions have. Great narration too.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
What would have made Radical better?
I would have preferred if she shared her views on what would make schools better or worse. For the most part the criticism for schools is that they are "bad" and should be "good". That the levels of proficiency in math and science are "low" and they should be "high" and the best solution is the get "better" teachers. I wanted her to say what kinds of traits and behaviors make a better teacher or what makes a better atmosphere for learning. She did share her views on the voucher system (she is for it in cases that it allows kids to get better education results) and for strong teacher evaluation including kids ranking the teachers. However, more of this book is on her personal story of growing up, getting jobs, rubbing shoulders with important people and occasionally complaining about the teachers union. for Michelle Rhee's views on the teachers unions watch the big documentaries on education reform today such as The Cartel and Waiting for Superman (starring Michelle Rhee) also on the topic of education reform I recommend The War on Kids
Any additional comments?
I still hope that Rhee works to make schools better, the reforms she suggests are too simple to fill a book but are difficult to fill a life's work. she is indeed a hero- When she has something more to say- I hope to listen
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
I like that she can back up what she says with results. Unlike the leaders in the current system, she has proof that her ideas work. If we want to know how to reform education, Michelle Rhee is a great place to start.
Everything I know about Michelle Rhee, I learned through the media in the Washington, DC media. After the book Radical, I have a new respect for Michelle Rhee and her passion to improve public education.
Would you consider the audio edition of Radical to be better than the print version?
I excellent review of the current state of education in the USA by someone who was on the front lines. Rhee clearly lays out the issues and offers common sense solutions to the problems. A must read for every parent, grandparent, tax payer, and anyone who is interested in the survival of the USA.
What made the experience of listening to Radical the most enjoyable?
Ms. Rhee has told an excellent story and has given us all something to seriously think about in education reform.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
Book made me very sad for all of the missed opportunities for our educational system. The author has exposed a lot of very one-sided arguments and people not focusing on the students and student achievement.
Any additional comments?
Should be mandatory reading for every tax payer in the country!