This semi-authorized biography of Michelle Rhee
tracks her tenure as an elementary school teacher, her leadership of the
nascent New Teacher Project, and her time as chancellor of D.C.’s public
schools. For those unfamiliar with her formative years, the book provides a
compelling explanation of how she came to be obsessed with teacher quality (and
with firing incompetent employees). And for those who didn’t follow the Washington Post coverage of Rhee’s D.C.
whirlwind, the book offers an inspired narrative. Unfortunately, while Whitmire’s
text is rich in research and peppered with interview quotes, his final
assessment of Rhee’s legacy in D.C. is too vanilla. The five criticisms he does
send her way (e.g. she sometimes had poor media judgment, she fought battles that
did not need to be fought) could have come from any D.C. insider or avid Post reader. Furthermore, he doesn’t
push hard enough on the question of whether Rhee’s reforms actually boosted
student achievement—or are likely to in years to come. Still and all, education
reformers interested in gaining a comprehensive perspective on Michelle Rhee
(the person, not the action figure), or on finding some Waiting for ‘Superman’-like inspiration, would be wise to seek out
and read The Bee Eater.