First thing???s (Students)First

140,000 members of StudentsFirst,
its donors (who have thus far offered up $1.4 million), and the education-reform
crowd writ large now know, specifically, what Michelle Rhee’s new outfit is
about. In a policy
released this week, Rhee and her team outline three priorities on which
StudentsFirst will focus: elevate teaching, empower parents, and spend wisely.
Each theme is tied to specific objectives that range from pushing for the
“parent trigger” to revamping pensions and health-care benefits systems. Most
of the initiatives aren’t very surprising—the one exception being her support
of vouchers for students attending sub-par schools. The rest are mainstream
education-reform ideas—and most were initiatives pushed for by Rhee while she
was with DCPS. Novel or not, the policies outlined are all worthy of support—though
her push for performance pay might suffer from poor timing, as states and
districts are currently obsessed with tightening belts, not sweetening the pot.
More interesting will be Rhee’s approach to “advocacy.” Will she engage in
grass-roots organizing? Lobbying? Or will she focus primarily on directing
campaign cash to reform-minded politicos? We already know that Rhee is a bee-eater, now we’ll see if she’s also
a rainmaker.

Changes Pushed by Rhee
,” by Stephanie Banchero, Wall Street Journal, January 11, 2011.

A Challenge to
States and Districts: Policies That Put Students First
,” by Michelle Rhee, StudentsFirst, January 10, 2011.

Budget Crisis, an Opening for School Reform
,” by Michelle Rhee, Wall Street Journal, January 11, 2011.