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Radical: Fighting to Put Students First

3.58  ·  Rating Details  ·  509 Ratings  ·  105 Reviews
In Radical, Michelle Rhee, a fearless and pioneering advocate for education reform, draws on her own life story and delivers her plan for better American schools.

Rhee’s goal is to ensure that laws, leaders, and policies are making students—not adults—our top priority, and she outlines concrete steps that will put us on a dramatically different course. Informing her critiqu
ebook, 320 pages
Published February 5th 2013 by Harper (first published January 2nd 2013)
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Apr 05, 2013 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fantastic read. Teachers matter and can have the greatest impact on student learning and achievement. Technology, curriculum, and everything else doesn't make a bit of difference if you have a lemon at the front of the room. Keep and reward good teachers, work to improve the ones who can be helped, and get rid of the bad. Read this book.
Mar 05, 2013 Kate rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Full disclosure: I read this book in order to better understand where the Education Reform movement is coming from, as I currently do not agree with or understand it. Everyone knows we need better education for our children, but I disagree with the Ed Reform movement that teachers are the only way at that. But I put my politics aside to read this book.

This book is not well written. It's Hemingway simplistic, but Hemingway works because his sentences yield some insight. Simple can be beautiful, i
Michelle Rhee has become a divisive name in contemporary education reform, and for good reason. She understands how to play to an audience like a born storyteller, leveling her finger at teachers unions and politicians and reaching out to embrace frustrated parents, all the while holding the children caught in the middle of the power struggles she often creates, up in front of her, like a battle standard.

Despite her fame seeking and public pandering, it is possible that Rhee has done sincere go
Shirley Freeman
Before I downloaded this, I looked up some reviews on Amazon. They made me laugh because most were either 1s or 5s. Not a lot of in-betweeners. The book is part memoir in the sense of explaining the influences in her life which have led to her current job as movement leader of "Students First." It is part explanation of all she tried to do as chancellor of DC public schools. She talks openly about her successes and failures. She understands her biggest failure in DC to be pushing reforms from th ...more
Sep 19, 2013 Kelly rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I hate giving this one star because I feel like that suggests I disagree with her politics, but that's not the problem here. On politics, we probably agree more than we disagree, plus our backgrounds are fairly similar--did TFA, went to grad school, like statistics and research, ended up in ed policy, etc. The problem is that this book is really badly written and portrays her in a very ugly light. In fact, it's so badly written that I couldn't finish it. (Second time this year that I've dropped ...more
I'm really glad Michelle Rhee came out with her own book, as I found "The Bee Eater" a little lacking. She managed to actually convince me of some things, like vouchers, that I had thought I was dead-set against, so props for her.

This is basically where you should start if you have no idea about how education "works" in our country. By that I mean, she's really good at explaining the systems of red tape and wastes of money that occur, and is excellent at getting into the "why" of our present st
Apr 08, 2013 Marti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
She's self-assured/she's cocky. She wants to reward excellent teachers/she hates teachers. She's a union buster. She a savior of education/she will destroy education. No one who has had the least brush with Michelle Rhee's opinions or actions is neutral about her, and I found myself waffling and wavering in my own opinion of her as I read this memoir by the former Chancellor of Washington, D.C.'s Public Schools and her vision of the American educational system -- both the despair and the hope.
Annabelle Dorion
Apr 11, 2013 Annabelle Dorion rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
First off I love Michelle Rhee. In DC, people either loved her or hated her. I love her for her grit and willingness to fight for a cause she was passionate about - improving public school education. I attended private schools in Washington, DC, but I saw how broken the public school system was in DC that I wasn't surprised I was surrounded by DC natives who chose to send their children to private schools. When Michelle Rhee arrived in DC as Chancellor, I remember how aggressively she approached ...more
Ashley Brooke
This is an interesting book to review. Unlike most people, I neither love nor hate Michelle Rhee and her efforts. I am torn between an understanding that she is a very intelligent woman with a great education and impressive drive; and the fact that I do not really agree with her particular approach. I know that she has her whole focus on student achievement and that her real goals are direct to the cause, not personal interests. However, I think there is a lot of room for discussion after readin ...more
Sep 18, 2013 Jack rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, politics
A memoir by a leader of someone in DC public schools could be a really important book. This one, however, is really just a propaganda piece for Rhee's agenda. She could have really opened a window on her experiences, good and bad. But instead, she's the good guy, and the enemies (union heads) are caricature baddies. I don't mind most of what Rhee did as the chancellor of public schools: the media is none too kind to people trying to bring about change, so if Rhee doesn't show quick results, then ...more
Samuel Lubell
Mar 11, 2016 Samuel Lubell rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Half biography and half manifesto, this book assumes that anyone who disagrees with Rhee's ideas does so because they are more motivated by adult interests than the good of the students. It fails to recognize that others may have differing views on what is best for students. It also minimized her failings as head of the DC schools. Still, it is interesting to see how her background including a year in Korea and balancing her rebel and traditional sides influenced her success.

2016 On re-reading t
Apr 21, 2013 PC rated it really liked it
I was skeptical that I wouldn't like this book considering the controversial author and her even more controversial policies. While her writing is indicative of her personality and leadership style, she does make some salient, if oversimplified points. She is by no means a smooth politician, but perhaps that's what lends credence to her arguments about education reform. While I think much of her writing is blunt and oversimplified, as a former advocate, I recognize that she is a true believer an ...more
Simple writing, not a piece of high quality literature. But it does provide a powerful message. I think her passion to put students first is felt through the entire book. She is a strong fighter. Her journey mentioned in the book is definitely inspiring for someone wanting to create change.

I wish she had given more details regarding the teacher evaluations, and the actual steps involved in undertaking education reform. I almost felt like she was trying very hard to get the readers to agree with
Jess Young
I didn't pay a lot of attention to Michelle Rhee during her time in DC, but this book caught my eye in the library. I picked it up expecting a bit of controversy and hoping for an understanding of what happened during her tenure.

I enjoy stories of how things happen, and I was pleased to read her descriptions of events throughout her early life, time in Teach for America, and her career progress after TFA. While I didn't agree with all of her politics, I do agree with her emphasis on focusing on
Laura Duganne
Apr 30, 2013 Laura Duganne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good read, but a little heavy on the politics, even though I am also a democrat. She gives a great account of her upbringing, early years teaching, and career in the school system. I have a greater understanding of what she wanted to accomplish and why, though I'm still not sold that all of her decisions were the best ones. Great conversation starter. Enjoyed the personal stories to lighten up the heavy content. Would recommend, but be ready to take in a lot of political policy.
Nov 11, 2013 Ryan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just started working in education in DC, so it was good to hear a little bit about the recent history of the reform effort in the city. There are a lot of good things happening now that can be attributed back to Rhee's term as chancellor. However, the book itself was poorly written, vague, and all over the place. I wish the author went into more details on the issues. With the amount of name-dropping throughout the book you'd think this was an award acceptance speech.
Jackie Rose
Apr 11, 2015 Jackie Rose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was not familiar with Rhee's work when I started reading this book, so my review may be a little less biased than it would be otherwise...I know (now) that she's pretty high-profile and polarizing. I thought Radical was very informative about certain aspects of education reform that I hadn't been familiar with, but WOW was it ever repetitive, especially towards the end.

I found myself nodding along with her as she mentioned the same issues over and over again, but also rolling my eyes a little
Apr 14, 2013 Chris rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
First, I can't stand this lady and have long believed her to be a fraud. That being said, this book is flat out bad. What ideas does Ms. Rhee have beyond getting rid of bad teachers? She doesn't have any in this book. What about instruction? There's nothing in this about anything of substance. I'm still not sure how she knows who the bad teachers are after reading this.
Aug 13, 2015 Caroline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book gets 5 stars not because I loved everything about it, or about Rhee, but because it struck some chords with me and was really well written. Rather than just presenting her policies and viewpoints, she shows the evolution of her focus and ideas. And she does it clearly and convincingly, in straightforward prose. Plus her college years are right about where I am now so this was particularly relevant and relatable to me, and gave me a sort of role model for what is possible for one ideali ...more
Jun 02, 2014 Ellen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've heard the phrase "educational reform" for years and never quite knew what it meant. Michelle Rhee worked in the Teach for America program for several years and jumped quickly into administration. She served as Chancellor (Superintendent) of the Washington D.C. public school district and closed many half-empty schools, tied teacher evaluations to standardized test scores, provided merit pay for teachers, opposed teacher unions, and supported the funding of charter schools with public money. ...more
This book read like a memoir of Ms. Rhee's career. I was hoping for more discourse on the practicalities of how to attain educational reform. I get that she is quite passionate about her subject, but so are many others and no one seems to know how to accomplish this feat.
Feb 24, 2013 Kristin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book got me thinking... we should never stop thinking. Also, I disagree vehemently. A great teacher is not the only nor the most important factor in a child's success in life. A supportive and nurturing home life is probably number 1.
Meg - A Bookish Affair
"Radical" is the memoir of Michelle Rhee, the former school chancellor for D.C. Public Schools. Even though Washington, D.C. is the capital city of our country, some of the schools are horrid and there is a lot of disparity in quality of education depending on where you are in the city. Even though I no longer live in the city, I am still keenly interested in what goes on in the schools there. Education has always been something that has interested me and this book definitely fit into that inter ...more
Bill Krieger
I am very pro-Michelle Rhee, so this review is biased. Sue me.

Her autobiography was just OK. It has 3 parts: her growing up, her running the DC schools, and Rhee starting the Students First lobbying group.

Especially in the beginning, there's a lot of interesting, good stuff in Rhee's autobiography. Her parents came to America from Korea, and Korean culture was an important part of Rhee's upbringing. Rhee's stories as a teacher in Baltimore and then DC school chief are very compelling. She routin
Michelle Rhee, who most famously worked to reform education in Washington DC, to the irritation of teacher's unions there, writes her story. I suspect we disagree on almost everything else politically, but I do agree with her on education. The primary purpose of the education system is to educate children and prepare them to function in an adult world; it is not to give adults jobs. Good teachers should have good pay, great teachers should have great pay, and crappy teachers should be fired. Tea ...more
Jul 09, 2013 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
brisk account of her early years in TFA, her own private teacher-recruitment firm, controversial stint as DC school superintendent, and now leader of StudentsFirst advocacy group for education reform.

Don't read it if you're curious about personal gossip -- she's brief and polite about ex-husband Kevin Hoffman, and current husband (ex-NBA player and later Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson) shows up mainly to support educ. reform initiatives.

Living in DC, I was very familiar with the basic story, an
Oct 11, 2013 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Easy narrative to give yourself a primer on Michelle Rhee’s sometimes controversial career and education reformers versus teacher unions. I appreciated Rhee’s clarity and honesty in her perspectives on what worked as D.C. chancellor and that she admitted where she was wrong at times. Recommended for anyone with interest in education reform, 21st workforce and the changing role of unions. While the book is easy to read, it left me with more questions and hungry for a follow-up specifically from R ...more
May 14, 2013 Christina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-christina
This is a memoir written by Michelle Rhee (former chancellor of Washington DC schools) describing her life so far and her efforts at reform in public schools. I enjoyed Michelle's profile in "Waiting for Superman" and had also seen her on "60 Minutes", and this book was pretty much along the same lines. Michelle clearly points out the obstacles facing the public school system today. She even knows what is the biggest root of the problem, teacher unions, but she offers no solutions other than the ...more
Jan 26, 2015 Megan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
I'm writing this review so Melissa won't have to read it, so if you're interested in reading the book yourself, consider this a spoiler.

All I knew about Michelle Rhee was that she was the superintendent of DC schools for a few years and she was featured on Waiting for 'Superman.' I liked the work she had done, but I was wondering why she decided to take a "cush job" after her superintendent stint. I picked up this book to learn more about her.

She was an elementary teacher with Teach for Amerrica
 EmmaLee Pryor
I thought this was interesting. It did make me feel better about our school system here in Utah. I am curious what people who actually work within the education system think about the ideas she has. I would like to know more of what the DC school system is doing right now, if the choices she made are still having a positive impact. I think that the fact she went to Ivy schools helped to get to know all the right people that make everything else possible. She is also scarce on details about how h ...more
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