News Page


Michelle Rhee to Speak Nov. 2 at Pittsburgh Speakers Series

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pittsburgh -- The Pittsburgh Speakers Series presented by Robert Morris University will feature education reformer Michelle Rhee, who will speaks at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2, at Heinz Hall in downtown Pittsburgh.

Rhee has been working for the last 18 years to give children the skills and knowledge they will need to compete in a changing world. From adding instructional time after school and visiting students' homes as a third grade teacher in Baltimore, to hosting hundreds of community meetings and creating a Youth Cabinet to bring students' voices into reforming the DC Public Schools, she has always been guided by one core principle: put students first.

Each chapter of Rhee's story has convinced her: students of every background and ZIP code can achieve at highRhee Photo levels, and for our schools to become what children deserve, every educator is called to believe this. Even in the toughest of circumstances, all teachers are called to turn the incredible potential that fills their classrooms daily, into the achievements worthy of our children and country.

As a Teach for America (TFA) corps member in a Harlem Park Community School in Baltimore City, through her own trial and error in the classroom, she gained a tremendous respect for the hard work that teachers do every day. She also learned the lesson that would drive her mission for years to come: teachers are the most powerful driving force behind student achievement in our schools.

In 1997 Rhee founded The New Teacher Project (TNTP) to bring more excellent teachers to classrooms across the country. Under her leadership TNTP became a leading organization in understanding and developing innovative solutions to the challenges of new teacher hiring. As chief executive officer and president, Rhee partnered with school districts, state education agencies, non-profit organizations and unions to transform the way schools and other organizations recruit, select and train highly qualified teachers in difficult-to-staff schools.

Her work with TNTP implemented widespread reform in teacher hiring practices, improving teacher hiring in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Miami, New York, Oakland, and Philadelphia. TNTP placed 23,000 new, high-quality teachers in these schools across the country.

On June 12, 2007, Mayor Adrian Fenty appointed Rhee to lead the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), a school district serving more than 47,000 students in 123 schools. Under her leadership, the worst performing school district in the country became the only major city system to see double-digit growth in both their state reading and state math scores in seventh, eighth and tenth grades over three years.

The graduation rate rose, and after steep declines enrollment rose for the first time in forty years. In her last year as chancellor, every eligible D.C. public school attracted applicants for the annual K-12 Out-of-Boundary, preschool, and pre-Kindergarten lotteries. Fourteen schools had waitlists for the first time. Ultimately, a record high of 5,219 families, representing an increase of 50 percent over 2009, expressed interest in DCPS programs located in all eight wards.

Rhee currently serves on the Advisory Boards for the National Council on Teacher Quality, the National Center for Alternative Certification, and Project REACH of the University of Phoenix's School of Education.

Rhee has a bachelor's degree in government from Cornell University and a master's in public policy from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

Robert Morris University, founded in 1921, is a private, four-year institution with an enrollment of approximately 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The university offers 60 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs. An estimated 22,000 alumni live and work in western Pennsylvania.