A computer registered to the American Federation of Teachers created the predominant website for online attacks on former Washington, DC schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. A tracking tool located the site’s IP address in AFT’s DC offices, Politico first reported, though the site has since varied its IP location.
The website, RheeFirst!, criticizes Rhee as the “Sarah Palin of public education” and says she is “all celebrity and very little record.” It also claims to correct Rhee’s “misrepresentations, inflated claims, and lies.”
“Unfortunately, this is just the latest report of an ostensibly organic, grassroots voice attacking reform proponents that has in fact turned out to be secretly backed by the teachers’ unions,” said a spokeswoman for Rhee’s nonprofit organization, StudentsFirst. “There are a number of disagreements between teacher-union advocates and student advocates about the future of our schools that deserve serious consideration, but there’s no room for these kinds of personal and duplicitous attacks.”
Successful Programs Attacked
The link between the AFT and the attack site comes weeks after the union pulled a document from its website outlining its strategy to stop the Parent Trigger school reform in Connecticut.
“RheeFirst.com has been up since March, tracking what Michelle Rhee has said, what she has done, and how the media have covered her. All the studies and articles on RheeFirst.com are well-sourced and documented,” said AFT spokesman John See. “RheeFirst.com has acted as a truth squad, and that’s what it will continue to do. We hope StudentsFirst’s feigned outrage will lead members of the media and the public to visit RheeFirst.com and get a better understanding of Michelle Rhee’s true agenda.”
As chancellor, Rhee pushed for evaluations of DC teachers based in part on student test scores, merit pay, and firing poor teachers. This summer, DC schools fired about 5 percent of its worst teachers, using the teacher evaluation system Rhee installed. Her tenure in DC, which ended in 2010, was marked by extensive political struggles between Rhee, former DC Mayor Adrian Fenty, and the city’s teachers union.
While Rhee was chancellor, the worst-performing school district in the country became the only major city to achieve double-digit growth students’ reading and math scores in seventh, eighth, and tenth grades over three years. Other grades experienced minor but statistically significant test score increases.
Image by Molly Theobald.