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Education

  • Date Submitted: 01/13/2011 04:42 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 56.5 
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Washington Chancellor’s Departure Isn’t Expected to Slow Public School Change
Correction Appended

With Michelle Rhee’s decision to resign Wednesday as the Washington schools chancellor, the movement to shake up the nation’s public schools is losing perhaps its most visible leader.
But changes were sweeping through the halls of public education before Ms. Rhee took over the leadership of the Washington schools three years ago. So her departure seemed unlikely to slow that momentum, experts said.

“This movement has become so much bigger than one person,” said Timothy Daly, president of the New Teacher Project, a nonprofit group Ms. Rhee founded in 1998 to help school districts hire more effective teachers.

Ms. Rhee was a polarizing chancellor, especially after she fired hundreds of teachers whom she called ineffective. The teachers’ union campaigned against the man who hired her in 2007, Mayor Adrian Fenty, and he lost last month’s Democratic primary.

Ms. Rhee called Mr. Fenty’s defeat a devastating blow to the children of Washington, and hinted that she might resign. She made that official on Wednesday in a news conference, standing with Mr. Fenty and the Democratic mayoral nominee, Vincent Gray, who is now the city’s presumptive mayor.

“We have agreed that the best way to keep the reforms going is for this reformer to step aside,” Ms. Rhee said.

Mr. Gray announced that Kaya Henderson, the deputy chancellor who is a close associate of Ms. Rhee’s, would take over as interim chancellor, and he pledged that school improvement policies Ms. Rhee enacted would continue after he takes office.

In an interview late last month, Ms. Rhee said it had been disheartening to receive e-mails from friends and read media accounts that interpreted Mr. Fenty’s defeat and her likely departure as a major setback for their movement.

“People are calling it a huge blow,” Ms. Rhee said. “But it would be such a tragedy if what people took away from my three years...

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