Michelle Rhee

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Founder & CEO, StudentsFirst

College & University
Inspiring Women
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Change Management
Diversity⸒ Equity & Inclusion (DEI)
Women's Empowerment

Michelle Rhee: Biography at a Glance

  • Former Chancellor of Washington D.C. public schools
  • Led the nation’s worst-performing school district to double-digit improvement in reading and math scores – the only major city public education system to achieve this milestone
  • Founded StudentsFirst to build a national movement defending the interests of children in public education and pursue reform
  • “Throughout her career, Michelle Rhee has fought for every student to receive a quality education because it is the civil rights issue of our day" – Condoleezza Rice



In the ever-evolving landscape of education in America, Michelle Rhee has been working tirelessly for the past two decades 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, Michelle has always been guided by one core principle: put students first.

Seeing bureaucratic barriers as a key problem in improving the school system, in 2013, Michelle put her thoughts and solutions to paper and wrote her first book, Radical: Fighting To Put Students First. In the book, Michelle lays out the foundation of getting behind a movement to put children before the deteriorating status quo. Encapsulating her well-documented experiences and enlightened knowledge, Radical serves as, “a call-to-arms guide to not only improve our schools, but also build a brighter future for America’s children.

Michelle first came onto the public stage on June 12, 2007, when Mayor Adrian Fenty appointed her to lead the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), a school district serving more than 47,000 students in 123 schools. Under Michelle’s 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 previous steep declines, enrollment rose for the first time in forty years.

Each chapter of Michelle's story has convinced her: students of every background and ZIP code can achieve at high 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.

Michelle 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.


Michelle and her new organization, StudentsFirst, will seek to put the focus back where it belongs — on kids. I look forward to seeing her work progress and am confident that she will be successful. That's why I take the pledge.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles City Mayor

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