It’s no secret Vince Gray had a tough first year as mayor. Luckily for him, the previous administration’s celebs preempted any nostalgia. Adrian Fenty cheered Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s war on unions, then offered classically clueless quotes about having no regrets. But for someone who has neither a job in D.C. nor even a residence here, Michelle Rhee had a particularly bad year locally. Back in March, USA Today broke news of high erasure rates on D.C. standardized tests—a sign, perhaps, that teachers were correcting students’ mistakes in order to goose scores (and dodge a boss who relished sacking underperformers). Rhee refused to talk to the paper, initially saying the report “lacks credibility.” Then, as the story spread, she welcomed an investigation. It was too late: It’s now an open question as to whether Rhee-era educational improvements were a mirage.
Rhee took some other hits. When 75 staffers axed during her tenure were reinstated because their firing had been improperly handled, it was a reminder that breakneck speed comes with a cost. And locals in heavily Democratic D.C. were also bewildered by the ex-chancellor’s appearances alongside right-wing darlings like new Florida Gov. Rock Scott and New Jersey’s Chris Christie. None of this likely bothers Rhee, of course: She’s a national figure now, running a well-funded advocacy group and boasting a bipartisan roster of heavy-hitting supporters. But in the District, the drumbeat of “that darn Michelle” controversies seemed awfully familiar—and altogether unwelcome. You don’t have to resent education reform to wonder whether the same policies might have worked better under a different schools chief.