Eighteen months after we profiled Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee ("The Iron Chancellor," September 2008), she still hasn't won union approval of a new contract. After the October layoffs of 266 teachers and staff, the union claimed Rhee used a budget crunch as a pretext for dismissing veteran teachers, since seniority rules don't cover cuts for fiscal reasons. "I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school," Rhee says. "Why wouldn't we take those things into consideration?" The release of 2009 test scores was good news for Rhee: Only D.C. and four states showed gains in math for fourth and eighth graders. "We're not good yet," she says, "but I'm seeing the quality of instruction improving."
A version of this article appeared in the February 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine.