MICHELLE RHEE: Success story questioned.

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  • MICHELLE RHEE: Success story questioned.

Former Washington, D.C., school chancellor Michelle Rhee, trotted through Little Rock a second time at the Clinton School recently as the Billionaire Boys Club rolled out their “education reform” legislation, has taken another body blow to her reformer resume.


We’ve reported before about reporting blowing holes in the personal successes she claimed as a teacher. Now comes USA Today reporting suggesting that a big success story of her stormy tenure in D.C. has problems. Were the huge gains she reported at one school — where merit pay was employed with vigor — the real thing?

A closer look at Noyes, however, raises questions about its test scores from 2006 to 2010. Its proficiency rates rose at a much faster rate than the average for D.C. schools. Then, in 2010, when scores dipped for most of the district’s elementary schools, Noyes’ proficiency rates fell further than average.

A USA TODAY investigation, based on documents and data secured under D.C.’s Freedom of Information Act, found that for the past three school years most of Noyes’ classrooms had extraordinarily high numbers of erasures on standardized tests. The consistent pattern was that wrong answers were erased and changed to right ones.

In 2008, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) — the D.C. equivalent of a state education department —— asked McGraw-Hill to do erasure analysis in part because some schools registered high percentage point gains in proficiency rates on the April 2008 tests.

Among the 96 schools that were then flagged for wrong-to-right erasures were eight of the 10 campuses where Rhee handed out so-called TEAM awards “to recognize, reward and retain high-performing educators and support staff,” as the district’s website says. Noyes was one of these.

Rhee bestowed more than $1.5 million in bonuses on principals, teachers and support staff on the basis of big jumps in 2007 and 2008 test scores.



There’s more. Much more. The newspaper found anomalies like this in many other states.

Slavish devotion to test scores. Pay linked to test scores. They can have a down side.


SPEAKING OF EDUCATION REFORM: Interesting article in Dissent on the influence of the Walton, Gates and Broad foundations in shaping education policy through political intervention with an agenda focusing on choice, data-based assessments, competition and accountability.

Every day, dozens of reporters and bloggers cover the Big Three’s reform campaign, but critical in-depth investigations have been scarce (for reasons I’ll explain further on). Meanwhile, evidence is mounting that the reforms are not working. Stanford University’s 2009 study of charter schools—the most comprehensive ever done—concluded that 83 percent of them perform either worse or no better than traditional public schools; a 2010 Vanderbilt University study showed definitively that merit pay for teachers does not produce higher test scores for students; a National Research Council report confirmed multiple studies that show standardized test scores do not measure student learning adequately.

A deep article, worth a read by the school wonks.