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Posted at 12:34 PM ET, 02/10/2011

Missing the point on Rhee

By Valerie Strauss

Enough oxygen has been sucked out of the air about whether former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee really raised student test scores through the roof when she taught briefly at a Baltimore school. I still find more telling her admission that she taped her students' mouths shut when she didn’t know what else to do to keep them quiet. (This really happened and it would be a career killer for anybody but Rhee.)

The real issue is what she and her supporters say she accomplished but didn’t in D.C. public schools when she was chancellor for about 3 1/2 years before quitting in October when her biggest supporter, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, was ousted from office.

A myth has grown up around Rhee and her D.C. tenure that essentially has her swooping in like an avenging angel ridding the place of bad teachers and setting the troubled school system on the road to redemption. The reason it matters that the myth be dispelled is because Rhee has become a hero to state legislatures around the country who seem to think that everything she says about school reform is gospel.

If Rhee had in fact saved the school system, or even come a significant way toward that goal, nobody would be cheering more loudly than me. But she did nothing of the sort. She came to the District, talked very tough and proceeded to make a number of changes, as new school district leaders always do. Some were helpful, some weren't.

She didn't stay long enough to know if any could qualify as a success, but her major initiative, a multimillion-dollar teacher evaluation system called IMPACT, has serious flaws and as a result, there is no telling whether some of the teachers Rhee fired were really ineffective. The Rhee myth leaves no room for this reality.

Perhaps the person who knows best how much work Rhee left needs to be done is her successor, interim chancellor Kaya Henderson, who has been trying to clean up several messes Rhee left in her wake.

Henderson has already made two changes in school leadership because of Rhee’s bad decisions, and now, she faces having to implement the ruling of an independent arbitrator who concluded that Rhee improperly laid off 75 new teachers in 2008 because she didn’t follow this simple rule: She was supposed to tell the teachers why they were being let go. Pesky rules just weren't her thing.

My colleague Bill Turque reported that now the District has to find the teachers and offer them reinstatement in an appropriate job -- and give them back wages minus any earnings they have accumulated since. The total could cost the system $7.5 million.

Perhaps Rhee, who is raising $1 billion for her new anti-teachers union Students First organization, could contribute to pay for her mistake.

The debate of the last week has been over whether Rhee inflated how much her students’ test scores rose when she was a teacher at Harlem Park Elementary School. There seems to be no conclusive evidence, and, frankly, I care more about the ill-advised test obsession that drove her reform effort while she was chancellor. Standardized tests are a lousy way to measure anything, and she wanted to measure everything by the results.

The statement that the Students First organization issued to refute the allegations that she inflated student test scores had a most telling last line:

“To our members, this episode is further proof of what we’re up against and why we need your support to get the message out."

It is bewildering to imagine what Rhee thinks she is “up against.” She is the darling of the reform world. The Obama administration supports and funds her style of reform, Philanthropists have showered her with millions of dollars for her to pursue her educational dreams.

The people who need to get their message out there are the very people Rhee and other reformers have attacked: public school teachers.

Here’s part of an e-mail that was shared with a handful of people, written and sent by a veteran teacher in the Washington region, Ken Bernstein. He was responding to a critic who said that those people who do not support current education reforms only complain and offer no alternatives. That is not at all true, but that discussion is for another time.

I am publishing Bernstein’s response (edited to remove names) because I think it authentically speaks to the way many teachers are feeling. I will leave in his abbrevations but here is what they stand for: NCLB, No Child Left Behind;TFA, Teach for America; DFER, Democrats for Education Reform; NLNS, New Leaders for New Schools.

From Bernstein's e-mail:

“There is near systematic exclusion of other voices from the media.

"Yes, Diane Ravitch has gotten an audience as a result of her recent book. .... But that is swamped by the puff pieces on Rhee in Time and Newsweek, by editorials in supposedly liberal papers that support the test-centric - or should I say test-obsessed? - approach to education.

"One reason Diane Ravitch experienced the overwhelming support for her book is that for many teachers it was the first time they had heard a major voice expressing the things that really matter to them...

"We can tell lots of positive narratives. How about Lori Nazareno at Denver’s Math and Science Leadership Academy, a teacher-run school? But does the president focus on that, or does he not give a dog whistle by focusing on a school which is used to pound on teachers unions with the claim that the union rules were interfering?

"And how can the President be telling people to become teachers when his Secretary of
Education is agreeing with Bill Gates that masters degrees are a waste of money, when his administration supported putting language in that let TFAers and people out of similar programs be considered ‘highly qualified’ under NCLB in direct contradiction to the ruling of the 9th Circuit?

"Right now the future of American public education is hanging by a thread.

"Right now the administration, DFER, TFA, NLNS, Gates Foundation, Broad Foundation, Walton Foundation, and a whole host of other interconnected groups are pushing an untested (except where it has been tried and failed) set of approaches that will be destructive, yet the issue is how we present?

"Why not ask Anthony Mullen about his experiences as NTOY [2009 National Teacher of the Year]? I remember one of his blog posts where he described that when he raised some questions he was treated like a skunk at the garden party, even though his was supposed to be the voice of America’s teachers.

"The shape of the teaching profession has to change. Lots of us know that. But not in the direction being pushed by this administration.

"Might I suggest that anyone who has not already done so read the new book called "Teaching 2030: What we Must Do for Our Students and Our Public Schools... Now and in the Future,” by Barnett Berry and a batch of teachers including the likes of Renee Moore, Ariel Sacks, Jose Vilson, Shannon C’de Baca, Cindi Rigsbee, Emily Vickery, Laurie Wasserman ....and if you do not know who every single one of those people is, is that not part of the problem....?

"Heck, I want the voices of students included. I showed two brief clips from "Race to Nowhere" to my AP students. It absolutely coincides with their experience. These are highly motivated kids, taking college level government in 10th grade. They are getting burned out.

"And yet we are offered scare stories, international comparisons (which do not support the uses that are made for them, but that is nothing new in educational politics) with an insistence that we must do more, have higher standards at the same time as we are cutting funding (which still largely comes from local governments whose tax bases have shrunk dramatically) at the same time as supposedly we leave no child behind. Balderdash - although I would prefer stronger language.

"Yes, we need to do the best job of presenting we can. But it will not matter if we cannot get access to the organs of mass media, without which it becomes harder to convince elected policy makers that we actually represent a point of view that is more commonly held by those who truly understand education.

"OH, and by the way, why are so few in the media pointing out the obvious: we have been pursuing a path on education at least since 1983 that has repeatedly failed, so why do we act like the compulsive gambler and still keep doubling down again and again on the same failed approaches?

"Sorry, I’m tired, and cranky.

"I am spread too thin.

"I am taking on even more, going to a conference cosponsored by EWA [Education Writers Association] and Carnegie on teacher quality. I am participating in a panel in my district trying to ameliorate the worst outcomes of tying teacher evaluation to student assessment. I keep writing.

"Yet all of that has to take second seat behind my responsibilities to my students.

"Those of us who take our teaching seriously already work too many hours.

"Some of us are still willing to take on more, to ensure that the voices of teachers are heard....Peace.”


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By Valerie Strauss  | February 10, 2011; 12:34 PM ET
Categories:  Michelle Rhee, Teachers  | Tags:  d.c. schools, michelle rhee, no child left behind, rhee school reform, school reform, students first, studentsfirst, teach for america, the answer sheet  
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Next: Why our metrics for quality are not objective

Comments

There must be a reason why Ms. Strauss selected a letter from "a veteran teacher in the Washington region," rather than a DCPS teacher. Actually, there are several possibilities, none of them supportive of Ms. Strauss's thrust, a continuation of her campaign against Rhee. But hers is a columnist's role, and she's entitled, without a doubt. At least she has not binned Rhee with Adolph Hitler, as did a frequent commenter on the site.
I've always thought Rhee had some obvious faults, but also some strengths and accomplishments. The easiest to understand and thank her for is closing some excess schools. Previous supts. never tried seriously and could not figure out a way to do it and feared taking the heat. Rhee got that done--and there are at least an additional 15 that need to be closed because they are way under-enrolled and are killing the budget.
She also launched Impact at a time when almost all teachers were rated very good or excellent--ratings clearly called into question by the school system's record of achievement in educating our children. She knew it wasn't perfect, by any means, but did not want to wait another generation of lost school kids to get teachers to understand that they would be evaluated. Sad to say, too many DCPS teachers still resist the idea of evaluation--by anyone, with any tool, with any consequences.

Posted by: axolotl | February 10, 2011 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Amen.

But, I don't think it is ok to lie on one's resume, either. That is the point.

Posted by: georgia198305 | February 10, 2011 1:15 PM | Report abuse

The problem is that Rhee (like Gates and Sec. Duncan) has no CREDIBILITY, speaks in unfounded sweeping commentaries, and is more concerned with building her career than addressing education. . .She is repeatedly and demonstrably wrong:

http://dailycensored.com/2010/12/02/the-education-celebrity-tour-legend-of-the-fall-pt-ii/

http://dailycensored.com/2010/12/17/fire-teachers-reappoint-rhee-legend-of-the-fall-pt-iii/

And the media and public continue to allow her a free pass, leaving all of to wonder who shoulders most of the blame here. . .

Posted by: plthomas3 | February 10, 2011 1:28 PM | Report abuse

"She didn't want to wait another generation.."

"Doctor, why are you amputating his head?"

"I don't want to wait another generation for us to figure out how to correctly fix his sagging chin."

Posted by: catlady1 | February 10, 2011 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully, these 75 ineffective teachers will not be rehire and put back in the classroom. The truth is that too few poor quality teachers were fired, not too many.

The Washington Post has reported that "Citywide, fewer than half of core courses are taught by teachers who are considered "highly qualified" in their subject, which requires that they have earned a degree or passed a competency test in that subject. Nationally, the numbers are worse in only one state -- Alaska. In most states, the figure was over 90 percent."

As Richard Whitmore recently stated "The key difference between the U.S. and top scoring countries is that those countries draw their teachers from top college graduates, and we don't. The results, especially in our urban schools, are striking, whether measured by high school graduation rates, the number of students entering college in need of remediation or the number of military recruits unable to pass screening tests."

These are the real issues we need to grapple with.

Posted by: frankb1 | February 10, 2011 1:39 PM | Report abuse

The issue of whether Rhee raised test scores for the students she taught in Baltimore in the 1990s isn't really important.

But a flat-out falsehood on a resume -- I refer to the specific false numbers she gave out -- is something that destroys credibility and careers. It's considered actual wrongdoing based on commonly accepted values.

That needs to be separated from the more general question of whether Rhee raised test scores when she taught in Baltimore.

Posted by: CarolineSF | February 10, 2011 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Valerie, I disagree with you to a certain extent. While the country was in love with Michelle Rhee for 3.5 years, I think she is now beginning to face more and more criticism. Reporters are now starting to see the forest from the trees, and they are questioning her on it. Even Jay Matthews, who used to be a staunch Rhee supporter, is now starting to question some of the things she told the media and some of the "reforms" she put in place. The fact that Rhee's spokesperson issued a statement in defense of Rhee's "Baltimore Miracle" claims and begging for money should show everyone that she is now on the defensive. Bottom line: the country is not in love with Rhee like it used to be.

Posted by: thebandit | February 10, 2011 3:32 PM | Report abuse

frankb - could you please provide the link to the Washington Post quote you mentioned on highly qualified teachers? Without evidence, it's just hearsay.

Thanks.

CarolineSF agree completely about lying on a resume -- that is a big deal.

Also, basing your career - and other peoples - on a myth is also a big deal. She expects teachers to overcome the effects of poverty just the way she did[n't] in baltimore.

Valerie - don't downplay this -- there's a lot wrong with Rhee's approach - no need to choose one over the other. It all has to be publicly addressed and investigated.

Posted by: efavorite | February 10, 2011 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Let me repeat the true story, reported in the NY times, of a highly respected Dean at MIT who had to resign when it was found that she lied on her resume 28 years before.

According to the NYT account,* “she admitted that she had fabricated her own educational credentials, and resigned after nearly three decades at M.I.T. Officials of the institute said she did not have even an undergraduate degree.”

“‘I misrepresented my academic degrees when I first applied to M.I.T. 28 years ago and did not have the courage to correct my résumé when I applied for my current job or at any time since,’ Ms. Jones said in a statement posted on the institute’s Web site. ‘I am deeply sorry for this and for disappointing so many in the M.I.T. community and beyond who supported me, believed in me, and who have given me extraordinary opportunities.’”

I wonder when Rhee’s apology is coming?

*
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/27/us/27mit.html?n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/Organizations/R/Rensselaer%20Polytechnic%20Institute

Please Valerie - don't lobby to take the focus off her very basic lies.

Posted by: efavorite | February 10, 2011 3:41 PM | Report abuse

For Frank:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/09/AR2007060901415.html

Posted by: edlharris | February 10, 2011 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Here is the link for the Anthony Mullen blog post mentioned in the article. It's a MUST READ!

http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teacher_of_the_year/2010/01/teachers_should_be_seen_and_no.html

Posted by: MisterRog | February 10, 2011 4:11 PM | Report abuse

frankb1,

Your two points are flawed and driven by a false narrative being fed the public. . .

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/feb/04/usdomesticpolicy-schools

http://www.opednews.com/articles/Speaking-Expert-to-Celebri-by-Paul-Thomas-110120-684.html

Posted by: plthomas3 | February 10, 2011 4:19 PM | Report abuse

efavorite states:

"Valerie - don't downplay this -- there's a lot wrong with Rhee's approach - no need to choose one over the other. It all has to be publicly addressed and investigated."

Agree. Integrity matters.

Posted by: shadwell1 | February 10, 2011 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Ed - I see the WaPo story that Frankb quoted is almost 4 years old - before Rhee got here. Surely one of her first reforms would be to demand that teachers upgrade their qualifications, no?

No - hiring kids right out of college with no teacher training wouldn't help, but that's exactly what Rhee did.

Posted by: efavorite | February 10, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Valerie:
It's not an either-or situation. GFBrandenburg and others have been diligent in pointing out MANY of the discrepancies between the facts, on the one hand, and the self-serving, distorted statements of Michelle Rhee and others in her Ed-Deform movement. He has attempted to point out how the "Capital Gains" program -- which Rhee touted as one of her signature reforms -- was abandoned after it was a failure. He and many others have shown how Rhee's claims of test gains in DC were spun, distorted, and so on. He has attempted to give some positive ideas on how to really improve education, particularly in inner-city, high-poverty school districts such as DC. Along with others, he has attempted to show that the general philosophical and practical ideas of the corporate Ed-Deform movement are wrong.
Almost all of his work was ignored by the press.
Until this issue, where he managed to conclusively demonstrate -- once again -- that most of the claims on Michelle Rhee's resume are false.
It's part of a long pattern of lies, distortions, and mendacity on the part of Michelle Rhee.
And it all matters.
The

Posted by: TexasIke59 | February 10, 2011 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Valerie:
It's not an either-or situation. GFBrandenburg and others have been diligent in pointing out MANY of the discrepancies between the facts, on the one hand, and the self-serving, distorted statements of Michelle Rhee and others in her Ed-Deform movement. He has attempted to point out how the "Capital Gains" program -- which Rhee touted as one of her signature reforms -- was abandoned after it was a failure. He and many others have shown how Rhee's claims of test gains in DC were spun, distorted, and so on. He has attempted to give some positive ideas on how to really improve education, particularly in inner-city, high-poverty school districts such as DC. Along with others, he has attempted to show that the general philosophical and practical ideas of the corporate Ed-Deform movement are wrong.
Almost all of his work was ignored by the press.
Until this issue, where he managed to conclusively demonstrate -- once again -- that most of the claims on Michelle Rhee's resume are false.
It's part of a long pattern of lies, distortions, and mendacity on the part of Michelle Rhee.
And it all matters.
The

Posted by: TexasIke59 | February 10, 2011 4:43 PM | Report abuse

efavorite,

FYI: Frank's not the kind of guy who has integrity or knows what good scholarship is all about. He has his own "balanced"--some would say "nuanced"--approach.

Check out how he defines his information and his sloppy scholarship with this thread:
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/teachers/new-study-finds-flaws-with-la.html#comments

Posted by: DHume1 | February 10, 2011 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Rhee's biggest accomplishment was putting the fear of accountability in every DCPS teacher's head. As a DCPS teacher I have personally witnessed better prepared lessons and great enthusiasm while teaching. IMPACT is terribly flawed, but it makes teachers think about what they are actually doing. Imagine that...quit sitting around complacent, in your safe job, and do something.The kids need you.

Posted by: mrteachhard | February 10, 2011 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for your dose of reality, mrteachhard, and for being a DCPS teacher with commitment and energy. Too many teachers, including purported DCPS teachers on these comment boards, do not seem to sign on to much, if any, responsibility. The posture of such teachers is one of work avoidance.

Posted by: axolotl | February 10, 2011 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Valarie,

You are right on. As a DCPS parent I witness the affects of Rhee on teachers often when I go to my children's schools.

I know people have made the comparison of Rhee and Palin before, but more and more of Rhee's story is the same. Remember many people were awestruck with Palin until the cracks of reality started to appear and people became to realize she doesn't know what she is talking about.

When people criticize Palin she responds just like Rhee did about Brandenburg's number crunching, “To our members, this episode is further proof of what we’re up against and why we need your support to get the message out."

Wow!

Posted by: letsbereal2 | February 10, 2011 6:14 PM | Report abuse

"Poor, poor Shelly :( What's good for the goose is good for the gander. She spent years in DC destroying and bashing teachers, principals, and the people of DC, just to further her own jaded agenda. If you really possess the courage of your conviction in Shelly, just take one step into a DC Public School. I guarantee you would change your tune after a single day. All of you tedious Rhee sycophants need to firmly pull your heads from your collective rectum and wake up to the reality of the decline of the American public education process."

I am hoping Michelle Rhee didn't really say that.

http://www.studentsfirst.org/blog/entry/a-response-to-the-unfounded-attacks-on-michelle-rhee/#

Posted by: educationlover54 | February 10, 2011 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Ditto Valerie!! This much is clear. Rhee lied on her resume. Rhee lied on her students' test results. Rhee lied to the DC City Council members. Rhee lied on the 266 DCPS Wrongfully Terminiated educators. Rhee lied to DCPS teachers, students and parents.

Who believes Rhee ate a bumble bee? Most likely, Rhee lied about that, too!!

Posted by: sheilahgill | February 10, 2011 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Some of the comments here make me think that people have read the headline and opening paragraph and not the whole column. Valerie thinks that Ravitch is the real reformer, not Rhee.

@Letsbereal2, I was thinking the exact same thing, but am taking a month off of listening to, reading about or mentioning one of the people you mention.

Posted by: georgia198305 | February 10, 2011 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Was anyone else struck by the fact that Rhee ONLY taught for 2 years as a TFAer and then stood as Chancellor for ONLY 3 years. To me that just yells quitter.

Posted by: teachermomnj | February 10, 2011 7:25 PM | Report abuse

@teachermomnj
I don't think she is a quitter. Personally, I think being a Chancellor or Superintendent of a big city district is extremely difficult, I wouldn't want the job myself.

Posted by: georgia198305 | February 10, 2011 7:29 PM | Report abuse

mrteachhard really needs to think hard about his logic! First, I am not certain what he means by "better prepared lessons.” Do they have more fluff? My assumption is that mrteachhard is a teacher so I question how he was able to witness exactly how these better prepared lessons were carried through if he was teaching hard in his classroom. Furthermore, mrteachhard needs to think hard about a system that he even considers “flawed” that has the potential to destroy a career based on hearsay, innuendo, and simple ignorance and prejudice. mrteachhard just may find himself on the wrong end of such a system, particularly if he has a mind of his own which may take some time yet. His words sound more like some kind of TFA wunderkind which have obviously impressed axoloti without any proof of substance beyond the words. Of course, axoloti believes anything that knocks down teachers is good regardless of whether it is right or wrong.

Posted by: jdman2 | February 10, 2011 8:15 PM | Report abuse

Your first sentence leaves the impression that there is some remaining disagreement about whether or not student scores at Rhee's school in Baltimore went from the 13th to the 90th percentile. The scores did not, as the research shows scores in the 50th percentile range.

The only remaining disagreement is whether or she knew that she was lying all these years or if, as she now says, she believed her principal who told her such silliness.

If her principal did tell her that and she believed it, one must wonder how much she did not know about her students' abilities? Did she really believe they were working at the 90th percentile? Was she that ignorant or delusional? Which would be worse, to know the truth and lie repeatedly about it, or to have to admit that you had no clue about the true abilities of your students?

Posted by: SchoolsMatter | February 10, 2011 8:20 PM | Report abuse

I'm confused. This issue of Michelle Rhee's track record as a teach broke on Chris Matthew's Blog (Rhee Supporter). Now the followup discussion is on Valerie's blog (Rhee Non-Supporter). What is going on here?

Posted by: mrpozzi | February 10, 2011 8:39 PM | Report abuse

They are both getting all of us to post a lot. LOL

Posted by: georgia198305 | February 10, 2011 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Valerie Strauss the question is whether the new evidence available proves that the claims of Ms. Rhee on her resume where falsehoods.

If this evidence is true and had been available in 2007 Ms. Rhee would never have become head of the D.C. school system.

It should also be noted that this nation believes in miracle teachers and a good part of this belief stems from Ms. Rhee and her claims that experienced teachers or even teachers from teaching colleges are not needed since she was able to perform miracles as a teacher from Teach For America.

Council to Challenge Rhee's Résumé
By Nikita Stewart and V. Dion Haynes
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, June 30, 2007

The D.C. Council will question acting D.C. schools chancellor Michelle A. Rhee next week about claims in her résumé that she improved students' test scores when she taught in Baltimore a decade ago, council members said yesterday.

Rhee's résumé asserts that the students made a dramatic gain: "Over a two-year period, moved students scoring on average at the 13th percentile on national standardized tests to 90 percent of students scoring at the 90th percentile or higher."

......................
Like it not our educational policies have derived from the hype of miracles like Ms. Rhee.

The sooner educational policy returns to reality the better.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 10, 2011 8:54 PM | Report abuse

@bsallamack
thanks for pointing that out. It looks like Vincent Gray already was skeptical about the claims quite awhile ago. I hadn't known that particular part of the history until I googled the commission thing. Interesting.

Posted by: georgia198305 | February 10, 2011 9:10 PM | Report abuse

The shape of the teaching profession has to change. Lots of us know that. But not in the direction being pushed by this administration.
..............................
Why?

The majority of teachers in this nation are teaching in middle class public schools where Americans who pay their salaries through property taxes are satisfied with their teachers.

Why do these teachers have to change and give up their tenure when the Americans who pay their salaries are happy with their performance?

These middle class public schools work and were even better before 2001 when NCLB simply degraded education in this country. The problem of the poverty public schools are not the problems of middle class public schools yet the middle class public schools have been saddled with NCLB which is only hurting education in these schools.

New York State last year admitted that the claims made for poverty students since the introduction of NCLB were bogus and simply the results of watered down tests. Prior to NCLB New York State had high standards.

Time for Americans and experienced teachers to remember that the middle class Americans do not want the Teach For America teachers or even charter schools.

These are for the poverty public schools where there has been a problem in education for decades and where now the political leaders are attempting to cut costs in education by firing higher paid teachers and hiring cheap and unqualified teachers from Teach For America. The reality is that the political leaders have simply given up on the poverty public schools. There has been no new programs or ideas in these schools. The only ideas have been to cut costs by getting rid of experienced teachers and hiring cheaper unqualified teachers.

Time for Americans to recognize that the educational policies geared to the problem of the poverty schools are not working and have only resulted in damaging the middle class public schools.

Time to recognizing that destroying what works in the nation in education will not solve the problem of the poverty schools.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 10, 2011 9:26 PM | Report abuse

Let us not forget that Rhee is a disciple of Mayor Bloomberg. Whether outright lying or bending "reality" to suit over-arching goals... Rhee has learned a lot from her mentor. Let us not forget that Bloomberg touted his successful "reform" efforts in the NYC public school system based on ever-rising standardized test scores. Oh yeah... and a Harvard study concluded this fall that the test questions had gotten progressively easier henceforth the reason for the "rise in test scores" in NYC. Lie? Bending reality? This seems to be a "contagious strategy" among the supposed education reformers.

Posted by: teachermd | February 10, 2011 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Lying about test scores or making tests easier is not improving or reforming education.

Posted by: georgia198305 | February 10, 2011 9:36 PM | Report abuse

I'm confused. This issue of Michelle Rhee's track record as a teach broke on Chris Matthew's Blog (Rhee Supporter). Now the followup discussion is on Valerie's blog (Rhee Non-Supporter). What is going on here?

Posted by: mrpozzi
..........................
According to Jay Mathews the evidence is going to be reviewed by a Washington Post reporter.

Contrary to Valerie Strauss it really is front page news when a national figure makes claims for years that turn out to be false.

Remember also that Ms. Rhee with her claim of miracles became the poster child of Teach For America with the idea that supposedly teachers without going to a teaching college could have children in poverty school suddenly learn far better than teachers that went to a teaching college.

Americans do not consider that a non qualified plumber is better than a qualified and licensed plumber, but Americans are willing to believe that unqualified teachers are better than qualified teachers. Of course this is only true if the unqualified teacher is not going to teach your children.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 10, 2011 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Your first sentence leaves the impression that there is some remaining disagreement about whether or not student scores at Rhee's school in Baltimore went from the 13th to the 90th percentile. The scores did not, as the research shows scores in the 50th percentile range.

The only remaining disagreement is whether or she knew that she was lying all these years or if, as she now says, she believed her principal who told her such silliness.
Posted by: SchoolsMatter
..............................
I think you are not considering that Ms. Rhee would have to publicly tell reporters that her principal told her:
"Over a two-year period, (you) moved students scoring on average at the 13th percentile on national standardized tests to 90 percent of students scoring at the 90th percentile or higher."

Besides a newspaper article that shows that the claims continuously made by Ms. Rhee were false would be by itself news.

Americans will make their own decision on her excuse.

There is also the fact that any good reporter would mention that in 2007 Ms. Rhee would never have been hired if the current evidence was available since it would have shown that claims on her resume were false.

It is interesting that few are picking up on the fact that the scores of the 13th percentile were the scores of the class that Ms. Rhee taught in her first year of teaching and not the scores of another teacher.

Ms. Rhee as head of D.C. would have demanded the firing of any teacher with a class score of the 13 percentile after teaching a class for a year. Perhaps reporters will point this out since the first year of teaching by Ms. Rhee was really poor.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 10, 2011 10:03 PM | Report abuse

@mrteachhard who wrote:

Rhee's biggest accomplishment was putting the fear of accountability in every DCPS teacher's head. As a DCPS teacher I have personally witnessed better prepared lessons and great enthusiasm while teaching. IMPACT is terribly flawed, but it makes teachers think about what they are actually doing. Imagine that...quit sitting around complacent, in your safe job, and do something.The kids need you.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
You make a good point, but why not create a development program that trains teachers well so they can create engaging top notch lessons and have the ability to execute the lessons in the given reality that they teach, working alongside administration. Many of the professional development programs are either hodge-podge, or do not consider the realities teachers face and how to overcome them, and are often considered a useless waste of time to teachers. And administrators are often put in they unfortunate positions where they get in the teacher's way rather than help them become a great teacher.

I imagine a system like IMPACT is mainly about appearance and control rather than inspiring rich lessons. And since the development of a teacher takes at least 3 - 5 years, I don't think it is a fair system. Yes, bad teachers should be ousted, but why not create an assessment system that is committed to learning and development rather than control, fear, and punishment. It could start out conservatively, then systematically help teachers to become creative and inspiring, and I mean SYSTEMATICALLY. It would be very easy to spot after a couple years who is complacent and does not give a damn about teaching in such a system. There are many teachers out there who want to be great, but what school district, especially in Title I schools helps you do that without putting excessive boulders on your back.

Posted by: Playitagainsam | February 10, 2011 11:52 PM | Report abuse

The significance of this revelation cannot be properly assessed without looking at the whole picture.

Michelle Rhee runs a business entity whose purpose is to place new college graduates as teachers in public schools for terms of no more than a few years each. Her income and fame (such as it is) depend on a system wherein existing teachers are constantly replaced by an ongoing supply of her new recruits. Michelle Rhee's corporate "education reform" partners make money, and seek to make far more money, from their ownership of, and/or investment in, business entities whose purpose is to sell standardized testing and publicly funded private education.

Now, boys and girls, can you say "self-promoting charlatan"? Let's try an easier one: can you say "fraud"? Very good. "Deception"? Excellent, OK, boys and girls, just one more: can you say "conflict of interest"?

Posted by: nan_lynn | February 10, 2011 11:57 PM | Report abuse

Valerie,
I do believe that Rhee's claims of raising test scores are EXACTLY THE POINT. Rhee touted those claims all over the country. She was on the front cover of a major magazine while making those claims. She was hired as a superintendent of a major school district while making those claims, she fired teachers while making those claims. It is precisely because of those claims that she rose to the top of the "educational reform" movement. Time magazine, here's a question for you: will you now put Rhee on the cover again, this time as Pinocchio?

Posted by: chicogal | February 11, 2011 12:15 AM | Report abuse

mrteachhard: MR didn't put any fear of accountability into my mind. I came into the field with an internal compass and I give everything I can to my students as much as I can. Please don't speak for every teacher.

Posted by: thetensionmakesitwork | February 11, 2011 6:41 AM | Report abuse

I guess Valerie was right about concerning the discovery of test scores that proved that claims on the resume of Ms. Rhee were false and incorrect.
Valerie probably knew that the Washington Post was really not going to report on this but simply do a white wash.
............................

Well the white wash is in with the "reporting" of the Washington Post.

The Washington Post article "Rhee faces renewed scrutiny over depiction of students' progress when she taught" is not reporting but a white wash.

No mention that the claims of Ms. Rhee on her resume were challenged during the hiring process in 2007 as indicated by the Washington Post article of 2007 "Council to Challenge Rhee's Résumé".

No mention that the public hearing in 2007 specifically questioned the validity of claims in the resume of Ms. Rhee that are now shown to be incorrect.

From the hearing in 2007:
"This is somewhat of an unconventional appointment," Gray said. "She's basing a lot of her fitness on her experience in the classroom and her recruitment of teachers. . . . If you say something, you should be able to back it up."

No mention in the article of how important to Ms. Rhee were the claims in the resume in 2007 which Ms. Rhee now says were incorrect and should be revised without the claims that were questioned in 2007.

The reality is that the claims made by Ms. Rhee on her resume were incorrect as indicated by the newly discovered test scores.

Ms. Rhee would never have obtained her position in 2007 if in 2007 at the public hearing she would have admitted as she does now that the claims made in her resume were incorrect.

But the Washington Post is only interested in a white wash.

The whitewash on Ms. Rhee tells us the "On Wednesday evening, Rhee said" without giving details on who Ms. Rhee spoke to or any details of this conversation.

Apparently to the Washington Post reporting is simply selecting bits and pieces of a conversation and not providing readers with information on who was spoken to or the context of a conversation.

The Washington Post provides no information in regard to questions that Ms. Rhee was responding to, or even who was responding to.

Even on the worse interview show on TV the audience is aware of the questions and who is carrying on a conversation.

Never mind what was said, or even to who she spoke to, simply pick bits and pieces that you want for the white wash.

Imagine if the Washington Post had news articles where readers were simply told what political leaders said without any information regarding questions that these political leaders were asked or even why these questions were being asked. Would the Washington Post call this reporting.

It is interesting that by giving no information on the conversation that Ms. Rhee with some unknown person there is no possibility for another reporter to verify the "information" in this article.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 11, 2011 10:58 AM | Report abuse

No mistake about it, these were 75 bad teachers (that DCPS/Rhee fired). http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/10/AR2011021006623.html. It would be absolutely appalling to let them back in the classroom.

As of October 2010, DC records show that were 4236 teachers in DCPS. Only 180 of those were TFA recruits.

Of those 4236 DCPS teachers, about half are tenured. Among the tenured group about half, approximately 700 current DCPS teachers, do not have basic competency in the subjects they teach.

Posted by: frankb1 | February 11, 2011 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Thoughts from the data kindly marshaled by frankb1, earlier.

1. You would not want the 75 teaching your kids. The performance summaries from their principals that made it into the press speak for themselves. But, yes, we know the union is not concerned with children's education, but rather safeguarding jobs.

2. TFA accounts for 3-4 percent of all DCPS teachers. Some teachers and their union love to target TFAers, but they are just trying to draw attention away from the mass of teachers. More than ever, we need to treasure our strong teachers, but we should doubt they are very numerous.

Yet half of the total have tenure. Tenure is a financial plague on the system and the source of so much enduring disadvantage to the kids.

Posted by: axolotl | February 11, 2011 8:44 PM | Report abuse

My great ego has led me to believe that education in my era reached its apex, and has that education excellence since then began its long decline, beginning with the introduction of phonics into the reading program, and, later, the introduction of "new math." What I have in defense of my belief is that my high school and college classes have produced two U.S. Presidents. My early education relied a lot on rote learning, the Palmer Method of penmanship, and turning out perfect papers. I was blessed, for three years, with an English teacher who cared less with us knowing figures of speech, but more with getting us write weekly essays, at least on the weeks that a longer writing piece was not due, introducing new vocabulary terms each week,and having us subscribe to, and read, _The Atlantic Monthly._
My point is that, perhaps, we need to look back, to see what we did in the past that did turn out successful students, and to integrate it with what we might be doing now to create more well adjusted, but perhaps less literate, citizens. Secondly, education theorists need integrate into education the advantages of the new information age, while minimizing its drawbacks.
One problem existing in urban education is that there is a failure of domestic discipline which spills over into the schools, which the schools have not figured out how to overcome. And I'm not sure that they can.
John Dickert
Mount Vernon Farms

Posted by: 12191946 | February 11, 2011 9:10 PM | Report abuse

That's what you're crowing about? MAYBE Rhee's students ONLY jumped an AVERAGE of 37 percentile points? MAYBE? Oh, but we should ignore that part, because the only thing that matters is she "lied"?

Rhee as Palin? Sorry, but to most observers, she's more like Obama, with YOU playing the Palin role. As the cliche goes, it's easy to criticize. But some people still manage, somehow, to bungle that at every turn.

Fools. WHEN the feds take over or otherwise demolish DCPS as we know it (especially with Republicans running the relevant committees), Rhee is going to look like a Christmas present. Just remember it wasn't her that made that happen, it was you.

Posted by: Godfather_of_Goals | February 11, 2011 11:24 PM | Report abuse

Michelle Rhee is a classic case of kiss up kick down. To lie on one's resumé means one is willing to lie and to cheat. If she indeed fabricated information, to what extent has "Win at all costs!" been her modus operandi? Did she nervously interfere with the actual process of test taking to ensure a secure first rung on her career ladder?

When she realized that a certain basic level of approval was needed within the communities she needed to appease, she belatedly turned on the charm. No doubt, she has her eyes on a prize and reframing her D.C. experience will be part of her plan. She will have become more successful than the reality and any failures will have been due to everyone else around her. Already "They're against us!" has become a fundraising call to arms for her new organization. Kissing up has taken her far: to the media, to the upper echelons of DOE, and even to Oprah!

We need to have people with children's best interests at heart running our public schools. This quitter should go away and not interfere in U.S. education until she grows up and finds out it is not all about her.

Posted by: MsKTB | February 14, 2011 7:06 AM | Report abuse

I found the fact that when questions arose about Michele Rhee's effectiveness as a teacher in Baltimore several years ago, she chose to use her fledgling foundation as the source of her response:

"“To our members, this episode is further proof of what we’re up against and why we need your support to get the message out."

Why does this remind me so much of the plaintiff cries of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachman, who instead of addressing the criticism head on, retreat to the coverage of "they are out to get us."

Deal with the issues, Ms. Rhee, and present facts, not manipulated, unsubstantiated figures. You want to champion measurable test results and accountability for outcomes; how do you measure on those tests?

Posted by: TheShadowKnows | February 15, 2011 9:11 PM | Report abuse

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