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Posted at 2:25 PM ET, 02/ 9/2011

Baltimore City test specialist recalls Rhee story

By Jay Mathews

(Updated with a response from Michelle Rhee's group, StudentsFirst, at 6 p.m. Wednesday.)

Here is an e-mail I received today. I think it is self-explanatory and relevant to our topic of the day, Michelle Rhee's years in Baltimore. The writer gave me his e-mail address, which I added to the end of his message:

Dear Mr. Mathews:

Until retiring last year, I was chief accountability officer for the Baltimore City Public Schools. More to the point, I was staff specialist within the Department of Research and Evaluation charged with doing the annual Title I report to the Maryland State Department of Education during the period that Ms. Rhee was teaching at Harlem Park. To my surprise, I found myself entangled with her when she appeared in DC.

I first became aware of Ms. Rhee when one of her former associates appeared in my office to ascertain what data might be available about her tenure in Baltimore. I recall the interaction because it struck me as unusual. Neither she nor Teach For America was on my radar screen at the time.

During the next few months, I spoke with the Post, the Wall Street Journal, and with Jean Marbella of the Baltimore Sun on this topic; I believe some of this material remains on the Internet.

Here’s what I remember of the case. Ms. Rhee was, I believe, in a team-teaching assignment at Harlem Park. Baltimore used the CAT C (California Achievement Test) at that time, fall and spring administrations. The Title I evaluation required a 2 NCE gain in the aggregate (spring – fall scores), which was a challenging standard for schools to attain. I believe I could trace approximately 35 students to the grade at Harlem Park which would have been attributable to Ms. Rhee and her teaching partner. I provided copies of the Harlem Park evaluation page to those media that contacted to me.

There were swings on the data at that school, not just that grade, but the performance of all the EAI schools was concerning. In general, if a psychometric measure is sound, the underlying construct (general intelligence) is stable. If the CAT performed correctly, reasonable growth would be expected, but not changes beyond a standard deviation. Moreover, there is some consensus in the current literature that fall/spring assessment is easier to game than is once-a-year snapshot assessment. Moreover, all acceptable psychometric models are complex and attempt to control for prior teacher effects and for other covariates.

In speaking to the media about the case (2005? 2006?), I was guarded about my statements. The Title I evaluation was the only data available to me as the accountability officer. Since Y2K data system conversions, old testing files were obsolete, and we no longer had the technology to read them. It would have been virtually impossible to revisit those data, nor was this of any purpose for Baltimore.

I understood Ms. Rhee cited her students’ CAT C scores at Harlem Park as evidence that her educational abilities were notable. The Title I data I could produce when asked would neither have confirmed nor contradicted this claim.


Benjamin I. Feldman, Ed.D.

For Rhee's response to allegations about the test scores at her Baltimore school, please click here.

By Jay Mathews  | February 9, 2011; 2:25 PM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Let's hear more from commenter who questioned Rhee's test scores
Next: Rhee's response to blogger's allegations


How does this explain anything? He is saying that they can't look at the records, right? Is he implying the scores were too high? What does gaming the system mean?

Posted by: georgia198305 | February 9, 2011 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Ask him. You've got his email address.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | February 9, 2011 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like it means she figured out she could say anything she wanted, thanks to those devilish old Y2K system conversions (and the passive and eager-to-please press).

Posted by: CarolineSF | February 9, 2011 4:46 PM | Report abuse

It sounds like Rhee told him she was awesome, and he believed it. He probably should have looked deeper at the time.

It would also be nice if he could find links to what he claims is still on the internet.

It would also be a good idea for him to respond right here in this thread. We don't need to keep things under wraps anymore.

Posted by: tfteacher | February 9, 2011 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Come On Jay
Giveit up man Rhee was and still is a FRUD and the others that lost there Job will get them back sooner than you think now . Rhee padded the Data so that she could look like she was the Best thing for DCPS but the whole time she was using Dr Clifford Janey's Plan for School Reform but she tweaked it to her advantage and she had all her Clowns follow her lead and this shows that it was all for Human Capital and to change Dcps to Teach For Americia and all the Princples will be from New Leaders but thanks for Her Favorite fan Jay Mattews for being a Rhee Supporter Jay She Made you Look STUPID A HELL SO REALIZE IT MAN SHE WAS A FRUD

Posted by: Darksecrettt | February 9, 2011 4:49 PM | Report abuse

All should read jvsteele's comments in Jay's story titled, "Want to hear more from commenter..." she provides links to an article she wrote in 2007 regarding Rhee's claims. You should read the whole article, but here is an important quote: "Based on the UMBC data, which was obtained from McGraw-Hill data tapes, Rhee's students' reading scores would have improved from a 27 NCE to a 45 NCE over the two-year period. This is not a bad achievement, but far from the 13-90 percentile increase her resume suggests"

Posted by: researcher2 | February 9, 2011 5:42 PM | Report abuse

It continues to amaze me the lack of debate of what Michelle Rhee STANDS for which is putting STUDENTS NEEDS FIRST. The constant questioning of her agenda is ridiculous...she has 20 pages dedicated to her official position to help elevate education in this country. Are there pockets of greatness? Yes! Does anyone think we are doing our best? No. Get a grip people and dig in to make a difference. Join

Posted by: goobie99 | February 9, 2011 5:55 PM | Report abuse

What is a FRUD?

Posted by: mldc04 | February 9, 2011 5:59 PM | Report abuse

To goobie99:

you said Michelle Rhee is "putting STUDENTS NEEDS FIRST". Many people disagree with you.
Michelle Rhee never put students first BECAUSE:
1) She showed students it's ok to lie about your experience and make up data that never even existed.
2) She took students' teachers away. She fired them without even giving any reasons.
3) She showed students it's ok to ignore any scientific evidence against your own crazy ideas. She showed students that you should always listen to no one but yourself.
4) She showed students that education is all about test scores. Test score is everything. Test score decides if you are a good kid and if your teacher is a good teacher.

She never put students first. She puts herself first.

Posted by: washingtonian2011 | February 9, 2011 6:45 PM | Report abuse

When operating systems were upgraded to y2k, they were created to read files created on earlier systems. I can't believe anyone would update an operating system so that it couldn't read earlier files. It would be absolutely insane.

Yk2 was only an upgrade for the date, and any system that was upgraded should have been backward compatible.

I can't believe the yk2 upgrade would have made earlier files unreadable. This is absolutely unbelievable.

Posted by: resc | February 9, 2011 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Jay - I'm telling you - you need to question this yk2 story. It would have been a disaster for any operating system not to have been backward compatible. Things like that just don't happen.

Not only that, but there are ways to read old files. Either Mr. Feldman was mis-led by the computer department (which happens more frequently than people realize) or he doesn't know what he is talking about.

Posted by: resc | February 9, 2011 7:10 PM | Report abuse

The Rhee-ites are running scared - you can see why - they can see their whole edifice crumbling around them.

And what a weak message -- essentially, Our mission of saving children is too important to waste time defending our leader's basic honesty.

Posted by: efavorite | February 9, 2011 7:16 PM | Report abuse

Jay - having worked in the computer field for years I can tell you this: when computer technicians feel overwhelmed by problems, and someone asks them to do something that would stress their already stressed out systems, many times they tell the person making the request that it cannot be done. Since the requester doesn't have the necessary technical skills, they simply believe what they are told.

Mr. Feldman absolutely could have gotten a hold of that data. What he couldn't get is the co-operation of the computer department.

Posted by: resc | February 9, 2011 7:17 PM | Report abuse

Whoever DarkSecrett is- you are a clear idiot who cannot put together a logical thought or point...more than likely you are one of the fired teachers from the RIF who is incompetent and looking for a job for life without accountability!

Posted by: teacher6402 | February 9, 2011 8:18 PM | Report abuse

What is a FRUD? I'll give it a try.

F Fake
R Reformer
U Undermining
D Democracy

Posted by: taunar | February 9, 2011 10:05 PM | Report abuse

So, set up a computer to run Windows 95 or 98.
If this data was on a mainframe, the software still exits to retrieve the data.

You can get a computer to run Windows95 at the pawn shop or thrift store.

Posted by: edlharris | February 9, 2011 10:59 PM | Report abuse

" Since Y2K data system conversions, old testing files were obsolete, and we no longer had the technology to read them. It would have been virtually impossible to revisit those data, nor was this of any purpose for Baltimore."

This is complete nonsense. The data can be read no matter what if it had been written to files under any version of Windows, Mac or Unix on a PC system (counting Macs as a PC system). If the data was on a minicomputer or larger system then it could be a problem but that is because most of those systems from that time period have been phased out and the data might be stored on old media. OTOH Unix favor OS's and VAXes dominated as minicomputers during that period so the data could be written in a readable format. The Y2K issue in this context is just total BS.

Posted by: kirtu | February 9, 2011 11:28 PM | Report abuse

FRUD: A term is born.

Posted by: thetensionmakesitwork | February 10, 2011 4:41 AM | Report abuse


Even if the system was phased out, there are data conversion specialists who can get it. In addition, companies never put themselves in a position where they can't get old data. If they did, if would upend their business functioning.{YSMKEY}&ctt_ch=ps&ctt_entity=tc&ctt_adid={OVADID}&ctt_nwtype={OVMTC}&ctt_cli=8^7733^20264^357709

Posted by: resc | February 10, 2011 12:59 PM | Report abuse


You don't have go to a pawn, just go to a data conversion specialist. Type in "data conversation" at yahoo and you will get hundreds of hits.

In addition, most likely the people he works for still has some programmers around who know how to get into the data, unless of course the company laid them all off.

Posted by: resc | February 10, 2011 1:05 PM | Report abuse

No wonder this guy "couldn't find" the data all this time, he's an idiot.

Posted by: mcstowy | February 10, 2011 5:13 PM | Report abuse

How does this explain anything? He is saying that they can't look at the records, right? Is he implying the scores were too high? What does gaming the system mean?

Posted by: georgia198305
Ask him. You've got his email address.

Posted by: Jay Mathews

A great example of Jay Mathews who apparently believes his function is simply to post emails forwarded to him.

I am surprised that Jay Mathews never in the past has posted a Chinese menu on his blog.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 10, 2011 5:25 PM | Report abuse

It continues to amaze me the lack of debate of what Michelle Rhee STANDS for which is putting STUDENTS NEEDS FIRST.

Posted by: goobie99
Not seen any cases of used car salesmen telling customers that they wanted to sell them a junk car.

Amazes me that supposedly with the supporters of Ms. Rhee we are supposed to take her on her public statements except when it is in regard to the public claims she made regarding her work as a teacher.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 10, 2011 5:43 PM | Report abuse

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