I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Friday, November 25, 2011

St. Michelle's Tarnished Halo

Oh, dear:
One distraction that Michelle Rhee could do without as she evangelizes around the country for school reform is any whiff of a cheating scandal in the public-school system she led in Washington, D.C.

But that topic is very much alive, thanks to an ongoing investigation by federal officials and the D.C. inspector general into unusual erasures on tests and student academic gains that seemed too good to be true—but that Rhee insists were real
On the D.C. cheating suspicions, Rhee walks a tricky line: while welcoming the investigation requested by her successor, she admits to no mistake in her own failure to seek that probe when she was chancellor. Rhee departed the District a year ago. 
Were there more steps that could have been taken? Sure. But I feel very, very comfortable and confident with the steps we took,” Rhee says. [emphasis mine]
Oh, the grammar of the politician - and make no mistake, that's what Rhee is. The passive voice keeps her from accepting responsibility. The first-person plural pronoun spreads around any possible blame. She's really learned to play the game exceptionally well.
In declining to hire the firm to examine earlier erasure anomalies on the 2008 tests, Rhee said she had sought “clarity” about precisely what was being questioned by the state superintendent’s office, which had flagged many schools in its first-time erasure analysis. The office assumes the role of a state education department over D.C. Public Schools (DCPS). The results were deemed inconclusive, and Rhee moved on to focus on improving security for future tests.
“In hindsight I can tell you that at the time we weren’t thinking that DCPS was going to be under the microscope in the way that we were on the national scale,” she says.
So does that mean she would have stepped up the investigation had she known that USA Today would be poring through documents and conducting interviews? She says only that her actions “totally made sense” at the time. Now, she says, “we should take every step necessary to clear the air on it and make sure people understand there was real progress that happened.” [emphasis mine]
St. Michelle cares about test security when the press and the public care. Other times: meh...

It continually astonishes me that this failed teacher and failed superintendent is considered any sort of expert on education. Her record speaks for itself, and that record shows she has no business setting education policy.

But Rupert Murdoch loves her, to the Brill-reported tune of $50 million. New Jersey ought to ask how much of the Newscorp money is flowing to legislators via B4K. More on that in a bit.


Anonymous said...

I have to admire the way you take teacher's cheating and turn it into a positive for the profession. What does it say about you that you only see professional malfeasance like that as a brownie point against the people trying to conduct fair measurement for the betterment of the kids?

Anonymous said...

I am looking forward to reading more on your thoughts regarding B4K, their backers, and their claims to be knowledgeable about education reform -- including their qualifications for reading and evaluating charter school applications in this state.....

Duke said...

Anon #1, I'm all for a tough critique of my work. But you are willfully misreading it.

Rhee had the responsibility to police cheating in her district. She failed. Here she says she didn't realize she would have been under such scrutiny, as if she would have tried harder to root out cheating if she knew she'd be watched more carefully. That's awful, and it's cause to question whether Rhee did indeed care about a "fair measures."

I don't celebrate her failures; I point them out in an effort to stop this woman's canonization. She was a mediocre teacher at best, contrary to the hagiography that surrounds her. She had multiple failings as a superintendent. She simply shouldn't be listened to on education policy.

Duke said...

Anon #2: start here:


czarejs said...

I don't see how identifying the failures of Rhee is turning this into a postive for the teaching profession.
At the same time, the scandal more than illustrates the absolute ridiculousness of using tests that were never intended to measure teachers to make high stakes decisions. From what I understand these teachers didn't just decide to do this, but were under tremendous pressure from administrators. Maybe, just maybe when people see these things brought to light they'll realize what we are dealing with.

Anonymous said...

...she would have tried harder to root out cheating if she knew she'd be watched more carefully.

I don't think anyone would anticipate the sort of outrageous cheating seen from professionals. You are like a defense attorney blaming the bank for its security alarm.