So there's a memo out there that has not been released that probably confirms former DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee knew that Stanford - a consultant Rhee herself had hired - raised concerns about widespread cheating in her district. And this was back in 2008, very early in Rhee's tenure.
A few things:
- This is really outstanding reporting by John Merrow. But why wasn't it in his Frontline report on Rhee? Merrow glossed over many other problems with Rhee's resume to focus on the cheating scandal. I wish he hadn't; however, if he's going to concentrate on that story, why didn't he include these revelations in his report? Had he not yet confirmed some key pieces of the story? If so, that's a shame, and I hope PBS lets him do a follow-up.
- When you read Merrow's full post, you'll learn that Sanford made a lot of money from his time at DCPS:
Nice work if you can get it, eh? But wait a sec: Sanford was on the payroll for "roughly three years," which would be close to the entirety of Rhee own time at DCPS. But he wrote this mysterious memo in November of 2008, early in Rhee's term. He may well have been concerned with a possible cheating scandal, but it appears he hung around for two more years after he wrote the memo.
What did Sanford do to push Rhee to investigate? Did he write any other memos? Were there any conversations with Rhee where he urged her to follow through? Did he ever become frustrated that a wider investigation wasn't being conducted? Was he interviewed during the investigation of cheating by the IG of the USDOE? And what did he think about the public adulation Rhee heaped on schools that turned out to have suspicious test scores?
I understand that Sanford has an obligation to protect "work product," but he has a greater obligation to protect the public interest. It's time to tell the entire story of the Rhee reign in Washington, D.C., and his part in it.
- This part of Merrow's post really killed me:
She [Rhee] turned to a trusted advisor, Dr. Fay G. ‘Sandy’ Sanford. Dr. Sanford began consulting for DCPS early in Rhee’s tenure. He had been approached by Erin McGoldrick, Rhee’s Chief of Data and Accountability, “She didn’t have any background in data-driven instruction,” Sanford told me in mid-November of last year, “and so she asked me for help.”Now, I read that as Sanford saying McGoldrick didn't have any background in data-driven instruction. Which is pretty amazing: Rhee's head honcho in charge of data didn't have a background in data? Really?
But it's possible that Sanford is saying Rhee didn't have a background in data. That would explain why Rhee instituted a teacher evaluation system that was a mathematical train wreck, why she put out a "report card" that makes the same mistake, why she won't even consider student achievement in her evaluation of state education systems, and why the work coming out of StudentsFirst these days is just generally goofy and illogical.
Let's see how this plays out. But if this memo contains anything like Merrow conjectures it does, we could see Michelle Rhee's image take yet another beating.
Merrow! Stop asking for my memo!