A Nixonian response from the former D.C. schools chancellor to news of statistical anomalies in her success stories
Former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, champion of “education reform,” is a right-wing folk hero because while working for the public she combined corporatist policy with open contempt for the public. An ostensible Democrat, she now advises Republican governors on how best to battle the nefarious teachers’ unions, which, in her reckoning, are almost solely responsible for poor student performance. Her solutions to the “education crisis” mostly involve the privatization of public schools. Her qualifications, besides having all the currently fashionable opinions, are her successes as head of Washington’s schools. Test scores increased during her tenure! In some places, they increased dramatically!
But USA Today reported yesterday that the test improvements were, in many cases, a bit suspicious. One school in particular, the Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus, showed dramatic gains in the span of two short years. The standardized tests from Noyes during those years also showed dramatic — and statistically improbable — rates of “wrong-to-right erasures” on their answer sheets.
In 2007-08, six classrooms out of the eight taking tests at Noyes were flagged by McGraw-Hill because of high wrong-to-right erasure rates. The pattern was repeated in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years, when 80% of Noyes classrooms were flagged by McGraw-Hill.
On the 2009 reading test, for example, seventh-graders in one Noyes classroom averaged 12.7 wrong-to-right erasures per student on answer sheets; the average for seventh-graders in all D.C. schools on that test was less than 1. The odds are better for winning the Powerball grand prize than having that many erasures by chance, according to statisticians consulted by USA TODAY.
“This is an abnormal pattern,” says Thomas Haladyna, a professor emeritus at Arizona State University who has studied testing for 20 years.
Two other academics agreed that the rates were improbable enough to warrant closer examination.
The story is worth reading in full. It’s well reported and carefully edited, and marshals a great deal of evidence to suggest an epidemic of cheating during Rhee’s tenure, if not outright fraud.
And Rhee responded, last night. Not by answering any specific charge, at all, but by reasserting her essential rightness about everything, and the wrongness of her awful critics.
“It isn’t surprising,” Rhee said in a statement Monday, “that the enemies of school reform once again are trying to argue that the Earth is flat and that there is no way test scores could have improved … unless someone cheated.”
USA TODAY’s investigation into test scores “is an insult to the dedicated teachers and schoolchildren who worked hard to improve their academic achievement levels,” Rhee said.
Rhee, who said Monday night that the investigation “absolutely lacked credibility,” had declined to speak with USA TODAY despite numerous attempts before an article ran online and in Monday’s newspaper. Her comments were made during the taping of PBS’ Tavis Smiley show to air on Tuesday night.
I’m sorry, but this is the “haters gonna hate” defense. It’s just a blanket assertion of bias without any sort of attempt to refute the actual charges leveled against her. How is she not already a paid Fox analyst?
This was a really good week for New York magazine to run its slightly skeptical but largely positive Rhee profile.
More Related Stories
- Top 5 investigative videos of the week: "Winning" Afghanistan
- Jester clowns Westboro Baptist Church
- GOP: Party of crybabies
- Developers evict historic women's shelter to build luxury hotel
- Guantánamo prisoner on hunger strike cries for help on Twitter
- 3 possible solutions to international tax avoidance
- “I just want the U.S. to send my father home”
- Army weapons engineer tied to white nationalist organizations
- Ted Cruz against the world
- David Vitter's hypocritical, punitive, horrible new amendment
- Louie Gohmert: Women should be forced to carry nonviable pregnancies to term
- Could hackers destroy the U.S. power grid?
- Democrats may be even worse than Republicans at regulating Wall Street
- Eric Holder versus journalism
- A progressive defense of drones
- There's no substitute for government disaster relief
- Holder signed off on search warrant for reporter
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
- Closing Gitmo is not enough
- Murkowski: Palin too disengaged to run for Senate
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11