Indictments in Atlanta Cheating Scandal Make Me Wonder: When Will Michelle Rhee & Her Enablers Also Be Indicted?

Those who trust our DCPS leaders to do the right thing regarding building a school here in Turkey Thicket should consider this:
Beverly Hall, the ex-superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, was just indicted with a recommended multi-million-dollar bond for leading a massive cheating ring run by her and some administrators and teachers on their state’s standardized tests; she and her cronies raked in big bucks and much fame and honors for these fake high scores. A link to today’s NYT article:
USA Today ran a brilliant series of investigative columns about a year or so ago on cheating by adults on standardized tests in Atlanta, Washington DC, and several other cities. The cheating here in DC, according to their serious, well-documented investigation, was about on a par with that in Atlanta, IMHO.  The most brazen example that they found — and one of the few examples where the reporters could find people willing to speak on the record — was right here in Brookland at Crosby Noyes ES/EC, under then-principal Wayne Ryan. You may have also noted that the principal at Noyes who followed Ryan found extremely clear evidence of said cheating ring, and spoke out about it, and was forced to resign for telling the truth. (Look up John Merrow’s PBS special on that.) That principal was later also publicly vilified by Henderson — essentially for telling the truth about the cheating.
If you recall, Ryan earned big bucks, a promotion, and lots of fame and honors for leading a ring of teachers and administrators who changed students’ answers on the DC-CAS for many years. Michelle Rhee promoted him to the central office as being “all that” – a position that he mysteriously abandoned once the excrement hit the ventilator (figuratively speaking), just as Beverly Hall conveniently retired.
Rhee herself similarly lied, repeatedly, in print and in numerous interviews, about her own non-existent, utterly unbelievable “90% below the 13th percentile rising to 90% above the 90th percentile” miracle in Baltimore. She lied about much more on her resume, and once chosen to be chancellor, gave all DC principals marching orders on how much to inflate their students’ test scores in the coming year and earn big bucks, or be fired. Kaya Henderson defended Rhee and Ryan, and was deputy to Rhee during all those shenanigans and lies.
BTW: I and many others have shown that there has been NO tremendous surge in NAEP scores in DCPS under the disastrous reign of Rhee and Henderson. The one big change is that the gap between the scores of the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, between those of white kids and non-white kids, and between those with free or reduced-price lnches and those without, has WIDENED and the gap is by far the widest here in DC than in any other state or city. If you don’t believe me, go look up the NAEP scores yourself, or look in my blog under NAEP in its little search engine. (You can also use my blog to do searches for the original news articles on the scandals I am discussing here.)
I wonder when the turn before the grand jury will come for Ryan, Henderson, and Rhee.
(Obviously not while we have Arne Duncan in the DOE and Charles Willoughby as our IG.)
My conclusion is this:
My neighbors here in Brookland should not expect any of the people I mentioned to do anything right for you or for me or my kids or my grandchild-to-be.
The people I named are utterly corrupt, and take their lying very seriously.
Not our welfare.
Your thoughts?

John Merrow also replies to a friend of Michelle Rhee

One of the tiny handful of DC parents who are deceived by Michelle Rhee and Kaya Henderson wrote another attack on the credibility of the good section of John Merrow’s PBS special on Rhee. It reads like a press release from Henderson’s office. Here is Merrow’s response:

Here’s PBS’s John Merrow’s Response

I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your open letter to the PBS Ombudsman. Let me begin by addressing the timing of the statement by the USDE Inspector General. It was released just hours before our national broadcast, and it was only then that Frontline learned of Adell Cothorne’s legal complaint, which had been sealed from public view until it was released by the IG. Although it was too late to include this information in the body of the film, Frontline made extraordinary efforts to include detailed information about the USDE IG’s statement and Cothorne’s filing, and included links to documents in the coda to the film and on its web site.

While we had heard rumors of an investigation by the USDE IG, we were unable to confirm them and could not identify any DC educators who had been interviewed by the USDE IG. We understand now that she [the USDE IG] did her work ‘in tandem’ with the DC Inspector General.

You write ” . . . on six exams administered since allegations of cheating were raised, DC students continued to show steady progress rather than a system wide drop off as you would expect under increased testing security.” I would make two important points. First, the relevant comparison is not to the entire system but to the schools which were flagged for high erasure rates. If one examines the data for the 16 schools with erasure rates of 50% or higher, it is clear that heightened security had a significant impact.

The DC-CAS scores at Noyes, where 81% of classrooms were flagged for high erasures, are themselves circumstantial evidence that supports Cothorne’s allegation. Below are the Noyes DC-CAS scores over five years; 2011 represents the year that security was tightened.

  2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Reading 44.14% 61.53 84.21 61.36 32.40
Math 34.24% 57.69 62.79 53.64 28.17


 That represents a drop of nearly 50 points in reading between 2009 and 2011, and a drop of roughly 34 points in math. Note also that in 2011 Noyes students were scoring belowtheir pre-Rhee level.

In all, data are available for 16 schools with erasure rates of at least 50%. DC-CAS reading scores rose in only two schools after security was tightened. Math scores rose in just 4 schools and declined in 12.

Here are three examples:

* At Aiton, (which, like Noyes, had been awarded large cash bonuses) scores in reading dropped from 58.43% proficient to 20.80%, well below pre-Rhee levels. In math, Aiton dropped from 57.87% to 16%, which is also below pre-Rhee levels.

* Raymond also received large bonuses from the Chancellor. Its scores in reading fell from 70% to 42.44%, and its math scores fell from 68% to 45.71%. The reading score is below pre-Rhee levels.

* Savoy went from 46.51% to 20.39% in reading and from 38.37% to 15.38% in math, also well below pre-Rhee levels.

Second, you reference ‘steady progress,’ and it is true that the DC-CAS scores have shown very slow but steady growth (a point made by Rhee in her final interview and shown in our film). That change is credible and consistent with what students of measurement say can be expected in schools that are making progress. However, hugegains and losses are greeted, quite properly, with skepticism by experts, although not by Rhee or her team.

Moreover, as noted in the film, DC schools continue to rank among the worst districts in the nation and have the absolute lowest graduation rate in the US.

The co-investigator of the cheating scandal in Atlanta, Georgia (where investigators had subpoena power and put those testifying under oath) told Frontline that they considered wrong-to-right erasures at a rate of three or more standard deviations away from the norm to be prima facie evidence of cheating. In some classrooms at Noyes, the rate was five or more standard deviations away from the norm, and yet this did not trigger an in-depth investigation.

‘In depth’ would mean erasure analysis and a search for patterns. This can reveal if the person doing the erasing corrected the easier questions or the more difficult ones. If the latter, that raises questions.

No erasure analysis was conducted by Caveon or the DC Inspector General or requested by Rhee.

You write: “Frontline implies that the DC Inspector General’s investigation was not credible and relies on Cothorne’s testimony to substantiate this point.” That is incorrect. We examined the IG Report carefully and reported the facts. Which are: The DC IG report did not examine DC-CAS results during Rhee’s first year, the year with the greatest number of erasures. He did not perform erasure analysis. He did not interview Cothorne. Individuals who spoke with him were not under oath. His report cites one instance where he heard conflicting testimony and simply accepted the word of one individual and rejected the other’s, but he provides no support for that decision. During his 17-month investigation he interviewed just over 50 people. 17 months is approximately 515 days, meaning that he interviewed, on average, one person every 10 days.

He did not examine other schools. In fact, the IG acknowledges that he eliminated one school, Wilson, because the current Chancellor convinced him that Wilson faculty and staff were working hard. However, Wilson’s scores dropped 19% in reading and 23% in math between 2009 and 2011, and 100% of its classrooms had been flagged for high erasures.

We requested an interview with the DC IG to discuss his report, including Cothorne’s charges, but that request was rebuffed.

After interviewing Cothorne, Frontline also attempted to interview Chancellor Rhee. It is accepted form in journalism for the subject of a program to be given ‘the last word,’ a final opportunity to respond to what others have said, and we wanted that to be the case in this instance. We negotiated with Rhee’s attorney, Reid Weingarten, who insisted on seeing written questions that we would be asking. Frontline submitted a number of written questions, which we will not release because they include references to other allegations not made public. Weingarten had indicated that Rhee would respond in writing and, at the same time, consider an on-camera interview. In fact, she did not respond in any way.

Frontline stands by the program, and I stand by what I wrote in Taking Note, my blog.

More Data on the Fraud that Rhee and Henderson and Duncan Insist Never Happened at Noyes and Elsewhere

My colleague Erich Martel has done it again.

He dug around and found out how the numbers of students who were supposedly “proficient” at Noyes Elementary School (or Educational Center) jumped around crazily from year to year. He was nice enough to put these into color-coded tables so you can watch how the cohorts progress. Here are his tables, which I formatted for viewing on this blog:

pctgs of students prof in math + reading by grade and year


Let me try to explain what these charts mean.

The second chart has a diagonal in yellow, representing what I called “cohort L”. In the column labeled “4″ for fourth grade, in the line for the year 2006-7, you see the number 29.6. This means that at Noyes, in Reading on the DCCAS, 29.6% of the fourth grade class was deemed “proficient” or “advanced” based on the marks on the test papers they turned in. The next year (SY 2007-8) , most of those same kids were probably back at Noyes with a different teacher, in the 5th grade. An unknown number of students transferred in or out. That year, the percentage of kids in that group who “passed” the DCCAS in reading fell to 5.6%, a very small percentage of the group. However, the next year when most of them are 6th graders, suddenly an astounding 93.3% of the students are proficient or advanced! That number falls to 57% the next year, and a bit under 40% the following year.

Do you believe and trust those numbers? I sure don’t!

Wherever there was a large jump or fall from one year to the next, Erich wrote the number in bold red.

The actual numbers of students in each grade level was fairly consistent from year to year at Noyes during this period of time. They eventually added a 7th and an 8th grade.

To put this into a little clearer perspective, I took Erich’s data and calculated how many students actually “passed” the DCCAS in math and in reading, and put them in a graph. I hope this is a little easier to follow.


num students profic in math by cohort and yhear at noyes


Look at the way those lines jump around!

Real students may be fidgety and jumpy, but their scores on yearly high-stakes tests like this, which many experts say are essentially IQ tests in disguise, do NOT jump around like this. Kids don’t suddenly jump from “Proficient” or “Advanced” to “Basic” or “Below Basic” unless somebody is fiddling with test scores.

It should be obvious to everybody who hasn’t already drunk Michelle Rhee’s Kool-Aid that this is yet more evidence of fraud.

num students profic in reading by cohort and year at Noyes

Published in: on January 10, 2013 at 10:23 pm  Comments (14)  
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I’m Rather Disappointed with the New Frontline Piece on Michelle Rhee

I just finished watching John Merrow’s most recent hourlong piece on Michelle Rhee.

I was disappointed that it still seemed to make Rhee seem like a superstar who does little wrong.

Yes, he does point out pretty clearly that there was a huge amount of cheating by adults in DC public schools in the form of changing student answers on yearly tests; it is clear to me that Rhee pushed for impossible gains, and principals and teachers felt that they needed to cheat in order to keep their jobs and gain large bonuses. Merrow was, of course, unable to get Rhee to admit to stonewalling the investigations. But she clearly did, if you look at the exchange of emails and letters printed in USA Today. But will viewers agree with me, or give her the benefit of the doubt?

Merrow should have asked Rhee something like this: “You held up Wayne Ryan of Noyes ES as a superstar for raising test scores so dramatically — and promoted him, and gave him large bonuses. It is abundantly clear that those gains were the results of cheating. He refuses to comment. What do you have to say for yourself now?”

Another question he should have asked, as a follow-up: “You say that you don’t know why Caveon didn’t use all of their investigative tools to detect cheating on the DC standardized tests. But the reason was very simple: they would have to be paid more money to do so. Why did you decide not to commit the funds to have these extra investigations done?”

He did get the subsequent principal of Noyes to describe what looked like an ‘erasure party’ by staff at the school, and evasions by staff to avoid talking to investigators. She also told how nobody from the DC Inspector General’s office even interviewed her at all.

He also should have examined one of Michelle Rhee’s supposedly signature reforms: the ‘Capital Gains’ experiment, where students at certain middle schools were paid to be good, to be on time, do their homework, and so on. It was a failure: there were no differences in achievement between the control group and the experimental group; but she never, ever acknowledged this failure; I seem to be the only person who has commented on this failure in print.

He also should have shown with graphs what the results were in DC public schools on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, before, during, and after Rhee’s administration. If he had done so, he would have had to note that her reign made only one really significant difference: the gap between whites and blacks in DC, the largest in the nation, became wider than ever.

Having Richard Whitmire on screen so much was a joke: he is a fawning admirer of Rhee.

Not enough was done to point out that every single “fact” that Rhee put forth in her resume and verbally concerning her career at Harlem Park ES in Baltimore was a lie. I personally gave Merrow plenty of data, but he let Whitmire have the last say on the famous “90% below the 13th percentile to 90% above the 90th percentile” claim that Rhee made.


If you watched the show, what were your reactions?

As usual, if you want to make a comment you have to find the words “leave a comment” that are in super-tiny letters at the bottom of this column.


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