Maybe she was punishing the right principals? Not so clear!

Rhee claims that her new principals are replacing ones who were allowing standardized test scores to go down. She also claims that her new principals are doing much better at raising those test scores than the veteran principals. Much of the media keeps repeating her claims, without actually doing any investigation to see whether these claims are true.

As usual, Rhee’s claims are NOT true.

Two blogs ago, I showed in detail that Rhee’s second claim – that schools under the new principals she has appointed are doing much better – is false. Today, I will show that even by her own criteria, the first claim is false: she’s not even replacing the right principals.

If she were being consistent, then the schools who kept the same principals for SY 2007-8 and SY 2008-9 (that is, the 2 last school years) should all be schools where the test scores were going up over the previous 2 years, namely SY 2006-7 to 2007-8. And the schools where the principals were replaced for 2008-9 should be the ones where the DC-CAS scores were decreasing frum Spring of ’07 to Spring of ’08. (Except for ones where principals passed away or left of their own volition.)

That, however, didn’t happen. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at 2 graphs that compare those two groups of schools.

First, let’s look at the changes in the percentages of students “passing” the reading portion of the DC-CAS from Spring’07 to Spring ’08 at the schools where the principal WAS replaced for SY 2008-9:

As you can see, at a majority of those schools where the principal was replaced, reading test scores were increasing for the 2 school years prior to SY 2008-09. I count 31 out of 45, or about 69%.

Now let’s look at the changes in the proportion of students passing the READING part of the DC-CAS from Spring’07 to Spring ’08 at the schools where the principal was NOT replaced for SY 2008-9, i.e., where the same principal was in charge during ’07-08 and ’08-’09:

Of these schools, where the principals were retained, a substantial portion (11 out of 70) were ones where the proportion of students ‘passing’ the DC-CAS in reading went down from Spring of 2007 to Spring of 2008.

How about in math? Same story or different story? Let’s take a look.

First, let’s look at the changes in the percentages of students “passing” the MATH portion of the DC-CAS from Spring’07 to Spring ’08 at the schools where the principal WAS replaced for SY 2008-9:

Again, at a super-majority of these schools – ones where the principal was replaced last school year – the percentages of students passing the DC-CAS had increased over the two previous years. I count that at 38 out of 45, or 84% of the cases, the math test scores were getting better. (Surely not that many principals can’t be passing away or retiring?)

Now let’s look at the changes in the proportion of students passing the MATH part of the DC-CAS from Spring’07 to Spring ’08 at the schools where the principal was NOT replaced for SY 2008-9, i.e., where the SAME principal was in charge during ’07-08 and ’08-’09:

Other than the colors, I am having a very hard time telling the difference between the two previous graphs. So, as far as the math scores are concerned, how the students at a school did from Spring ’07 to Spring ’08 nade no difference whatsoever as far as the fate of the principal at that school is concerned. And as far as the reading scores are concerned, there is not very much difference between the two groups, either.

So how does Rhee actually decide to fire principals? I have no idea. Her public statements are either so vague that they can’t be checked, or else are false.

Does anybody out there, reading this blog, actually know how she makes decisions? Is it all based on “gut feelings” and conversations with God, as GW Bush2 used to do? Or is it just impulsive behavior? Or what? Regardless of what she and her few remaining acolytes claim, these decisions are not based on real data.


In my blog entries over the past few months, I have shown how lots and lots of Rhee’s claims are totally at variance with reality. I am beginning to think that there is something dangerously wrong with the mentality of Michelle Rhee. She has told SO MANY LIES, and in such a bold and utterly confident manner, that it’s really scary. (And the mass media has fallen for almost all of them, without researching the truth behind any of them.) Rhee also said in an interview on public television that she has never done anything that she has ever regretted. Wow. A person who believes that he or she has never made any errors or mistakes is somebody I wouldn’t trust for a minute. Would you?

Anybody out there with a background in psychology: can you give us the clinical diagnosis for this sort of behavior?

Published in: on February 27, 2010 at 6:37 am  Comments (11)  

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  1. Well, I don’t think Rhee’s talking to God. It’s more like she thinks she IS God. Here’s another classic bit of insight from Fast Company magazine. This is from the first interview she gave their writer, Jeff Chu, back in September of ’08:

    “…every free weekend since her appointment, Rhee has gone to church, not because she believes — when I ask if she’d grown up religious, she shoots back, ‘Oh, God, no!’ — but because she wants the people to believe in her.”


  2. In response to your question, here is the diagnosis, Anti-Social personality disorder. Here is a list of some of the symptoms which may be applicable to Rhee.

    Antisocial behavior
    Impulsive behavior
    See also symptoms of conduct disorder
    Low frustration level
    Emotional immaturity
    Poor judgment
    Lack of social values
    Inconsiderate of others rights
    Lack of guilt
    Unresponsive to punishment
    Blame their behavior on others


  3. But Morris, your list doesn’t say anything about lying…


  4. More excellent work as usual. As teachers, we are constantly being shown misleading data by so-called reformers. People like you who have the time and knowledge to show the fallacies in the numbers are invaluable.


    • Thanks. I like your blogs, too. It annoys me that mass-media reporters, who are actually employed in order to have time to research this stuff, don’t. For example, Jay Mathews of the Washington Poast, who seems to understand spreadsheets and at least some math, only uses his time to support Rhee in any way he can, despite everything I’ve shown him. Oh, and to promote his rather silly ranking of schools based on the number of AP tests taken.


  5. Thanks for your analyses. I agree that Rhee sometimes says things without enough evidence.

    But, hold on a minute.

    Two problems with this analysis.

    1) you seem to imply that the rule for firing a principal is that test scores went down instead of up (hence, your decision to highlight the percentage of schools in each category that had increasing scores). How can this be a hard and fast rule? Any good school administrator–and any good analyzer of the administration–will know that there are many other factors that affect test score trends. Such a simple analysis as saying that “oh, there were fired principals who were teaching at schools with increasing test scores” isn’t enough.

    2) As I mentioned in my comment on your blog post two before this one, you are making an unfair apples to oranges comparison. You are looking at the absolute levels of change between the same-principal and different-principal groups, without considering that the different-principal group may be starting from a more difficult context (hence, the decision to replace the principal). You claim that there is no noticeable difference between the paired graphs.

    Yet, nowhere do you look at the median or mean. Looking at the reading scores, from my super rough look, the median change for schools where principals were eventually replaced was +4% whereas it was +8% for non-replaced. For math, it is about +7% for schools where principals were fired and +10% for those where principals were kept (please give readers the exact medians, since my rough estimate is based on using my eyes). It seems like, on average, the schools where principals were fired were doing worse than those where principals were kept. (please calculate and post the means, too).

    I sincerely hope that you will “approve” of my comment. If your goal is to uncover the truth, I would imagine that you would want people to look at the same issue from multiple angles. I think my comments cannot be ignored, especially when it comes to analyzing Rhee’s office.

    You have not yet approved my previous comment, so I am worried that are resorting to the same “I’ll only approve the comments I like” tactic that Candi Petersen has used.

    Thanks for your time.


    • Dear IronBulldog,

      {sarcasm on}
      I apologize most profusely for not approving both of your comments immediately, while I was asleep last night. One of your comments was apparently posted at 10:06 PM on 2-28-09 (Sunday night) while I was asleep in bed with what feels like the flu, and the other one at 10:51 PM on the same night, i.e. 45 minutes later. So thoughtless of me not to read your mind and wake up and approve them both immediately.

      As far as this second comment is concerned, I apparently clicked on the wrong button this morning sometime between staggering out of bed, running to the toilet, and going back to bed, and didn’t immediately approve it, but put it in my ‘pending’ box. So deceitful of me. I really should be censured for only ‘approving’ it a few minutes ago (about 6:55 PM 3-1-10)
      {sarcasm off}

      From your charge that I’m only looking at a single point in time, it would appear that you haven’t understood the majority of the posts on my blog, some of which involve data over long periods of time. You also don’t seem to understand that when I discuss ‘growth from 2007 to 2008’, I am using many, many data points at two points in time, separated by a year.

      It also appears that you just might be a fan of Michelle Rhee. My count of active teachers who approve of Michelle Rhee has now risen to a high of (probably) seven.

      In all of my articles on this blog, I’ve really tried to be quite thorough and fair. Each one of these blogs takes many, many hours to calculate, compose, write, and publish.

      When I get a chance, I will post a sweet-and-simple version of my spreadsheets on Google docs, if I can figure out how to do that. However, I have many times pointed out exactly where you can get all of my data for yourself. Just Google the terms OSSE NCLB and DCPS and you’ll find the data tables, but you will have to do some work to put them into useable form (i.e., a spreadsheet). Or else just click on this link:

      If one is claiming to be “data-based” and to be replacing principals based on performance on these [idiotic and useless] tests, then one ought to be able to be more precise than eliminating principals at a group of schools where the average or median score is slightly lower or higher than at another group of schools.

      Consider this made-up example: there are two large university-level Chemistry classes; in one of the classes (call it Chem1Sec001) only 34% of the students passed. In the other one (call it Chem1Sec002) only 49% passed. Would anybody in their right mind say that every single one of the students in the first class need to repeat the course, but not the ones in the second class? Or that the second instructor is doing all that more fantastic of a job than the first one? Well, that’s essentially what Michelle Rhee did.

      And who is going to brag a whole bunch if during the next year, with a new instructor for Chem1Sec001 – with different students, but coming from the same neighborhoods (etc), 40% pass, whereas 50% pass in Chem1Sec002, with the same instructor, but similar students as before?

      One of the things one learns when one studies statistics is that the average, or even the median, all by itself, is often not a very useful measure of a group. I don’t plan on going into things like standard deviations in this blog, because I don’t think most folks would understand, or else my columns would be even longer than they are now.

      However, a scatter plot shows lots of things intuitively. And that’s why I’ve been using them.

      By the way, the averages I “made up” a few paragraphs ago aren’t made up at all.
      The first one, 34%, was the average percentage of students scoring ‘proficient’ or better on the DC-CAS in Spring of 2008 at schools where the principal was replaced for the next school year.
      And the second score, 49% was, you guessed it, the corresponding number for schools that kept their principals.
      The third score 40%, is the corresponding percentage of students “proficient” in math in 2009 at schools where the principal was replaced.
      The fourth score, 50%, is the score in 2009 for schools where the principals remained the same.

      As far as your “apples and oranges” comment goes, that raises an important issue that Rhee and NCLB deny even exists.* If one group of schools or students is indeed inherently harder to work with because of massive background deficits, then blaming the teachers or principals who work with those principals is precisely the wrong thing to do. Instead, those schools and teachers need to be given more tools and resources, not to be demonized.

      I’m a DC native. I remember official segregation. If you look at census data on race or income, it becomes obvious to you that we are still an extremely segregated city, both by income and by ‘race’. I’ve taught on both sides of the Anacostia River. Anybody who thinks that students who grew up in Barry Farms or Washington Highlands don’t have a hard time just growing up, and should be expected to perform academically at the same levels as kids who grew up in Spring Valley or Cleveland Park, without lots and lots of additional school resources (because they can’t and won’t get them at home) is out of their minds or lying. And guess what: it appears that kids from the poorest neighborhoods, with the lowest-performing schools, where DCPS changes teachers and administrators willy-nilly, are now getting the least-qualified and least-experienced teachers and administrators. You’d almost think that Rhee’s plan is to completely destroy public education for the poor, despite what she says.

      I have asked the question, on what basis does Rhee make her decisions, especially on terminations? She has given so many contradictory (and sometimes libelous) answers that it’s not funny; I have shown that quite a few of those explanations are patently false. I haven’t gotten satisfactory answers from anyone.

      And, BTW, having looked at and administered a lot of standardized tests over the past 30+ years, I haven’t seen one yet that gives any useful information to an educator. So I don’t accept that scoring high on those tests is what education should be reduced to. You appear to think otherwise.

      [This response was edited after I got up to take my temperature again. 101.7. I took out a reference to barnyard products (which was not only in bad taste but factually incorrect – I apologize) and added some more data. As most writers probably know, good writing means re-writing. I may get there one day.]
      * Here’s where I made a reference to the end-product of cows and horses, which was not germane, and not factually correct, either.


  6. […] Guy Brandenburg fails to see any correlation between test-score performance and DCPS principal replacements. 'In my blog entries over the past […]


  7. Maybe she is just following the advice of one Joseph Goebbels:
    ““If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”


  8. I applaud and thank you for doing the research and breaking it down in a form that those who really want to see what is going on can understand.
    I have many friends that have been affected by Michelle Rhee and her reign of evil. I hope that more people will continue to do their own research and uncover the truth.


    • I think it would be good if people shared stories.


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