Remember ‘Capital Gains’?

I hope you remember the ‘Capital Gains’ project, launched by She-Who-Knows-All-And-Is-Friends-With-Billionaires, Rhee, a few years ago. She claimed it was one of her signature reforms: paying (bribing?) students to come to school and do the right thing. Her other reform, for which she has reaped much more publicity, is using the carrot and stick on teachers, who she thinks have the power to overcome all the evil effects of poverty, drugs, crime and racism if they would only do their jobs.

Rhee claimed that ‘Capital Gains’ was such a great success that DCPS needed to continue paying millions of dollars for the program this past school year, and this year as well.

Her other buddy, Harvard statistical wonder child Roland Fryer, claimed that since there were a few areas of improvement here and there in the experimental group,  that She-Who-Knows-All was right. Never mind the fact that he claimed that Hardy was in the experimental group, which it refused to do, thanks to the brave leadership of Patrick Pope.

Me? I’m just an ordinary (retired) citizen, and I learned and taught a little bit of basic math along the way. I have done another bit of simple-minded analysis of the overall DC-CAS results at the two groups of schools. I call them the Experimental Group – ones where kids received money, and the Control Group – schools where they didn’t. My source of data is the nice spreadsheet that Mary Levy put together giving scores for all subgroups at all DC public schools. Her data comes from the OSSE-NCLB-DCPS website.

Bottom line?



I suppose that Roland Fryer will find some statistical way to weasel Rhee’s way around this mess, but look for yourself.

First, a table giving percentages of students scoring ‘proficient’ or better in reading in every single school in the experimental group, from 2007 to 2010. I am listing the scores for every single one of the fifteen schools.

And here is a graph that shows the same thing, only in lots of colors:

Now, let’s look at the control group of schools:

and its corresponding nicely-colored graph:

Now look again at the bottom lines on the two data tables. Notice that in the control group, the average change in the percentage of students reading at the DC-CAS ‘proficient’ or ‘advanced’ level DROPPED by roughly 2.5 percentage points from 2009 to 2010. Not good, to be sure, but not nearly as bad as what happened in the experimental group. There, there was an average drop of over 6 percentage points during the same time period. (The medians of negative one and negative six tell the same story.)

OK, then what about the two-year changes, from ’08 to ’10? Same story, only even worse for Cancelled Rhee’s so-called signature reform. In the control group, the overall change in percentages of students ‘passing’ the DC-CVAS in reading was about negative one-half of a percentage point. Not great, but wonderful if you compare it with the experimental schools, where the drop was about 6.8 percentage points! (Again, the medians confirm the story.)

Finally, what about the three-year changes, from ’07 to ’10?



Thus, even on her own terms, Michelle Rhee has been an abject failure.

The Washington Post editorial board refuses to own up to that fact. They claim that the reason Fenty lost was simply because he worked too hard and Rhee fired some black teachers, alienating their friends and relatives.

That is a load of pig excrement, and an attempt to divide the electorate along racial lines. (Unfortunately, a fairly large fraction of white folks seem to believe Rhee’s lies. They must not be reading my blog.)

Essentially nothing Rhee has done in DCPS has improved things. But she lies and claims successes. And the majority of the population got tired and fed up with being lied to.

It’s time for Kanzlerhee to be canceled. Leave, already, before you cause any more damage!

Published in: on September 15, 2010 at 4:24 pm  Comments (10)  

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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I know of one school in the experimental group that will not have the Capital Gains program this year. Are you sure that it is being continued at the other schools?


    • Well, Rhee said that it would continue, so that’s what I was going on. However, knowing how much she lies, I probably should have double-checked. What school was that, by the way?>


  2. If Roland Fryer doesn’t follow up, Rhee’s got a sycophantic follower over at by the name of Chris Smyr.
    He’s a TFAer who only lasted 2 years and, unlike Rhee, was unable to get 90% of his students to score at 90% (on the AP Biology exam).


  3. Your analysis is flawed for several reasons. I’ll start with the fact that the program was only for students in grades 6-8, so looking at the full school stats does not tell the story well. Have you seen the Harvard Report? It’s a good starting point:


    • Yes, it was a quick and dirty. I’ll do a better one, analyzing only grades 6 – 8, later, adding to what I already did.
      Yes, I read the Fryer report which you refer to. Did you?


  4. I’d suggest that when you do a deeper analysis, you do it by subgroup. The balance of subgroups in either group could skew the data a lot.


  5. I realize that also, some of those schools are “education campuses” vs. Middle schools. I don’t know how that might change things, but many of them didn’t actually go through 8th grade until 2009, and there were definitely growing pains at Langdon as we adjusted to a different student body and funding issues that came with the middle school population.


    • When I did the original analysis a few months ago, I found that the ‘control group’ schools were wealthier and whiter. I am currently doing the 2008-2010 analysis by grade levels; it’s taking a while, partly because a lot of times, when I ask for data by grade level, the OSSE-NCLB website freezes. Don’t know why. Alice Deal MS is an overwhelming influence. It has so many middle-school students in the first place, and such a high percentage of them are ‘proficient’ or ‘advanced’, that they swamp everybody else.


  6. It’s great that you’re pointing out the shortcomings of the Capital Gains program, which seems to have been a total failure. I see at least one error, however: Hart Middle School’s pass rate in math increased from 14% in 2009 to 18% in 2010.

    Another complicating factor is that Hart lost its 6th grade at the end of the 2009 school year. 2009-2010 results are for 7th and 8th graders only. And there were changes made to the Capital Gains program in the middle of the 2009-2010 school year. Instead of paying kids for showing up on time, wearing their uniforms and behaving themselves, the program began paying them only for correct answers on tests administered every two weeks.


    • What I did was a ‘quick and dirty’ analysis just looking at the whole school. It did not sort out the particular grades involved, which I knew would take a lot longer, especially with OSSE’s very slow interface. Thanks for checking; I will look at my data and sources again. Also, thanks for the information on the modification to the program.


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