Rhee’s Legacy and the Future of Education in DCPS

Rhee’s presence was extremely divisive here in DC, largely along class and racial lines. Many wealthy whites thought she was wonderful, because they thought she was ‘reforming’ a corrupt, incompetent, black-run and black-staffed school system, and because they saw her replacing black veteran teachers, staff members, and administrators with brand-new, young white and Asian replacements. (I am not exaggerating.)

Of course, very very few of the white population have kids in DC public schools – and even fewer in the charter schools, so they don’t really know what’s going on in side the majority of schools. However, they did notice that many of the schools in mostly-white areas of DC got physical makeovers — not because of Rhee, but because of moves that were made before her arrival — and attributed those improvements to Rhee anyway.

Not surprisingly, most hispanics and african-americans in DC saw her in starkly different terms, as did almost all teachers (old or new); even the new TFA types found themselves being labeled (libeled) as part of the problem after a month or so on the job. The current local and national leadership of the teachers’ union completely caved in to Rhee’s demands.

The fact is, however, that in terms of actual teaching and learning, especially on the secondary level, it’s still a nightmare in most of DCPS. Teachers are still forced to pass students regardless of actual school attendance rates, homework completion, or passing of teacher-made tests; student absenteeism at the HS level is astronomical and completely unchecked by administrators; there is exactly zero support for teachers in the areas of student discipline or having a coherent curriculum; and teachers feel enormous pressure to teach entirely to the local NCLB standardized test.

Teachers of Advanced Placement courses find that students who have absolutely no desire to take the course are enrolled in the courses against their (the students’) will (and of course against the recommendations of teachers who know them); teachers who go to the trouble of making up different versions of a test so as to cut down on cheating are punitively transferred for … expecting that there might be  cheating; and much more. And the statistical manipulation of standardized test scores is phenomenal. A number of my blog entries deal with that.

Another part of Rhee’s legacy has been the phenomenal increase in the proportion of the city’s educational system that is run by charter schools. Thus, we have even less and less of a public school system than ever before, and more and more of little tiny quasi-private entities beholden to no one, with zero public accountability.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that the new DCPS administration will be all that different. The new interim chancellor, Kaya Henderson, was Michelle Rhee’s right-hand-person and spokesperson, and uttered many of the statistical lies of the DCPS administration. She never once gainsaid any of MR’s numerous falsehoods. The presumptive mayor-elect keeps saying he will continue the same type of ‘deforms’, and I unfortunately think he means it.

As far as I can tell, the flogging of teachers will continue until,  miraculously, both morale and student achievement somehow improve. Or until there is yet another uprising of parents, students, and teachers against this monstrous corporate Deform agenda.

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  1. “presumptive mayor-elect keeps saying he will continue the same type of ‘deforms’,

    Please Guy, don’t misquote Gray, you of all people. Gray says he’s committed to school reform, not the “same kind of reforms.” He has said that from the start – before Fenty and Rhee and given his deep understand of DC and DCPS and his sympathetic behavior as council chair, I think we can count on him not to favor Rhee/henderson type “deforms.”


  2. Great post. I am especially heartened to see your inclusion of parents in the mix. You are correct that race (and class) muddy too much of the educational waters here in DC–with ill-affects for all. Please see my “Try to Rhee-member” blog at teachermandc.com to read about my personal experience as a black parent trying to obtain a quality education here in DC.


  3. “It’s Truth-Telling Time”

    This is a response to a column written by Kyle Wingfield that appeared in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on September 24, 2010, titled “Dear APS board: Go get Michelle Rhee;” a portion is excerpted below:

    Dear APS board: Go get Michelle Rhee
    7:00 pm September 24, 2010, by Kyle Wingfield
    Whatever you think of the cheating scandal in Atlanta Public Schools, the system will probably need a new superintendent when Beverly Hall’s contract expires next summer. All indications are that Hall will leave then on her own, if she isn’t pushed out before.
    For once, there’s a good solution waiting in Washington.
    Her name is Michelle Rhee, and she’s been chancellor of the District of Columbia’s public schools for three years. Now, her tenure may be coming to an abrupt end after her sponsor, Mayor Adrian Fenty, lost his re-election bid earlier this month.
    Let APS board members waste no time before trying to recruit her here.

    On September 14th, Washington DC’s largely African American voters ended the sovereignty of Mayor Adrian Fenty and were most optimistic about the impending departure of Michelle Rhee. Everywhere, reporters, pundits, talk-show hosts and bloggers who often inundate TV segments, print media and the Internet with information so far from the truth, stated repeatedly: Black D.C. residents kicked out a mayor who, along with schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee, was making the first serious difference in decades in the city’s notoriously decrepit school system.

    Although the public, both locally and nationally, has widely accepted the idea that Michelle Rhee’s methods have radically improved DC Public Schools, there are very good reasons to believe this is not so.

    As one DC reporter put it, “It’s truth-telling time.”

    In the fall of 2008, having just completed her first year on the job, District of Columbia Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee was confronted with a major cheating scandal. An erasure analysis report from CTB McGraw-Hill, the publisher of the District of Columbia Comprehensive Assessment System (DC-CAS), detected a high number of erasures. Then DC State Superintendent of Education, Deborah A. Gist, ordered the analysis after noticing sizeable gains in student reading and writing proficiency rates at some schools.

    Forty-five of 150 DC public schools (almost a third of all DC schools) had at least one classroom with an elevated erasure level in 2008; the data showed that suspicious erasures were most heavily concentrated in 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th-grade classrooms at a half-dozen schools. (Washington Post)

    Gist submitted a list of 26 schools with proficiency gains of 20 percent or more to Chancellor Michelle Rhee. The report indicated statistically remarkable improvements in test scores at the following schools: Aiton, Hearst, Raymond, Thomas, Hendley, Garrison, Maury, Reed, Draper, Powell, Bowen, Young, Cleveland, Winston Education Center, Sharpe Health School and Mamie D. Lee School.

    Several schools on the list demonstrated gains in test scores by 40, 50 and nearly 60 percentage points. Aiton Elementary School’s test scores increased in reading by nearly 30 percent and in math by more than 40 percent.

    “A spreadsheet summary of the CTB McGraw-Hill study shows that Bowen Elementary in Southwest Washington was one of schools where test results improved dramatically in 2008. The percentage of children showing proficiency in reading grew by 27 points, from 36.2 to 63.2 percent. The 34 students in one class averaged more than 10 wrong-to-right erasures on the exam. The citywide average for wrong-to-right erasures on the reading test in elementary grades was between 1.4 and 2.3, according District officials.” (Washington Post)

    On July 9, 2008, roughly two months prior, at Plummer Elementary School, Mayor Adrian Fenty, Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Deputy Mayor for Education Victor Reinoso announced the preliminary results of the DC Public Schools’ DCCAS. The schools on Gist’s list were heralded for their extraordinary gains in test scores.

    However, Sharpe Health School and Mamie D. Lee School demonstrated the largest and most impressive test score gains during the 2007/2008 school year; the two schools netted gains in the 50 to 60 percent range. This feat was most remarkable given that both schools are self-contained special education schools serving students with moderate to severe physical and cognitive disabilities including:

     Mental Retardation
     Learning Disabilities
     Speech or Language Impairment
     Traumatic Brain Injury
     Autism
     Emotional Disabilities
     Visual Impairment
     Hearing Impairment
     Orthopedic Disabilities
     Severe Multiple Disabilities
     Other Health Impairments
     Severe Orthopedic Impairment

    Amazingly, Mamie D. Lee posted the exact rate of student proficiency, 88.89%, in both reading and math.

    On November 20, 2008, in a memo to Chancellor Michelle Rhee, Gist said the data did not automatically point to cheating. “There are many reasons that a class could have more erasures than other classes,” she wrote. But to guarantee the validity of the scores, Gist asked Rhee to “please take the appropriate steps to investigate the results enclosed and provide a report within 60 days.” (Washington Post)

    Unlike Atlanta Public Schools, no semblance of an independent or in-depth investigation was ever conducted, albeit test anomalies could have indicated wide-spread cheating or at the very least, breaches in testing security protocols. Chancellor Rhee did not think it was necessary. Chancellor Rhee said: “Given that the people who actually developed the test said that it was inconclusive, we just didn’t think it was necessary to investigate possible cheating.” (Washington Post)

    On Monday, September 7, 2009, Washington Post staff writer Bill Turque wrote:
    “Despite two requests from the District’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education, D.C. public school officials never provided evidence that they investigated possible cheating at some schools after an analysis showed high rates of erasures on standardized tests in 2008, according to newly released documents.”

    The entire state of affairs begs the question: why.

    Why did the high number of erasures on the DC CAS not merit further investigation? Why did Chancellor Michelle Rhee, a “data-focused decision maker” and certainly no fan of DC Public School teachers, squash an investigation that could have supported her in weeding out poor performing and corrupt teachers and administrators? Given that standardized test data are the driving force behind her testing and accountability reform initiative that links student performance to teacher performance and pay, shouldn’t Chancellor Rhee have acted vigilantly to ensure the integrity of the data?

    Would a deeper look into the extraordinary increases in DC Public Schools’ student test scores have uncovered innovation and genuine success or a culture of brazen deception, cheating and intimidation, which only serves to deepen the crises of DC’s poor and minority children who have the greatest need for educational opportunity?

    Chancellor Rhee said that the student test score gains demonstrated that the approaches she used during her first year in office were working. Mayor Adrian Fenty praised Chancellor Rhee for bringing about the miraculous rise in test scores. Though, Mayor Fenty credited Rhee for the 11% increase in student test scores, the largest gain in the nation, Chancellor Rhee implemented NO academic initiatives during the 2007/2008 school year.

    Obviously, a little bit of cheating goes a long way in Michelle Rhee’s version of school reform; moreover, a whole lot of cheating can thrust you into the spotlight as the “it girl” for education reform in America, backed by conservative think tanks and billionaire philanthropists like Bill Gates, Eli Broad and the Walton Family Foundation. You might even get cast as a heroic pioneer in Davis Guggenheim’s “Waiting for Superman,” a rousing propaganda film designed to proselytize American people.

    Guggenheim’s film suggests that the problem with public education is that tenure protects bad teachers and unions protect tenure. It is pure political fabrication that teacher tenure rules make it impossible to get rid of poor teachers.

    A study conducted by the New Teacher Project, the organization that Michelle Rhee herself created and served as its chief executive officer and president just prior to joining DC Public Schools, clearly indicates that the difficulty in removing ineffective teachers has much more to do with poorly trained administrators who have few skills and inadequate tools to distinguish between excellent, average, and poor teaching.

    Michelle Rhee, for certain, is not “the warrior woman for our time” as described by Oprah Winfrey; Rhee is just another example of the maxim “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    During Mayor Fenty’s administration, the mayoral take-over of DC Public Schools had all key players at both state and local education agencies appointed by or reporting to the mayor including: then DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, then DC State Superintendent of Education Keri Briggs (Deborah Gist’s replacement) and Deputy Mayor for Education, Victor Reinoso. They functioned as enlightened despots who held absolute power over the school system. There was no system of checks and balances that would have given school administrators, teachers, parents and community members a voice into issues that directly impacted them and the District’s children.

    Below is a timeline of events that, with the exception of the DCPS press release on July 9, 2008, was developed and even excerpted exclusively from a series of articles from The Washington Post:
     July 9, 2008, DCPS PRESS RELEASE District of Columbia Public Schools See Significant Gains in DC CAS Scores WASHINGTON, DC
    Today at Plummer Elementary School, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Deputy Mayor for Education Victor Reinoso announced the preliminary results of the District of Columbia Public Schools’ (DCPS) DC Comprehensive Assessment System (DCCAS), an annual assessment that determines whether schools met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) as required by the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act.
    DCPS Reading & Mathematics Proficiency
    Preliminary results show that both elementary and secondary schools achieved significant gains in reading and math proficiency, compared to past years. Elementary schools scored 46 percent proficient in reading, up 8 points from last year. With a score of 40 percent proficient in math, elementary schools saw an 11-point gain. Secondary schools received 39 percent proficient in reading, a 9-point increase compared to 2007; and 36 percent proficient in math, also a 9-point gain.
    According to Chancellor Rhee, “These are strong initial gains for the administration’s first year. Our students performed incredibly well and this is only the beginning. As we continue to make decisions in the best interest of kids, we will continue to see academic strength and growth.”
     August/September 2008 (Washington Post does not specify)
    A little more than a year after her appointment as Chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), Michelle Rhee had before her “erasure analysis” information from CTB McGraw-Hill, publisher of the District of Columbia Comprehensive Assessment System (DC-CAS).
    Deborah A. Gist, the State Superintendent of Education for the District of Columbia (OSSE), ordered the analysis in August 2008 after noticing sizeable gains in student reading and writing proficiency rates at some schools.
    Forty-five of 150 DC public schools (approximately a third of all DC schools) had at least one classroom with an elevated erasure level in 2008; the data shows that suspicious erasures were most heavily concentrated in 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th-grade classrooms at a half-dozen schools with 573 students.
    o Gist’s request also included a list of 26 schools with proficiency gains of 20 percent or more.
    o “According to 2008 District test results, the list Gist submitted included Aiton, Hearst, Raymond, Thomas, Hendley, Garrison, Maury, Reed, Draper, Powell, Bowen, Young and Cleveland public elementary schools, along with Winston Education Center, Sharpe Health School and Mamie D. Lee School, which are also public schools.” (The Washington Post)

     November 20, 2008
    In a memo to Rhee, Gist said the data did not automatically point to cheating. “There are many reasons that a class could have more erasures than other classes,” she wrote.
    o But to guarantee the validity of the scores, Gist asked Rhee to “please take the appropriate steps to investigate the results enclosed and provide a report within 60 days.”
    o Gist made the same request of 13 charter schools — which are publicly financed but independently operated — that had an elevated number of erasures. Records show that just six responded with accounts of internal inquiries, none of which turned up evidence of cheating.

     January 7, 2009
    Rhee’s office asked the superintendent’s office for an extension of the 60-day period to Feb. 28. Erin McGoldrick, Rhee’s chief of data and accountability, said that “in light of the high volume of classrooms with statistically aberrant erasure rates” she needed the extra time “to provide what we believe will be the most thorough possible response.”
     February. 28, 2009
    McGoldrick wrote again to Gist’s office, reporting that none of the schools in question had been investigated. She asked for additional information about the methodology used to derive the erasure rates.
    o She also asked to review student answer sheets. McGoldrick explained that “given the disruption and alarm an investigation would likely create at schools, [District public schools] must ensure that appropriate due diligence has been performed to maximize the quality of the information provided and minimize the risk of creating unfounded concern at school sites.”
     March 2009

     The research scientist who led the McGraw-Hill study, Steve Ferrara, in a March 2009 memo, does not elaborate on the findings, but recommended that Gist “not draw conclusions about cheating behavior on the basis of these analyses.”
    o A follow-up study, conducted by another firm, led to “divergent data,” according to a statement by Deputy Mayor for Education Victor Reinoso.
     April 1, 2009
    Gist announced her resignation.
    o Her deputy, Alex Harris, wrote to McGoldrick again asking for a follow-up investigation.
    o Noting that the 2009 DC-CAS testing period would begin later that month, he provided a slimmed-down list of 11 schools that “would be the ones to prioritize for on-site investigation and follow-through.” Those schools are Bruce-Monroe, J.O. Wilson, C.W. Harris, Bowen and Draper elementary schools; Takoma, Langdon, Marshall and Winston education campuses; Shaw Junior High; and Coolidge Senior High.
    o The superintendent’s office does not have authority over school operations, but it oversees administration of the DC-CAS and has the power to invalidate student scores and to fine schools if it determines that test security has been compromised. It relies on the schools themselves to report evidence of cheating.
     May 8, 2009
    The only response to Harris’s memo came May 8, when McGoldrick wrote to him saying that her office had “thoroughly examined” the erasure analysis data and “reorganized it into an analytically useful format.” She said the District had provided principals with training on the importance of erasure analysis and test security. She also provided a copy of a new test security plan.
    o Harris resigned soon after Briggs was named superintendent. He could not be reached for comment Friday.

     September 3, 2009
    A memo issued by Victor Reinoso, Deputy Mayor for Education, in which he revealed that the “erasure analyses” of the 2008 DC CAS results were ultimately inconclusive; “the analyses ‘flagged’ anomalies in certain DCPS schools and thirteen public charter schools.
    o Two different analyses led to divergent data – the number of classrooms and the number of schools identified as having potential concerns varied significantly.”
     September 8, 2009
    Washington Post reporter Bill Turque wrote: Last Friday, after spending three months considering the matter, District officials finally responded to a Freedom of Information Act request for an analysis of answer sheet erasures on the 2008 DC-CAS standardized tests. When the District finally delivered its FOIA response, it came with data tables, some e-mails and…no CTB study. Nor was there a follow up analysis reported to have been conducted by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). That is to say, there was nothing that looked like a government-commissioned study, with a transmittal letter, an executive summary, a table of contents, etc.
    o D.C. Attorney General Peter J. Nickles says the actual erasure analysis was more like an erasure conversation.
    o “Our search did not turn up any documents responsive to your request that included reports or analysis from CTB or AIR,” Nickles wrote this afternoon. “Only data tables were provided through emails, and those data tables are included in the letters sent to DCPS and the charter schools. Discussion regarding those tables and any analysis performed was apparently done verbally between OSSE staff and the staff of the two firms. Thus, what we provided to you represents the full set of responsive documents.”
     September 23, 2009
    On Washington Post education columnist, Jay Mathews, wrote: “Rhee said she did not overrule Gist, who has since left D.C. to become Rhode Island’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education. Instead, Rhee said, she asked Gist’s office for clarification of the erasure reports. She wanted to know, for instance, which classes in each school showed usual numbers of answer changes. She did not get answers to several of her questions, she said. Rhee said that the investigator not only had said the data was inconclusive, but made it clear that “you cannot make any assumptions that any cheating happened based on this analysis.”
    o Keri Briggs, Gist’s replacement, after review of the situation, told her (Rhee) the investigation had not produced enough information to justify a further look, and told Rhee not to pursue it.
    DC CAS: School Year 2008/2009
    • March 30, 2009: During the week of March 30, 2009, the DC CAS arrived at DCPS local school buildings; actual testing did not begin until April 20, 2009. DC CAS test documents remained in local school buildings a week after test administration was completed.
    • April 20, 2009: On Monday, April 20, 2009, students in grades 3-8 and grade 10 began the 2008-2009 District of Columbia Comprehensive Assessment System (DC CAS).
    • November 24, 2009, “Twelve Schools Cited For Suspect Test Results”
    District officials have asked 12 public and public charter schools with irregularities in their 2009 DC-CAS standardized test results to conduct internal investigations. That little news nugget was tucked into the seventh paragraph of a joint statement by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and State Superintendent of Education Kerri Briggs–released shortly after 6 p.m. Monday–announcing “improved and strengthened test integrity measures” that will be in place for the 2010 exams in March. Fenty and Briggs said the names of the schools would not be released during the ongoing investigations. (Bill Turque, Washington Post, November 24, 2009)
    Is it possible to have a very low opinion for your employees and at the same time demonstrate an unreasonable level of trust?

    The sequence of events as described above along with multiple other factors listed below, give credence to the opinions of many that the 2010 DC Democratic primary election was a referendum on Michelle Rhee; however, I prefer to view the election as political democracy self correcting.

    1. Never Vetted
    Adrian Fenty violated the review panel requirement; he broke the law in picking a Chancellor without allowing a review panel of stakeholders to participate in the selection process. Fenty did not inform the council of his choice until the eve of the announcement and did not give her name to a panel of parents, teachers and students as the takeover legislation required.

    2. Not Qualified
    Michelle Rhee’s title was chancellor, not superintendant; her title was changed because she did not meet the qualifications for employment as a school district superintendent. DC’s children need and deserve: the best, the brightest and the most qualified school leaders.

    3. Résumé Discrepancies
    • Taught in Harlem Park Community School, one of the lowest-performing elementary schools in Baltimore City, effecting significant measurable gains in student achievement. Over a two-year period, moved students scoring on average at the 13th percentile on national standardized tests to 90% of students scoring at the 90th percentile or higher.

    The following text is excerpted from the “The Daily Howler,” an American political blog written by Bob Somerby.

    In a wealthy suburban school district, that would be a remarkable record—one a principal ought to verify. In a school like Harlem Park, it would be an educational miracle—a revolution.
    If so, Michelle Rhee should have been arrested and held for further study. If those deserving Harlem Park kids really did achieve at those levels, a young teacher had authored an educational miracle; she had somehow managed to solve a heart-breaking, decades-long educational puzzle. The school should have been crawling with researchers, trying to figure out what she’d done.

    • Classroom practices featured on “The Home Show” and in the Wall Street Journal and the Hartford Courant.

    Unless something is missing from the Nexis archives, Rhee’s claim about the Courant is simply a bald-faced misstatement. How about Good Morning America? In the Nexis archives, transcripts of the program only date back to July 1996. (There is no report on Rhee, or on Harlem Park, in the archives after that date.)

    4. A Question Of Ethics
    Just after D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty nominated Michelle Rhee for the chancellor’s job, Sacramento Mayor and former NBA star Kevin Johnson, Rhee’s “boyfriend,” personally called nearly all 13 council D.C. City Council members and flew from California to tell them that Rhee is a hands-on executive who works round-the-clock. He credited her with helping to turn around Sacramento High School. “He was the showstopper,” recalled D.C. State Board of Education member Mary Lord. “It was sort of like, if she’s got the support of a star like that, it’s all well and good.”

    Most recently, a little more than a week before the September 14th primary, Chancellor Rhee campaigned for Mayor Adrian Fenty as a “private citizen” though DC’s Hatch Act mandates that government employees not to use their positions to influence elections.

    5. Budget Pressure Debacle
    In the spring and summer of 2009, Chancellor Michelle Rhee hired 934 new teachers; just six weeks into the school year in October 2009, Rhee fired nearly 400 DC Public School employees, including the 266 teachers citing a $43.9 million dollar budget pressure. Later, it was discovered that the budget pressure never existed; Rhee claimed a math error caused the budget discrepancy. On April 13, 2010, five months after the October 2009 mass firing, Rhee announced a $34 million budget surplus that she intended to use to fund the groundbreaking contract for which she has been much heralded. Only, District of Columbia Chief Financial Officer, Natwar M. Gandhi, said that the $34 million dollar surplus did not exist because DC Public Schools’ central office overran its budget by 30 million dollars.

    6. Smear Tactics
    In February 2010, Fast Company, an online magazine, followed up on a September 2008 story it ran on the “Iron Chancellor” Michelle Rhee. The article addressed accusations by the Washington Teachers Union that Rhee had manufactured a budget pressure to excuse the firing of 266 teachers. Rhee’s response was:”I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school. … Why wouldn’t we take those things into consideration?” Later, Rhee finally released a statement explaining that only one (1) teacher had been accused of sexual impropriety and that only 9 of the 266 teachers who were fired in October 2009 had dubious work histories. However, 257 teachers were also slandered and included in the list of teachers fired for budget reasons.

    7. Unbecoming Behavior
    • Michelle Rhee behaved in a manner unbecoming of the high standard expected of a chief executive officer. In December 2008, DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in all black, stone-faced and holding a broom; the caption next to the photograph read, “How to Fix America’s Schools.” Rhee’s aggressive actions, her abrasive and oftentimes demeaning talk with regard to her inherited DC Public Schools staff, along with that broom picture (a broom is a floor-sweeping device used specifically to sweep out trash), was most indicative of her meager estimation of veteran DC Public School educators. The cover was intentionally debasing and threatening.

    • Recently, Michelle Rhee recounted her year long ordeal as a “crappy” second grade teacher 18 years ago at Baltimore’s Harlem Park Elementary to a room of new DC Public School teachers. Rhee told the novice teachers that she placed pieces of masking tape on the lips of her thirty-five rowdy 2nd graders on a trip to the school cafeteria for lunch; after arriving at the cafeteria, the kids removed the tape along with the skin on their lips, which caused bleeding; thirty-five 2nd grade children began crying.

    The other story Chancellor Rhee recounted to the group actually involved her speaking in Negro dialect when impersonating one of her students. “Lawwwd Ms.Rhee whatchu gonna do!!!!??” Rhee boomed, drawing a big laugh. “Lawwwd Ms. Rhee whatchu gonna do!!!!??” (Washington Post)

    • Michelle Rhee called DC Council Chairman Vincent Gray’s primary victory over Mayor Adrian Fenty a “devastating” blow to children in Washington’s traditional public schools.

    8. Poor Judgement
    On June 27, 2008, former NBA star Kevin Johnson and Michelle Rhee’s boyfriend was the subject of an investigation conducted by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the misuse of $850,000 of Federal grant funds provided to St. HOPE Academy from 2004 to 2007. Then DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee visited Gerald Walpin, who was inspector general of the government volunteer organization AmeriCorps. “The basic point of her meeting with me was to tell me what a great guy he was,” Walpin recalls, “and what wonderful work he has done, and that maybe he had made mistakes administratively, but that she thought I should give as much consideration as possible to his good work in deciding what to do.” Previously, Rhee had called Walpin to see how the investigation was going; she was planning to include St. Hope in a group of educational organizations that would be hired to run 10 of the District’s most troubled high schools.

    On four different occasions, young women or teenage girls had accused her boyfriend/fiancé, Kevin Johnson, of inappropriate sexual conduct. Three of the four were affiliated with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the parent body for the the volunteer organization AmeriCorps. Although charges were never pressed, one of the students said she was offered $1,000 per month in exchange for her silence. In the summer of 1995, allegations surfaced that Johnson inappropriately touched a 16-year-old girl. No charges were filed in the case. St. Hope was eventually ordered to pay back $425,000 of the AmeriCorps funds; however, no action was taken on the sexual allegations. A congressional investigation report contains charges that DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee handled “damage control” after allegations of sexual misconduct against Kevin Johnson surfaced. (The Washington Examiner, The Washington Times)

    9. An Accountability Double Standard
    Brian Betts was Michelle Rhee’s superstar principal of Shaw Middle School at Garnet-Patterson. Rhee recruited Betts from Loiederman Middle School in 2008 after he failed to get even an interview for four principal positions in the Montgomery County, Maryland school system. Betts was given “unprecedented power to mold his staff;” he personally selected 28 of his 35 teachers and staff. Betts said he wanted a school full of young, ambitious and not yet “jaded” teachers; he hired only two teachers with more than five years of experience. Betts received extra money from Rhee to hire two young teaching stars also from Loiederman to coach his almost entirely new staff. Shaw had the best technology, texts and instructional materials. Shaw became Rhee’s showplace school, where she sent celebrities and reporters to observe her “best and brightest” do their thing. Quite remarkably however, the test scores of students attending Shaw Middle School at Garnet-Patterson did not go up; they actually went down. Tests scores are Michelle Rhee’s own yardstick to measure a school’s effectiveness. That very same year, Michelle Rhee fired a whole lot of principals, most of whom had far fewer resources than Mr. Betts; they likewise had consolidated schools with merged student populations and much better test scores. (Washington Post, 2008)

    10. If It Looks Like a Duck…..
    Shady is, as shady does.

    Our children in the District of Columbia, as do the children in Atlanta, need and deserve a quality education; their lives depend on it. They do not need to be caught up in the biggest power grab in the history of American public education. The Michelle Rhee story had the potential to become the greatest success story of the American education reform movement. “New chancellor takes on the worst performing public school system in the nation, disembowels the big bad teachers’ union and saves the day for thousands of poor and illiterate inner-city kids.” The only thing wrong with this story is that it is simply not true; it has been grossly distorted by nonsensical propaganda.

    The deplorable truth is that cheating on state standardized tests has become a national epidemic; a lot of people know about it and a lot of people are not doing anything about it. Honesty, it seems, has not instantaneously yielded booming increases in student achievement levels; so across the nation, we have collectively resorted to fundamentally dishonest approaches to school reform.

    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that intelligence plus character is the goal of true education; I surely hope so.


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