Fraud Accompanies Michelle Rhee, Part 2

This is a continuation of the previous guest post.


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?


Published in: on October 27, 2010 at 6:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

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