Scooped Again – By the Washington Times in 2007!

Scooped again.

I see now that my own analysis (and dismissal) of Rhee’s claims of stupendous success in the classroom, based on the UMBC study written by Lois Williams and Lawrence Leak in 1995, came about three years later than a fairly objective analysis in the Washington Times, dated June 28, 2007. Here is most of the article, with the parts highlighted that I think are important.



D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s choice to reform public schools has been unable to provide proof of the remarkable student improvement she achieved during her brief teaching stint in Baltimore.

“We were told that these kids came in on this level and they were leaving on average at this level,” said D.C. schools chancellor-nominee Michelle A. Rhee, who has noted a dramatic improvement in student test scores in her resume.

“I didn’t think to ask back then for solid documentation or proof or any of those things,” she said. “As a new teacher, I didn’t think those things were particularly relevant.”

Mrs. Rhee, 37, began her three-year teaching career at Harlem Park Community School in the 1992-93 school year through the Teach for America program.

In the 1993-94 school year, when she taught second-graders at the inner-city school, those students had scored at the 13th percentile on standardized tests.

By the end of the 1994-95 year, after Mrs. Rhee had taught the same students as third-graders, 90 percent of them scored at the 90th percentile, according to her resume.

Mrs. Rhee said the test results were achieved on the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS).

Her biographical information on the mayor’s office Web site ( and on the Web site of her former nonprofit — the New Teacher Project ( — both say such “outstanding success” in the classroom earned Mrs. Rhee national media acclaim.

But education experts note that most low-income schools have a high student-turnover rate and Mrs. Rhee taught her students as part of a team. Tying the percentile jump specifically to her is extremely hard to do, they said.

“Although there were some significant gains for third-grade Title 1 students in reading [during Mrs. Rhee’s tenure], there is nothing that would establish a sufficient evaluation link between that particular population of students and any particular individual staff member,” said Ben Feldman, who is in charge of testing for Baltimore schools. “You couldn’t go there.”

In addition, establishing a precise link between student achievement and Mrs. Rhee’s performance in the Baltimore school system is difficult in part because of dated information systems and antiquated storage.

Mr. Feldman said retrieving data from a decade ago is hard because his office changed its information storage systems for the year 2000.

Still, the normal curve equivalent score (which is similar to a percentile) on the CTBS for Harlem Park second-graders was 27 in reading and 43 in math in the 1993-94 school year, according to a 1995 report published by the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.

The report also shows that third-graders at the school for two years achieved a score of 45 in reading and 51 in math in 1994-95. The report does not break down scores by specific class and excludes some students from the totals, including those who received special-education services.

Those scores show significant gains at Harlem Park, but the question remains whether they support the remarkable gains highlighted by Mrs. Rhee and her backers.

“It’s nothing to sneeze at at all,” said Mary Levy, director of the public education reform project for the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. “The only question is where does this 90 come from. Ninety [percent] is amazing. You get that kind of score at schools attended by advantaged children.”

Figures contained in the university study also show that Harlem Park’s elementary enrollment fell from 523 in 1992-93 to 440 in 1994-95.

Mrs. Rhee, who was in her early 20s while at the school, said she did not remember the size of her class.

Her time at Harlem Park coincided with an experiment by the Baltimore school system to let a private company — Education Alternatives Inc. (EAI) — manage nine out of 180 city schools, including Harlem Park.

The Maryland study, which focused on the EAI experiment, and a follow-up report showed that the project elicited little progress in CTBS scores among its students.


Me again:

The whole thing is so bizarre – and typical of Rhee and her star-struck, reality-defying acolytes.

Rhee claimed very specific (and incredible) gains among her students. Admits that she had no actual data whatsoever – she didn’t even remember how many students she had – which means that she made the whole thing up – but pointedly refuses to admit that. She claims that there was national press coverage of her amazing success, and cites various publications (without, however, providing any dates). When I and other investigators look into those publications (such as the Wall Street Journal), we find no such acclaim at all. When I and other investigators look into the actual CTBS data for the time period, we find no evidence whatsoever of any such unprecedented, extraordinary gains.

Then, well-paid, right-wing ideologues like Rick Hess attack me (!!) for supposedly playing loose with the statistics – but exonerate Rhee for making up a pleasing fairy tale, and claim that perhaps her claims are true, but that none of her students were tested (!!!!!). One rather obsessed Rhee-lover, Chris Smyr of Eduwonk (I think), goes on to make the outrageous claim that the principal author of the UMBC study has no right to comment on my conclusions that Rhee made all of her claims for success up!!

Meanwhile, Rhee continues to make claim after claim in the national press — claims that go against all evidence, but which are accepted at face value by almost the entire establishment press, with the exception of Valerie Strauss, a paid blogger/reporter for the Washington Post. Jay Mathews, the most-printed WaPo education writer, appears to realize that Rhee made up nearly all of the claims that got her the job as DCPS chancellor, but he doesn’t quite come to the correct conclusion — which is that she is a fraud from beginning to end.


The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

18 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Bizarre.

    Bob Somersby over at his had this to say yesterday:
    <blockquoteIn the 1994-1995 school year, the seven schools run by EAI were under enormous pressure. During and after the previous year, major disputes had broken out about the low test scores of the EAI schools; by the fall of 1994, everyone knew that the pressure was on, that the plug might be pulled on the program. (As a simple Nexis search will show, all these matters were being discussed in the Baltimore Sun.) Do we possess three brain cells among us? If any school in the EAI group had an educational miracle occurring, this glorious fact would have been shouted to the skies by EAI’s corporate leadership. Trust us: The teachers involved would have gained acclaim in the national media—the kind of “acclaim” Rhee used to say she had attained, before she realized she had to stop saying it. It’s absurd to think there was some large group of third-graders “scoring at the 90th percentile or higher,” but their test scores somehow never came to the attention of the UMBC researchers.

    Was there a large group of third-grade students “scoring at the 90th percentile or higher?” Barring some truly bizarre occurrence, you’d have to be a fool to believe it—or you’d have to be a “journalist” at the Washington Post. Tomorrow, we’ll wander back through the years, recalling the way this paper’s education “journalists” have swallowed a wide range of stories.


  2. One can read a chapter of the Bee-Eater for free here:


  3. To me, what is extremely puzzling is the fact that hardly anyone seemed to question Rhee’s claim. When some journalists published reports suggesting that her claims were highly suspect, few people seemed to care. The same thing happened with the “Texas Miracle.” Not only was the chief perpetrator of that fraud not debunked, he was actually rewarded and celebrated for his “achievements” despite a mountain of proof that the results were invalid. Another case concerns a well known “miraculous” charter school where the students received extremely high scores on a standardized test. However, when another test (sight unseen) was given to the students, they scored about the same as students in the regular schools. A reporter wrote about this but her article did not create that much of a stir. To this day this charter is held up as a “miracle.”

    All of the above can only be understood if one realizes this “reform” is not about improving education but about privatizing it, for the purpose of allowing intrepreneurs to get hold of school tax money. So in that context the only news that counts is news that discredits regular public schools and regular teachers. Hopefully, the press will start doing some old-fashioned investigating and will publish the truth about what is happening in education.


  4. Linda says, perfectly sensibly:

    “To me, what is extremely puzzling is the fact that hardly anyone seemed to question Rhee’s claim. When some journalists published reports suggesting that her claims were highly suspect, few people seemed to care.”

    The reason for that can be easily explained, although it flies in the face of everything we’re told about our national discourse–indeed, about human functioning itself.

    The explanation: Almost every part of our national discourse is, in essence, a novel–a novel agreed to by interlocking webs of elites. Did Al Gore ever say he invented the Internet? No, he didn’t, but everyone agreed to pretend that he had.

    Rhee was a “made woman” before she arrived in DC. As with her colleague Wendy Kopp, Manhattan elites (Bloomberg/Klein/Charlie Rose/Gail Collins) had agreed that Rhee was a god. Once such decisions have been made at higher levels, the droogs all follow suit.

    I realize that doesn’t seem to make sense, but this is the way the American discourse works; the Rhee case is just one example. I’ve been explaining this for the past dozen years at The Daily Howler. We liberals will never stop being puzzled by matters like this until we give up the ghost and start explaining how the world really works.

    The news is a novel, agreed to by elites. Issues of accuracy have almost nothing to do with it.


  5. Further point, regarding the UMBC study:

    Please note, as per what is posted today: Every education journalist in DC was aware of the UMBC study as of late June 2007. The Washington Times reported its contents in substantial detail. Any journalist who wanted to review its data would of course have been able to do so.

    Why didn’t journos examine this study? Because facts play almost no role in their culture. It’s all based on Accepted Group Narratives. At its heart, the news is a novel.


  6. All the world’s a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players;
    They have their exits and their entrances,


  7. I think it is important to question how Michelle Rhee’s “non-profit” will use the billion dollars in donations they are seeking. I think M.R.’s involvement in the KJ scandal, covering up his inappropriate behavior with staff is unethical at the very least. She promotes the actions being taken in Wisconsin and Florida against educators. Her policies are devastating for children. Here is a link that reviews her participation in the KJ scandal.


  8. If Jay Mathews admitted that much, if not all, of the Michelle Rhee narrative was false, he’d be admitting that he was part and parcel of the effor to sell educational Deform as a good thing-or that he was totally gullible and was simply a fool.


  9. Yes, Anne, but if Jay wrote a book about his admissions and Rhee’s errors, I would buy it(unlike the Bee eater) and so would a lot of people.

    I bet it would be a best seller. That should be motivation enough for a journalist, irrespective of their ethics.


    • I agree with you. Mathews seems capable of rethinking some of his ideas. I wish he’d be bold enough to do so.

      I’d buy that book, too. I’m going to pass on The Bee-Eater


    • I’d have to disagree with the point of emphasis here.

      In fact, Mathews already has “admitted that much, if not all, of the Michelle Rhee narrative was false.” He did so first in his 2/8/11 post, which was built around this statement:

      “He [G. F. Brandenburg] has proved that Rhee’s results weren’t nearly as good as she said they were.”

      He repeated this judgment in several more posts as the discussion continued.

      Refusing to take yes for an answer is a common political error. Jay is well-known and influential–and he has agreed that Rhee misstated her test scores. Jay’s repeated statements should be helpful to anyone who wants to correct the record on this long-standing matter. It’s self-defeating to whip ourselves up by pretending he hasn’t said this.

      Jay has said that Rhee misstated her test scores. He has said the actual scores “weren’t nearly as good” as Rhee has always claimed. People who think this matters, as I do, should use this to help spread the word.

      Jay agreed with Guy’s analysis. What’s gained by pretending he didn’t?


      • I agree with Bob on this.
        With the additional analysis of the test scores, some supplied by me and some by Guy, Jay has stood his ground.


      • Update: Kicking and screaming all the way, Richard Whitmire (Bee Eater author) also said tonight that she misstated the scores (at Politics and Prose book event). I’m pretty sure this came in reply to the question Guy asked.

        Can’t get the quote till it airs on C-Span. But–everyone is now agreeing that she misstated the scores. (And she did this over and over and over, of course.) In terms of creating an accurate record, it ought to be very helpful to note that Mathews and Whitmire have both agreed on this very basic point.


      • Bob, I thought what Whitmire said something a little different. Then again, I got there after his main talk and while questions were already being asked, just as the topic of her false Baltimore/Harlem Park scores was being raised (I just got back into DC). So, obviously I missed something. I didn’t hear him admit that she made up that entire claim, and he seemed to be saying that no data would ever come out that would settle the matter – which I took as implying that there was a good chance that her claims were correct — which is utterly preposterous. Do you have something like a quote? I reluctantly spent the $25 to get a copy of the book, and will read what he has to say. But it sounded like Whitmire was more of an apologist for Rhee, and a spokesman for Broad, than anything close to an objective journalist. Guy B


      • Here’s what the author, Richard Whitmire, wrote to me yesterday:

        I appeared at Politics & Prose yesterday, “the” bookstore in D.C. located in upscale NW, and encountered a steady stream of Rhee detractors — all of whom offered up bizarre conspiracy theories about Michelle, but not a single person had any thoughts on why low-income African American kids in D.C. are as much as two years behind comparable kids in other urban areas. Pretty sad, really.


    • Clarification:
      He didn’t write that to me, but Whitney Tilson.
      Read at


  10. I think the work you’ve done to get at the truth in the resume that Michelle Rhee based her qualifications for the position of chancellor of DCPS on is very important and I’m very grateful for it.
    Given the the Washington Post’s uncritical support of her the whole time she was here, I also appreciate them publishing your scrutiny and spreading it far and wide so that others know.
    It’s especially gratifying that Rhee has felt the need to respond to it.
    And all this going on at the same time that her firings of 75 teachers were judged to be against the rules adds greatly to the point that she and her brand of reform, as we in DC know only too well, is not as “all that” as she wants people to believe and they are wise to look beyond her exaggerations and hyperboles.
    My deepest regret from the Rhee episode is the sorry model of adulthood that she set–particularly for woman and those in a position of leadership of children’s education which is second only to parenthood in the influence on children’s understanding of the world.
    My hope is that the lessons learned from this experience, which your work has so greatly contributed to, will be used by Mayor Gray, the chancellor selection committee, the DC Council and all DC citizens to make sure that never again is a person offered a job in the DC government that they themselves know they are not qualified for but pretend otherwise.


  11. At, you can “look Inside” the book and see some pages.
    I looked at the index and must say I was very surprised that I didn’t see:
    Shaw Middle
    Brian Betts
    Capital Gains
    Roland Fryer


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: