There are very few public figures who have a looser connection with the truth, with facts, and with data, than Michelle Rhee.
(In plain English: I think she is a major liar and distorter. There is not an educational statistic that she won’t twist.)
But she’s coming to DC next week as a featured panel member of something called the Data Quality Campaign, along with Arne Duncan, another educational DEformer who is unfortunately head of the US Education Department. The event details are here: it takes place 1:30 to 5pm at the Renaissance Washington Hotel next Wednesday 1-18-2012 on the south edge of Mount Vernon Square here in DC. It appears that the panel will advocate national, multiple-choice testing for all students in all grade levels and for all subjects in all months of the year and firing and paying teachers and making all educational policy based on those results.
A dumber idea than that is hard to imagine. It also is a huge waste of many billions of dollars — money that will go to just a handful of enormous testing-and-publishing companies. These funds will be lost forever to local schools and school districts, parents, teachers, and students, and will instead go to enrich some of the 1% who run this country.
I think it would be a great thing if some folks went there and showed the public that there are a number of people who think that Rhee is a propagandist for untruth, and that there are few things less useful for teachers and students than making educational policy based on stupid, nationally-composed multiple-choice tests and being locked into a national curriculum. (Don’t laugh: they even just now came out with national standards for sex education. I am not making that up.)
Registration is free: use this link.
Rhee has an amazingly long history of distortions; where I first found my jaw dropping was when I read her resume, where she claimed to have been in the Wall Street Journal and on TV during the mid-1990’s when she was a TFA temporary teacher in a for-profit charter school experiment that failed in Baltimore. When she claimed that she took an entire elementary school class from below the 20th percentile to above the 90th percentile on a nationally-normed test, I simply could not believe it. Nobody in history has ever accomplished anything like that without some sort of fakery.
Sure enough, when I later found a careful study on that failed educational experiment, my suspicions were confirmed. No such miracle happened at all at Rhee’s school (Harlem Park ES) or in her grade. What happened instead was that Rhee’s grade instead had an inordinate number of kids who scored at a “1” level, meaning that their scores were so low that they simply weren’t counted. As a consequence, I conclude, the average of the scores of the remaining students had a modest increase. The lead analyst for the UMBC study agreed with the conclusions I drew. Rick Hess of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, a personal friend of Rhee, predictably disagreed.
As you also may have heard, Rhee promoted Wayne Ryan, the principal of Noyes, based on what proved to be utterly fallacious, doctored increases in student scores at that school. (Ryan was allowed or “encouraged” to quietly resign after the news of the cheating came out, but that was after Rhee quit when her patron, DC Mayor Adrian Fenty, lost an election because she earned the hatred of most of the electorate in Washington, DC. You can see a good summary of much of Rhee’s record at RheeFirst. I uncovered a fair amount of her lies and distortions in the pages of this blog. (BTW thanks to WordPress, this blog has a pretty good search engine if you want to look stuff up; it’s at the upper right-hand corner of this page.)
Anybody interested in making a stink at this conference? Anybody else interested in pointing out that there is another way (or many other ways) of improving education in America?