DCPS Graduation Rates Artificially Inflated Under Rhee & Henderson

According to this article by Bill Turque, it appears that the Rhee and Henderson administrations have been shown to be falsifying data once again. They added an extra 20% margin to the actual, factual DCPS high school graduation rates, and proclaimed victory.

You should really read his article.

If I’m not mistaken, with this massive shrinkage of the fictitious DC graduation rates, the Deforming Duo (Rhee & Henderson) and their funders and out-of-touch acolytes have NOTHING LEFT about which they can actually claim success.

The last myth, that supposedly they increased DCPS graduation rates, is shown to be a chimera. A lie. Sorry, make that “use of an incorrect formula.” Well, there’s an entire book called “How to Lie With Statistics”; it’s by Daryl Huff (good book – look it up). Sounds to me that Rhee and Henderson could write several new chapters with up-to-date examples, using their own joint and several educational record.

Think of all the lies they have been caught up in.

(1) A lot of the DC-CAS score increases at certain schools are almost undoubtedly the result of massive cheating. A lot of that cheating was apparently done by a principal whom Rhee was very fond of promoting as her success story, but who has since been fired/quit since the news of the scandal spread.

(2) Even Rhee admitted to Jay Mathews that she had no idea what she was doing in hiring and firing principals based on her 3-minute gut reaction, and that many of her new hires utterly failed. Some of these principals (old and new) manage to have 300% turnover in teaching staff at their school over a very short period of time — and are yet able to collect millions of dollars in donations and to earn the very highest public educational awards for administrators. Those teachers that were hired, fired, or quit under stress were almost all eager, bright young (or not-so-young) things who were extremely highly motivated to do their best for the young people at their school. But they all failed and were humiliated under this insane regime.

(3) We have way larger numbers of teachers than ever before in DC with very little classroom experience, who either get fired or quit in droves because of the lack of support and insanely contradictory directives; any institutional memory or ties with neighborhood families are constantly being destroyed.

(4) IMPACT and all other VAM-style evaluation or bonus schemes(*) have been shown to be unreliable in practice, and to have negative consequences for motivating students or teachers. The middle-school experiment in bribing kids to do the right thing here in DC was a failure. Almost any psychologist who studies human motivation could have predicted that it wouldn’t work.

(5) There is no discernable difference in overall trends on NAEP scores under Rhee and Henderson on the one hand, and during the decade before them, except for some new declines in some grade levels after 2 full years of IMPACT. No victory to celebrate there, despite Rhee’s best attempt to bait-and-switch by comparing two entirely different categories when trying to brag of her “successes.”

(6) Population gains in DC public schools are mostly because of whole-scale marketing of all day kindergarten and pre-K classes. Meanwhile, the charter school numbers keep growing, which I don’t really see as an improvement. There is very little that most of the charter schools are doing that I can see that is experimental or better or really producing wonderful results.

(7) Charter school students for the most part get scores very similar to those in the regular DC public schools, with these two differences: The DC public schools have more kids at the very highest levels AND more kids at the very lowest levels on income and on test scores. The charter schools have more kids in the middle, fewer Hispanics and whites, and fewer children with disabilities or ESL kids. The situation might be quite different in other cities, or it might be just like ours. I have no idea, not having looked carefully enough even at Atlanta or NYC. However, a serious national study showed that if a student chose a charter school at random, then in 5 cases out of 6, they would do as well as, or worse than, if they were in a regular public school. In only 1 case out of 6 would they do better. 1/3 of the time, they do worse.

(8) There have been no cost savings anywhere. The amount of money that goes to contractors — some of them former TFA members who chose to make money and earn prestige, and to tell teachers what to do, rather than remaining in the classroom — is obscene. Central office is bigger than ever, and at wildly inflated salaries from what they used to be.

(9) And there’s the little matter of the numerous whoppers on Michelle Rhee’s resume – lies and exaggerations about the media coverage while she taught, and flat out making numbers up about a nonexistent educational miracle in her 3rd year of teaching, with what I conclude was the help of her Baltimore principal. (There was no other school anywhere in the UMBC study of the Tesseract schoolls and their regular BPS counterparts that had anything like the number of “1” scores. You probably say, “Who cares about ‘1’ scores? What’s that mean?” Well, it’s important. It means that the student scored SO LOW THAT THEY DON’T COUNT THEIR SCORE. It’s a great way to increase the apparent average of any group of things or scores or people — you just remove the low ones while you do the math, and secretly put them back when the computation is done. And that is apparently how they achieved somewhat of a bump in scores at Harlem Park. I think.

(10) Large numbers of DCPS teachers, to their credit, have refused to take the “poison-pill” bonuses that they earned on the numbers racket that is VAM and IMPACT. Good for them!

(11) Rhee’s foundation, Students First, is a joke of an “astroturf” organization funded by secret billionaires who don’t have to declare who they are or how much they have given. (I am told its a 501c4, not a 501c3 like several groups I belong to, and that they don’t have to disclose squat to the public. So far, I can’t find anything.) But we know that Rhee has a habit of palling around with the most outrageous right-wing extremists who want to repeal pretty much all of the New Deal, decertify labor unions, impose their own brand of religious restrictions on education and much more.

(12) There are probably quite a few more lies that various of us have exposed; I am proud to have contributed to some of this research. But I can’t think of any more without doing some research. Anybody want to add some more examples?

In any case, it seems to me that this should be the last straw.

We need to be indicting people, and they need to be pilloried (figuratively, that is) and removed from all positions of influence on education or anything else. They are complete and utter fakers and have no track record of success at all. I will name three people that need to go, in alphabetical order:

Arne Duncan.

Kaya Henderson.

Michelle Rhee.


*Seems to me that bonuses mostly motivate folks who like money, and folks who really like money don’t go into teaching. There are banks and businesses and stock markets that they can embezzle from instead. Teachers? I mean, a teacher isn’t going to get rich even if he or she does steal all his or her students’ lunch or field trip money AND wins a $5,000 bonus by cheating and erasing answers on his or her class’ answer sheets. No, if a person wants to get really rich, you become a hedge fund manager if you want to do it semi-legally. If you don’t care whether it’s legal or not, there are lots of ways to embezzle money — but you can’t do it from the classroom.

The one study that seems to say that VAM has some success was based on data from the 1990’s, well before NCLB, when there were no high stakes put on scores on achievement tests; and the supposed benefit, using their unknown algorithm, of having an absolute superstar of a teacher (which is defined by … a teacher in whose classroom a significant number of kids had a higher-than-expected gain in test scores from the previous year, on a test with unknown relevance to anything at all) is … get ready for the drum roll … here it is … An extra few hundred dollars in income per year for the student, later on.

Whether any of those minuscule detected impacts would hold up under today’s high-stakes testing environment isn’t known. It might happen that students with suspiciously big jumps in test scores end up getting run over by cars more frequently. Or have better bowling averages. Or have higher scores on WII games. Or have less dandruff. Who knows? I wonder if there might be a correlation between the number of freckles on a teacher’s forearm and his or her students’ rates of having automobile accidents? If we look hard enough, we could probably find some small correlation to something.


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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Don’t forget her admitting to taping her student’s mouths shut.

    That was done to me by a teacher in third grade, and it remains one of the most humiliating experiences of my life.

    Here in NYC, where I teach, she would have been immediately taken out of her class, put in the rubber room (where the union would have provided her with the due process rights she now lobbies to deny teachers), and deservedly fired.

    It is not hyperbole to call the woman a sociopath. She exhibits all the standard traits: persistent lying, narcissism, lack of empathy (“Want to come see me fire somebody?”), impulsiveness and lust for domination.

    It’s simply beyond the beyonds that someone so transparently ill-suited to the world of educating and nurturing children should not only have been given power, but have been so cynically marketed as the person who would “save” public education.


  2. Other lies: Rhee lied to PBS that Shaw’s scores were steady, when they had actually declined.

    She provided the same inaccurate information in a Washington Post on-line chat, after the DC-CAS data was publicly available on the OSSE site. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2009/09/20/DI2009092001636.html


  3. This is a great article that addresses “educational miracles” and the distortion of data.
    TFA and Rhee reference research that suggests that students with good teachers earn more money. Alder explains why this study is based on faulty statistical analysis.


  4. […] in their satchels, ready to “reform” those poor brown kids. You’d be mistaken. They manipulate numbers to fit their narrative.  And when they fail to deliver in a six-figure central office position, they land in a cushy […]


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