Failed Charter Schools in DC

I learned from the indefatigable Peter Greene just now that a group called CMD has done some serious data crunching and has come up with a list of about 2500 charter schools across the nation that have failed and closed. Some took millions of federal and state dollars and never served a single student.

Here is a map of just the ones in Washington, DC. Looking at the map, I count about forty failed charter schools in my fair city; however the spreadsheet has 49. If you are a veteran Washingtonian, how many of them can you name just by looking at the map? If you go to the actual web page you can get names and so on. I see that the state of Arizona alone has over 340 such failed ventures into edupreneurship; Florida 305, and Michigan has 120, and Ohio may be the leader with 425 failed and closed charter scams schools.

failed charter schools in dc

(BTW, the teachers in those failed charter schools were generally very hard-working, passionate people who are not trying to make a million bucks. Charter school operators? That’s a different story.)

Here is the DC list:

Name / Year founded / Year failed / Enrollment during last year / Address

failed charter schools dc list

Weekly Roundup of Educational Resistance by Bob Schaeffer

{As usual, this list is collected and distributed by Bob Schaeffer, not by me.}

The U.S. Senate has joined the House of Representatives in responding to growing, grassroots pressure by voting to overhaul “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB). The bills passed by both the Senate and House reflect widespread rejection of failed top-down, test-and-punish strategies as well as the “NCLB on steroids” waiver regime dictated by Arne Duncan. While neither version is close to perfect from an assessment reform perspective, each makes significant progress by rolling back federally mandated high-stakes, eliminating requirements to evaluate educators based on student test scores, and recognizing opt-out rights. FairTest and its allies will closely monitor the conference committee working on compromise language to make sure the gains remain in the final bill sent to President Obama — the alternative is to keep the yoke of NCLB-and-waivers in place for at least two more years, if not much longer. Meanwhile, organizers in many states are keeping the spotlight on the problems of test overuse and misuse, modeling better practices and winning additional policy victories.

Remember that back issues of these weekly updates are archived at:

National End High-Stakes Testing to Help Fix Public Education: Key Civil Rights Leader
National U.S. Senate Rejects Proposal to Give Federal Government More Say in Identifying “Failing” Schools
National Both House and Senate NCLB Overhaul Bills Allow for Penalty-Free Test Opt Out
National “Race to the Top:” Lofty Promises and Top-Down Regulation Brought Few Good Changes to America’s Schools

Exit Exam on Way Out

Two Small Districts Set Opt Out Records

Opposition Coalesces Against Smarter Balanced Tests

Governor Vetoes Opt-Out Bill; State PTA Pushed for Override Vote

More than 10,000 Young People Who Did Not Pass Grad. Test Recently Received Diplomas

Hawaii Teachers Fight Evaluations Based on Student Test Scores

Why Common Core Tests Are Harmful to Students

Third-Grade Promotion Test Pushes Reading Down Into Kindergarten

Fight to Make Charter School Disclose What Test It Uses for Kindergarten Entry

Test Cuts Came After Thorough Debate

Exam Scores Don’t Tell Full Story of Teacher Preparedness

Time Allocated to New State Tests Cut in Half

Nevada After Testing System Breakdown, State to Hire New Assessment Vendor

New Hampshire Schools Can Replace Smarter Balanced Tests with ACT or SAT

New Jersey
Be Wary of New State Teacher Ratings

New Mexico
Court Rejects Suit Seeking to Strip Pearson’s Common Core Testing Contract

New York
High School Models Authentic Assessment
New York Opt Out Movement Plans to Ratchet Up Actions Against Standardized Exam Overkill
New York Pending NCLB Overhaul Offers Hope to Reduce State’s Testing Obsession

North Carolina State’s Largest District Cuts Back Local Test Mandates
North Carolina Cautions About Test-Score-Based Teacher Pay

Students Can Meet Graduation Requirement with Work Samples in Their Home Language

Questions Mount About Using Volatile Test Results to Evaluate Teachers and Schools
Pennsylvania Teachers to School Board: Standardized Testing is Harming Students

Rhode Island
What Tests Like PARCC Do Not Measure

Teachers School Governor on Testing and Evaluations
Tennessee Local School Board to Take Up Opt Out Resolution

New Test Leading Fewer to Get GEDs

Washington State Testing Revolt Pushes State Into Uncharted Waters
Washington Over-Testing is a Flawed Strategy

“How Many Tests Can a Child Withstand?” — with apologies to Bob Dylan

The Beatings in Education Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
office-   (239) 395-6773   fax-  (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 699-0468

ASD Reformers Claim They Can Achieve The Impossible

Gary Rubinstein has watched a conclave of uber school reformers in places like New Orleans and Tennessee, so that you don’t have to.

He discovers some amazing things about their amazing claims of success:

1. They don’t have any secret recipes (other than firing lots of teachers and turning the schools over to private entities)

2. These claims of success are not actually backed up by any data

3. For the most part, these outlandish promises (like going from the bottom 5% to the top 25% in 5 years) are simply advertisements designed to get money

Here’s the link:

Definitely worth reading.

What Exactly Were the Differences Between Cheating in Atlanta Under Beverly Hall and the Cheating in DC Under Michelle Rhee?

We all know that administrators and teachers in DC and in Atlanta cheated in order to keep their jobs and gain large cash bonuses. In one city, scores of teachers were indicted, some plea=bargained, some went to jail, and the chief died of cancer. In the other city, only a couple of whistle-blowers lost their jobs, but the chief went on to fame and fortune while all the other culpable parties kept their bonuses.

But why is it that only in Atlanta were teachers and administrators indicted and convicted, but nowhere else?

What difference was there in their actual behavior?

To me, the answer is simple: in DC, officials at every level, from the Mayor’s office up to the President of the US and the Secretary of Education, were determined to make sure that Michelle Rhee’s lying and suborning of perjury and lies would never be revealed, no matter what.

Read for yourself part of the official documents in Atlanta (I’m quoting from The Answer Sheet) and see if you can find any real differences in behavior between what happened there and what happened in DC.

“A[tlanta] P[ublic] S[schools] principals and teachers were frequently told by Beverly Hall and her subordinates that excuses for not meeting targets would not be tolerated. When principals and teachers could not reach their targets, their performance was criticized, their jobs were threatened and some were terminated. Over time, the unnreasonable pressure to meet annual APS targets led some employees to cheat on the CRCT. The refusal of Beverly Hall and her top administrators to accept anything other than satisfying targets created an environment where achieving the desired end result was more important than the students’ education.

“To satisfy annual targets and AYP, test answer sheets were altered, fabricated, and falsely certified. Test scores that were inflated as a result of cheating were purported to be the actual achievement of targets through legitimately obtained improvements in students’ performance when, in fact, the conspirators knew those results had been obtained through cheating and did not reflect students’ actual academic performance.

“As part of the conspiracy, employees of APS who failed to satisfy targets were terminated or threatened with termination, while others who achieved targets through cheating were publicly praised and financially rewarded. For example, teachers who reported other teachers who cheated were terminated, while teachers who were caught cheating were only suspended. The message from Beverly Hall was clear: there were to be no exceptions and no excuses for failure to meet targets.

“Beverly Hall placed unreasonable emphasis on achieving targets; protected and rewarded those who achieved targets through cheating; terminated principals who failed to achieve targets; and ignored suspicions CRCT score gains at schools within APS. As a result, cheating became more and more prevalent within APS, until by the time the 2009 CRCT was administered, cheating was taking place in a majority of APS’s 83 elementary and middle schools. This was substantiated by GOSA’s erasure analysis, which identified 43 APS elementary and middle schools with at least one out of four classrooms within those schools having a statistically improbable number of erasures changing wrong answers to right answers. GOSA’s erasure analysis identified an additional 9 APS elementary and middle schools as having at least one out of five classrooms with a statistically improbable number of erasures changing wrong answers to right answers. Confessions by dozens of APS employees subsequently confirmed what GOSA’s statistical analysis indicated; widespread cheating occurred on the 2009 CRCT.

“It was further a part of the conspiracy and endeavor that targets achieved through cheating were used to obtain financial and other rewards for many of the conspirators.

“It was further part of the conspiracy and endeavor that targets achieved through cheating were used by Beverly Hall to obtain substantial performance bonuses.

“It was further part of the conspiracy and endeavor that Beverly Hall and other conspirators would interfere with, suppress and obstruct investigations into cheating using various methods. Conspirators would refuse to investigate reports of cheating; suppress and deny the existence of reports of cheating; fail to act upon APS investigators’ conclusions that cheating was occurring; suppress and deny the APS investigators’ conclusions that cheating was in fact occurring; fail and refuse to provide complaints of cheating to the Governor’s Special Investigators, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and investigators from the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office; and intimidate witnesses with the intent to hinder, delay, or prevent the communication of criminal offenses to law enforcement officers. When questioned by the Governor’s Special Investigators and law enforcement officers, many of the conspirators made false statements some under oath denying their knowledge of and participation in the cheating.”

Listing of Educational Bloggers

This is a list of the blogs maintained at the present time by some fellow-activist teachers and others.


A Teacher on Teaching A Teacher on Teaching
Aaron Barlow Aaron Barlow or
Accountable Talk Accountable Talk
Adam Bessie Automated Teaching Machine
Alan Singer Alan Singer
Alexandra Miletta Alexandra Miletta
Alice Mercer Reflections on Teaching
Allan Jones Allan Jones
Amy Moore Amy Moore
Andy Spears Tennessee Education Report
Ani McHugh Teacherbiz
Ann Policelli Cronin Ann Policelli Cronin
Anne Tenaglia Teacher’s Lessons Learned
Anthony Cody Anthony Cody
Arthur Getzel The Public Educator (aka liberalteacher)
Arthur Goldstein NYCEducator
Arthur H. Camins Arthur H. Camins
Audrey Amrein-Beardsley VAMboozled
Aurelio M. Montemayor Parent Leadership in Education
Badass Teachers Association (Marla Kilfoyle, Melissa Tomlinson) Badass Teachers Association and
Barbara Madeloni Educators for a Democratic Union
Barbara McClanahan readingdoc
Betsy Combier Parent Advocatees
Big Education Ape Big Education Ape
Bill Betzen School Achieve Project
Bill Boyle Educarenow
Bob Sikes Scathing Purple Musings
Bob Valiant Defend-Ed
Bonnie Cunard Continuing Change or
Bonny Buffington BBBloviations
Brett Bymaster Stop Rocketship
Brett Dickerson Life At the Intersections
Brian Cohen Making the grade blog
Brian Redmond rsbandman
Bruce Baker School Finance 101
Bruce Bowers Reflections on teaching and learning
Carol Burris Carol Burris and Answer Sheet
Chaz Chaz’s School Daze
Chris Cerrone Children should not be a number
Chris Guerrieri Jaxkidsmatter
Chris Thinnes Chris Thinnes
Christian Goering Edusanity
Christopher Martell On Social Studies and Education
Christopher Tienken Christopher Tienken
Christopher Wooleyhand Common Sense School Leadership
Claudia Swisher Claudia Swisher
Cynthia Liu K12NN News Network
Dan McConnell Truth and Consequences
Daniel Katz Daniel Katz
Darcie Cimarusti Mother Crusader
David Chura Kids in the System
David Cohen InterACT:  Accomplished California Teacher
David Ellison A Teacher’s Mark’s
Debbie Forward PFF Faculty Lounge
Deborah McCallum Big Ideas in Education
Deborah Meier Deborah Meier
Demian Godon Reconsidering TFA
Derek Black Education Law Prof Blog
Diane Aoki The Teacher I Want to Be
Diane Ravitch Diane Ravitch
DOE Nutes DOE Nuts Blog
Don Russell Lifting The Curtain
Dora Taylor Seattle Education
Doug Martin Doug Martin 
Edward Berger Edward Berger
Elizabeth Rose Yo Miz
Francesco Portelos Educator Fights Back  or Don’t Tread on Educators or
Fred Klonsky Fred Klonsky
Gary Rubinstein Gary Rubinstein
Gene Glass Education in Two Words
George Schmidt Substance News
George Wood George Wood
Gerri Songer Gerri Song
Glen Brown Teacher Poet Musician
Good Morning Art Teacher Good Morning Art Teacher
Greg Mild Plumberbund
Guy Brandenburg Guy Brandenburg
Helen Gym Philadelphia Public School Notebook
Jack McKay Horace Mann League Blog
James Arnold Dr. James Arnold
James Avington Miller, Jr The War Report on Public Education and
James Boutin An Urban Teachers Education
James Chascherrie Stop Common Core in Washington State
James Hamric Hammy’s Education Blog
Jan Resseger Jan Resseger
Jane Nixon Willis Staying Strong in School
Jason France Crazy Crawfish
Jason L. Endacott EduSanity
Jason Stanford Jason Stanford
Jeff Bryant Jeff Bryant
Jen Hogue V.A.M. It!
Jennifer Berkshire EduShyster
Jesse Hagopian Jesse Hagopian
Jessie Ramey Yinzercation
Jill Conroy The Indignant Teacher
Jo Lieb Poetic Justice
Joe Bower For the love of learning
John J. Viall A Teacher on Teaching
John Kuhn EdGator
John Young Transparent Christina
Jonathan Lovell Jonathan Lovell’s Blog
Jonathan Pelto Wait, What?
Jose Vilson Jose Vilson
Joshua Block Joshua Block
Julian Vasquez Heilig Cloaking Inquity
Justin Aion Relearning to Teach
Karren Harper Royal Edutalknola
Katie Lapham Critical Classrooms
Ken Derstine Defend Public Education
Ken Previti Reclaim Reform
Kenneth Bernstein Teacher Ken
Kevin Welner Kevin Welner and
Lani Cox The Missing Teacher
Larry Cuban Larry Cuban
Larry Feinberg Keystone State Education Coalition
Lee Barrios Geauxteacher
Leonard Isenberg Perdaily
Leonie Haimson Class Size Matters
Levi B Cavener Idahospromise
Linda Thomas Restore Reason
Lisa Guisbond Fairtest
Lloyd Lofthouse Crazy Normal the classroom expose  or
Lucianna Sanson The War Report on Public Education
M. Shannon Hernandez My Final 40 Days
Marie Corfield Marie Corfield
Marion Brady Marion Brady
Mark Naison With a Brooklyn Accent and Dump Duncan and
Mark Weber Jersey Jazzman
Martha Infante Martha Infante
Matt Farmer Matt Farmer
Mel Katz The Education Activist: From Student to Teacher
Melissa Westbrook Seattle Schools Community Forum
Mercedes Schneider Deutsch29
Michael Klonsky Michael Klonsky and
Michelle Gunderson Education Matters
Mike Deshotels Louisiana Educator
Mike Rose Mike Rose’s Blog
Mike Warner Education Under Attack
Minnsanity Minnsanity
Morna McDermott Education Alchemy
Mrs. Fanning LA Woman
Ms Kate Ms Katie’s Ramblings
Nancy Bailey Nancy Bailey’s Education Website
Nancy Flanagan Teacher in a Strange Land
Nicholas Tampio Nicholas Tampio
Nikhil Goyal Nikhil Goyal
Norm Scott Ed Notes Online
Ogo Okoye-Johnson Ogo Okoye-Johnson
OK Education Truth okeducationtruths
Outside The Box Outside the Box 
Patrick Walsh
Paul Horton Education News
Paul Thomas The becoming radical
Peggy Robertson Peg with Pen
Perdido St School Perdido St School
Peter DeWitt Peter DeWitt
Peter Goodman Ed in the Apple
Peter Greene Curmudgucation
Phillip Cantor Sustainable Education Transformation
Rachael Stickland Student Privacy Matters
Rachel Levy All Things Education
Ralph Ratto Opine I will
Ray Salazar The White Rino
Rob Miller View From the Edge
Rob Panning-Miller Public Education Justice Alliance of Minnesota
Robert Cotto Jr. The Cities, Suburbs & Schools Project
Robert D. Skeels Solidaridad
Russ Walsh Russ on Reading
Ruth Conniff Public School Shakedown
Sam Chaltain Sam Chaltain
Sara Roos Sara Roos
Sarah Blaine Parenting the core
Sarah Darer Littman Sarah Darer Littman
Sarah Lahm Sarah Lahm
Save Public Education Save Public Education
Sharon Higgins Charter School Scandals
Shaun Johnson Chalk Face
Sherman Dorn Sherman Dorn
South Bronx School South Bronx School
Stephanie Rivera Teacher Under Construction
Stephen Dyer 10th Period
Stephen Krashen Stephen Krashen and
Steve Hinnefeld Steve Hinnefeld
Steve O’Donoghue Steve O’Donogue
Steve Strieker One Teachers Perspective
Steven Singer Gad Fly On the Wall Blog
Stu Bloom Live Long and Prsoper
Sullio The Pen is Mightier than the Person
Susan DuFresne Educating the Gates Foundation
Susan DuFresne and Katie Lapham Teachers Letters to Bill Gates
Susan Ohanian Susan Ohanian
TB Furman tbfurman
TC Dad Gone Wild
Teacher Reality Teacher Reality
Teacher Tom Teacher Tom
Ted Cohen Newark Schools For Sale
The Assailed Teacher
The Teaching Nomad The Teaching Nomad 
Tim Slekar Busted Pencils 
Tom Aswell Louisiana Voice
Tracy Novick Who-cester Blog
Ty Alper Ty Alper (SF School Board candidate) or
Urban Ed Urban Ed
Vanessa Vaile Precarious Faculty Blog or
Wag the Dog Wag the Dog
Walt Gardner Walt Garnder
Wayne Gersen Network Schools
Wendy Lecker Wendy Lecker
Xian Barrett Xian Barrett
Yohuru Williams Yohuru Williams
Yong Zhao Education in the Age of Globalization

Did Rheeformers Rhee and Henderson Actually Close Any of Those Achievement Gaps in DC Public Schools?

Part Sixteen and Final

Today we look at the black-white and hispanic-white achievement gaps in the Washington, DC public school system, which has now been under mayoral control for seven full years.

My four graphs and tables today will show how laughably pitiful their claims of success really are.

You will see that the achievement gap is pretty much unchanged since the year I retired (2009), but the gap between Rhee’s promises and reality has been getting wider and wider.

A lot of their promises had to do with closing the ‘achievement gaps’ between white and more-affluent students on the one hand, and black, white, and impoverished students on the other hand. As you probably are aware, standardized test scores are very strongly linked to family income and educational levels. You may not be aware that the white population of Washington DC is generally very well-educated.and fairly affluent (unlike rural white populations in, say, West Virginia or Kentucky). Washington has the highest-scoring white student body in the nation on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), and the widest gap between the scores of white students and of hispanic or black students.

However, Michelle Rhee and her minions promised spectacular reductions in those gaps, as measured by the relative percentages of students scoring ‘proficient’ or ‘advanced’ on the DC-CAS among white students, hispanic students, black students, and students who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunches (versus those not eligible).

What I found is a complete and utter failure to make any progress whatsoever since 2008 or 2009 — the year that Rhee twisted the arms of every single principal in the school system to come up with miraculous gains, and when many of those principals (and teachers) engaged in cheating to boost the scores.

As usual, don’t just take my word for it. Look at the following four graphs and check my sources if you like.

With these graphs and tables, low numbers are GOOD because that means that the gap between white students on the one hand and black or hispanic students on the other is getting smaller. High numbers are BAD because the gap is getting bigger.

You will notice that each graph has a solid black line — that represents what really happened.

Each graph also has a dotted red line. It represents how much Rhee et al promised that things would improve.

I don’t exactly know what they were smoking when they made those promises, but it seems like they were hallucinating that by WILL alone, and by replacing all the veteran teachers and administrators with untrained, unqualified and inexperienced newbies from TFA or TNTP, they would achieve miracles.

Again, see for yourself.

First we look at the gaps between the scores of black and white students, in math, on the DC-CAS, from 2007-2014.

promised and actual math black-white gaps, 2007-2014

Since 2009, the year that Rhee and many principals were outed as cheaters by a lengthy series of reports in USAToday, you can see that there has in fact been no progress in closing the gap. The prediction is the red, dotted line. The actual performance is the black line, which is essentially horizontal after 2009.

Now let’s look at the black-white achievement gap in reading:

promised and actual reading black-white gaps, 2007-2014

In this case, the gap between the scores of black and white students — as shown by the solid black line — has actually been growing slightly wider since 2008! As in the previous graph, the totally imaginary promises of Rhee and Henderson are the red, dotted line – a line which got farther and farther away from the truth every single year.  Some accomplishment, Rhee and Henderson and Gray!

Thirdly, we look at the gaps between hispanic and white students in math:

promised and actual hispanic-white math gaps, 2007-2014

We see here that the black line has been wiggling up and down since 2009, with the result that the gap for 2014 is almost exactly the same as the gap in 2009, while we were promised miracles. Once again, there is a very important gap that is getting much wider: the gap between the prediction and reality.

My last table and graph for the day concerns the achievement gap for reading, between hispanic and white students.

promised and actual hispanic-white reading gaps, 2007-2014

As you can see, this achievement gap is now actually a bit wider than it was in either 2008 or 2009. And the gap between those promises and reality got steadily wider and wider.

Some people have told me that I’m being unfair, because Rhee and Henderson, under mayoral control, have been making tremendous progress in raising test scores and in closing the achievement gaps. I hope that this post sets the record straight: they have in fact made NO progress in closing the achievement gaps, and their predictions became more and more laughable as time went on.

Can someone explain to me why Kaya Henderson still has a job as chancellor of DC public schools?


This is my last post in this series of articles.

I’ve been examining the promised, miraculous gains that were promised in the troubled Washington, DC public school system to see whether any of those 78 promised goals were reached.

Rhee and Henderson actually accomplished one and a half out of that 78 goals.

It is true that there have been steady improvements on the scores of DCPS students (all groups) in math on the NAEP — but those improvements began in the 1990s, a decade before Mayor Adrian Fenty got the wacky idea of hiring a totally unqualified sociopathic liar (Michelle Rhee) as Chancellor. There were also some fairly large gains in DC-CAS test scores during the first two years it was given, but that’s normal. As far as I have seen, any time any school district adopts a new standardized test, students’ test scores plummet the first year, but then rise after a year or two, as the teachers and students get used to the new format.

The sources I used to compile this data are here and here. My fifteen previous posts on this topic can be found here:

The saga so far:


Here is the ‘Smoking Memo’

Without any comment from me, here is the entire ‘Smoking Memo’.

erin dcps lawyer cheating memo page 1


erin dcps lawyer cheating memo page 2


erin dcps lawyer cheating memo page 3



erin dcps lawyer cheating memo page 4

The ‘Smoking Memo’ on Michelle Rhee’s EraserGate was leaked to John Merrow

The “smoking memo” has turned up.
The one that Michelle Rhee, Kaya Henderson, and Charles Willoughby didn’t want the public to see.

The one where the testing company expert told them all about the cheating and what steps they should take — none of which were taken.

That memo was leaked to John Merrow of Frontline. You really should read his entire article. It’s long, it’s got footnotes, and it’s excellent.


Teachers, parents, and concerned citizens should take the time to read this long, footnoted, in-depth follow-up by John Merrow (a journalist at Frontline) on the cheating scandal (by adults) in Washington, DC public schools, in particular at Noyes right here in Brookland.
The article points out several things:
(1) Rhee gave lots of money to adults who cheated
(2) She put impossible pressure on principals to cheat; they, in turn, put that pressure on their teachers
(3) The achievement gap between white and black students, and between poor kids and wealthier kids, increased on Rhee’s and Henderson’s watches; any increases in NAEP scores are continuations of trends that began under her predecessors; and DCPS students’s scores are still at the bottom of the nation
(4) Rhee, Henderson, Kamras, and IG Willoughby have steadfastly refused to investigate the cheating seriously and to do the sort of analysis that actually shows malfeasance
(5) Turnover among administrators and teachers in DCPS has turned a revolving door into a whirlwind
(6) The idealistic principal who followed Wayne Ryan at Noyes, and who was originally a great admirer of Rhee, found a lot of evidence of cheating there, but her whistleblower suit was dismissed, and she now runs a cupcake store
(7) Despite noises to the contrary by Rhee, the number of highly-paid central-office administrators has jumped; DCPS has the highest administrator-to-student ratio anywhere in the region
(8) Funds that should have been used to help students who were behind were, instead, used to pay illegitimate bonuses to dishonest adults.
Here is the URL:
A couple of key quotes:

” former DeKalb County District Attorney Robert … Wilson said that he had been following the DCPS story closely.  “There’s not a shred of doubt in my mind that adults cheated in Washington,” he said. “The big difference is that nobody in DC wanted to know the truth.”


It’s easy to see how not trying to find out who had done the erasing–burying the problem–was better for Michelle Rhee personally, at least in the short term.  She had just handed out over $1.5 million in bonuses in a well-publicized celebration of the test increases[9]. She had been praised by presidential candidates Obama and McCain[10] in their October debate, and she must have known that she was soon to be on the cover of Time Magazine[11].  The public spectacle of an investigation of nearly half of her schools would have tarnished her glowing reputation, especially if the investigators proved that adults cheated–which seems likely given that their jobs depended on raising test scores.

Moreover, a cheating scandal might well have implicated her own “Produce or Else” approach to reform.  Early in her first year she met one-on-one with each principal and demanded a written, signed guarantee[12] of precisely how many points their DC-CAS scores would increase.

It’s 2013.  Is there any point to investigating probable cheating that occurred in 2008, 2009 and 2010?  After all, the children who received inflated scores can’t get a ‘do-over,’ and it’s probably too late to claw back bonuses from adults who cheated, even if they could be identified.  While erasure analysis would reveal the extent of cheating, what deserves careful scrutiny is the behavior of the leadership when it learned that a significant number of adults were probably cheating, because five years later, Rhee’s former deputy is in charge of public schools, and Rhee continues her efforts to persuade states and districts to adopt her approach to education reform–an approach, the evidence indicates, did little or nothing to improve the public schools in our nation’s capital.

This story is bound to remind old Washington hands of Watergate and Senator Howard Baker’s famous question, “What did the President know and when did he know it?” It has a memo that answers an echo of Baker’s question, “What did Michelle know, and when did she know it?” And the entire sordid story recalls the lesson of Watergate lesson, “It’s not the crime; it’s the coverup.”

That Michelle Rhee named her new organization “StudentsFirst” is beyond ironic.

Even Conservatives Think There Is a Lot of Cheating Going On in DCPS

An article in American Thinker, a conservative rag, shows up Rhee, Henderson et al as corrupt liars, cheaters, and folks who stonewall and cover up the truth.

It’s pretty decent investigative journalism, in fact.

The first few paragraphs from the article:

Unsolved Mystery: D.C. Public Schools Cheating Scandal

By M. Catharine Evans and Ann Kane

The Washington, D.C. school system’s failure to hold higher-ups accountable for their 2008-2010 test cheating scandal has led to more speculation that some are intentionally stonewalling attempts to get at the truth.

According to the Washington Post, D.C. ‘s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), headed by Hosanna Mahaley, issued a December 23 press release after months of dodging Freedom of Information requests by journalists.  In September, a spokesman for OSSE told the Post‘s Jay Mathews that the “data was ready and I would get it after Mahaley returned from a trip to Brazil.”

Mahaley, who was attending a Pearson Foundation conference (one of the largest educational publishers in the nation) in Rio de Janeiro in October, has a reputation for governing in absentia.  For example, OSSE had set up six town hall meetings for November as part of a requirement by the federal government to “engage diverse stakeholders and communities in the development of its request” for a waiver from No Child Left Behind rules.  On the first advertised date, only one person showed up, and that didn’t include anyone from the OSSE.  Subsequent town halls were canceled until the new year.

Sloppy scheduling may be forgivable, but viewing that along with political maneuvers to hide test scores shows a pattern of questionable behavior.

Finally, a day before Christmas Eve, Mahaley’s office responded to inquiries.  But instead of releasing the anticipated erasure data concerning wrong-to-right answers (WTR) for 2011, OSSE announced a “Request for Proposal soliciting vendors to assess and investigate individual classrooms.”  The RFP came after an advisory committee of “national experts” convened to determine the best way to deal with test security.

The stall tactics didn’t go over too well, and on December 31, Mahaley’s office publicly released their “DC Comprehensive Assessment System Wrong-to-Right Changes Report” dated July 15, 2011.  The nine-page document indicated that 128 classrooms, 3% of schools tested, had high WTR erasures, down from 253 schools in 2009.  Although CTB/McGraw Hill named the flagged schools and teachers, they were purposely omitted from the OSSE report.

Tamara Reavis, Mahaley’s director of assessments and accountability, stated that erasures “are only one data point to flag classrooms.”  In fairness, an outside firm will be hired to measure the results “in conjunction with other information.” 

Mahaley and Reavis, along with DCPS chiefs and Mayor Gray, seem determined to drag this scandal out.  Why not just produce an in-depth analysis of answer sheet erasures for 2008-2011 and question all of those at the helm?  Why are top D.C. officials still calling for “vendors” to make recommendations for tighter security measures?  Why not rip the Band-Aid off and get it over with?  With the obvious delay tactics and suppression of findings, it appears that the campaign to keep parents, teachers, and journalists in the dark marches on.  Why all the obfuscation when former players like Michelle Rhee and Mayor Adrian Fenty are no longer in power?  Is the wrongdoing so egregious that it can be quashed only through a monotonous dribs-and-drabs strategy?

Last March, a USA Today investigation showed a huge amount of wrong-to-right answer sheet erasures at more than half of D.C. schools; their inquiry didn’t include charter schools.

Continue reading...

John Merrow also replies to a friend of Michelle Rhee

One of the tiny handful of DC parents who are deceived by Michelle Rhee and Kaya Henderson wrote another attack on the credibility of the good section of John Merrow’s PBS special on Rhee. It reads like a press release from Henderson’s office. Here is Merrow’s response:

Here’s PBS’s John Merrow’s Response

I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your open letter to the PBS Ombudsman. Let me begin by addressing the timing of the statement by the USDE Inspector General. It was released just hours before our national broadcast, and it was only then that Frontline learned of Adell Cothorne’s legal complaint, which had been sealed from public view until it was released by the IG. Although it was too late to include this information in the body of the film, Frontline made extraordinary efforts to include detailed information about the USDE IG’s statement and Cothorne’s filing, and included links to documents in the coda to the film and on its web site.

While we had heard rumors of an investigation by the USDE IG, we were unable to confirm them and could not identify any DC educators who had been interviewed by the USDE IG. We understand now that she [the USDE IG] did her work ‘in tandem’ with the DC Inspector General.

You write ” . . . on six exams administered since allegations of cheating were raised, DC students continued to show steady progress rather than a system wide drop off as you would expect under increased testing security.” I would make two important points. First, the relevant comparison is not to the entire system but to the schools which were flagged for high erasure rates. If one examines the data for the 16 schools with erasure rates of 50% or higher, it is clear that heightened security had a significant impact.

The DC-CAS scores at Noyes, where 81% of classrooms were flagged for high erasures, are themselves circumstantial evidence that supports Cothorne’s allegation. Below are the Noyes DC-CAS scores over five years; 2011 represents the year that security was tightened.

  2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Reading 44.14% 61.53 84.21 61.36 32.40
Math 34.24% 57.69 62.79 53.64 28.17


 That represents a drop of nearly 50 points in reading between 2009 and 2011, and a drop of roughly 34 points in math. Note also that in 2011 Noyes students were scoring belowtheir pre-Rhee level.

In all, data are available for 16 schools with erasure rates of at least 50%. DC-CAS reading scores rose in only two schools after security was tightened. Math scores rose in just 4 schools and declined in 12.

Here are three examples:

* At Aiton, (which, like Noyes, had been awarded large cash bonuses) scores in reading dropped from 58.43% proficient to 20.80%, well below pre-Rhee levels. In math, Aiton dropped from 57.87% to 16%, which is also below pre-Rhee levels.

* Raymond also received large bonuses from the Chancellor. Its scores in reading fell from 70% to 42.44%, and its math scores fell from 68% to 45.71%. The reading score is below pre-Rhee levels.

* Savoy went from 46.51% to 20.39% in reading and from 38.37% to 15.38% in math, also well below pre-Rhee levels.

Second, you reference ‘steady progress,’ and it is true that the DC-CAS scores have shown very slow but steady growth (a point made by Rhee in her final interview and shown in our film). That change is credible and consistent with what students of measurement say can be expected in schools that are making progress. However, hugegains and losses are greeted, quite properly, with skepticism by experts, although not by Rhee or her team.

Moreover, as noted in the film, DC schools continue to rank among the worst districts in the nation and have the absolute lowest graduation rate in the US.

The co-investigator of the cheating scandal in Atlanta, Georgia (where investigators had subpoena power and put those testifying under oath) told Frontline that they considered wrong-to-right erasures at a rate of three or more standard deviations away from the norm to be prima facie evidence of cheating. In some classrooms at Noyes, the rate was five or more standard deviations away from the norm, and yet this did not trigger an in-depth investigation.

‘In depth’ would mean erasure analysis and a search for patterns. This can reveal if the person doing the erasing corrected the easier questions or the more difficult ones. If the latter, that raises questions.

No erasure analysis was conducted by Caveon or the DC Inspector General or requested by Rhee.

You write: “Frontline implies that the DC Inspector General’s investigation was not credible and relies on Cothorne’s testimony to substantiate this point.” That is incorrect. We examined the IG Report carefully and reported the facts. Which are: The DC IG report did not examine DC-CAS results during Rhee’s first year, the year with the greatest number of erasures. He did not perform erasure analysis. He did not interview Cothorne. Individuals who spoke with him were not under oath. His report cites one instance where he heard conflicting testimony and simply accepted the word of one individual and rejected the other’s, but he provides no support for that decision. During his 17-month investigation he interviewed just over 50 people. 17 months is approximately 515 days, meaning that he interviewed, on average, one person every 10 days.

He did not examine other schools. In fact, the IG acknowledges that he eliminated one school, Wilson, because the current Chancellor convinced him that Wilson faculty and staff were working hard. However, Wilson’s scores dropped 19% in reading and 23% in math between 2009 and 2011, and 100% of its classrooms had been flagged for high erasures.

We requested an interview with the DC IG to discuss his report, including Cothorne’s charges, but that request was rebuffed.

After interviewing Cothorne, Frontline also attempted to interview Chancellor Rhee. It is accepted form in journalism for the subject of a program to be given ‘the last word,’ a final opportunity to respond to what others have said, and we wanted that to be the case in this instance. We negotiated with Rhee’s attorney, Reid Weingarten, who insisted on seeing written questions that we would be asking. Frontline submitted a number of written questions, which we will not release because they include references to other allegations not made public. Weingarten had indicated that Rhee would respond in writing and, at the same time, consider an on-camera interview. In fact, she did not respond in any way.

Frontline stands by the program, and I stand by what I wrote in Taking Note, my blog.


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