The Rhee Miracle Examined Again – By Cohort

Unless I get some more hard data, this will be my last column on the so-called Rhee miracle in Baltimore.

Here I will attempt to follow four different cohorts of students through Harlem Park Elementary, one of the Baltimore City public schools that was taken over by Tesseract/Edison company for several years in the early-to-mid-1990s and failed. Using publicly available data, I graphed the average percentile ranks of groups of students as they went through Harlem Park in first grade, then second grade, then third grade, and so on. If there’s a blank in my graphs, it’s because the data isn’t there.

I highlighted the classes where Michelle Rhee was teaching. In her last year, the scores did rise some, but nowhere near what she claimed. In her first year, they dropped almost as low as they can go. If Tesseract/Edison had been using the IMPACT evaluation system she foisted on DCPS teachers, she would have probably been fired after the first year!

Look for yourself:

Why does this matter?

Simply because I think it’s important for the public to know that the main spokesperson for the movement for additional dumb standardized testing, for teaching to the test, and for firing teachers based on those dumb tests, would herself have been fired under those criteria.

And she has lied repeatedly about that, and has repeatedly claimed that she performed some sort of miracle when she was teaching in Baltimore: a miracle that no-one else has ever, ever achieved.

Voters in DC, to their credit, saw through her lies and voted Adrian Fenty out of office largely because of her lies (I think) and the horrible effects she had on DC public schools. Yay! But in the rest of the country, people probably only know her because of adoring media coverage that paints her as some sort of saint; she has become an advisor to several right-wing Republican governors who think that the key to educational success is breaking teacher unions.

The public has the right to know about what a liar she is, and to judge accordingly.

PS: my data source is here.

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The Secret to Raising Test Scores? (Part 2)

As I have pointed out, one of the easiest ways to improve test scores in a class or a school is to get rid of the students who generally score low, and to retain the ones who do well. I suspect that may have been the secret behind the fact that Michelle Rhee, after two years of complete and utter failure with her second-grade classes, finally managed to raise the scores to somewhere near the 50th percentile mark.

It appears that the ‘weeding-out’ was pretty drastic.

The cohort that started the first grade at Harlem Park in 1992-1993 had 84 students, probably 3 or 4 distinct classes.

When they arrived in the second grade in 1993-1994 and endured Michelle Rhee’s second failed year of teaching, they still had 83 students – probably 3 or 4 classes again.

But when this cohort arrived in the third grade in 1994-1995, Rhee’s “miracle year”, their numbers dropped by nearly half, to only 44 students. I doubt strongly that so many students dropped dead. I can’t prove it, but I would not be surprised if the school (and Rhee) ‘counseled out’ the ones who were doing poorly, and kept the ones who had high test scores.

You may be wondering if the same thing happened at other Edison schools and at the regular Baltimore public schools that were used for comparison purposes. Look for yourself at the graphs below – and I think you will conclude that while some of the cohorts in some of the schools had small rises in populations, some went down a little bit, and some stayed about the same. NONE OF THEM HAD SUCH HUGE DROPS AS WE SEE IN MICHELLE RHEE’S “WONDER YEAR.”

(By the way, this trick doesn’t always seem to work. The first grade in 1991-2 at Harlem Park had 102 students, and scored at the 63rd percentile in math in the spring. The next year, they were promoted to the second grade, and only had 77 to 84  students, depending on which count you follow, and they had Rhee as one of the second grade teachers. The average percentile rank of this cohort fell from the previous (respectable) 63rd percentile to an abysmal 18th percentile. As someone might say, echoing Michelle Rhee’s recent interview with Harry Jaffe,

these kids were getting screwed because people wanted to blame their low achievement levels on the single-parent households and on the poverty in the community. In that two-year period, none of those things changed. Their parents didn’t change. What changed? What we were doing with them in school.”

Well, if she wants to take credit for a 20-percentile rise in scores from 1994 to 1995, then she needs to take the blame for a 45-percentile-point DROP from 1992 to 1993, even with the weeding out.)

As has been the case for my past several data-driven posts, all of these tables and graphs were made by me from the tables in the appendices to the UMBC Evaluation of the Tesseract Program in Baltimore City, written by Lois C. Williams and Lawrence E. Leak in 1995. You can find it on the web at this URL.

Answers to the Latest Quiz on the Baltimore-Rhee “Miracle”

Here are the answers:

(1) There is not a single Baltimore Edison/EAI/Tesseract school at which students in math jumped from the 13th percentile to above the 90th percentile, in either CTBS reading or math, at any grade level, during the period 1992 through 1995.

(2) The school where Michelle Rhee taught was school O (with a yellow background).

(3) The ones that were run by Tesseract/EAI/Edison were schools J, L, O, R, and S. The regular Baltimore public schools were schools K, M, N, P, and Q.

If you group the two sets of schools, results appear to be about a wash.

This study is pretty conclusive evidence that Michelle Rhee was flat-out lying in her resume, in her testimony about her resume, and in her interview last month in the Washingtonian magazine.

Here are the graphs again, with the names of the schools written in:

If we were to use the criteria of Jason Kamras, Eric Hanushek, and Michelle Rhee, then Rhee should have been fired after the first year or two.

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Why does this resume flap still matter?

Simply because this person, who is proven to be a repeated liar, continues to nearly dominate the national discussion about “reforming” public education. (read: destroying public education) She has absolutely no shame about lying to the public with an absolutely convincing demeanor. Perhaps she believes her own lies. If that was the only problem, nobody would care. But there is a problem: she is succeeding in demonizing teachers in general and in steering the public away from the real changes that need to happen in the American public educational system, and towards changes sought by the same billionaires who are plundering the entire planet, widening the gap between the wealthy and the rest of us, and who recently threw millions of Americans out of work.

PS: here is my data source.

Now a Quiz on the Baltimore Rhee CTBS Math Miracle

You have another quiz, this time to see if you can deduce what school Michelle Rhee performed her Baltimore CTBS mathematics miracle in. As I have pointed out in previous posts, Rhee claims that she took her students from the 13th percentile (extremely low) to above the 90th percentile (you can’t go higher than 99th percentile) on national standardized tests in “academics” – so that, presumably, includes mathematics.

I randomly chose 5 of the seven Tesseract/EAI/Edison schools, and also five of the eight comparison-group regular public schools. For each school, I converted the NCE scores to percentile ranks for the 2nd grade in years 1992, 1993, and 1994, and for the 3rd grade in 1995. Finally, I again used a random-number generator to scramble up the order of the schools.

So, you have two challenges:

  1. In which of schools J-S did Michelle Rhee work this miracle? (Remember, there were only two third grade sections during her final year teaching, and she was team teaching [perhaps with the other third-grade teacher] so the jump should be extreme!)
  2. Which ones were regular public schools, and which ones were run by the for-profit EAI/Tesseract/Edison corporation? (Five are in one group, and five in the other.)

Here is the data (which I double-checked this time):

Small technical note: you cannot add, subtract, divide, multiply or take averages on percentiles. You can do all of that with NCEs, but NCEs are a lot harder to understand for most people than percentiles are. Rhee gave her results in terms of percentiles, so I am following suit.

Published in: on January 28, 2011 at 7:02 pm  Comments (6)  
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