How NOT to save money: operate two (or a hundred) different school systems in the same district

I would like to reprint the entirety of Valerie Jablow’s recent blog post on how the District of Columbia manages to waste enormous amounts of taxpayer money by opening and closing schools at random. (If you haven’t been keeping score, the total number of publicly-funded schools in Washington DC is at an all time high, while the number of students is NOT.)

The DC Education Costs That Shall Not Be Named

by Valerie Jablow

Testifying the other week during the council’s budget oversight hearing for the DC public charter school board, education advocate and DCPS parent Suzanne Wells called for a study by the DC auditor to compare the costs to run DCPS schools versus charter schools. Wells asked that the study look at administrative in addition to facilities costs in each sector.

Right now, city leaders are consumed by the percentage increase in the funding formula for public school students in the FY18 budget. The mayor’s original proposal for FY18 gave a 1.5% increase–an historic low. Last week (perhaps sensing blood in the water), the mayor proposed raising the increase to 2% . Plenty of others—including a group convened by the state superintendent of education (OSSE)—have recommended a 3.5% increase, and a petition to the council advocating a 3.5% increase has now garnered more than 1000 signatures.

But amid this legitimate concern over funding, there is dead silence about costs.

Imagine, for a moment, anyone in DC leadership going on the record with this statement:

“If there are 32 students in a class and two go to charters, you still have to have a teacher for the 30 [remaining] students.”

That’s what Philadelphia’s chief financial officer recently said after a study commissioned by that city determined that Philadelphia pays nearly $5000 per student in stranded costs each time a student leaves a by right school to attend a charter school. Those stranded costs include staffing, utilities and building maintenance for the schools that such students no longer attend, but that need to keep operating nonetheless because those schools are the guarantors of the right–not chance or choice–to an equitable public education.

Judging from the silence and averted eyes when I asked the council (during the DCPS budget hearing) if DC has a black budget for creating new schools, I’d have to say that discussing stranded costs and associated fiscal drains of opening and closing schools is not exactly, um, popular in these parts.

But such costs are a real issue in DC for tens of thousands of kids and their schools—no matter how little political will there is in DC to account for (much less name!) those costs.

For instance, right now as the deputy mayor for education gets down to updating the master facilities plan, the closure rate of DC charter schools ranges from a low of 33% to a high of 40%.

The closure rate at DCPS is even higher: The deputy mayor for education’s February 2017 report on DCPS closures notes that since 1997 (a year after charter schools started here), 76 DCPS schools have closed—a closure rate of 41%.

Now, if you add those closed DCPS schools to the 38 charter schools closed since 1996, you get a total of 114 DC public schools closed, for an eye-popping closure rate of 57 public schools per decade–or 5 public schools closed every year on average in the last 20 years.

And here’s the kicker: we know school closures cost a lot of money.

So, in addition to not acknowledging those costs of school closures, no one in DC leadership readily acknowledges the emotional cost to children, parents, and staff of school closures. Particularly with neighborhood schools, those buildings are often the core of their communities, sources of pride, civic engagement, as well as shelter in distress.

And that’s not even talking about the longer, sometimes dangerous, commutes for children to avail themselves of the right–not chance or choice–to an equitable education in the wake of DCPS closures. Who is accounting for that cost to our kids and our neighborhoods?

And yet, even while closing a breathtaking 5 schools every year for two decades, DC’s creation of choice-only schools and seats outpaces our growth in living, breathing students to fill them.

That is, even as more than 10,000 public school seats are currently unfilled, more seats are created every year by the charter board. The current crop of proposed new charter schools would, if approved next week, add about 3000 new seats. And that is not counting the (thus far) sidelined proposals of DC Prep and KIPP DC to create almost 4000 other new seats. (See here on both from the April charter board meeting.)

Sadly, the costs entailed by such growth go well beyond unfilled seats:

In school year 1999-2000, DC had 185 public schools serving 74,800 students. In school year 2014-15, DC had 223 public schools serving 85,400 students.

Thus, over a decade and a half, with a gain of 10,600 public school students (14% growth), DC had 38 more public schools (20% growth). Each school created requires infrastructure and staffing, raising costs overall. The mismeasure between those numbers adds to those costs–and increases them further when stranded costs are taken into account.

(All data in my analysis here is from the DME’s 2017 report; the 21st Century School Fund; the NRC report on PERAA (also available here); and a report from the Progressive Policy Institute, in addition to the charter school applications.)

Right now, however, such growth is completely uncoupled from any notional idea of coordination and planning—even with the master facilities plan in the balance and the cross sector task force dedicating a working group to school facilities.

Instead, we as a city pretend that there is an unseen budget that covers all new schools such that we do not tie the approval, location, size, or function of those new schools to any budgetary considerations whatsoever—much less to the best fit for both our students’ needs as well as preserving their right to equitable public education in every neighborhood.

(Come to think of it: Maybe I should have asked the council how our city got so rich that it could be uncaring about where its money goes–and how my kids’ schools can get some of that apparently endless cash?)

So, while the city gears up for oral arguments in the lawsuit filed against the city by charter advocates for supposedly unfair charter school payments, our city leaders remain unwilling to even acknowledge the huge cost implications of school closures and openings—all the while making political hay (and more) about the increase (or lack thereof) in the per pupil funding formula.

All I want to know is:

Can we catch up to Philly, DC auditor Kathy Patterson, and do a study of the costs between our public school sectors?

The cash saved might ensure we won’t have to fight over a 2% increase ever again–something that all city leaders can get behind without fear.

Revised HS PARCC ‘pass’ rates in English and Math in DC public and charter schools

My original graphs on the ‘pass’ rates for all DC publicly-funded high schools were incomplete, because I was using OSSE data only (Office of the State Superintendent of Education). A reader showed me where the DC charter school board (DC PCSB) posted their PARCC statistics and that gave me the pass rates for a couple of additional schools (Maya Angelou and BASIS IIRC). So here are the revised graphs which you can click on to enlarge:

2015 Math PARCC 'pass' rates, both public and charter schools in DC

2015 Math PARCC ‘pass’ rates, both public and charter schools in DC

2015 'pass' rates, public and charter high school math, PARCC, DC, 2015

2015 ‘pass’ rates, public and charter high school math, PARCC, DC, 2015

Note how many fewer students passed the PARCC math test than the reading test in DC. I haven’t yet seen any of the actual questions on either of the tests. But if these were tests that I had written and was using as a teacher with my students, I would likely conclude that the one with the much-lower scores was simply a much harder test, and I would probably do one of the following:

(A) “scale” the scores so that more students would pass, or else

(B) throw out the test results and try teaching with a different approach altogether, or else

(C) throw out the test and make one that at least a majority of students could pass if they’ve been paying attention.

{At my last school, if f I failed 80 to 90% of my students, I would have gotten an unsatisfactory evaluation and probably have gotten fired.}

Of course, this being the era when multi-billionaires who hate the very idea of public schools are in charge of said public schools, neither A, B or C will happen. In fact, my understanding is that the ‘cut’ scores for each of the categories of grades (meets expectations and so on) were set AFTER the students took the test, not in advance. So it was very much a politico-social decision that the vast majority of students were SUPPOSED to fail the math test.

Let me note strongly that by far the most effective way to have really good test scores for your school is to let in ONLY students who already get strong test scores. That’s how Phillips Exeter or Andover Academies or Riverdale or Sidwell Friends or or the Chicago Lab or Lakeside private schools do it, and that’s how Banneker, School Without Walls, Washington Latin, and BASIS do it. (Partial disclosure: I and some of my immediate family either went to, or worked at, some of those schools.) Teachers who are successful at those elite schools have a MUCH easier time teaching those students than do those who try to teach at school with large numbers of at-risk students, like Washington Metropolitan, Ballou, Cardozo, Maya Angelou, or Options public or charter schools. Idealistic teachers from elite schools who do transfer to tough inner-city public schools generally crash and burn, and I would predict that one of the easiest ways to lose your teaching job these days is to volunteer to teach at any one of the five latter schools.

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

A Quick Look at the National Academy of Science report on Mayoral Control of Schools in Washington DC

Last week, the National Academy of Science released a very long report assessing the progress (or lack of it) of the education of young people in Washington DC under mayoral control in both the regular public schools and in the charter schools.


The picture isn’t pretty, as Candi Peterson has pointed out.


Here are my major conclusions:

1. Mayoral control of schools has been a spectacular failure if you care anything about reducing the gaps between achievement levels of white students and those of color, the poor, special ed students, and English language learners (i.e. immigrants). The gaps between the pass rates on the DC-CAS standardized tests of those groups under mayoral control or the PERAA (Public Education Reform Amendment Act) are enormous and have essentially remained unchanged since 2007, when the law was implemented, according to the data in this report. Note that the report combines the data for both the DC public schools and charter schools, combined, at all grade levels, in both reading and math. Here are two graphs, made by me from data in the report, which show the lack of change. I estimated the percentage of students ‘proficient’ or ‘advanced’ in each of the groups (whites, blacks, hispanics, students receiving free or reduced-price lunches, English language learners, and special education students) from graphs provided by the report, and then subtracted the pass rates from each other. HIGH NUMBERS ARE BAD because they show large gaps in proficiency rates. Low numbers are good. Notice that there has been almost no change since mayoral control; some lines go up a tiny bit, some go down a bit, others waver back and forth a bit. Not a success story.
gap[s under mayoral control, math, dc-cas, acc to NAP report on PERAAgaps under mayoral control, reading, acc to national academies press
2. Ratings for teachers remain very much dependent on what students they teach. Many millions of dollars and enormous effort has been spent to devise supposedly scientific ways of measuring teacher effectiveness — i.e. VAM and IMPACT. Every single teacher remaining in DCPS has either been hired under Their Chancellorships or has been repeatedly measured as efffective or better. Yet the ratings for teachers at schools with high poverty rates, and in wards 7 and 8, remain much lower than those at schools with low poverty rates and in ward 3. Repeat: these low-ranked teachers are not holdovers from the ‘bad old days’ – they are either brand-new hires or have been repeatedly measured as good or excellent under IMPACT. (One bit of data: at my last school, from which I retired 5 years ago and which has over 100 faculty and administrators, only about 5 or 6 teachers remain from my time there.) I copied these two tables directly from the report:
teac her ratings under IMPACT, by ward teacher ratings under impact by ses
3. Now that we have 60-odd publicly-funded local school districts in Washington DC, most of which [the charter schools] are not required to provide much of anything in the way of data, we no longer have any effective way of saying what are good practices and which are poor practices, because we have no city-wide way of describing what is going on.
4. The report generally omits any data from before 2007, and in some cases before 2009, which makes it hard to compare pre-mayoral control and post-MC. The exceptions are with some NAEP data, in which it is clear that any progress post-PERAA is indistinguishable from progress before PERAA. See these four graphs, which could have been taken from my blog but are again from the National Academy of Science report (I added the stuff in red for emphasis):
pre-post mayoral control naep scores 4th grade math pre-post mayoral control naep scores 4th grade reading pre-post mayoral control naep scores 8th grade math pre-post mayoral control naep scores 8th grade reading
5. The report totally omits the contractual obligations entered into by Rhee and Henderson with the Broad, Arnold and other foundations back in 2007 when they laid out 60-some goals they said they would meet by 2014. As you may recall from looking at my blog or what Erich Martel wrote on the topic, their success rate in meeting those goals (regarding things like NAEP and CAS scores for the most part) was approximately TWO PERCENT. Not 20%. But 2%. And I was being generous.
6. Finally, despite all the really damning data in the report, I predict that the Washington Post and others of their mindset will proclaim that it shows that mayoral control has been a wonderful success.
PS, here is the link so that you can download your own copy of the 341-page report:

Trends in DC’s regular public schools and charter schools: 4th grade math NAEP, TUDA

I continue here in showing you the results of my calculations for how the charter school students and regular public school students in Washington, DC have been faring on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, since the 1990s.

Some of my previous columns were quite simple: I just cut and pasted graphs from the NAEP and NAEP TUDA results, or asked the built-in software for how white, black, hispanic, special education, or free/reduced-price-lunch kids did at the 4th and 8th grade in math and reading.

If you look at my previous graphs, you will notice that, on the whole, the trends AFTER 2007, when Michelle Rhee was installed as the very first DC chancellor, looked just about the same as the trends BEFORE that date.

Today, I did a little math to figure out how black fourth-grade charter school students did in math in DC, in comparison with their counterparts in other large cities, in the nation as a whole, and in the regular DC public schools.

The math goes like this: I figure that the DC state weighted average for any given group or grade level (say, 4th grade African-American students taking the math NAEP) equals the weighted average for regular DCPS at that grade level, times the enrollment at that grade level, plus the product of the charter school weighted average score at that grade level and the charter school enrollment at that grade level; all of that divided by the total enrollment.

Or, if Q = DC state average. and R = DC regular public school weighted average, and V = DC regular public school enrollment, and S = DC charter school weighted average, and W = DC charter school enrollment, and X = V + W = total enrollment in publicly-funded schools in DC, both regular and charter, then

Q = (R*V + S * W) / X

And since I could find everything except S in the literature, then I could simply solve for S. My result:

S = (X*Q – R*V)/W.

And here are my results:

dc, dcps, charters, national - black 4th graders, math, naep, 1996-2013


My conclusions?

For black students at the 4th grade in math, the post-Rhee trends in the charter schools are about the same as the trends in DC public schools were BEFORE Rhee was appointed. However, it looks like the trends overall in the regular public schools seem a bit worse.

If past trends had continued, and Michelle Rhee had not become chancellor, the overall educational results might have been very similar to what they are today — inequalities and inequities of course included, because we have lots of that here in Washington, DC.

By the way, if anyone finds a mistake in my work, please let me know by leaving a comment.

“Erase to the Top”

Remember that TIME magazine cover with Michelle Rhee holding a broom in front of an empty classroom, suggesting she was going to sweep out all of us riff-raff teachers?

Someone has modified the cover. It now has Rhee holding a very large Number Two pencil, with a large pink eraser at her feet; the title is “Erase to the Top”.  The text reads:

“Michelle A. Rhee, America’s most famous school reformer, was fully aware of the extent of the problems when she glossed over what appeared to be widespread cheating during her first year as Schools Chancellor in Washington, DC.”

Rhee Time Cover


(improved image is courtesy of the artist)


Published in: on April 16, 2013 at 8:18 am  Comments (4)  
Tags: , ,

Just where does all the money go in ‘financially troubled’ school districts?

If you live in DC or Philadelphia, a huge chunk of the school system’s budget goes to consultants. I submit that just like with the banking and insurance industries, the huge sums paid to the top school officers and to their friends consultants is a large part of the reason why many school systems are approaching bankruptcy.

For example, in Philadelphia, one such firm, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), is earning an enormous bundle: it ALONE earned nearly $12 million from the Philly school district. (Just the initials BCG make one suspect the company is involved with giving the kids in Philadelphia a horrible case of tuberculosis. I don’t think they are curing anybody!)

Think I’m exaggerating? No.

(except for the bitter jest about TB.)

To quote from an article in Education week,

“At the moment, Boston Consulting Group has a limited presence in the district; funds to support the firm’s $230,000 per week price tag ran out June 11.”

If you multiply this $230,000 per week ‘price tag’ times 52 weeks in a year, you should get $11,960,000, which is essentially twelve million dollars. It’s kind of sad that all these high-powered ex-TFA whiz kids come to office claiming they can fix everything — but they turn around and hire consultants to tell them what to do — because, you see, they soon realize they don’t know squat about running schools. This company, as the article shows, have been acting as a shadow management in Philly for some years. For 4 years, the BCG  fees add up to almost $50 million — for ONE consulting firm! And there are undoubtedly many other firms, even if they don’t all charge as much as this one does.

No wonder the Philadelphia public schools are going to go into debt!

You can read some of my own prior posts on the costs of consultants in Washington, DC public schools. Or just do a search for “consultants” in the little search window in the upper right-hand corner of this window. What I found is that during the ’09-’10 school year, the District of Columbia spent, on the average, 40% of their total purchases on what appeared to me to be consulting fees. Only about 34% of the contracted purchases were for things that were probably school-related, such as textbooks, desks, school-related supplies, and computers. [And of those latter purchases, we don’t know how much actually went out into the classrooms for student use, and how much stayed in administrative offices!] Here is my original table: read it and weep.

Published in: on July 12, 2012 at 11:43 am  Comments (4)  
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Strange Events at Dunbar SHS

Dunbar SHS has been in the news a lot recently. Erich Martel, a history teacher punitively transferred from Wilson, has dug deeply into the record, and has written the following:

[Attachment(s) from Erich Martel included below] 

Dunbar’s Decline Began Long Before Rhee and Continued Under Her

by Erich Martel
Dunbar HS has been in the news.  Supt Janey’s and Chancellor’s Rhee’s actions regarding Dunbar do not tell a simple hero – villain story.  Mostly, they reveal how tests and data can be adjusted to give the appearance of improvement and that students continue to receive diplomas that do not represent mastery of DCPS subject standards. The data from Dunbar HS are typical of those in many of our high schools.
For several decades, students have been allowed to graduate from DCPS high schools like Dunbar without meeting mandatory requirements in core subject matter. Standardized tests occasionally reveal, if only approximately, how great the gulf between image and reality is.  This commentary grew out of an attempt to address the following questions, which Colbert King’s article on Dunbar HS brought to mind:
1) How could DCPS officials say that “70% of the class of 2007 were expected to attend college,” when two years earlier grade 10 SAT9 tests revealed that over 90% received Below Basic scores in math and over 65% received Below Basic scores in reading?
2) Miracle or Mirage: How was the following possible:
April 2005:  SAT9 Grade 10 Math:  no students scored advanced; 3 students scored proficient;
April 2006:  DC CAS Grade 10 Math: 5 students scored advanced; 58 students scored proficient.
Hiding or attempting to manipulate reality always has consequences:  a few benefit; most pay a price.
Erich Martel
Social Studies
Phelps ACE HS
(In January 2008, I was the WTU representative on the Quality School Review Team that visited Dunbar HS, a step that was preliminary to the chancellor’s restructuring decision under NCLB)
1)  Posted data on the OSSE site are incomplete
2) What do truancy and graduation rate data show?
3)  Dunbar’s SAT9 and DCCAS results I:  Miracle or Mirage on NJ Ave.? (See attachment, sheet 1)
4)  Dunbar’s SAT9 and DCCAS results II:  Miracle or Mirage on NJ Ave.? (See attachment, sheet 1)
5) Graduation: How is it that “70% of [the Dunbar class of 2007] were expected to attend college”?
6)  Correlation of Graduation Numbers and Grade 10 SAT9 Results
7)  In-house Alteration of Students’ Records
8) Enrollment Decline at Dunbar HS (attachment, sheet 2)
9) Student Records Audit at Dunbar HS, 2002-03
1)  Posted data on the OSSE site are incomplete, probably due to the failure of DCPS – and charters – to provide them.
For example:
a) Truancy data are available for only four years:  2003-04 to 2006-07 (Attachment, sheet 1, columns J & K);
b) Average daily attendance data are available for only 2009-10 (Sheet 1, column L);
c) Graduation rate data are available for only 2008-09 and 2009-10 (Sheet 1, Column M) (Columns E & I show the senior completion rates: number of June graduates divided by the number of seniors on the October OSSE enrollment count, 8 months earlier)
2) What do truancy and graduation rate data show?
a) Truancy at Dunbar went from 18.39% in 2003-04 (the year before Janey arrived) to 16.68% (his first year); the almost doubled to 29.99% in 2005-06 before climbing to 42.86% in his last year.
c) The graduation rate dropped from 81.7% in 2008-09 to 74.7% in 2009-10.
Was that Bedford’s fault? Those rates do not report that the majority of the students needed Credit Recovery and/or summer school to pass one or more courses needed for graduation.
The real test of graduation validity:  How many graduates who enrolled in colleges or professional schools:
i.  Needed to take non-credit remedial courses before moving on to credit-bearing courses?
ii. Lasted for at least one semester?    …. for two semesters?
3)  Dunbar’s SAT9 and DCCAS results I:  Miracle or Mirage? (See attachment, sheet 1)
a) Between April 1999 to April 2005 only 22 Dunbar 10th graders (out of 1,564 tested; not including the Pre-Engineering Academy) received scores of Advanced or Proficient on the SAT9 Math.
In April 2005, the last year of the SAT9, only 3 10th grade students scored Proficient (no one scored Advanced).
Yet, one year lated, April 2006, the first year of the DC CAS, 5 scored Advanced & 58 scored Proficient, a number  almost 3 times greater than the total (22) of the previous seven years.
b)  That dramatic increase occurred at the same two years that truancy jumped from 16.68% to 29.99%.
c)  The number of Adv & Prof scores then dropped during Janey’s last year (06-07), down in 07-08 (Rhee’s first year), up in 08-09, and down again in 09-10.
4)  Dunbar’s SAT9 and DCCAS results II:  Miracle or Mirage? (See attachment, sheet 1)
a)  In April 2005, 206 Dunbar 10th graders (out of 227 tested; not including the Pre-Engineering Academy) received scores of Below Basic on the SAT9 Math; one year later, April 2006, it dropped to 82, rose in 2007 to 98, fell to 72, then 61 and finally 38 in 2010 (under Bedford).
5) Graduation: How is it possible that “70% of [the Dunbar class of 2007] were expected to attend college”? (Colbert King, Washinton Post, 12/18/10).
Consider:  According to the OSSE enrollment audit, the Dunbar HS class of 2007 (seniors, including 25 Pre-Engineering seniors) numbered 223 students.
Two years earlier, in April 2005, the tenth graders of the future Class of 2007 produced the following results on the SAT9:
Math (Total:  227 students):  attachment:  sheet 1
Advanced:  0 students
Proficient:  3 students (or 1.32%)
Basic:   18 students (7.93%)
Below Basic:  206 students (90.75%)
Reading (Total:  234 students); attachment:  sheet 3
Advanced:  0 students
Proficient:  4 students (or 1.71%)
Basic:   75 students (32.05%)
Below Basic:  155 students (66.24%)
Recall what the four performance levels are supposed to mean (source:  “Stanford 9 Special Report:  Performance Standard Scores,” Harcourt Brace Educational Measurement, 1997):
Advanced: “signifiies superior academic performance”
Proficient: “denotes solid academic performance”
Basic: “denotes partial mastery” (emphasis added)
Below Basic:  “signifies less than partial mastery”
In June 2007, Dunbar HS had 171 graduates for a senior completion rate of 76.7% (171 graduates / 223 seniors).
Assuming that these were the top students who took the SAT9 two years earlier, the class of 2007 included only 3 students who were showed “solid academic achievement” in math and only 4 in reading.  Of the 171, only 18 had shown “partial mastery” in math, while 75 had shown “partial mastery” in reading.
Of that 171, 70% (120 students) were “expected to attend college.”  Thus, leaving aside the 51 students (30%) not expected to attend college, the 120 who [were] expected to attend college showed the following performance two years earlier as tenth graders:
In Reading:
– 0 showed “superior academic performance”
– 4 showed “solid academic achievement”;
– 75 showed “partial mastery”;
– 41 showed “less than partial mastery”
In Math:
– 0 showed “superior academic performance” 

– 3 showed “solid academic achievement”;
– 18 showed “partial mastery”;
– 99 showed “less than partial mastery”
6.  Correlation of Graduation Numbers and Grade 10 SAT9 Results
By the end of the 3rd Advisory or marking period, when students take the SAT9 (since 2006, the DC CAS), they have completed or should have completed Algebra I and Geometry.  How likely is it that 99 out120 students who showed less than partial mastery in grade 10 math were likely to overcome that deficit and master Algebra II/ Trigonometry or mastery of the elements of four years of English and writing skills?
Undoubtedly, some students managed to improve over the remaining two years.  By the same token, however, the depressing anti-academic attitudes that hamper teaching and learning could very easily have led some students who did well in grade 10 to lose interest.  In fact, most of the students required easier summer school classes to meet graduation requirements.
7.  In-house Alteration of Students’ Records
As the review of student academic records at Dunbar in 2002-03 concluded ( and below) “the opportunity for tampering was greatly enhanced and the reliability of the students’ records was questionable.” Despite recommendations of a Student Records Management Task Force (August 2003), no systemic steps were taken to ensure that student records were secure against internal tampering. That was revealed in Wilson HS’s Class of 2006, when approximately 200 of the 420 seniors listed on the June graduation day program had not completed their mandatory requirements.  It is not known whether the DC Inspector General’s report of the audit of Wilson HS graduation records led Supt. Janey to tighten procedures in other high schools ( ).
8.   Enrollment Decline at Dunbar HS (attachment, sheet 2)
In order to understand the decline in enrollment in Dunbar HS, one must factor out the grade 9 increases, beginning in 2006-07, when 9th grades in high schools began to increase as junior high schools were transformed into middle schools.
Dunbar’s total enrollment dropped from 1070 in 2002-03 to 913 in 2006-07 (adjusted to 887) in Supt Janey’s last year.  The October 2009 adjusted enrollment (factoring out the grade 9 increase) is 664, down by more than 200 since Chancellor Rhee took over.
9. Student Records Audit at Dunbar HS, 2002-03
Following the revelations of altered student records at Wilson HS in June 2002, DCPS contracted with Gardiner Kamya Inc. to conduct reviews of 59 students’ transcripts and supporting documentation in each DCPS high school.  The following is Dunbar HS’s report.  It is posted on the dcpswatch website, because DCPS officials did not post it.



MARCH 30, 2003 (End of Field Work)
July 17, 2003 (DC PS Response)
September 22, 2003 (Report Submitted)

Submitted by:
Gardiner, Kamya & Associates, P.C.
1717 K Street, NW Suite 601
Washington, DC 20036


  1. Internal controls (Procedure #1, Page 7)
    The school did implement the grade verification process mandated by the DCPS. However, due to the state of the student records and the results of the procedures detailed below, we conclude that internal controls with respect to student grades were ineffective and there was no assurance that such grades were accurately reflected in the student records.
  2. Confidentially maintained (Procedure #2, Page 9)
    The procedure was completed without exception. [Comment:  This means that all alterations were done by those with legal access to student records]
  3. Completeness of Cumulative and Electronic files (Procedure #3, Page 9)
    1. Cumulative Files
      Eighteen files in our sample of 59 were incomplete. Two files were missing. Some of the incomplete files were missing more than one item. The missing items were as follows: 

      1. It is the school’s policy to create a Letter of Understanding for all students in grades 9 -12. However, the school could not provide a Letter of Understanding for 14 students in our sample;
      2. Two student’s file did not contain a transcript;
      3. Three students’ files did not contain a 9th grade report card;
      4. Six students’ files did not contain a report card;
      5. One student’s file did not contain either a 9th or 11th grade report card;
      6. One student did not have a 10th grade report card in his/her file.
    2. Electronic Files
      The school could not provide electronic data (COHI and SIS-HIST) for six students in our sample. Consequently, we could not determine the completeness of those files.
  4. Consistency (Procedure #4, Page 9)
    The school could not provide the teachers’ scan sheets for 31 of the 59 student files in our sample. In addition, 19 students had transferred in. Scan sheets were not available for these students. Also, the school did not provide report cards for 11 students, and two students’ file did not include a transcript. Of the records available for our review, we noted the following: 

    1. Two (2.0) credits were reported on the transcript of one student (for Army Jr. ROTC). The report card reported 1.0 credit.
  5. Accuracy (Procedure #5, Page 10)
    1. Carnegie Units and Letters of Understanding
      1. The transcripts of three students were not consistent with their Letters of Understanding as follows:
        1. One student’s transcript reported a credit of 1.0 for “Art 1 “. However, the Letter of Understanding reported a credit of 0.5 for the same course. Also, the transcript reported zero credits for electives. The Letter of Understanding reported 0.5 credits;
        2. One student’s transcript reported a credit of 1.0 for “Adapt Health and PE”. However, the Letter of Understanding did not report this credit; and
        3. One student’s transcript reported a credit of 2.0 for Army Jr. ROTC. However, the Letter of Understanding awarded a credit of 1.0.
      2. We could not determine whether classes taken and credits earned by 15 students were in accordance with DCPS Carnegie Unit requirements for the following reasons:
        1. Two student’s file did not contain a transcript;
        2. One student’s file contained a Letter of Understanding that was not completed by a counselor. In addition, the credits had not been properly calculated;
        3. The school could not provide a Letter of Understanding for 14 students;
      3. The Letters of Understanding in our sample did not report hours earned for community service.
    2. Mathematical accuracy of credits
      The school could not provide report cards for 11 students. In addition, the transcript of one student reported 2.0 credits awarded for Army Jr. ROTC, a one-year course while the report card showed 1.0 credit for this course.
    3. Grade changes
      The school could not provide electronic records for 6 students. The procedure was completed with respect to the remaining students without exception.
    4. Missing grades
      The procedure was completed without exception.
    5. Independent studies
      This school does not offer independent studies.
    6. Transfer credit
      The procedure was completed without exception.
  6. Tampering (Procedure #6, Page 11)
    Of the 59 student records included in our sample: 

    1. Twenty files were incomplete;
    2. The school could not provide scan sheets for 31 students;
    3. Scan sheets were not available for an additional 19 students who had transferred in;
    4. The school could not provide the electronic files for 6 students.
      We also noted that all administrative staff (i.e., principal, assistant principals, registrar and counselors) used the same password to gain read/write access to students’ electronic record. Because of these factors, the opportunity for tampering was greatly enhanced and the reliability of the students’ records was questionable.


Based on the procedures performed, we conclude that:

  1. Internal controls were inadequate;
  2. Student records were incomplete, inconsistent, inaccurate, and unreliable;
  3. We could not conclude with respect to tampering because a significant number of files selected for review were not made available to us.

A transcription of Michelle Rhee’s interview with Steven Colbert

How many lies and evasions can you find in Michelle Rhee’s performance on the Steven Colbert show? I did my level best to transcribe the interview.

STEVEN COLBERT: My guest tonight is the former chancellor of DC Public Schools. So my security team’s pat downs and metal detectors will be familiar to her. Please welcome Michelle Rhee!


Hey, Ms. Rhee, thanks so much coming on. Now, uh, young lady, you’ve got quite a… a storied history when it comes to reforming education. You were, uh, let’s see, this is a photo we have a, we got a shot of that maybe here on [camera] two. That’s a photo of you on the cover, uh, that’s Time magazine, uh, about two years ago.


SC: This time it says, “How to fix America’s Schools”.

MR: Yeah.

SC: You, you were the king of Reform School Mountain, and, and now you’ve just lost your job…

MR: Yes.

SC: … as the head of DC’s schools.

MR: I did.

SC: What gives? Who did you cross?

MR: Well, my boss, Adrian Fenty (laughs) …

SC: Yes.

MR: … who was the mayor of DC, uh, lost his election, so that means that I lost my job.

SC: So you lost your job and now the kids get left behind?

MR: Uh, well no, hopefully they don’t…

SC: Are you a fan of [the] No Child Left Behind [act] by the way?

MR: Actually, I am uh, a fan of No Child Left Behind.

SC: Thank you for saying that George Bush was our greatest president!


SC: That’s kind of what you are saying, then, because that was his thing, right?

MR: It was his thing and I actually think that you should give credit where credit is due, and this is one area that President Bush actually did a very good job in because he brought, he brought accountability to the public schools.

SC: Now as, as an educator, or as someone who was reforming education, what was the biggest challenge that you have faced?

MR: I think the biggest challenge was, was changing the culture of the school districts. I think that people were not used to being held responsible for, for what our jobs were, which was educating children.

SC: You talking [indistinct], you talking teachers’ union?

MR: I’m, I’m talking about the teachers’ union.

SC: Unions? You know we had a strike around here, you should do what I did. You know I sent out hooligans armed with truncheons, and I beat my writers until they came back here and they started to tippety-tappety again. Why didn’t you do that? Why didn’t you crack a few skulls?

MR: Well, we thought that, that, that we should use, you know, a carrot instead of a stick. And so what we wanted to do was, actually, set up a, a system where we  could pay the best teachers a six-figure salary and give them what they deserve, and also ensure that we, you know, hold them responsible for doing a good job that if they were ineffective we could quickly remove them from their duties.

SC: So let me take you to task for a second here. What is the big deal on education? Sell me on educating children. Why?


SC: Right? Because, because, why should I care? Let me put this delicately. Why should I care about the kids at George Washington Carver High School when my kids are doing fine at Ed Begley Junior Prep?


MR. Well, actually, a lot of people think that their kids are doing well at Begley Junior [indistinct] …

SC: My children are the smartest kids in the world!

MR: … however …

SC: My children are the most brilliant, beautiful, perfect children in the world!

MR: You may think so, but what the data says is that if you look at the top five per cent of American students they are actually 25th ouf of 30 developed nations in terms of the, the global …

SC Yes, but if I refuse to learn math, then I wont know that

[Indistinct, competing voices talking at the same time]

SC: You say, you say you want us to be number one again?

MR: Yes, that’s right.

SC: When were we number one? Is this not a myth? Were we ever ahead of Germany?

MR: Nyahs. [I think she was trying to say “yes’ – GFB]

SCL Really? They had jets in World War Two!

MR: America was number one in the 1950s. America, we were number one in graduation rates, we were number one in rates of going to college, and our proficiency rates were a lot higher than most developed nations.

SC: What happened? What happened? What has happened to our schools that you are trying to reverse?

MR: So I think that what happened is that we have a lot of special interests who are driving the agenda in public schools. You have, you know, textbook manufacturers, you have teacher unions, you have, you know, food service people, and the problem is that there is no organized interest group that represents children.

SC: What about the kids? Did you ask the kids how they think schools should be changed? Did you try 7-Up in the water fountains?


SC: Donut day?

MR: You know it’s interesting because I actually did talk to the kids all the time and I asked them if I could do one thing that would really improve your experience in school what would it be. And they didn’t ask for Sprite in the water fountain. They asked for great teachers. They said, if you bring us great teachers, that makes everything worthwhile.

SC: Well, what, now that you’re no longer the head of the DC public Schools, what is next for you? What job will you be forced out of next?


MR: Well, hopefully I won’t be, be forced out of any job, but I’m trying to figure out right now what makes sense of a, of a, a, next job.

SC: You ever thought of being a correspondent?

MR: Well, I’d be interested in joining the team.

SC: Do you have a resumé?

MR: Uh, no, I don’t.

SC: Ah, well, then we’ll need to see some references.

Well, thank you so much.

Michelle Rhee, former head of the DC Public Schools!

We’ll be right back!


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