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)  
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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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