Indictments in Atlanta Cheating Scandal Make Me Wonder: When Will Michelle Rhee & Her Enablers Also Be Indicted?

Those who trust our DCPS leaders to do the right thing regarding building a school here in Turkey Thicket should consider this:
Beverly Hall, the ex-superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, was just indicted with a recommended multi-million-dollar bond for leading a massive cheating ring run by her and some administrators and teachers on their state’s standardized tests; she and her cronies raked in big bucks and much fame and honors for these fake high scores. A link to today’s NYT article:
USA Today ran a brilliant series of investigative columns about a year or so ago on cheating by adults on standardized tests in Atlanta, Washington DC, and several other cities. The cheating here in DC, according to their serious, well-documented investigation, was about on a par with that in Atlanta, IMHO.  The most brazen example that they found — and one of the few examples where the reporters could find people willing to speak on the record — was right here in Brookland at Crosby Noyes ES/EC, under then-principal Wayne Ryan. You may have also noted that the principal at Noyes who followed Ryan found extremely clear evidence of said cheating ring, and spoke out about it, and was forced to resign for telling the truth. (Look up John Merrow’s PBS special on that.) That principal was later also publicly vilified by Henderson — essentially for telling the truth about the cheating.
If you recall, Ryan earned big bucks, a promotion, and lots of fame and honors for leading a ring of teachers and administrators who changed students’ answers on the DC-CAS for many years. Michelle Rhee promoted him to the central office as being “all that” – a position that he mysteriously abandoned once the excrement hit the ventilator (figuratively speaking), just as Beverly Hall conveniently retired.
Rhee herself similarly lied, repeatedly, in print and in numerous interviews, about her own non-existent, utterly unbelievable “90% below the 13th percentile rising to 90% above the 90th percentile” miracle in Baltimore. She lied about much more on her resume, and once chosen to be chancellor, gave all DC principals marching orders on how much to inflate their students’ test scores in the coming year and earn big bucks, or be fired. Kaya Henderson defended Rhee and Ryan, and was deputy to Rhee during all those shenanigans and lies.
BTW: I and many others have shown that there has been NO tremendous surge in NAEP scores in DCPS under the disastrous reign of Rhee and Henderson. The one big change is that the gap between the scores of the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, between those of white kids and non-white kids, and between those with free or reduced-price lnches and those without, has WIDENED and the gap is by far the widest here in DC than in any other state or city. If you don’t believe me, go look up the NAEP scores yourself, or look in my blog under NAEP in its little search engine. (You can also use my blog to do searches for the original news articles on the scandals I am discussing here.)
I wonder when the turn before the grand jury will come for Ryan, Henderson, and Rhee.
(Obviously not while we have Arne Duncan in the DOE and Charles Willoughby as our IG.)
My conclusion is this:
My neighbors here in Brookland should not expect any of the people I mentioned to do anything right for you or for me or my kids or my grandchild-to-be.
The people I named are utterly corrupt, and take their lying very seriously.
Not our welfare.
Your thoughts?

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.

More Evidence on Lies and Deceptions by Michelle Rhee, Kaya Henderson, and Wayne Ryan

Quite a few interesting articles and documents showing that the so-called ‘reforms’ initiated in Washington, DC public schools under Michelle Rhee were nothing but smoke and mirrors, subsequent to the Frontline special (which was 90% puff and 10% good solid investigative journalism, thwarted by lack of cooperation from most DCPS employees).



First, Frontline reporter John Merrow gave much more detailed information about what Noyes ES ex-principal Adell Cothorne said. His written report, very much worth reading, is here.



Second, Cothorne’s own suit against DCPS can be found here, as a pdf. I am posting below a few key paragraphs.


Click to access cothorne-v-district-of-columbia.pdf


Third, Jay Mathews has his reaction to the additional information provided by Ms. Cothorne.



Fourth, we have an explanation from Mary Levy on Diane Ravitch’s blog as to why the investigative authorities chose not to do any real investigation at all into the rampant cheating that took place in DCPS to make it appear as if an educational miracle was taking place under the magic spell of Michelle Rhee.






As promised, here are some selections from  the lawsuit filed by Adell Cothorne, former principal who took over at Noyes and found the rampant cheating there. The alert reader will note that specific individuals are name

lawsuit 1

lawsuit 2
lawsuit 3lawsuit 4lawsuit 5lawsuit 6

Whitewash by DC’s Inspector General on Cheating on High-Stakes Tests in DC Public Schools

The DC Inspector General’s office has issued a report that attempts to cover up the blatant cheating by adults that occurred over a period of years in a number of DC public schools.

It’s quite a whitewash.

If you want to see the entire report, it’s a PDF that at times can be quite tricky to pull up from the web. Try cutting and pasting this entire link into your browser instead of just clicking on it:

Please do read the entire thing. Its lack of logic is amazing.

Here’s part of my take on it:

During the investigation, one teacher at Noyes ES explained to the investigators exactly how she was directed to cheat:
(1) Arrange the seating so that the students who were unlikely to pass the high-stakes test were seated in theback of the room during test time. There, whatever cheating the adults did would not be visible from the hallway.
(2) Then stand next to those kids and quietly point to the questions they got wrong.
(3) Keep pointing until they finally bubble in the correct answer.
(4) Make it official school policy that none of the DC “state” (OSSE) monitors were never allowed to enter the classrooms to watch how the tests were administered; in the one case where one of the monitors entered a classroom, call that monitor on the carpet and make sure it never happens again.
Notice, this is a teacher saying, in essence, “Here is how I was instructed to cheat.” Naturally, the IG blows off the allegations in the best whitewash style, since the principal denied all of it and claimed that the statistically impossible number of wrong-to-right erasures were simply students following best educational practices. (Hogwash!)
However, the part about the monitors being forbidden to enter the classrooms is confirmed by the IG.

Let us recall that Wayne Ryan, the former principal of that school, earned big bucks and glory as a result of  these cheating schemes, and so did the teachers and other staff. Note in the report that the only reason that the OIG investigated was because DCPS got a huge black eye from solid investigative reporting by the staff at USAToday. Not because the testing company itself said there were tons of classrooms with statistically impossible numbers of wrong-to-right erasures.

Somehow the IG couldn’t find the child whose anomalous Noyes were featured in that newspaper report. They interviewed 23 students — probably hand-picked by Noyes administrators–  and the ones they interviewed didn’t remember any cheating.

Well,  duh. If you were a strong student, you sat in the front of the class during test week, and you couldn’t see the teachers cheating with the weaker students.

Nothing in the OIG report about the erasure parties held by the Noyes administrators where they went into the room where the tests were stockpiled, and began erasing wrong answers and bubbling in correct answers.

They did note a number of other examples where teachers got access to the questions early, photocopied the questions, and drilled their students on how to answer them correctly.

But since Wayne Ryan  denied it all, then the IG said, in essence, “Case closed.” Even though Noyes’ proficiency rates fell from ~85% of the students all the way to ~25% after more stringent security.

Incredibly, the IG saw no reason to investigate any other school.

Move along people, nothing to see here. Syke.
Kaya Henderson, the current DCPS chancellor, is of course playing a double game. She was #2 under Michelle Rhee, when Ryan was awarded with publicity, being held up as a positive role model in official DCPS literature, ads, and Rhee pronouncements.

He even got promoted to assistant superintendent.

He was clearly cheater in chief at Noyes, under the Rhee-Henderson regime.

Not too long after Rhee resigned, and after the USAToday series, Ryan was quietly allowed to resign from DCPS with no explanation.

Henderson now says its a shame that a handful of staff members at Noyes cheated. The implication is that it was a handful of  teachers. No admission that it was Michelle Rhee and Kaya Henderson’s poster boy — an assistant superintendent, no less — who was the cheater-in-chief.

And of course Henderson and the OIG now pretend that there was no other cheating in DCPS. Well, if the OIG doesn’t bother to investigate any other schools, then they most likely won’t find any cheating!

If this isn’t a whitewash, then pigs fly like hummingbirds.

%d bloggers like this: