Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What did Rhee know about cheating in DC schools?

Posted By on Tue, Apr 16, 2013 at 4:39 PM

This is a corrected version:
Nearly 200 teachers in roughly 70 schools appear to have been involved in another widespread city school district cheating scandal. This time, however, the “wrong to right” erasures may have happened during the tenure of the grande dame of education reform: Michelle Rhee, founder of Students First.

In a report called “Reign of Error,” PBS education reporter John Merrow questioned on his blog "Taking Note" why cheating in Washington, D.C. schools was not thoroughly investigated when Rhee was chancellor.

The erasures were discovered by a DC school official in charge of testing, writes Merrow. But what he says caught his attention is a memo that allegedly shows Rhee ignoring the official’s concern about reading scores at one school that jumped by 29 percent and scores in math that jumped by 49 percent.

Rhee handed out more than $276,000 in bonuses based in part on the higher scores. Though she said on the PBS television show "Frontline that she didn’t know the details about cheating in DC schools, but that she would look into it. Merrow hypothesizes that Rhee never pursued an aggressive investigation because the cheating simply didn’t fit her branding narrative.

Talk to teachers in elementary education today, and almost all will tell you that high-stakes testing is creating enormous anxiety. That’s partly due to the new teacher evaluations, where 20 to 40 percent is based on student test scores. There’s a lot of concern about whether test scores can fairly determine a teacher’s effectiveness.

And there’s even greater concern about what high-stakes testing is doing for students if teachers are spending too much time preparing for tests. The big question: What are students really learning?

Rhee continues to advocate for high-stakes testing and test scores as a measurement of teacher success. And politicians and education policymakers in many states have bought her neo-liberal reform agenda.

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