Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cheating scandal catches up with union-busting education 'reformer'

Michelle Me and someone else.
We know it's wrong to revel in the misfortunes of others, but we just can't help ourselves when it comes to Michelle Rhee.

If Michelle Rhee hasn't registered on your radar screen yet, she's a union-busting education "reformer" backed by for-profit education companies. She made her bones as the tough-on-teachers DC schools chancellor. Now she's running something called "Students First," which seeks to blame teachers for students' poor academic performance.

But this is all you really need to know about Michelle Rhee. According to the New York Times,
Always, she preens for the cameras. Early in her chancellorship, she was trailed for a story by the education correspondent of “PBS NewsHour,” John Merrow.
At one point, Ms. Rhee asked if his crew wanted to watch her fire a principal. “We were totally stunned,” Mr. Merrow said.
She let them set up the camera behind the principal and videotape the entire firing. “The principal seemed dazed,” said Mr. Merrow. “I’ve been reporting 35 years and never seen anything like it.”
Rhee (aka "Michelle Me") is the darling of the Governors Gone Wild.  Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder thinks she's great. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and Koch whore  Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker shared a speaking platform with her in May. Corporate stooge Ohio Gov. John Kasich aligned himself with her extremist anti-teacher policies. Of course New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tried to cuddle up with her, so to speak. And just last week she joined Florida Gov. Pink Slip Rick Scott at a charter school pep rally that turned out to be not so peppy.

Rhee's attacks on teachers ignore the reality of why kids aren't learning. It's because THEY'RE POOR. One out of every five kids in this country is living in poverty. The official child poverty rate grew 18 percent in the past decade. And 17 million American children go hungry. Parents working two and three jobs don't exactly have enough time to help with the spelling lesson. And they certainly don't have enough money to pay for Junior's math camp or flute lessons.

All that should be pretty damn obvious to everyone, but corporate education interests and loony billionaires prefer to blame teachers unions. It's all part of their quest to kill public education. Their heroine is  Michelle Rhee, who they've embraced because test scores improved in Washington under her leadership.

Only they didn't.

USA Today broke the story a while ago that there was lots of evidence of cheating in our nation's capital. (Cue Claude Rains in Casa Blanca.)
In just two years, Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus went from a school deemed in need of improvement to a place that the District of Columbia Public Schools called one of its "shining stars.

Standardized test scores improved dramatically...Michelle Rhee, then chancellor of D.C. schools, took a special interest in Noyes. She touted the school, which now serves preschoolers through eighth-graders, as an example of how the sweeping changes she championed could transform even the lowest-performing Washington schools. Twice in three years, she rewarded Noyes' staff for boosting scores: In 2008 and again in 2010, each teacher won an $8,000 bonus, and the principal won $10,000.
You know what they say about something that sounds too good to be true. Turns out the odds were astronomical that Noyes and other schools were cheating.
A USA TODAY investigation, based on documents and data secured under D.C.'s Freedom of Information Act, found that for the past three school years most of Noyes' classrooms had extraordinarily high numbers of erasures on standardized tests. The consistent pattern was that wrong answers were erased and changed to right ones.
Noyes is one of 103 public schools here that have had erasure rates that surpassed D.C. averages at least once since 2008. That's more than half of D.C. schools.
At some schools the odds that so many answers had been randomly changed were 100 billlion-to-one.
As Mike DeBonis understates in the Washington Post
...the existence of widespread test cheating poses an existential threat to the Rhee brand of school reform.
We predict Michelle Me will be doing a lot less preening for the cameras in the future.