Saturday, February 4, 2012

Mayor Slay's Education Team Turns a Blind Eye to Michelle Rhee's Scandals

Michelle Rhee, hailed as a prophet by people who want to privatize education and destroy teachers' unions despite her sketchy results and lack of an education background other than a year short stint teaching, is getting involved in Missouri politics, with her group "Students First" (bankrolled by undisclosed donors) pushing for new education laws in the state. Local right-wing zealot Mark Reardon naturally had Rhee on his radio show to discuss her history and the legislation. Here's what Mayor Slay's education adviser Robbyn Wahby, last seen attending a Koch brothers-funded American's for Prosperity propaganda panel on education with Dick Morris, Dana Loesch, and Gateway Pundit, had to say about it:

It's sad that the Mayor's staff would so uncritically praise Rhee's status despite the fact that numerous experts have claimed that the D.C. school district results that catapulted her to fame were fraudulent. A recent article explained it well:
Investigations questioned many of Rhee’s accomplishments in increasing test scores in D.C. schools. In 2008, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education discovered that 103 schools -– more than half of D.C. schools -- were flagged by third parties for suspiciously high wrong-to-right answer changes. These including eight of the 10 campuses where Rhee handed out TEAM awards “to recognize, reward and retain high-performing educators and support staff.”

During Rhee’s tenure, CTB/McGraw-Hill informed her office of abnormally high rates of answer changes at Noyes Elementary School. Answers were consistently changed from wrong to right. The gains in test scores made at Noyes earned the school recognition as a Blue Ribbon School. Rhee promoted the school as a model for her education reform movement.

Statisticians, including Professor Emeritus Thomas Haladyna, told USA Today “the odds are better for winning the Powerball grand prize than having that many erasures by chance.”

Haladyna suggested the answer sheets had been tampered with.
The Washington Post reported Jan. 31 that for the most part there was little meaningful change in the D.C. schools’ testing performance over the past two full school years following Rhee’s exit.

Moreover, the graduation rate was also essentially unchanged -- moving from 72 percent in 2009 to 73 percent in 2010 (2011 rates will be released later this year).

According to Rhee’s own policy standards, her performance bonus program has not worked. And the same thing goes for her other signature policies, including D.C.’s new evaluation system and the annual dismissals based on the results of that system.
So Rhee is someone with almost no education background, who is being funded by undisclosed donors, and whose only success story was based on an absurdly high erased wrong-to-correct test answers. Yet she is being hailed uncritically by Mayor Slay's staff in order to push their agenda (and, no doubt, to keep that sweet, sweet Sinquefield money flowing to the campaign). If Slay's office really wants to claim that they're doing this "for the children," then they owe it to the children to make sure they are relying on credible information rather than propaganda.

Update: To be clear, Rhee doesn't, as far as I know, advocate for the privatization of schools; I just meant she's a hero to those who do. And I agree that we need changes in education, but let's do it carefully and not rely on the gospel of someone whose "success story" looks pretty questionable and is currently being investigated!

1 comment:

  1. Robbyn Wahby wrote a letter to the editor of the StL PD a couple of years ago. She wrote after the senseless killing of a StL Police Officer outrageously blaming the StL Public schools. I have absolutely no respect for her and certainly lowers my opinion of Mayor Slay. She's not so much an education adviser as an advocate for vouchers.