Thursday, March 31


WaPo Editorial Board, "Cheating allegations can't mask real gains in D.C.'s schools" March 30

I GUESS it's one of those things I'll always remember: "Where where you when you wondered where was Michelle Rhee when the entire house of cards that is her nascent anti-union empire crashed to the ground under the pressure of some good investigative journalism and basic diligence?" (Ans: In Indianapolis, same place where she was playing second-fiddle to the recorded voice of Mitch Daniels at an anti-union rally. Daniels could not personally attend the rally, supporting what he recently called the centerpiece of his 2008 campaign, "because he was traveling in Southern Indiana", which is a good sennight's drive from the state capital.)

(Say this for Daniels' handlers: they recognized fairly quickly that their man handles heckling about as well as Michael Richards does. As does Rhee, apparently--there's a shocker--since when she finally responded to USAToday it was to accuse them of "not believing test scores for poor children could improve without cheating".)

Somehow the Washington Post, which, of course, has been a major pom-pom shaker for Rhee, along with every other bad fucking idea in American public life for the past twenty years, got wind of the story, and responded with the editorial ("Yes, Cheating Appears To Have Occurred, But You Must Admit That Scores Went Up") excerpted and ridiculed below. (Full disclosure: The Post made $2.6 billion last year off Kaplan, Inc., the country's major peddler of test prep materials. Fuller disclosure: the Post doesn't bother to disclose that.):
ANYTIME THERE is a suggestion a school may have cheated its way to showing improved student achievement, there is reason for serious concern.

Y'know what? No. A serious concern exists when there is the potential transfer of large sums of public money or other forms of remuneration which might encourage people to cheat; see Cadillac, Legendary Welfare. What you have here in D.C. is reason for suspicion of felonious activity, which can only be described merely as "serious" by those who aren't facing incarceration themselves. Michelle Rhee is in Indianapolis right this minute helping to fuck with the livelihoods of several hundred thousand people; she's here through the grace of the serial misrepresentations of her accomplishments as a second-grade teacher and the Chancellor of D.C. schools. That is, by anyone's definition, beyond serious. Even if one believes that high-stakes testing tells us something about public education one is obliged to recognize the potential for gaming the system, and the far-reaching consequences that result. Not only was cheating going on under Rhee, there was no effort being made to watch for it.
That’s why D.C. school officials hired a high-priced outside expert to investigate what appeared to be anomalies on a number of student test sheets.

Who just happened to clear them.
It’s also why it is prudent for the system to take another look at the schools where tests were called into question.

That, and the fact that the whole program got caught with it pants down, its wiener rampant, and with a couple dozen nearby ewes wearing hipboots.
But to use the issue of erasure marks at a handful of schools to disparage the very real improvements made in recent years by D.C. schools is irresponsible.

Then call me irresponsible. (Is this the Obama Doctrine in action, by the way? We shouldn't let a few examples of the massive corruption underlining our every action dissuade us from the serious business of making headlines?)
Acting Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson on Tuesday asked the city’s inspector general to determine whether there were any improprieties at eight schools on standardized reading and math exams in 2009. Her request follows disclosures by USA Today of suspicious rates of erasures in which wrong answers were changed to right ones. The report centered on Crosby S. Noyes Education Center in Northeast Washington, credited with dramatic boosts in student achievement. There were extraordinarily high numbers of erasures for three years at the school. One Noyes classroom averaged 12.7 wrong-to-right erasures per student on a 2009 reading test when the average for seventh-graders in all D.C. schools on that test was less than one.

Y'know, first, there's a difference between being a whistleblower and turning state's evidence, and part of that is in whether they're entitled to the hosannas of the crowd. Henderson calls for an investigation after a little leg work by USAToday turns up a stinking pile of cess. That's not leadership, or responsibility, its the human instinct for covering an exposed body part being worried by a pack of hounds.

Second, the fact that there are four schools with cookie crumbs all over their collective face doesn't exonerate anyone else. It condemns the whole fucking system, like it or no. Anyone who was trying to obey the rules--despite the best efforts of Miracle Michelle--should have seen the high potential for abuse and responded accordingly, and in public. Otherwise, they're no better than Dönitz.
Experts caution against any simplistic reading of erasure rates;

Just as we would caution against listening to any experts willing to mouth that sort of flummery in public. Provided we had names.
there are many innocent explanations for changed answers.

And at 13 per student--all changed from wrong to right--you're gonna need all of 'em. Repeatedly.
Indeed, it was the finding of Caveon Consulting Services, the testing security firm hired by D.C. schools, that there were plausible explanations and no evidence of misbehavior at Noyes and the other schools investigated.

Five words: Arthur Andersen, Limited Liability Partnership.
John Fremer, president of Caveon, described the investigations — which included interviews with school personnel and data analysis — as “a thorough job working with credible data.” He told us that if there were reason to believe something was amiss, the company would have advised further action. Further scrutiny will show whether the city got its money’s worth on this investigation.

Yes, it would be premature at this juncture to jump to any conclusions based on the fact that a simple erasure test caught everyone red handed.
That the schools were cleared by an outside firm seen as premier in its field

"So Good We're Insured By The American International Group, Inc.!"
or that they represent just 2 percent of the system’s total testing,

And a mere 100% of what USAToday looked at,
hasn’t stopped critics of the reforms begun by then-Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee from seizing on the situation as evidence that the improvement in D.C. schools is a myth.

Well, whaddya expect from a bunch of racists, anyway?
Other tests — including the National Assessment of Educational Progress, about which there are no questions — showed significant gains in reading and math by D.C. students between 2007 and 2009. That’s evidence of progress that can’t be erased.

There's much to admire about the NAEP, but that doesn't allow it to confer blanket integrity to every test it's lumped with in an editorial. Nor does it make it systematic. Those figures are not actually available on the NAEP site, where the fourth-grade results are listed as "not available" and the eight-grade results show improvement in line with that nationwide--an ongoing improvement among African-American students which never gets mentioned as part of our National Trail of Shameful Public School Failure, by the way--but ex-Mayor Fenty and ex-Miracle Worker Rhee did announce those results last spring. So it's gotta be true, right?


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

...along with every other bad fucking idea in American public life for the past twenty years...

I think you can date this trend to the day Donald Graham took over.

dwhite said...

This goddam country is going to hell,... except I don't believe in hell; so goddamit where are we fucking going?

John deVille said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John deVille said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John deVille said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John deVille said...

This NC history teacher thanks you for this perfect send-up of the Her Great Fraudness & Bully Rhee.

We're covered up with her clones -- they grow like fucking kudzu in "Educational Leadership" programs. And the patch keeps spreading and getting stronger.

We can only hope GOP overreach in the various state houses renders the "Data-driven DNA" impotent and out to sea like the Andromeda Strain.

Anonymous said...

Bob Somerby at dailyhowler regularly works this story.