The Stonewall to Protect Michelle Rhee and Teach for America

One time Michelle Rhee apologist, Jay Mathews, predicted a cover-up. He got one. Wrote Mathews in June of the snail’s pace of the DC inspector generals investigation of test-cheating which occurred on Rhee’s watch as DC chancellor:

What about all those erasures? (Current) D.C. schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson seems uninterested in the question. “I am pleased that this investigation is complete and that the vast majority of our schools were cleared of any wrongdoing,” she said.

I have been a reporter for 45 years. I have seen many cover-ups. This looks like one to me, and to many educators I have spoken to. D.C. officials have never investigated in any depth the wrong-to-right erasures that the District’s testing company began reporting in 2008.

Mathews was proved correct in yesterday’s release of  the report. For USA Today:

A 17-month investigation into possible cheating on standardized tests at Washington, D.C., public schools focused on only one school and did not expand to any other school with rising test scores and suspiciously high rates of wrong answers changed to right ones.

In a report issued Wednesday, city investigators said they found no reason to probe more than one elementary school, Noyes Education Campus, whose principal resigned in the wake of a USA TODAY story in March 2011. Investigators said they limited the probe because they believed news coverage of the scandal would limit future cheating — and because schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson handed over “no additional evidence” of cheating or “investigative leads to pursue.”

D.C.’s Office of the Inspector General said it considered expanding the probe to other schools, but concluded that “once the erasure issue came to light, any improper practices that may have occurred in the past would diminish.”

Here’s some of what Mathews wrote yesterday afternoon:

Many D.C. educators have convinced me that the wrong-to-right erasures at many schools, averaging more than 10 per child in some classes, could not be the work of the test takers. Students almost never correct their answers on such tests, since they have no effect on their grades. The answers had to have been changed, several teachers said, by school officials after the tests were handed in, since those officials would benefit from high scores.

The investigators made note of D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson’s defense of another elementary school with as many erasures as Noyes — J.O. Wilson. The report said Henderson defended Wilson as a great school where any visitor can see “quality, engagement and rigor.”

The investigation made no attempt to interview students at Noyes and ask them if they remembered making any erasures on test sheets full of indications of answers being changed.

I will have more on this in Monday’s column. I think the truth of what happened in these tests will come out some day, but not because of the three inadequate investigations financed with D.C. tax dollars.

Strangely neither Mathews nor USA Today mention Rhee in their report. No matter. Others already have.

Henderson’s statements and actions in this whole affair couldn’t be more suspicious. But they make sense. Like Rhee, she has a lot invested in the DC model and its test data being pure. Moreover, the DC teacher evaluation system she and Rhee conjured up known as IMPACT is being sold around the nation. Florida’s is now a virtual recreation after Rhee had a seat at the table with Gov. Rick Scott’s education transition team.

But Rhee and Henderson share something else. Both are Teach for America alums. A scandal on the level that DC is turning out to be could seriously cripple the reputation of Wendy Kopp’s organization. With Rhee and Henderson TFA’s most prominent figures, the money for the self-described non-profit could begin to dry up. Last year, TFA received $14.9 million in federal grants.




About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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2 Responses to The Stonewall to Protect Michelle Rhee and Teach for America

  1. Pingback: About that DC Cheating Investigation « Diane Ravitch's blog

  2. Excellent stuff. Interesting, the “No big deal because now it’s gotten so much attention it won’t happen again” attitude, but no expansion into the “Well, yes-but can we continue to heap praise, position and privilege on a person who didn’t really earn it (Rhee), considering much of the ‘success’ data is false?”

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