Ann Kane and M. Catharine Evans have been chronicling Michelle Rhee’ s story since she was DC schools chancellor in the influential conservative website American Thinker. While I’ve not always agreed with their conclusions, they’ve been spot of with their criticism. They weighed in yesterday on John Merrow’s PBS story which serves as the metaphorical smoking gun for Rhee’s involvement in the DC cheating scandal that happened on her watch.
Rhee continues to claim innocence regardless of the evidence piling up against her. If she was aware of high erasure rates in her school system and didn’t call for a thorough investigation (only 60 people were interviewed), like Governor Perdue of Georgia had (Perdue hired special investigators, who interviewed 2,000 people to get to the bottom of the Atlanta cheating scandal), then she is guilty of egregious negligence.
We do know that Rhee was very aware of the meaning of high-stakes testing and the implications for advancing her agenda. After giving a speech in Minnesota in November 2011, she stated emphatically, “I thought at the time that if we produced outsized results, people would want us to continue[.] … I was absolutely wrong. People cared more about the processes.” Yes, processes do matter, Ms. Rhee.
If Rhee’s intention was to get “outsized results” quickly, then the cheating scandal makes sense. Principals and teachers would be under the gun to increase scores. Rhee did reward some principals and teachers with bonuses based on those increases. If she knowingly paid educators for improved scores which may have come from illegally changing test answers, she would be facing the same consequences as Beverly Hall in Atlanta.
Evans and Kane are the first conservative voices to raise the point that Rhee’s actions mirror those of now indicted Atlanta superintendent Beverly Hall. But they point to the reality of what Rhee has become:
Since Rhee has managed to stay above the fray through careful public relations, she may still not have to answer for her actions if the onus is on others involved in the case.
What better example of “careful public relations” can their be that for Rhee to show up in Tallahassee where a there are bunch of politicians to whom she’s made campaign contribution. Wrapping herself in a Parent Trigger bloody shirt Rhee declared that to oppose it “is an unconscionable position to take.” Republican legislators are under pressure from Jeb Bush and the Florida Chamber of Commerce to pass Parent Trigger at any cost. They know they’ll have to hold their nose to do so and didn’t need the distraction of Rhee and her baggage.
No, Monday’s visit to Tallahassee was about Rhee and not Parent Trigger. She needed Tallahassee more than Tallahassee needed her. She needed Parent Trigger more than Parent Trigger needed her.