Loose Lips

Rhee on Erasergate: No Biggie

LL didn't have room in his column this week for some highlights of former Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee's new memoir. One particularly interesting passage is Rhee's take on USA Today's investigation that found an almost impossibly large number of erasure marks on standardized tests.

Rhee acknowledges that her initial response to the story—attacking it as "insulting" to teachers after refusing to comment to the paper's reporters—was "misguided."

"Journalists will scrutinize school systems. It's their role. But our reactions shouldn't be to push back at every doubter or negative article. We have to welcome scrutiny," Rhee writes.

She goes on to say that the USA Today's story was much ado about nothing, noting that the District's Office of Inspector General conducted a "seventeen-month examination of testing procedures and results. It found problems in only one school. The report concluded there was 'insufficient evidence on which to conclude that there was widespread cheating.'" She also notes that there hasn't been a dramatic drop in test scores that would indicate that previous gains had been ill-gotten.

It's worth noting that the IG report found evidence of cheating at only one school because it only bothered to investigate one school. (LL and others have already gone over what else was wrong with the IG's weak effort.)

Another fun anecdote details Rhee's roll-out as Adrian Fenty's pick as chancellor. The last LL reported many moons ago how the Fenty administration alerted Washington Post editorial writer Jo-Ann Armao (whom Rhee thanks in the book's acknowledgements, along with Washington Post Company CEO Don Graham) and reporter David Nakamura a full day before telling then-D.C. Council Chairman Vince Gray.

In her book, Rhee describes joining Armao and Nakamura on a Sunday at the Wilson Building, two days before the Fenty administration would announce her as the new chancellor. Rhee describes joining Fenty, Armao, and Nakamura in a room and launching into her spiel about why she was excited to take on the new job. "I realize that I'm a bit of an unconventional choice, but I know schools and I know school districts," Rhee said. She continues:

Armao and Nakamura were looking at me as if I were purple.

"Why don't you back up," the mayor said, "and tell them who you are and why you're here."

Are you kidding me? I figured the mayor had been prepping them, teeing up the conversation and explaining why they were sitting there on a Sunday afternoon. The announcement of the new chancellor was the biggest scoop in the city. But apparently the mayor had just been engaged in small talk. They had no idea who I was.

"Of course," I said. "I apologize. My name is Michelle Rhee. I am the new chancellor of the Washington D.C. public schools."

Jo-Ann Armao's jaw dropped.

David Nakamura smiled. He knew he had a scoop.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • RealDC

    What a FRAUD on every level!! Rhee is a carnival act and thank God she is gone. All Rhee did was bloat the central office with over paid under performing administrators. Just look at the central office budget under her... wasteful. More six figure do nothings than ever before. How is the high school graduation rate?

    School reform under Fenty was a joke and thank God he is GONE! The dirty secret that nobody mentions is the same "Shadow Campaign" that helped Gray, aided Fenty in 2006 and helped Fenty before Gray announced his mayoral run.

  • Drez

    Rhee reduced to size of the central office by over 350 people.

  • efavorite

    and then hired a bunch more at higher salaries

  • Drez

    Would be interesting to see a real comparison of staffing levels. Probably impossible to do since a common DC trick is to detail an employee to another agency for payroll and other record keeping purposes.

  • Drez

    Needless to say that is also a budget dodge. One of many.

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  • noodlez

    FOLKS LETS NOT FORGET THE PLAGIARIZING OF A NORTH CAROLINA SCHOOL DISTRICTS MANIFESTO VERBATIM BY THE FENSTER AND HIS COHORTS.

    THAT WAS THE BEGINNING OF THE END FOR DCPS.
    NO BASIC OBJECTIVES, NO DIRECTION AND AN AFTERTHOUGHT.
    THEN THE HIRING OF A NO NOTHING INEXPERIENCED PUPPET IN RHEE.

    MICHELLE RHEE CREATED A CULTURE OF RACIAL DIVIDE AMONGST TEACHERS, PARENTS AND STUDENTS WHEN IT WAS THE LAST VESTIGE OF UNITY IN THE CITY.
    SHE GOT RID OF AND VILIFIED OLDER EXPERIENCED BLACK TEACHERS WHO COULD RELATE TO MOST OF THE CHILDREN AND THEIR NEEDS.
    THERE WERE ALSO A COUPLE OF YEARS THAT SCHOOLS DID NOT START ON TIME.
    DCPS ATHLETICS WAS IN SHAMBLES.

    TO HAVE THIS WENCH MINIMIZE THE ONE INCIDENT OF CHEATING (TRUST ME THERE WAS MORE) JUST SHOWS HER LEVEL OF UNDERSTANDING AND IGNORANCE AS IT PERTAINS TO TEACHING AND GETTING CHILDREN TO LEARN.

    MAYOR GRAY SHOULD HAVE FIRED HER FLAT ASS PUBLICLY AND MADE A MOCKERY OF HER JUST LIKE SHE DID DC PUBLIC SCHOOLS.

    AS A TEACHER SHE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN ABOUT HOMEWORK AND STUDYING. AND IF SHE WOULD HAVE DONE HER HOMEWORK SHE WOULD HAVE KNOWN ABOUT SHARON PRATT KELLY AND PICTURES WITH BROOMS, CLEANING HOUSE AND DC.

  • Linda/RetiredTeacher

    Of course Rhee would find alleged cheating "no biggie." After all, her whole "reform" has been based on fraud. She knew that if she just made up test scores, most of the public would believe her because they had done so for many years. She just didn't count on people suddenly waking up to the fraud, but thankfully they did.

  • Rob

    Thank you noodlez and others for telling it like it is with respect to the fraud perpetrated by Michelle Rhee. Both Rhee and former mayor Fenty are frauds and are only heroes to those who could care less about the students and communities east of the park. We still have high dropout and truancy rates and we still lack a comprehensive curriculum that effectively teaches and motivates children to learn. No, the agenda that Rhee/Fenty pushed did nothing of significance to improve the lives of our children.

  • Typical DC BS

    The old DC ways did SOOOO much to educate the vast majority of kids here, didn't they, pre-Rhee? Please. Pissing money away foolishly on decrepit schools that are half-filled is a DC sport well-known to anyone who knows how to read financial statements.

    Now that Rhee is LONG gone, how much longer are people going to whine until they realize DC schools are STILL the worst, BY FAR, in the entire country? Stop making excuses for the "old" DC ways and whatever they're doing these days. THEY ARE STILL FAILING, BIG TIME.

  • Rob

    And what did 4 years of Rhee accomplish?

    In today's Washington Times.

    D.C. last in nation in rate of high school graduation

    Rhee was successful in closing schools and getting rid of a few incompetent teachers but did nothing in terms of improving student related issues. Most people can now see through the Rhee BS.

  • Jane Berstein

    My dear Drez,

    Yes, Rhee did reduce the size of the central office----but, while doing this, she ensured that the central office now has no trace of institutional memory, which is highly needed for any organization to run smoothly. Many, many people have contacted the central office (during and now after the Rhee Experiment) on school-related issues, requests, etc., only to get the run-around because no one there can answer questions---not even questions that relate to issues that happen in 2008 (when Rhee took over the helm of DCPS). There is now constant turnover in the central office---instability. Further, when you call a school on a past school issue, no one at the school and help you---as there is no institutional memory at the school. Don't call a school about past student records; they do not know where the records are located and will tell you that they can not help you.

  • Jane Berstein

    Drez,

    Did you learn about detailing employees and budget dodges from Rhee? Rhee did just that repeatedly.

  • Drez

    @Jane
    No.
    Gray's EOM does this.
    I learned about it there.

  • Drez

    At the end of the day, Rhee got schools opened on time, increased both test scores and enrollment, and got a new teacher contract where teacher performance counts as part of evaluations. These things are all true.
    Ignore the bitter haters. Keep your eyes on the future.

    And for those who think Rhree was no better than a wrecking ball to DCPS, well, I guess it's on you to ensure DCPS parents think you are anything better than that.
    Good luck.

  • PhillipMarlowe

    rez, so wrong on the test scores. As efavorite has documented here on occasion and over at the Washington Post, test scores have not significantly increased.
    What increases that occurred, they were in line with the general trend since 2000.
    Secondly, the rise in test scores stopped and the achievement gaps between races and classes began to increase.
    That occurred during Rhee's last year.
    And as for opeing schools on time, that seemed to be in line with the increased efficiency of the DC Gov, brought about by the likes of Williams and Fenty.
    Nothing special from Rhee.

  • Drez

    The word "significantly" is significant.
    Are you using a T test? Pray tell.
    I stand by my statements. They are factual.

  • Drez

    Oh, and scores went up for all races, just not up equally among them.
    So the whole "differences increased among races" meme is dishonest in intent, if not substance.
    The truth is that scores went up for everyone.
    My kids would read as black to you. So please don't try to play that BS with me.

  • Drez

    Next?

  • Jane Berstein

    Drez,

    Are you that naive or kidding? Test scores significantly DECLINED under Rhee and continue to significantly DECLINE under Henderson. DCPS never experienced a test cheating scandal until Rhee ran the DCPS! You have got to be crazy. I'm convinced!!!!!

  • DC=DistrictofCorruption

    If Fenty and Rhee did nothing else, they had us talking about education and kept working at it. This was the first time that education was the focus of this city in a long time. We can't have the same conversations with Kaya Henderson. While young white, two-income household parents assume responsibility for their children's education in their upper middle-class neighborhoods, poor minority children in the city are being left behind. Wake up, DC minority communities. A failed public school system is no different than the slave-masta's plantation system. Without a solid education, poor children grow up to be the equivalent of a slave, captive and strangled by economic and social structures because they lack the tools and skills to uplift them out of this cycle. It appears that the only time that minorities come out is when someone shakes up the status quo.

  • Drez

    Jane- you are ignorant.

  • Drez

    And I'm not kidding or niaive about anything, including my allegations of budget dodges.
    Follow that up, CP.

  • noodlez

    @DREZ THE ONLY THING THAT BROAD DID WAS CLEAN OUT AND ORGANIZE THE WAREHOUSE.
    HER ENTIRE TENURE WAS AN ABJECT FAILURE. PERIOD.

    @TYP BS-IT IS NOT ONE PERSON'S FAULT REGARDING THE FAILURES AND ISSUES THAT PLAGUE DCPS. WE ARE ALL TO BLAME!
    HOWEVER YOUR BOY FAGGIE FENTY MADE A BAD SITUATION WORSE BY INSTALLING INEXPERIENCED LEADERSHIP PERPETRATED BY AN INCOMPETENT POSER BLOVIATING ABOUT ALL THE THINGS THAT IS WRONG WITH DCPS, ALL THE WHILE CREATING A UNNEEDED DIVISION WITH TEACHERS THAT WILL TAKE YEARS TO BRIDGE OVER, THEN ON TOP OF THAT GO NATIONAL AS IF SIGNIFICANT POSITIVE CHANGES WERE MADE WHEN IN FACT THE SCHOOL SYSTEM WAS SET BACK 5+ YEARS WITH TEACHERS FORCED TO CHEAT ON MEANINGLESS TESTS, ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT IN WORSE SHAPE THAN EVER AND DC RESIDENTS CLAMORING FOR CHANGE...

    @DC-THERE ARE TIMES WHEN ONE SHOULD BE QUIET.
    THEN THERE ARE TIMES WHEN MOFO’S FOLK SHOULD SHUT THE FUCK UP.
    I’LL LET YOUR BAMMA ASS FIGURE OUT WHICH CATEGORY YOUR COMMENT BELONGS.

    ONE CITY.

  • NE John

    Declining scores are a constant here in DC, lol

    How low can they go? Into negative, or even imaginary numbers?

    One thing that is another constant here in DC for parents who REALLY want to educate their children: tuition. At least in the 56 years I've been here.

  • Drez

    @noodlez
    I said my piece in post #14.
    You know i told the truth.

  • Jane Berstein

    Drez,

    And, and dish ran away with the spoon; and. the cow jump over the moon!!! Whatever.........

  • Drez

    Nursery rhymes.
    How appropriate for you.

  • Typical DC BS

    @noodlez: Fenty wasn't my boy. Just pointing out that with Rhee long gone, schools here in DC are still the WORST in the ENTIRE COUNTRY. WE NEED MAJOR OVERHAUL, not just an engine replacement! Time to start from scratch.

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