… and not a very clever one.
The scandal about cheating on standardized tests in the DC schools couldn’t help but put a dent in Rhee’s reputation. Still, it was, barely, possible that Rhee was culpably negligent – but no worse – in the cheating and the cover-up via a grossly inadequate “investigation.”
However, her slime-and-defend reaction to the exposure of the cheating eliminates that possibility. She was, and is, complicit in the cover-up, if not the cheating itself. There is simply no honest explanation for the very high ratio of wrong-to-right changes to right-to-wrong changes. When a student changes an answer on a test, it means that student wasn’t very sure of the answer in the first place. Except for cases where the student got the bubbles misaligned with the questions, changes from right answers to wrong ones are almost as common as changes from wrong answers to right ones. The combination of very high change rates with very high ratios is a smoking gun. And there’s no way someone as sophisticated as Rhee could not have known this.
So when she blames uncomfortable facts on unnamed “enemies of school reform,” she’s bullsh*tting. One of her proposed innocent explanations for the large number of changes was that some schools chose to give students as much time as they needed to complete the tests. That may or may not be a good testing approach, but, if newly introduced, it makes complete hash of year-to-year comparisons. Again, that’s elementary; Rhee must know it, and her attempt to evade it convicts her of dishonesty.
I tend to be pro-measurement, though very leery about fill-in-the-bubble testing. But given how rotten the DC schools are and how resistant the union has been to making any changes, if I’d been voting in DC last fall I would have voted for Fenty: that is, voted to keep Rhee in office.
Nevertheless, based on this interview alone, I’m now prepared to say “charlatan.” This should be a complete disqualification for her ever having any active role in educational reform. The notion of giving her a billion charitable dollars to play with ought to be absolutely beyond the pale.
Unfortunately, with the only actual newspaper in the nation’s capital owned by a test-preparation company, this probably won’t damage Rhee’s career at all. Too bad. It’s people like her who give what still seems to me a good cause – fixing the public schools in poor neighborhoods, even at some cost to the people who work in those schools – a bad name. I’d been wondering why Diane Ravitch had changed sides in the “ed wars.” Maybe this is why.