Monday, January 7, 2013

Our parent report card for Michelle Rhee and StudentsFirst

credit:  Education Week
Michelle Rhee, former DC Chancellor and founder of the organization StudentsFirst, has come out with a new state by state report card, grading states on how well they adhere to the corporate reform agenda of privatization and “choice” (i.e. expanding charters and vouchers) , merit pay, and rigid evaluation systems based on test scores. 

Her grading scheme actually punishes states that have policies to reduce class size above grade three, or offer incentives to keep classes small – even though class size reduction is one of the top priorities of parents, and one of the few education reforms that have proven to work.  At the same time she gives points to states that either have mayoral control, support the “Parent trigger” or provide other ways to supersede the authority of democratically-elected school boards.
Even as Rhee often claims that student outcomes and achievement are what matters most, the two states with the highest student achievement in the nation, Massachusetts and New Jersey, received a “D-” and a “D.” California got an "F" for refusing to sign onto the provisions of "Race to the Top", including test-based evaluations of teachers; Richard Zeiger, the state's deputy superintendent, called the state's failing grade a “badge of honor.”
I thought it was a good time to reprint the Parents Across America report card for Rhee, where she received failing grades in categories important to parents.  See below.
Since our report card was produced, there has been more attention paid to the Rhee’s checkered past and recent failings :
  • ·         Evidence of widespread cheating in DC schools when she ran them, and her failure to investigate these allegations properly -- a special focus of a Frontline program due to air tonight [Correction: tomorrow night];
  • ·        The voluminous research pointing out that evaluating teachers on the basis of test scores through value-added models, as she pushed for in DC and now in her state report cards, is unstable,  unreliable and unfair.  (See the most recent analysis from a group of statistical experts, concluding that “We cannot at this time encourage anyone to use VAM in a high stakes endeavor.”)
  • The way she inflated the number of supporters of StudentsFirst, counting as members anyone who signed deceptively-phrased online petitions, calling for unobjectionable policies like paying good teachers more or stopping bullying in schools.
  • ·        How the teacher evaluation system she relied upon, called IMPACT, was altered after she left by her successor to diminish its reliance on test scores, dropping that component from 50 to 35 percent.
  • ·        How a recent report from the organization she used to run, TNTP, though predictably positive in its spin, revealed  that the IMPACT teacher evaluation system was  one of the top reasons that even “top performing” teachers plan to leave DC schools.  The report also cast further doubt on the system, saying that there may be a “flaw in the design or implementation of IMPACT [that] makes it easier for teachers working in low-need schools to earn top ratings.”
  • ·         The documented predilection of StudentsFirst to fund right-wing Republican candidates, despite claims of bipartisanship.
  • ·         Most recently, Rhee made a tone-deaf statement on the mass shootings in Newtown CT, calling such children “our most valuable assets”.
  • ·         Finally, her refusal to oppose a bill in Michigan that would allow concealed weapons in schools, until the legislation had already been vetoed by the Governor. 
If we were updating the report card today, we would certainly give her an “F” for her position on school safety as well.  
Here are some of our comments below:  Michelle Rhee has said that “cooperation, collaboration and consensus-building are way overrated.” She has an overriding belief in test scores despite numerous documented problems with standardized testing: People say, ‘Well, you know, test scores don’t take into account creativity and the love of learning.’...I’m like, ‘You know what? I don’t give a crap.’”   
We recommended remedial education for Rhee, to spend more time studying what parents want for their children, and what research shows works to improve education.  The report she put out today only reinforces our conviction that she needs to go back to school.

Michelle Rhee Report Card


  1. Thank you. I just unsubscribed to Students First after reading that Louisiana and Florida are supposedly at the top and New York supposedly so far down the line. Your blog confirms what I believe is really going on. Statistics to distort performance, crush unions by ending true effectiveness.

    1. I know for a fact that Louisiana's overall criteria is higher than most states. When calculating data, states can remove certain data such as special education students, limited English speaking students among other things to formulate their data. All states are using different data to calculate their final data, therefore the data is not truly accurate.

      By no means am I defending or supporting Rhee.

  2. She is one delusional puppie!

  3. She is a typical overachieving Asian American. It is all about their ego and achievement and test scores. They often take the SAT starting in 8th grade and take it each year until they are close to the perfect score. They are the largest minority at Harvard. Their families expect nothing but success at any cost--it gives them status in their community. I watched the show last night and was intrigued. I taught high school for ten years and am now at a community college for 20 years. Certain programs in the community college do have students who need to pass standardized tests to meet certifications but these students are given guidance, work in a collaborative environment etc. and are given the tools to succeed. Our faculty are highly involved in assessment of learning on an ongoing basis. Nobody wants students to fail but when working with adults, they have to make the decision to take charge of their learning.

    I can agree to dismissing teachers who are truly not performing. But what everyone needs to remember is that unions don't hire the teachers or train/educate the teachers. As far as Michelle Rhee is concerned, I would give her some credibility if she had taught for 15 years and all of her students could actually demonstrate reading fluency at grade level, not taking a test. Have them read to all the anti-union zealots. You can tell immediately if a 2nd grader can read. I have had three children of my own and reading was my priority. It takes practice, practice, practice. For someone who is supposedly so innovative, why didn't she step and try something such as having two teachers per classroom for the lowest performing students and schools. I have heard that school districts that try this have great success and students love it. One teacher presents the lesson and the other is providing immediate guidance. Not such a novel idea but then it might take a little more money. America talks the talk but will not "walk the walk". I told my daughter who is a college senior now to stay out of the teaching profession for her future career. I think she would be great but I don't want her to be subjected to the egomaniacs who think they have the 'answer' such as Michelle Rhee who are in love with tests. This is the culture of Asia. I have Japanese students who cannot think for themselves. They need to be told what to do and how to do it. It is all about the grade, not the content. Just because Oprah Winfrey thinks you're great doesn't mean you are. Remember the "Jagged Little Pieces" author who duped her. The test cheating takes away all of her credibility even if she didn't do it herself.

    1. Within in coporation, they invest heavily in their employees. No, all teachers are not as strong as others. But, why get rid of those teachers without giving them the support that they need to survive? They provide the resources in coporate, why are teachers any different?

      It is a proven fact that low performing schools have the highest turn rates, teachers fresh out of college and lack of resources. These schools are at a disadvantage.

      Everyone is quick to blame the teachers, but says nothing about the lack of parental support and students willingness to learn. Teachers cannot do it alone.

      Just for the record, Rhee and Henderson both have cheating scandals. By the way it is true. It's called cover up!

      What angers me the most is that the reform is only happening in Black communitied and Blac schools.

  4. I'm amazed that the comment above manages to insinuate that overachieving, getting perfect scores on the SAT, and attending Harvard are somehow undesirable traits. Is this really what America has become? A nation of underachieving, low-scoring, community-college-attending sour-grapers who wear their failure proudly as a badge of honor?

  5. Is that what the comment insinuates? Regardless of your position on this controversial issue, you might give your opponents the courtesy of a fair (and literate) reading. If anything is "insinuated" in the passage criticized, it is that perfect SAT scores and admission to Harvard are an inadequate "badge of honor" because they do not reflect a commitment to creative thinking or a love of learning.

    1. That's the way you perceived it. What I took away from the statement was, she lacked the knowledge and know how to effectively turn around DC schools.

      Just for the record, the White/Black achievement gap is even wider from Rhee and Henderson. Everything that was implemented benefited the already wealthy White schools. This top down approach has done nothing but fail the majority of minorities.

      She wrongly fired teachers and implemented a faulty evaluation system called IMPACT. FYI: most of those fired teachers have been reinstated with back pay. The other groups of teachers that were wrongly fired are due for reinstatement real soon.

  6. Glad to see that so many are figuring out the Corporate Myth that is Michelle Rhee. She's sure struck gold with her corporate ties and speaking engagements...why bother doing the hard work of really teaching...what a corporate schill. Everybody, every citizen is a stakeholder don't have to have children in school...these children are our future doctors, nurses, teachers and ultimately tax payers (sorry all you tax-haters, that's how we fund a functioning society). So Speak Up...Loud and often...don't let Michelle Rhee and her corporate buddies destroy the Public Schools and privitize them.