The New York Times this week ran a story (Michael Winerip), "Eager for Spotlight, but Not if It Is on a Testing Scandal") with this shamed-looking Rhee photo on how Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools has been generous with her access to a range of news interviewers, yet she has refused to speak to reporters at USA Today. As the Times noted, the test erasure charges swirling around Rhee come at the same time as allegations of cheating in Atlanta, Indiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas.
Rhee's whole self-promotion campaign has come from her argument that her get tough methods of attacking teachers and stressing tests over everything were successful. Yet, erasure analysis raises plenty of suspicious red flags. Translation: Rhee's success is illusory, contrived:
At some schools, they found the odds that so many answers had been changed from wrong to right randomly were 1 in 100 billion. In a fourth-grade class at Stanton Elementary, 97 percent of the erasures were from wrong to right. Districtwide, the average number of erasures for seventh graders was fewer than one per child, but for a seventh-grade class at Noyes Elementary, it was 12.7 per student. At Noyes Elementary in 2008, 84 percent of fourth graders were proficient in math, up from 22 percent in 2007.
Ms. Rhee’s reputation has rested on her schools’ test scores. Suddenly, a USA Today headline was asking, “were the gains real?” In this era of high-pressure testing, Washington has become another in a growing list of cheating scandals that has included Atlanta, Indiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas.
It took the USA Today reporters a year to finish their three-part series. So many people were afraid to speak that Ms. Bello had to interview dozens to find one willing to be quoted. She knocked on teachers’ doors at 9:30 at night and hunted parents at PTA meetings. She met people in coffee shops where they would not be recognized, and never called or e-mailed sources at their schools.