Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Apple polishing

Did Michelle Rhee's record turning around the schools in DC seem too good to be true? Well, it looks like there's a reason for that.

On the 2009 reading test, for example, seventh-graders in one Noyes classroom averaged 12.7 wrong-to-right erasures per student on answer sheets; the average for seventh-graders in all D.C. schools on that test was less than 1. The odds are better for winning the Powerball grand prize than having that many erasures by chance, according to statisticians consulted by USA TODAY.
"This is an abnormal pattern," says Thomas Haladyna, a professor emeritus at Arizona State University who has studied testing for 20 years.
A trio of academicians consulted by USA TODAY — Haladyna, George Shambaugh of Georgetown University and Gary Miron of Western Michigan University — say the erasure rates found at Noyes and at other D.C. public schools are so statistically rare, and yet showed up in so many classrooms, that they should be examined thoroughly.

Rhee's response is basically one of having her glass jaw tapped.

"It isn't surprising," Rhee said in a statement Monday, "that the enemies of school reform once again are trying to argue that the Earth is flat and that there is no way test scores could have improved ... unless someone cheated."
TESTING: In D.C., were the gains real?
USA TODAY's investigation into test scores "is an insult to the dedicated teachers and schoolchildren who worked hard to improve their academic achievement levels," Rhee said.
Rhee, who said Monday night that the investigation "absolutely lacked credibility," had declined to speak with USA TODAY despite numerous attempts before an article ran online and in Monday's newspaper. Her comments were made during the taping of PBS' Tavis Smiley show to air on Tuesday night.

Of which Alex Pareene at Salon pretty much gets it right

I'm sorry, but this is the "haters gonna hate" defense. It's just a blanket assertion of bias without any sort of attempt to refute the actual charges leveled against her. How is she not already a paid Fox analyst?

Rhee has been a superstar on the educational reform scene for a few years running now. She is especially popular among proud union busters. And yet the media has mostly treated her as a non-partisan, or even progressive figure. What's slipped under public notice is that she and many other reformers have been stacking the deck against unions and for privatization. If the story of these standardized test crop circles makes people a little less credulous, that's a step in the right direction.


susan said...

This just doesn't jibe with the definition of education.

Ben said...

Why that's the very definition of understatement. Yeah, schools have increasingly become a political football over the past 20 or so years, and it ain't healthy.