The controversial school reform efforts of former Washington, D.C., chancellor Michelle Rhee came under scrutiny this week, after a USA Today investigation uncovered evidence of possible impropriety on standardized tests administered during her tenure. At a school held up as a model of achievement under Rhee, 7th graders in one classroom erased an average of 12.7 wrong answers on reading tests and changed them to the correct ones. Their counterparts in all D.C. classrooms, on average, did so less than once. Rhee called the report "an insult" to dedicated teachers and students. Was the report a hatchet job, or is cheating Rhee's secret to success?
Statistics don't lie: It's simply statistically improbable that so many kids would erase and correct their answers at the schools that just happen to have rocketing test scores, says Alex Pareene in Salon. Rhee pointed to the performance gains as evidence that her reforms, which focused on privatizing schools, worked. But the evidence suggests the real reason might have been "an epidemic of cheating during Rhee's tenure, if not outright fraud."
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This is predictable push-back from Rhee's enemies: Nobody has proven teachers or administrators did anything wrong, says Brock at The Right Sphere. "In fact, an investigation has already been conducted and has shown there was no wrongdoing." But Rhee's critics on the Left will stop at nothing to smear her efforts to fire underperforming educators, and make public schools accountable. This is what happens "when reformers do bold things."
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It's fishy enough to investigate: Rhee accuses USA Today's reporters of "arguing the Earth is flat" because they suggested test scores couldn't have risen without cheating, says Mike DeBonis at The Washington Post. But she's the "flat-Earther here." Teachers and principals knew their jobs depended on bringing up test scores. So it's perfectly reasonable to ask whether there was cheating at rapidly improving schools, instead of dismissing "the prospect out of hand."
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