Earlier this week, USA Today published a study on public-school test scores in Washington, D.C., which skyrocketed under the controversial tenure of Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. They looked at one school in particular, Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus, which turned around so drastically under Rhee that she began to champion it as a model for her brand of success (a model she's taken on the road, in an effort to fund-raise it into a national movement). But while the number of kids who scored as "proficient" or "advanced" in math on standardized tests shot from just 10 percent in 2006 to 58 percent in 2008, so did the amount of changed answers detected by McGraw-Hill scanners as they reviewed them. In some classrooms, up to nearly 13 percent of wrong answers had been erased and changed to the correct ones — a rate far higher than normal (one percent), and one that suggested to some critics that teachers had been cheating for students in order to meet Rhee's impossibly high standards. This, they trumpet, could indicate a deep flaw in the threats-and-rewards system Rhee champions.
"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." It is "an insult to the dedicated teachers and schoolchildren who worked hard to improve their academic achievement levels," she added, saying the USA Today report "absolutely lacked credibility."
But this afternoon she did something of an about-face, telling Bloomberg Radio she is "100 percent supportive" of an investigation into the tests with suspicious numbers of erasures. "If there were isolated instances of this, those should be dealt with properly and we should actually discount those scores in those classrooms," Rhee said.
For the complete background on Rhee's crusade, check out her profile by Andrew Rice in this week's New York Magazine.
Michelle Rhee says she backs probe of D.C. test scores [USAT]
Related: Miss Grundy Was Fired Today [NYM]