Back in March, USA Today broke the story about test score cheating in the Washington, DC school system under Michelle Rhee's watch. Since then, Rhee has been cozy with the DeVos family, Rick Scott, worked to undermine Tennessee schools, and continues her crusade with the assistance of former DNC official Hari Sevugan to bust unions in her quest "for the children."
Yet, she is curiously circumspect when it comes to answering allegations on the cheating scandals, particularly the Washington, DC cheating scandal. The New York Times reports:
These days, as director of an advocacy group she founded, StudentsFirst, she crisscrosses the country pushing her education politics: she’s for vouchers and charter schools, against tenure, for teachers, but against their unions.
Always, she preens for the cameras. Early in her chancellorship, she was trailed for a story by the education correspondent of PBS News Hour John Merrow.
At one point, Ms. Rhee asked if his crew wanted to watch her fire a principal. “We were totally stunned,” Mr. Merrow said.
She let them set up the camera behind the principal and videotape the entire firing. “The principal seemed dazed,” said Mr. Merrow. “I’ve been reporting 35 years and never seen anything like it.”
And yet, as voracious as she is for the media spotlight, Ms. Rhee will not talk to USA Today.
The video at the top of her firing the principal is one on Rhee's StudentsFirst website. She actually is proud of it, and perhaps it was justified. We really don't know one way or the other on that. But what we do know is that Beverly Hall may face criminal charges for the cheating in Atlanta on her watch. We know that Hall may go to jail over what appears to be the most egregious case of widespread cheating in U.S. history.
The cheating on Rhee's watch appears to be a close second to Hall's, which leads me to ask some questions about whether her principal firings were because they wouldn't cheat, or because they were incompetent.
More importantly, why are Democrats still lining up behind Rhee? She could possibly be one of the most divisive forces in the Democratic party today. Between her cozy relationships with the ultra-right wing "reformers," and her push to bust unions, it makes no sense at all.
Stephen Brill's book Class Warfare seems to confirm a strong tie between Rupert Murdoch and Rhee. According to Brill, Rhee received donations and/or pledges from Eli Broad, Rupert Murdoch, Julian Roberson, Ken Langone and others. At the time, donations for StudentsFirst were being collected from Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), which can only be described as a Third Way-type organization led by hedge fund managers and fat cat investor types. You know, the kind that would love to see public education become a new "market."
Education reform is necessary, but not the kind of education reform Rhee sells. Over on K12 News Network, educator Marion Brady has some harsh words for both the diagnosis and the so-called cure. Here is one of her ideas for a real cure:
First,they could stop basing education policy on the opinions of business leaders, syndicated columnists, mayors, lawyers and assorted other education “experts” who haven’t passed the 10,000-hour test – 10,000 hours of face-to-face dialog with real students in real classrooms, all the while thinking analytically about what they’re doing and why. “Experts” who see more rigor, more tests, more international comparisons, more “data-driven decision-making,” more math and science, more school closings, more Washington-initiated, top-down reform policy as the primary cure for education’s ills are amateurs.And policymakers who can’t see the perversity of simultaneously spending billions on innovation and billions on standardization, should find other work.
Read the whole thing. Brady debunks the entire myth of "data-based solutions" and brings the discussion to where it should really be: On how best to educate students by meeting them where they are.
Rhee and her ilk will continue to get the press, especially as long as businesses will profit from what she's selling, but these "solutions" are no solutions at all, and threaten to destroy public education entirely.