The One Winner in Today’s NAEP Release: Michelle Rhee

By 10/14/2009

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There’s not much good news in today’s National Assessment of Educational Progress results for mathematics. As Chester Finn told the New York Times:

The trend is flat; it’s a plateau. Scores are not going anywhere, at least nowhere important. That means that eight years after enactment of No Child Left Behind, the problems it set out to solve are not being solved, and now we’re five years from the deadline and we’re still far, far from the goal.

But there is a silver lining for DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee (portrayed as “DC’s Braveheart” in a new Education Next profile): her schools, and those in just four states, were the only ones to post gains in both fourth and eighth grades over the past two years. That should give her reform efforts a much-needed boost.

Update:  The NAEP results can be found here.

Comment on this article
  • eFavorite says:

    Where can we see for ourselves what the gains were? It would be easy enough to post a link, as you did with other information in this brief piece.

    Regarding these rising scores, please keep in mind that they went up before Rhee started to institute one of her main reforms, which she has said quite clearly is to “transition out a significant share of the teaching corps”*

    She only started firing teachers at the end of last school year via performance evaluations and in October of this year via a RIF.

    So these gains (how big did you say they were?) were made with the very “bad” teachers that she wants to fire.

    * reference: page 36

  • edlharris says:

    DC NAEP Math Scores

    4th grade
    2000 – 192
    2003 – 205
    2005 – 211
    2007 – 214
    2009 – 219

    8th grade
    2000 – 235
    2003 – 243
    2005 – 245
    2007 – 248
    2009 – 254


  • eFavorite says:

    Yep, there it is – the rate of increase is down from the time of Rhee’s predecessors. Not much, and possibly not related to Rhee, but we don’t know anything, really until we do some research, which I’d think the educational community would want to do – would be morally compelled to do. At the very least, you, Mr. Petrilli, should retract your statement that the increase should give Rhee’s reform efforts a boost. The numbers imply (but don’t prove – actual investigation is needed for that) that whatever she is doing is slightly less effective than her predecessors, who have been scorned for doing no reform at all. Hey – look at the numbers! DC’s been on the rise for years and we didn’t hear about it until Rhee took the helm.
    Wouldn’t you like to talk to some of math teachers who have been teaching through several administrations and see what their impressions are of what’s causing the steady gains?
    How about studying those other states that had increases. Do they have leaders who manage by fear and intimidation? Would they consider it if they saw it working for Rhee? Do they intend to remove as many of their current teachers as possible in an effort to improve student achievement, even though its already improving?

  • Mike Petrilli says:

    That’s a fair point about the achievement increases preceding Michelle Rhee’s time in DC. What I implied in my post (and could have said clearer, I suppose) is that this news will give her a “boost” politically. I wasn’t arguing that it proves her reforms are working. But leaders in any turnaround effort need to show early successes if they want to keep momentum going and have the political room to keep pushing. I think this gives her some of that, for better or worse. And the media response–especially on the Washington Post editorial page–was exactly what a reformer like Rhee would want to see.

  • edlharris says:

    How to Get a Sweet WaPo Editorial
    Posted by Mike DeBonis on Oct. 14, 2009, at 4:35 pm

    In case you were doubting the tight relationship between the Washington Post editorial board and the upper echelons of the Fenty administration—particularly schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee—check this e-mail, sent on Oct. 5 from Rhee to embattled parks-and-rec director-designee Ximena Hartsock:

    Spoke to Wapo ed board folks about you today. Told them you are the most qualified person possible, that you have amazing capacity and that everything you do has your hallmark of excellence. They’ll write a good piece for tomorrow.

  • eFavorite says:

    Thanks for responding to my post. Yes, Rhee is all about getting political boosts and will skew data and even lie* about it if that’s what it takes to score politically. If she cared more about children than trying to make political points, she wouldn’t stage a RIF in the middle of the school year, making kids switch to classes doubled in size, not to mention watch their teachers being escorted out of school like criminals (Yes, it did really happen in some schools, despite Rhee saying it was a “rumor.”)

    *Follow the links below to see Rhee misleading journalists twice about the scores at Shaw Middle school. John Merrow of the PBS “Learning Matters” issued a correction on their documentary and Jay Mathews of the Washington Post, at my urging, made a correction when Rhee repeated the same misinformation months later during an online Q&A session.

    As for the Washington Post editorial board, they will say anything to defend Rhee. They have become the Baghdad Bob of DC school reform.

  • efavorite says:

    She’s done it again – with the same kind of data for reading as she had for math:

    Ok, go see for yourselves at:

    DC 4th grade reading scores:

    2003-2005 increase of 3 points, from 188 to 191

    2005-2007 increase of 6 points, from 191 to197

    2007-2009: increase of 5 points, from 197 to 202

    So the rate of increase is down 1% from ‘07 to ‘09

    Yet Rhee is touting it as a grand accommplishment

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