Michelle Rhee was always mediocre!

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2013

But the Post keeps shilling along: Michelle Rhee has published a book about her career.

Sunday, the Washington Post started shilling. Atop page one of the Outlook section, Jennifer Howard penned a 1600-word piece about Rhee’s book.

A large color photo helped sell Howard’s piece. Three more photos appeared inside.

In the hard-copy Post, the headline said this: NO REGRETS.

Presumably, the headline referred to Rhee’s attitude about her three years in the DC schools. But it might have referred to the Post’s attitude about its own endless shilling.

Rhee’s new book is called “Radical,” a flagrant bit of self-flattery. According to Howard, Rhee is still advancing the idea that mediocrity can’t be allowed in the schools—a somewhat ironic battle cry, given the rank mediocrity which characterized Rhee’s work in DC.

But first, an amusing anecdote! Early in her piece, Howard presents this story from Rhee’s education-first childhood. Howard reads the story one way. We would read it another:
HOWARD (2/10/13): Before Rhee gets into all that, she revisits her first-generation childhood in Toledo as the daughter of strict Korean parents. Respect for teaching ran in the family; close relatives were educators in Korea, a country Rhee's father calls "education crazy."

The family emphasis on education sometimes went a little far. Rhee remembers when her little brother, Brian, came home with a lackluster grade. "My mother immediately grounded me," Rhee writes. Why? "It is your responsibility to make sure that he is doing what he needs to do."

She tells the story to get at the imbalance of gender roles she grew up with, but it's tempting to see in that moment the beginnings of her insistence that schools and teachers be held accountable for how their students perform.
Rhee’s younger brother was having problems—so Rhee’s mother grounded Rhee!

For our money, Howard misses the way this story connects to Rhee’s time in DC. For our money, this peculiar conduct by Rhee’s mother is very much like Rhee’s approach to her work in DC. Here’s why:

As best we know, Rhee never introduced new approaches to instruction when she found the DC schools in extremely bad shape. Instead, she simply threatened the teachers. She insisted that they fix the mess!

There’s nothing wrong with putting pressure on teachers. There’s nothing wrong with firing slackers—quite the contrary.

But in our view, Rhee was highly mediocre in the realm of instructional practice. Alas! Rhee’s mother pushed the onus onto Rhee—then Rhee did the same with the teachers!

That strikes us as mediocre performance. But it seldom seems to occur to Rhee that she might have been one of the low performers in DC’s schools—and you’ll never encounter such a thought in the Washington Post.

Rhee brought a ton of energy to DC—but how much else? Early on, Howard describes the obstacles Rhee confronted. We’d like to record our reaction:
HOWARD: I'll leave it to others to argue whether Rhee did the right thing here in Washington. But even the fiercest Rhee-haters among my friends and neighbors agreed with her that DCPS needed help. Some schools, especially in the richer parts of town, enjoyed good test scores and high graduation rates. Elsewhere, in my Southeast neighborhood and in other wards, students trailed far behind their peers nationally in math and reading. Many kids didn't stay in school at all.

"The dropout rate was above 50 percent," Rhee writes. "The achievement gap was a canyon." Teachers weren't sure they'd have the textbooks and other materials they needed. School buildings suffered from a lack of maintenance and repairs. The system was a mess—"a whole different level of bad," Rhee calls it.
We don’t doubt that this picture is basically accurate. DC’s test scores certainly suggest that the system was in very bad shape—that Rhee was faced with a genuine mess when she entered the system.

But as we read that passage, our own experience from teaching in Baltimore led us to focus on one statement: “Teachers weren't sure they'd have the textbooks and other materials they needed.” Our reaction?

If DC’s kids were as far behind as test scores seemed to suggest, it’s very hard for teachers to get appropriate textbooks and other materials.

It’s hard to get textbooks the students can read—textbooks whose instructional programming meet the students where they are. This very much isn’t the fault of the teachers. If such materials aren’t available, it’s the ultimate responsibility of the superintendent!

We never got the slightest sense that Rhee had any sense of that. But then, we taught for a dozen years in Baltimore’s schools. Rhee fled for Harvard after three, trailing bogus tales about her own vast genius behind her.

This brings us to the most striking part of Howard’s piece—the way it buries the bodies. The piece runs 1600 words, encompassing 22 paragraphs. But it isn’t until the final paragraph that this little birdie peeps:
HOWARD: Rhee started something the city is still playing out. Kaya Henderson , Rhee's deputy, succeeded her as chancellor under the current mayor, Vincent Gray. Henderson has a quieter style than Rhee did. Although debates still rage over individual schools, charter alternatives, test scores and the occasional cheating scandal, fewer feathers seem ruffled these days. But the new chancellor seems just as willing as the old one to close schools and hold accountable a system that for too long let too many Washington students and their parents down.
“And the occasional cheating scandal!” Incredibly, that represents Howard’s full discussion of the cheating scandal which afflicted Rhee in DC—an echo of the manifest bullshit she constantly spread about her own teaching career.

When Rhee arrived in DC, she was still spouting highly improbable claims about the amazing test scores attained by her students in Baltimore. Rhee understood standardized testing so poorly that she didn’t seem to realize that her grandiose claims were essentially absurd on their face.

It soon became clear that her claims were false—although anyone with an ounce of sense would always have assumed that. Not Rhee—and not the Washington Post! Having told ridiculous tales about those brilliant Baltimore scores, Rhee was soon dogged by ridiculous scores in DC.

As it turned out, those DC scores were bogus too! Howard buries this massive mediocrity deep inside her last paragraph.

That said, Rhee has tidied her game. When she arrived in DC, she was making highly specific claims about the test scores her Baltimore kids had attained. Those claims were ludicrous on their face, but journalists at the Post couldn’t tell.

In her new book, Rhee has finally enacted a bit of reform. This is the way she now describes her vast success in Baltimore:
RHEE (page 53): By the end of my time at Harlem Park [Elementary School], my kids who had been with me for the second and third grades were soaring. I would have put them up against kids from any private school in Baltimore...These were children who had life stories couldn’t even imagine. Despite all that they came to school every day. They’d come early, and stay late. They came on the weekends. They worked hard. They fought through all the noise and the people telling them, “Don’t do what that Chinese lady is telling you to—come out and play instead.” They’d do their two hours of homework. And they went from being at the bottom to being at the top academically.
Rhee has learned one lesson. She no longer makes specific claims about the test scores her students achieved. For decades, she made specific claims which were absurd on their face. In this way, she rode to the top on the backs of those kids who had those hard “life stories.”

By now, the data are gone! Rhee no longer uses numbers when she makes her grandiose claims. That said, there is still no evidence that Rhee achieved the type of success she describes. Given the overall test scores at Harlem Park during those years, it’s hard to see how Rhee’s claim that her students “soared” could be possible.

We admire the energy Rhee brought to DC. We admire the way she spoke up for deserving urban kids. In fairness, she never could have gotten far without the massive gullibility of our modern “elites.”

But Rhee was always mediocre. At the Post, mediocre journalists still don’t seem to know that.

15 comments:

  1. "...mediocre journalists still don’t seem to know that."

    And as long as Rhee is prescribing the pre-approved medicines, she will *never* see the criticism her record merits.

    As long as Rhee is pitching for the anti-union, anti-public-school team, she just won't be examined with an unblinking eye.

    It almost makes one wonder: is the journalism "mediocre" -- or is it rigged?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Michelle Rhee - The famous former Washington DC School District Chancellor

      https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=215125001967375&set=vb.145530532162873&type=2&theater

      Michelle Rhee on OPRAH https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPsqO17f6Lw


      Michelle Rhee on abc's ThisWeek https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nep1mcaFthU

      Michelle Rhee on The DailyShow with Jon Stewart
      http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-february-4-2013/michelle-rhee
      http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-february-4-2013/exclusive---michelle-rhee-extended-interview-pt--2
      http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-february-4-2013/exclusive---michelle-rhee-extended-interview-pt--3

      pbs.org FRONTLINE: The Education of Michelle Rhee
      http://video.pbs.org/video/2323979463/ http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/education-of-michelle-rhee/

      Time Magazine: Rhee Tackles Classroom Challenge
      http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1862444-2,00.html

      Michelle Rhee Discusses "Waiting for Superman," Charter Schools And Sch... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLih24QdwH8

      Why Teach For America works - Michelle Rhee
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUs_hsHaqSA

      A Two-Tier Proposal for Teacher Pay - Michelle Rhee
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pii96AoTPw

      Stanford University: A Conversation on "Waiting for Superman" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xzrjo7Fvs1A

      "Radical" Fighting to Put Students First should be a must read for all studentsfirst.org members! Michelle Rhee's new book, "RADICAL: Fighting to Put Students First," is now in stores! For more information about where you can find it, to read an excerpt from the book, and to share your story about education in America visit the official site at http://www.edradical.com/ or http://www.facebook.com/edradical.
      http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/michelle-rhee/510ff3b02b8c2a138f000747

      Michelle Rhee at the ACE 2011 Spring Luncheon https://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=mO9F-amHDuw

      Michelle Rhee and Kevin Johnson (4/20/11) https://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=OCcNzh7C_Tk&feature=endscreen

      Michelle A. Rhee 03.17.11 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KD0g8Jb9l78

      Cornell Alumni: Olin Lecture 2012: Michelle Rhee '92https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwFD-wkAEi8

      Harvard Public Health: Michelle Rhee, Former Chancellor of Washington D.C. Public Schoolshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jH0twXcxNUY

      http://fora.tv/2013/02/07/Michelle_Rhee_Fighting_to_Put_Students_First

      Geoffrey Canada - Conversations at KCTS 9
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxP6Ov5PSG8
      Geoffrey Canada interviewed by Julian Bond: Explorations in Black Leadership ...
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2f5MZKf6Uu4

      "Waiting for Superman" the documentary and Bloomberg documentary "Risk Takers" Michelle Rhee should a required screening for all studentsfirst.org members. I saw them on Netflix and became an instant member of studentsfirst.org and Michelle Rhee follower.

      "Won't Back down" the movie is another example to screen to all studentsfirst.org members.

      Share the reasons you fight for education reform. Your story will inspire others to get involved. So tell us: Why are you working to put students first? http://www.studentsfirst.org/facebook-story

      Check out today's blog by StudentsFirst staffer Charity Hallman, "One size fits all, or so they said," on The Fordham Institute's "Education Gadfly Daily: FLYPAPER" blog.

      To view the Fordham study, "When Teachers Choose Pension Plans: The Florida Story," visit http://www.studentsfirst.org/fordham-study-on-fl-teacher-pension-reform

      Watch MAKER videos on StudentFirst Founder Michelle Rhee visit www.makers.com/michelle-rhee

      Delete
  2. Let's see: Rhee is the most prominent face of the for-profit education movement. The main subsidiary of the Post's parent company is Kaplan, a for-profit education company. Of course the Post is shilling. It would be puzzling if it weren't extolling Rhee's virtues while soft-peddling her failures.

    Speaking of performance, you do much better on the NAEP stuff, Bob.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The NAEP stuff is terrific. But what's wrong with showing how the Post promotes Rhee and why it is unsupported by evidence?

      It's easy to be cynical about the Post's motives, but we should thank TDH for labor and intelligence with which it documents Rhee's career.

      And I'm generally a sour critic!

      Delete
    2. Anon 1139:

      "What is wrong with showing how the Post promotes Rhee ....?

      Answer: nothing

      "What is wrong with showing how the Post promotes Rhee and why it is unsupported by the evidence?"

      Answer: nothing

      "It is easy to be cynical about the Post's motives, ...."

      Answer: Yes it is, since they have a substantial financial stake in promoting for-profit education and in fact promote for-profit education whenever possible.

      "...we should thank TDH ...."

      Answer: Thank you, Bob.

      Question: where in the post under discussion does Bob even mention any connection between the Washington Post and Kaplan?

      Answer: Nowhere

      Question: Why might that be important?

      Answer: To provide one explanation WHY the Post is a big Michelle Rhee cheerleader to further explain Bob's position that the Post is in the tank for Rhee.

      Have a sour day!

      Delete
    3. I believe he's made the link between WaPo and Kaplan several times in the past, but you are right, he doesn't do it here.

      Delete
    4. Anon 1236,

      TDH's piece was a blog post, not a book length treatment of corruption in corporate media. You certainly haven't added any evidence to support an accusation against the Post for promoting Rhee to further their financial goals. Why shouldn't the Post review a book by the former DC schools honcho? Was it wrong for the Post to publish a book review authored by a senior reporter for The Chronicle of Higher Education?

      TDH was right to keep the scope of the piece to the review itself and to Rhee's career.

      Getting sourer all the time.

      Delete
  3. For the most depressing op-ed piece in the world:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/15/us-education-reform-lessons-from-finland

    Yes, it's about educational success in Finland.
    And on the same day when Krugman publishes a piece about zombie ideas.

    ReplyDelete
  4. It should be of no surprise that teaching professionals are dishonest with people. After all, is it possible to name one profession in which the professionals are honest with nonprofessionals? Cheating and dishonesty are the means to maintain the advantage over the uninformed. Where competition is king the advantage is everything. It isn't easy to remain at the top these days.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The Voting Rights Act (VRA) must be upheld by the supreme court:

    The numerous despicable attempts to restrict voting made during the last election cycle are proof of that. Anyone who truly believes the VRA is obsolete needs to recognize, given last year's voter suppression efforts, the Jim Crowe era is biding its time.

    Now even if you are dumb enough to believe that all is OK with the world and there are no reasons to have the voting rights act on the books. Then why are the the parties at opposite end's on this? Why are the Republicans in America trying to keep people from the poles ?

    The argument is that VRA is discriminatory against Southern states to require them but not other states to seek pre-clearance for voting laws; I actually agree. The Voting Rights Act should require *ALL* states to seek pre-clearance. After what we've seen the GOP try to pass in states all across the nation prior to the last 2012 election, I see no reason this safeguard against voter suppression should be limited to just Southern states as suggested by VRA of 1965 but now should be expanded to apply to ALL 50 states.

    Ajay Jain
    ajain31@gmail.com
    1209 Creekwood Drive
    Garland TX 75044-2421

    ReplyDelete
  6. Michelle Rhee - The famous former Washington DC School District Chancellor

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=215125001967375&set=vb.145530532162873&type=2&theater

    Michelle Rhee on OPRAH

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPsqO17f6Lw

    Michelle Rhee on abc's ThisWeek
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nep1mcaFthU

    Michelle Rhee on The DailyShow with Jon Stewart
    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-february-4-2013/michelle-rhee
    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-february-4-2013/exclusive---michelle-rhee-extended-interview-pt--2
    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-february-4-2013/exclusive---michelle-rhee-extended-interview-pt--3

    pbs.org FRONTLINE: The Education of Michelle Rhee
    http://video.pbs.org/video/2323979463/ http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/education-of-michelle-rhee/

    Why Teach For America works - Michelle Rhee
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUs_hsHaqSA

    A Two-Tier Proposal for Teacher Pay - Michelle Rhee
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pii96AoTPw

    Time Magazine: Rhee Tackles Classroom Challenge
    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1862444-2,00.html

    Michelle Rhee Discusses "Waiting for Superman," Charter Schools And Sch... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLih24QdwH8

    Stanford University: A Conversation on "Waiting for Superman" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xzrjo7Fvs1A

    "Radical" Fighting to Put Students First should be a must read for all studentsfirst.org members! Michelle Rhee's new book, "RADICAL: Fighting to Put Students First," is now in stores! For more information about where you can find it, to read an excerpt from the book, and to share your story about education in America visit the official site at http://www.edradical.com/ or http://www.facebook.com/edradical.
    http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/michelle-rhee/510ff3b02b8c2a138f000747

    Michelle Rhee at the ACE 2011 Spring Luncheon https://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=mO9F-amHDuw

    Michelle Rhee and Kevin Johnson (4/20/11) https://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=OCcNzh7C_Tk&feature=endscreen

    Michelle A. Rhee 03.17.11 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KD0g8Jb9l78

    Cornell Alumni: Olin Lecture 2012: Michelle Rhee '92https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwFD-wkAEi8

    Harvard Public Health: Michelle Rhee, Former Chancellor of Washington D.C. Public Schoolshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jH0twXcxNUY

    Geoffrey Canada - Conversations at KCTS 9
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxP6Ov5PSG8
    Geoffrey Canada interviewed by Julian Bond: Explorations in Black Leadership ...
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2f5MZKf6Uu4

    "Waiting for Superman" the documentary and Bloomberg documentary "Risk Takers" Michelle Rhee should a required screening for all studentsfirst.org members. I saw them on Netflix and became an instant member of studentsfirst.org and Michelle Rhee follower.

    "Won't Back down" the movie is another example to screen to all studentsfirst.org members.

    Share the reasons you fight for education reform. Your story will inspire others to get involved. So tell us: Why are you working to put students first? http://www.studentsfirst.org/facebook-story

    Check out today's blog by StudentsFirst staffer Charity Hallman, "One size fits all, or so they said," on The Fordham Institute's "Education Gadfly Daily: FLYPAPER" blog.

    To view the Fordham study, "When Teachers Choose Pension Plans: The Florida Story," visit http://www.studentsfirst.org/fordham-study-on-fl-teacher-pension-reform

    Watch MAKER videos on StudentFirst Founder Michelle Rhee visit www.makers.com/michelle-rhee

    ReplyDelete