Charlie rolls over and dies: When Michelle Rhee appeared on Charlie Rose, she and her host swapped inane ideas about the best way to evaluate teachers.
Believe it or not, our greatest education reformer said this to our brightest broadcaster:
RHEE (2/18/13): The reality is that we have known for a very long time that we could identify great teachers and identify not-so-great teachers. You walk into any school building anywhere in this country today and you ask parents or kids or other teachers, "Who’s the best teacher in the school?" They’ll tell you. Say "Who—who is not so good?" And they’ll tell you that person, too.The analysis gets a great deal dumber when you see it in its full context. To marvel at the state of our discourse, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/19/13.
Prepare to avert your gaze.
From there, the conversation continued. Before long, the host began asking the guest to tell him about the results she obtained during her years in the DC schools. The discussion started like this, with the host seeming to make the case for his embattled guest:
ROSE: I mean, obviously, you became polarizing to a degree.Borrowing from deathless Joyce, "And yes I said yes I did yes.”
ROSE: You know, but you could argue that the old expression is, “You’ve got to break an egg to make an omelet,” and therefore you had to break an egg.
RHEE: Yes, yes.
ROSE: You had to come in and say, “Look, we can do it differently.”
ROSE: But are the— What are the results? Because I always have a hard time— And help me with this, I mean I really don’t know.
This wasn’t exactly a grilling. In this segment, Rhee has simply kept saying “yes” as Rose keeps making her case for her. And by the way:
There is no part of Rhee’s tenure in DC which is more controversial than the question of her “results,” since it’s tangled up with the cheating problem which seemed to be rather widespread.
By any normal standard, Rose should have done some homework on this score. Instead, he seemed to be asking Rhee to educate him about her results since he himself just didn’t know.
As the conversation continued, the inanity seemed to grow:
ROSE: What are the results? Because I always have a hard time— And help me with this, I mean I really don’t know.There is no doubt that Rose and Rhee are describing the way our discourse works. People hear competing claims. They aren’t sure which claims are correct.
ROSE: Determining success in education.
ROSE: Because I’ll pick up the paper tomorrow and it’ll say, “Charter schools aren’t as good as they thought they were.”
RHEE: Right, right.
ROSE: I pick up the paper the next day and they’ll say "Vouchers are terrific."
ROSE: And then the next day you’ll have somebody come back you know who has a different political view and say, "No, no, no."
RHEE: Yes, it’s terrible, yes. And that’s why people, the American people, are so confused right now.
RHEE: Because they hear me say one thing, they hear somebody else say another thing.
ROSE: They don’t know how to measure.
RHEE: That’s right. And then they say, “Well, who’s right? And I can’t figure it out.” And then they kind of disengage.
ROSE: Or what works and doesn’t work.
Because he runs a major PBS show, one would think that Rose would have prepared himself before the session, so that he could help straighten out this confusion. In this case, such an assumption would have been thoroughly wrong.
In this case, Professor Rhee lectured Rose about her success. Her student just sat there and took it:
RHEE (continuing directly): So here’s what I would say. About D.C., we were only there for three and a half years. So did we accomplish everything that we wanted to? Absolutely not.Rhee described a great deal of progress. Rose didn’t seem to have any idea whether her claims were correct. He didn’t ask her to name the program on which these gains had been achieved. He didn’t ask if these gains occurred on the city’s own testing program—the program on which the widespread cheating apparently had occurred.
Did we make significant progress that outsized the progress the district had been making before? Yes. That’s–that’s unequivocal.
And if you look at the achievement rates of the children, we moved you know from a situation where about a quarter of the kids were on grade level in mathematics and reading in the elementary school to you know now over half. So still you only have half the kids—that’s not acceptable. But you know when— When you’re seeing that much progress, I think we can say that, that we were doing something right.
In fact, Rose never mentioned the widespread cheating scandal that cast such a pall over Rhee’s tenure. He simply sat there as Rhee moved on to claim another success, this time concerning the way DC released ineffective teachers.
Did DC schools really show strong progress under Rhee? Did DC schools “make significant progress that outsized the progress the district had been making before?” Rose showed no sign of preparation—and he skipped the well-known, giant question concerning the apparent cheating scandal which occurred under Rhee.
Charlie Rose rolled over and died. He posed as a potted plant.
For what it’s worth, we recently compiled the test scores attained by DC students on the NAEP, the “gold standard” federal testing program, during Rhee's tenure. As best we could tell, DC students seemed to make no progress in reading under Rhee, fairly good progress in math. (Because of all the charter schools, DC is a bit tricky.)
That said, the progress in math didn’t seem to be better than the progress which was already occurring before Rhee’s tenure began. But such questions take us well beyond anything Rose attempted during his session with Rhee.
“Tell me about your great progress,” Rose said. Then, he rolled over and died.
To watch the full segment, click this.