There is a larger story overshadowing the report on DC test score achievement gaps in the Washington Post dated Aug. 27, 2010 by Bill Turque: Michelle Rhee's "reform" program is a failure.
DC test scores, which began to improve under Mr. Janey's tenure, have flattened. The Post struggles to defend Ms. Rhee by pointing to the nationwide pattern of lagging test score gains; quoting Ms. Rhee's spokeswoman (Jennifer Calloway) cautioning against drawing broad conclusions from single-year test data; and in a last desperate line of defense, suggesting that perhaps there was "some anomaly in the tests."
I would like for the Post to stop cheerleading for Ms. Rhee and look at the facts: her "reform agenda" is not working. Demonizing veteran teachers, relentless teaching-to-the-test, imposing a flawed and overly-subjective evaluation system (which, hypocritically, places strong emphasis on single-year test scores) have not succeeded.
Ms. Rhee, Mayor Fenty, and the Post cannot have it both ways: if test scores determine whether a teacher receives a raise or loses his/her job, then they should rightly redound on our city leaders in the same fashion. Why are teachers not given 3, 5, or 7 years to improve their students' test scores? Ms. Rhee calls the disparity "unacceptable" and pledges to eliminate it, but she offers no new plans. Increasingly it seems she and the Mayor have succeeded in firing alot of teachers and building some new schools while achieving little educational impact.
Buried at the end of the report is a telling quote from Bruce Fuller: "Part of this hitting the wall may be the troubling fact that we may need to somehow attack family poverty before we see greater progress in closing achievement." Troubling fact indeed! The Mayor and Chancellor have placed the entire responsibility for improving the education of our youth on classroom teachers when a broader societal effort is necessary. Until we face this issue testing, charter schools, Teach for America, IMPACT, and Ms. Rhee's "reform agenda" will have no positive and lasting effect.