Tuesday, March 29, 2011

USA Today Reveals Possible Widespread Test Irregularities Under Michelle Rhee

USA Today published Monday a lengthy analysis of possible widespread cheating at the majority of schools during the tenure of DC Chancellor Michelle Rhee, leading to test score gains that seemed to reinforce Rhee's draconian strategies. Defending her record, Rhee lashed out at the USA Today piece, but Diane Ravitch, one of the nation's foremost critics of test-based reform and privatization took Rhee on pointing out that her entire record in DC may be a chimera.
Update: And in a follow-up by Jay Mathews, Michelle Rhee retracted on Wednesday her attack Tuesday on the USA Today piece, calling her own comments "stupid." What Rhee failed to acknowledge, however, is that back in 2009, when State Superintendent Deborah Gist wanted a real investigation of testing improprieties, Rhee and Fenty blocked a real investigation, preferring the chimera of rising test scores. Gist resigned as State Superintendent shortly thereafter. So we have a ways to go before the full story has been revealed.
Further Update: With growing interest in the need for a thorough investigation of the cheating scandal under Rhee, and suspicion and rumors that doctoring test answer sheets was taking place at many schools with a cover-up at the central office, Valerie Strauss on Wednesday proposed a real investigation as the only way to get to the bottom of what took place and who knew about it. USA Today also followed up today raising the question of whether Officials in DC really want to get to the truth or are still engaged in covering up the extent of the scandal.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

DCPS Budget and Teacher Data Included in Testimony Presented Friday

Findings from my analysis included in testimony to the DC Council on Friday, March 4 and presented again as testimony to Mayor Vincent Gray on Monday include:
 1.  The number of DCPS central administration employees rose by 112 or 18% from 2007 to 2010 (the tenure of Michelle Rhee), while enrollment went down by 6,600 or 12%. Since FY 2003 central office FTEs are up 38% while enrollment is down by 28%.
2.  As of October 1, 2010, about 100 of the central office staff have salaries of over $100,000 per year.
3.  Per student spending went up 28% during Ms. Rhee’s tenure, compared to inflation of 6%, leading to the possibility that better student/staff ratios, smaller classes and other resources were responsible for the modest test score improvements that did occur. Unfortunately, the level of spending – which is high compared to other school districts -- can’t be sustained.
4.  DCPS is now losing half its teacher workforce within 5 years, and half its new teacher hires within 2 years.
5.  The percentage of inexperienced (first and second year) teachers has risen to almost 20%.
6.  Beginning teachers (first and second year) are 25% of the teachers in three wards with mostly low-income students (1, 5, and 8).
7.  Basic budget and expenditure information is not available to the public – such as financial reports, current budgets for both the system and local schools.
Copies of the testimony and the attached tables are posted here. A more detailed analysis of central office positions is here and more information is on the SHAAPE web site here under High School Policy Areas-Budget Analysis.