Perhaps no school superintendent (or in her case "chancellor") has ever achieved the fame of Michelle Rhee, the star of the documentary "Waiting for Superman," and the former Chancellor of Washington DC Public Schools. During her tenure, many DC public schools dramatically turned around their performance on test scores. Much of this turnaround was credited to Rhee for her willingness to confront the teachers' unions, fire administrators, teachers, and staff alike, and take aim at the tenure system. Pay was increased for performance by teachers in exchange for giving up of tenure. One DC school, Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus was the shiniest star pupil of all notching a 48% increase in math proficiency in just two short years.
It was almost too good to be true. And it appears that it was. An investigation by USA Today reveals significant questions about the process of achievement testing during Rhee's tenure. The investigation points to possible fraud and cheating on the tests: "A USA TODAY investigation, based on documents and data secured under D.C.'s Freedom of Information Act, found that for the past three school years most of Noyes' classrooms had extraordinarily high numbers of erasures on standardized tests. The consistent pattern was that wrong answers were erased and changed to right ones. Noyes is one of 103 public schools here that have had erasure rates that surpassed D.C. averages at least once since 2008. That's more than half of D.C. schools." It's not surprising that teachers and school officials across the country would try to game the system. After all, when raises and jobs are at stake, ethics often go out the window.
Kudos to USA Today--a paper sometimes criticized (wrongly) for lacking substance. I am guessing this is the tip of a very deep iceberg. Investigative journalism, when done right, is a great thing. It is essential to a free society that the media investigate and uncover the facts and the truth, and by doing so, hold those in power accountable for their actions. I hope that the questions raised in this act of muckraking will not go unnoticed.