As the test cheating scandals heat up around the country, media attention is now increasingly focused on the issue. Viewpoints vary–from the uninformed and superficial to those that offer a deeper scrutiny on the root causes of cheating. In other words, from the stupid to the sublime. Take your pick. We are compiling a running list on recent ErasureGate articles. Please feel free [...]
You may have heard about the wacky lawsuit filed in October alleging a vast “education empire” conspiracy to defeat the GA education privatization amendment. Don’t worry if you can’t remember it. You probably missed the coverage, given that the suit was quickly thrown out of court.
As it turns out, the “education empire” lawsuit was filed by StudentsFirst lobbyist Rich Thompson. When Thompson isn’t filing nonsense lawsuits, or regaling Tea Party ralliers with tales about how women lack business acumen, he’s out doing Michelle Rhee’s bidding. He lobbied for StudentsFirst in the Georgia legislature, and even turned up in Missouri to speak in favor of a StudentsFirst-backed bill (on the same day as several other StudentsFirst employees). Thompson was also featured in a video supporting the Georgia initiative, released by Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, which partnered with StudentsFirst to push for the statewide charter authorizer law.
Written by Justin Vernold for The Daily Star. Read the entire article here.
“There is no doubt that the performance of U.S. students against their international counterparts continues to disappoint. But since the reasons for this are so difficult to pin down, a parade of self-proclaimed experts and “reformers” has emerged in recent years, touting the urgency of their proposed solutions – never mind if they require redirecting streams of taxpayer dollars into the pockets of their friends.
News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch is among the more-recognizable faces of this movement, having purchased education technology firm Wireless Generation for $360 million in November 2010.
“When it comes to K-12 education,” Murdoch said at the time, “we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching.”
Murdoch’s ranks were recently bolstered by former New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein, who was tapped to lead Amplify, the new edu-products division of News Corp.
Klein also serves on the board of the New York branch of Students First, the Orwellian-named national lobbying PAC founded by former Washington, D.C., school chancellor Michelle Rhee. Given that Rhee has vowed to raise $1 billion in private donations for Students First, one might wonder whether Murdoch is backing her organization – but the group isn’t required to disclose its donors to the Federal Election Commission, and Rhee won’t confirm or deny any of her sponsors.“
Written by Dave Murray for MLive.com. Read the entire article here.
“The $500,000 donation went to Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution, which is supported by business and community organizations, as well as school groups including the Michigan Association of School Boards and the Michigan Association of School Administrators.
Proposal 2 is supported by a coalition of unions and Democrats that collected more than $8 million, according to a July campaign finance report. And updated report is due this week.
Supporters have said the proposal will give teachers more of a say in their working conditions and preserve local control of education.
‘When teachers have a voice on the job, it improves the quality of education,’ said Sara Wallenfang, a spokeswoman for Protect Working Families.
‘But corporate special interests are actively trying to turn our schools into profit centers. StudentsFirst.org is paying several hundred thousand dollars to silence teachers because they expect a return on that investment, which will come at the expense of our kids.’”
The New York Times reported this weekend about fraudulent student test scores in El Paso and the scandal that led to the superintendent’s jail sentence :
“It sounded at first like a familiar story: school administrators, seeking to meet state and federal standards, fraudulently raised students’ scores on crucial exams.
“But in the cheating scandal that has shaken the 64,000-student school district in this border city, administrators manipulated more than numbers. They are accused of keeping low-performing students out of classrooms altogether by improperly holding some back, accelerating others and preventing many from showing up for the tests or enrolling in school at all.“
But banning likely low performers from test-taking is nothing new to those who follow Michelle Rhee’s tenure in DC. Bill Turque of the Washington Post reported that Rhee took several steps to prevent groups of low-performing students from bringing down test scores. Turque wrote:
“Less-visible strategies pursued by Rhee and DC Mayor Adrian Fenty] involved cleansing and reorganizing the school system’s databases. In past years, officials said, high schools did not have a clear idea of which students were eligible to be tested, which resulted in some who were not 10th-graders (the only high school testing year for the District’s standardized tests) sitting for the exams. Starting in the 2007-08 school year, Rhee’s staff reviewed transcripts and calculated which students should be tested on the basis of credits earned.
“Other score-leavening methods included redefining a failing test. During the first two years that the District used the Comprehensive Assessment System exams (before that, it used the Stanford-9), any student who did not take the test counted as having failed. Starting in 2008, students who did not take the test did not count as either a pass or a fail.”
Scores went up when Rhee made sure low-performing, technically ineligible students were no longer allowed to take the test. And they went up after Rhee “redefin[ed] a failing test.”
The situations in El Paso and DC are different. There’s been on real investigation in DC and no finding of illegality. However, as Michael Kinsley has said, “The scandal isn’t what’s illegal, the scandal is what’s legal.” Then, when test scores in later years were slow to rise, Rhee conveniently forgot that she had blocked low performers from taking the test and instead pretending that she had raised scores by firing. This omission has allowed Rhee to claim credit for test scores that rose before her favored policies were enacted.
* In a 2009 piece, parent activist Caroline Grannan used “juking the stats,” a phrase borrowed from “The Wire, to Rhee’s early actions as DC schools chancellor.
Written by Jeff Bryant for the Campaign for America’s Future. Read the entire post here.
“Although Rhee heads an organization called Students First, most of what she actually does is to advocate for specific types of legislation, i.e. lobby. In Chicago, Washington DC, New York City, and numerous state capitals, Students First has focused its considerable resources—including many hundreds of thousands in donations to candidates for public office—on passing laws and promoting politicians that advance policies which restrict teachers’ collective bargaining rights, tie their job security and pay to scores on students’ standardized tests, and allow more public taxpayer money to be redirected to privately run entities such as charter schools.… For every piece of legislation Students First backs, ALEC has a model bill….
“With the significant backing from Rupert Murdoch, the Walton Family of Walmart fame, and deep-pocketed hedge-fund investors (are these typical allies of Democrats?), Rhee will be able to sustain the income stream that propels her lobbying and campaign donor activities.
“The media will quite likely keep her in the limelight as well, as she has become a lightning rod for attention—a sort of “education Ann Coulter” who delights in outrageousness: modeling to little school kids how an adult can eat a bee, taping her students’ mouths shut, firing school personnel live on camera for a national broadcast, and posing on the cover of a major news magazine, broom in hand, to convey her intention to “sweep out” experienced school teachers as if they are so much trash.
“But without her fortune and fame, it’s not hard to imagine that it would be Michelle Rhee, and not school teachers, who would be isolated from the Democratic party.”