Rhee last week tried to rehabilitate her tattered reputation in the aftermath of a USA Today investigation on massive tests cheating and two blue ribbon studies on the not too miraculous DC achievement (read them here and here). She appears to have failed.
Her defender, ultra-conservative Paul Peterson of Hoover Institute and Harvard, attacked the USA Today investigation and the academic studies by the National Academies of Science (National Research Council) and Dr. Alan Ginsburg, former director of program and policy, US Department of Education. (http://educationnext.org/the-case-against-michelle-rhee/)
Dr. Ginsburg called Peterson’s defense of Rhee factually and analytically wrong.
Peterson’s work has often come under fire from respected colleagues. Some say his unbridled enthusiasm for vouchers and charter schools colors everything he does.
“Even when he has limited data, he’s always squeezing out whatever data he can to arrive at a predetermined answer,” Bruce Fuller, a researcher from the University of California at Berkeley, told Education Week.
Then there is the question of Peterson’s benefactors, Education Week reported. Fuller of Berkeley takes Peterson to task for financing his work with grants from conservative supporters of voucher experiments, such as the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the John M. Olin Foundation. “That’s like the tobacco companies sponsoring studies on the effects of smoking,” Fuller says.
“In the case against Michelle Rhee,” Dr. Ginsburg wrote, “ Paul Peterson presents three alleged flaws in my analysis that concluded that the math and reading gains under Rhee were no better than under her predecessors Vance and Janey.” (Read the full rebuttal here.)
Two of Peterson’s proposed flaws simply misstate my methodology. The third makes the highly questionable adjustment that the DC school system deserves credit only for DC gains above the national average, presumably giving credit to the Bush administration or some unknown cause for DC gains up to the national average.
First, Peterson claims that my analysis did not adjust for the fact that “Rhee was in office for only two years, while Vance was in office for three and Janey for four.” This is incorrect. The analysis (Exhibit IIB and IID below) clearly represents annualized gains. In math, Rhee’s annualized gains fall between Vance and Janey and in reading the annualized gains are about equal between Janey and Rhee.
Second, Peterson also claims that I used the DC NAEP sample that “in 2009 did not include students attending charter schools not authorized by the district, while in 2007 all charter school students were included.” This is also factually incorrect. My report clearly specifies that I used the state NAEP series because of its consistent treatment of charter schools over the full 2000-2009 period.
Third, and crucial to Peterson’s claims, is that the DC score improvement should be computed only as the excess above the national average NAEP gain. In the highly decentralized U.S. education system in which the federal government is prohibited from specifying curriculum, this criticism makes little sense. DC’s prior poor scores and the improvements during the first decade of 2000 depend primarily upon what happens in DC. In fact, for math which can be measured over the full 2000-07 period, DC gains at grade 4 were higher than any state and at grade 8 DC gains were tied for fourth highest. Yet Peterson would not give DC much credit for these outstanding gains during this period.
Rhee will need better champions to salvage her tarnished reputation.
Posted: 8:56PM, April 18, 2011