Valerie Strauss shows in this post that there were NO gains in reading in the District of Columbia Public Schools during the tenure of Michelle Rhee and her successor Kaya Henderson. G.F. Brandenburg noted these facts on his blog on July 31. Brandenburg asks: “So where are all those increases that Michelle Rhee promised in writing?”
Strauss writes that this is more than just a personal failure. This is a failure of the entire reform strategy.
Bernie Horn of the Public Leadership Institute writes:
“If this isn’t failure, what is?
“The latest results of the DC-CAS, the District of Columbia’s high-stakes standardized test, show that the percentage of public school students judged “proficient” or better in reading has declined over the past five years in every significant subcategory except “white.”
“This is important, and not just for Washington, D.C. It is an indictment of the whole corporatized education movement. During these five years, first Michelle Rhee and then her assistant/successor Kaya Henderson controlled DCPS and they did everything that the so-called “reformers” recommend: relying on standardized tests to rate schools, principals and teachers; closing dozens of schools; firing hundreds of teachers and principals; encouraging the unchecked growth of charters; replacing fully-qualified teachers with Teach For America and other non-professionals; adopting teach-to-the-test curricula; introducing computer-assisted “blended learning”; increasing the length of the school day; requiring an hour of tutoring before after-school activities; increasing hours spent on tested subjects and decreasing the availability of subjects that aren’t tested. Based on the city’s own system of evaluation, none of it has worked.”
There were no gains, no miracles. Except for a very small improvement in the proficiency rates of white students, every other category declined: low-income students declined; black students declined; Hispanic students declined; Special education students declined. Whites saw a small uptick of 1.6% from 2009-2014.
“In truly Orwellian fashion, DCPS presents these disastrous numbers under the heading “Long-term progress in Reading has been maintained.” The Mayor, the DCPS Chancellor, and the powers-that-be all act like there’s nothing wrong.
“But clearly, this is what failure looks like. If a school had scores like this over the past five years, it would be targeted for closure. If principals or teachers had scores like this, they would be fired. If a student had scores like this, s/he would be made to feel like a failure. Where is the accountability in this supposedly “data-driven” system?”
Yet remember that TIME magazine had a cover story on December 8, 2008, about Michelle Rhee (written by Amanda Ripley) saying that this was the woman who knew how to “fix” America’s schools?
Does Michelle Rhee know how to “fix” America’s schools? There is no evidence that she does. She didn’t do it in D.C. She is still collecting millions of dollars from unnamed donors to persuade legislators to follow her disastrous strategies.
We should know by now that the data-driven, test-driven approach doesn’t work. We should know by now that schools need experienced teachers and leaders to help children and new teachers. We should know by now that schools need stability and constancy of purpose, not disruption and high teacher turnover. We should immediately end the war on public schools and teachers and give our schools the resources they need and give our professionals the respect they deserve.