There have been two official investigations of allegations of cheating in the public schools of the District of Columbia during the tenure of Michelle Rhee. Neither of them found any evidence of widespread cheating, yet many questions remain, including questions about the depth and scope and basic competency of the two official investigations.
USA Today first reported the extraordinary erasure rates in at least half the D.C. Public schools. In addition to the striking number of answers that were changed from wrong to right, there were a large number of schools where test scores rose dramatically, too dramatically to be credible. Rhee said at the time that the charges “absolutely lacked credibility.”
After security was tightened, some of those same schools saw their test scores plummet as fast as they had risen. Yet the official investigators could find nothing amiss.
As it happens, the National Research Council created a commission to study the performance of the D.C. public schools under mayoral control. The commission includes respected scholars and practitioners. They are moving slowly and methodically. Surely, they will have the resources and the will to examine why scores flew up and fell down. Surely, they know that these erratic fluctuations are not commonplace nor are they reasonable.
The NRC has an opportunity to reassure the American public about the integrity of the measures used to judge our schools, our students, and our teachers.
What is required is the most careful and thoughtful probe of the events in D.C.
The public expects nothing less from the nation’s most prestigious research organization.