John Merrow has followed the D.C. fiasco closely. He has been all over D.C. since he spent three years celebrating Michelle Rhee’s Leadership, then realized she was a fraud.

Here he is again, citing the D.C. sham, concentrated first on test scores, then graduation rates.


“Campbell’s Law teaches us that, when too much pressure is placed on a single measurement, that measurement inevitably becomes corrupted to the point of being useless. A straightforward analogy is to physical health. An individual who worries only about weight is a strong candidate for anorexia and bulimia. On the other hand, the person who pays attention to muscle and skin tone, flexibility, endurance, a balanced diet, daily exercise, and personal appearance–as well as weight–is NOT a candidate for an eating disorder.

“The same principle applies to education: When a system values (and measures) many aspects of schooling, such as the amount of art and music, the time devoted to recess, student attendance, teacher attendance, teacher turnover, and academic achievement, the school and its students, teachers and staff are likely to be ‘balanced.’ When only test scores or graduation rates matter, bad things are guaranteed to happen.

“Evidence of educational anorexia and bulimia isn’t hard to find. The absence of art, music, science, and recess is one clear sign. Lots of test-prep is another clear indicator. Rallies for ‘higher test scores’ is strong evidence. At home, check on your child’s anxiety level. Stomach aches before the days of standardized testing? Trouble sleeping? It’s all right there in front of us.

“Under Washington DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee (2007-2010), all that counted was test scores, and before long adults began cheating, knowing that their jobs depended on raising scores. Under her successor, Kaya Henderson (2010-2016), raising graduation rates became the Holy Grail, and we now know what transpired: hundreds of seniors–one third of the graduating class–were given diplomas even though they had been skipping school regularly or had otherwise not followed the rules. Her successor as Chancellor, Antwan Wilson, not only failed to monitor and correct that situation; he also broke his own rules and illegally transferred his daughter into a selective high school, bypassing the lottery.

“It’s impossible not to conclude that Washington has been sold a bill of goods by ‘reformers’ like Rhee, Henderson and others. That narrative has been widely accepted and spread by the pundit class and former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

“The reaction to the DC fiasco has been revealing. Those on the far right, including current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, have expressed outrage. DeVos has called for an FBI investigation and for more ‘school choice.’ That’s also been the call from The Manhattan Institute, which claims “The only thing that’s actually worked in Washington, D.C., has been school choice.” Frankly, these guys and gals will do anything they can to undermine public education.”””

Read on.