Archives for category: Michelle Rhee

Former D.C. math teacher Guy Brandenburg attended the NAEP press conference in D.C. where Betsy DeVos explained what lessons the nation can lean from the NAEP results. 

DeVos thinks the rest of the nation should learn from D.C., which has the largest racial gaps of any urban district tested by NAEP; Or Florida, where test scores went down; or Mississippi, where scores rose even though it is at the very bottom of all stages tested by NAEP. When you are at the very bottom, it’s easier to “improve” your scores.

When Betsy DeVos is long forgotten, please do not forget that she held up Mississippi as a model for the nation!

Brandenburg wants the world to know that D.C. made its greatest gains before mayoral control.

I found that it is true that DC’s recent increases in scores on the NAEP for all students, and for black and Hispanic students, are higher than in other jurisdictions.

However, I also found that those increases were happening at a HIGHER rate BEFORE DC’s mayor was given total control of DC’s public schools; BEFORE the appointment of Michelle Rhee; and BEFORE the massive DC expansion of charter schools.

He has the data and graphs to prove it.

This is a hilarious, must-see video, narrated by Gary Rubinstein, about his life in Teach for America, his disillusionment with Reform, and his collision with Reformers as they set about to remake American education.

I play a minor role in his story, because I too was an apostate, and my turnaround helped him make his own turnaround.

You will see all the stars of Reform, as Gary gives each of them their few seconds of glory and dispatches some of their heroes.

You will also see how he had his own moment of reckoning and developed a passion for calling out lies and propaganda.

It really is delightful and informative.

The moral of the story, he says, is that Tufts University (where he was a student) beats Harvard University (where most of the Reformers were students).

There are lots more morals to the story, and you will see how he skillfully weaves the history of the past 25 or so years together into a slide show.

 

G.F. Brandenburg has followed Michelle Rhee’s meteoric rise and fall.

He was first to blow the whistle on her specious claim that she raised test scores to miraculous heights as a brand-new teacher in a for-profit school in Baltimore.

https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/02/02/michelle-rhee-is-she-merely-a-liar-or-is-she-just-stupid-you-decide/

She was an unknown until Joel Klein found her and recommended her to Adrian Fenty, the new mayor of D.C.

Brandenburg has a plan for her.

John Merrow reviews the miraculous but not true story of the high school in Washington, D.C., that increased its graduation rate from 57% to 100% in one year. And every one of these graduates were accepted into college! A touching story. But a false story. Made even worse by the fact that it was reported by NPR, which is a usually reliable and trustworthy source for news.

Merrow notes that in the original report, 26 of the graduating class of nearly 200 students had not yet earned enough credits to graduate. How, then, could the school have a graduation rate of 100% and a college acceptance rate of 100%?

A little digging, he said, would have revealed the fact that a local D.C. community college accepts all students who have a high school diploma, a GED, or the equivalent, so gaining college acceptance is not a high bar to cross.

He then recounts how NPR walked the story back and did some investigation, finding the original story to be wrong. There was no 100% graduation rate, and many students earned credits with “credit recovery,” sitting in front of a computer for a week to get a semester’s credits. How phony is that!

He writes:

Further evidence that the 100% college acceptance story is bogus comes from academic results. Only 9% of seniors were able to pass the city’s English test, and not a single student passed the math test. The average SAT score for Ballou test-takers was 782 out of a possible 1600. Moreover, teachers told NPR that some administrators actually filled out the college applications for those students who had no interest in attending college!

This disgraceful approach to schooling does widespread damage beyond what is obviously done to kids who receive phony diplomas but no real education. One teacher told NPR, “This is [the] biggest way to keep a community down. To graduate students who aren’t qualified, send them off to college unprepared, so they return to the community to continue the cycle.”

I am not writing this to criticize NPR for missing the story** the first time around. I did that myself more than once in my 41-year career, and I was late in recognizing the flaws in Michelle Rhee’s ‘test scores are everything’ approach in Washington. Her wrong-headed strategy is, arguably, responsible for the mind-set that exists at Ballou today.

Here’s what matters: the Ballou fiasco is the bitter fruit of the ‘School Reform’ movement that continues to dominate educational practice in most school districts today. These (faux) reformers continue to support policies and practices that basically reduce children to a single number, their scores on standardized, machine-scored tests. This approach has led to a diminished curriculum, drill-and-kill schooling, buckets of money leaving the schools and going instead to testing companies and outside consultants, the growth of charter schools (many run by profiteers), and a drumbeat of criticism from ideologues who seem determined to break apart and ruin public education, rather than attempt to reinvent it.

(This approach also once again proves the truth of Campbell’s Law, the more importance given to a single measure, the greater the probability that it will be corrupted. When test scores rule education, some people cheat. And when high school graduation rates rule, people also find ways to cheat.

In case you were not sure, Merrow makes clear that he was hoodwinked by Michelle Rhee, and he calls out the false premises and false promises of the “School Reform” movement, which has done so much to corrupt education by setting targets that can’t be reached without cheating.

Dave McKenna of Deadspin writes here about the release under court order of emails written by outgoing Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson about his efforts to take control of the National Conference of Black Mayors, bankrupt it, and open a new organization that would promote charter schools. Johnson is married to controversial Michelle Rhee, who has been a beneficiary and advocate for charters and vouchers.

This is a must-read.


The emails come mainly from the early days of Johnson’s hostile takeover of the National Conference of Black Mayors—the mayor and his minions described their mission against the historic Atlanta-based non-profit as a “coup” when they launched it in 2013—and reveal lots of no-goodnik behavior from Johnson and his coup team, a clique of civil servants on the Sacramento payroll, staffers from Johnson’s huge web of nonprofit groups, at least three public relations outfits, volunteer hangers-on, and lots of lawyers from the firm of Ballard Spahr. (At least a dozen Ballard Spahr lawyers have worked pro bono for Johnson on NCBM litigation.) The records indicate that at some point Johnson changed his goal from running the NCBM to ruining it. Johnson’s team, for example, is found dispatching secret agents to spy on NCBM board members at hotels and restaurants while conspiring to sabotage a potential $2 million windfall for the NCBM scheduled to come just a few months before he filed to have the organization dissolved through the bankruptcy courts. The documents also appear to support detractors’ long-leveled allegations that Johnson mingled the NCBM’s mission with that of Michelle Rhee, his wife and fellow school-privatization demagogue.

The city clerk’s release of the documents completes a request made under the California Public Records Act in the spring of 2015 by Cosmo Garvin, a reporter for the Sacramento News & Review. Unlike the rest of the media in the state capital, Garvin covered Johnson tenaciously and aggressively. He knew Johnson was conducting business using Gmail accounts rather than his assigned government address, so he requested any records on the city’s public servers from those personal email accounts. On July 1, 2015, Johnson sued his own city and Garvin’s weekly newspaper to prevent hundreds of emails from being made public, claiming attorney/client privilege….

The bulk of the unsealed documents deal with Johnson’s takeover of the NCBM, a clandestine and ultimately disastrous effort that peaked in May 2013 when he succeeded in being named president of the group, only to be deposed by the group’s board of directors two weeks into his term. It’s been a non-stop legal battle ever since between Johnson and NCBM elders, with suits filed by and against the group’s executive director, Vanessa Williams, and a controversial bankruptcy petition all still pending. After civil litigation in Georgia courts, Johnson was restored as the NCBM’s president in early 2014, but was still clearly at war with his constituents.

Johnson’s only meaningful act after regaining the presidency was a request, filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia on April 30, 2014 to have the NCBM dissolved under Chapter 7 of the federal code. Then on May 1, 2014, just one day after the bankruptcy filing and before he’d even resigned as NCBM president, Johnson founded a clone non-profit group, which he dubbed the African American Mayors Association (AAMA). He named himself president of the new group, and brought many NCBM sponsors with him. He installed AAMA’s headquarters on Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Washington, D.C.—just three blocks from the White House. (The just-released documents indicate that AAMA’s prime real estate was originally offered by former NCBM board member Clarence Anthony for use by the NCBM.)…


As expected, the latest batch of documents—totaling several hundred pages—shows that Johnson’s misuse of attorney/client privilege staved off potential political embarrassments, many of them NCBM-related. He was, to give one telling example, preventing the release of his schedule for Sept. 9, 2013, which included preparation for a trip to Birmingham, Ala. The listed rehearsals included a “Students First Session” followed by “NCBM Prep.”

StudentsFirst is the charter school advocacy group founded by Michelle Rhee. (Johnson is also a major player in the school privatization movement.) The email that Johnson tried so hard to hide provides a reminder that he and Rhee went to Birmingham together to exploit the attention being given the 50th anniversary of bombing of the 16th Street Church. Amid the solemn commemorations of that seminal moment in the American civil rights movement, they co-hosted a town hall meeting promoting charter schools.

One of the reasons Johnson would presumably want this played down is that the NCBM has historically opposed charter schools, and didn’t like Johnson using their group to further an education agenda that both membership and leadership vehemently opposed. Former NCBM president Robert Bowser told me in 2014 that the group had made their stance clear to Johnson after he proposed a resolution to get the NCBM to endorse charter schools. “We took a vote and said, ‘Hell no!’ to his resolution,” Bowser said. “The black mayors are not buying the charter schools, period.” Rhee, meanwhile, was overwhelmingly despised by Washington, D.C.’s black residents when she ran its public school system from 2007 to 2010; any hint that the NCBM was being used to serve her ends would likely be toxic to the group’s core constituency.

The Birmingham meeting, as it turned, didn’t provide any obvious payoff for Rhee. StudentsFirst, which was a cash cow—the Walton Foundation, one of many deep-pocketed benefactors, gave Rhee’s group $8 million just a few months before the Alabama getaway—quietly folded earlier this year, without donating billions of dollars to education projects or meeting any of the other megalomaniacal goals Rhee loudly predicted for her non-profit on Oprah Winfrey’s show at its founding. It’s rather fitting that while StudentsFirst’s website is now largely defunct, its fundraising page is still running and ready to accept donations.

Gary’s latest post has a smart title: “For Whom the Bell Tolls; It Tolls for Rhee.”

Having received Race to the Top funding, and being part of the (not so) great “reform” movement, the District of Columbia enthusiastically endorsed every reformy idea that involved high-stakes testing, or test-based accountability. Of course, D.C. school leaders Michelle Rhee and her successor Kaya Henderson supported Common Core and joined the PARCC testing consortium (one of the few to remain in PARCC).

The scores were released yesterday. Gary has analyzed them and made some important discoveries. The scores overall were pretty awful, as you would expect from a test that was designed to fail most students. But, surprisingly, the much-abused D.C. public schools outscored the much-lauded D.C. charter schools. How could that happen? How embarrassing for the Walton Family Foundation, which has poured so much money into charterizing the D.C. schools, as well as to Eli Broad, who recently announced his intention to open more charters in D.C. to save more kids from the terrible public schools. And yet those “terrible” public schools got higher scores than the charter schools! Go figure.

Rhee used to say that she would turn D.C. into the best urban district in the nation. She used to scoff at the educators who preceded her, citing the fact that only 10% met the standards in math. Well, what percent do you think met the “proficiency” standard in math? 10%.

Gary writes:

So of course the ‘no excuses’ crowd begins making excuses. But rather than saying that the quality of the PARCC test could be an issue, they instead say things like, “We knew this was going to happen. We just need to adjust to the new more rigorous standards.” This may buy them a few years, but I have to wonder how long supposedly ‘data driven’ reformers can continue to ignore data that refute their agenda.

The Weekly Standard, a conservative publication, writes that Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento (husband of Michelle Rhee Johnson) is caught up in a growing number of scandals.

Despite little national coverage, scandals surrounding former NBA star and Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson have been intensifying over past few months. Monday’s report at Deadspin is a good place to start — things have gotten so bad that Johnson’s allies are accusing a local paper that’s done a lot of damning reporting on Johnson of racism.

As Deadspin notes, there’s “a variety of sexual, financial, and ethical improprieties” swirling around Johnson. Among other things, the mayor is suing — and being sued — by the National Conference of Black Mayors. And Johnson is also accused of using public money and resources for his own personal benefit involving work done for the National Basketball Players Association.

That last scandal is particulary interesting, because it mirrors accusations made against him in 2009, when he was accused of misusing federal grants meant for the Americorps program by Gerald Walpin, the inspector general of the Corporation for National and Community Service….
Mr. Walpin made a referral to the United States prosecutor in Sacramento, recommending that Mr. Johnson and Mr. Gonzalez face criminal charges and be banned from future contracts.

According to Walpin, the chairman of the board of the Corporation for National and Community Service, Alan Solomont, was a major Democratic fundraiser and was unhappy with his reports pointing out the misuse of federal money. Johnson was also said to be close to the Obamas, and shortly afterward the president abruptly fired Walpin from his job. The firing set off a flurry of inquiries from a bipartisan group of senators concerned that Walpin’s firing had been been politically motivated. There were also allegations that the U.S. attorney in Sacramento, Lawrence Brown, filed an ethics complaint against Walpin to help lift a ban on Johnson receiving federal funds as well as curry favor with the White House. Brown was seeking a presidential appointment to become United States attorney for the Eastern District of California.

Now Johnson remains mired in scandal six years later and is being accused of allegations of corruption very similar to what was first alleged by Walpin. And in the intervening years, the Obama administration has acquired quite the reputation for selectively enforcing laws against compromised allies and for the vigorous prosecution of political enemies on dubious grounds. Johnson’s current troubles certainly suggest that the president was wrong to fire Walpin, and are an unpleasant reminder of the Chicago-style politics that have come to define this administration’s questionable uses of political power.

Georgia has an important run-off for State Superintendent of Education in the Democratic Party on July 22. If you care about the future of public education in Georgia, please vote.

Valarie Wilson came in first in the primary, with 32% of the vote. The runner-up, Alisha Thomas Morgan, received 26%.

The Network for Public Education has endorsed Valarie Wilson, a strong supporter of public education. In reviewing her list of contributors, it appears that almost all of them live in Georgia. Wilson’s total contributions, after taking out loans, was $178,147. Of those, $174,572 came from supporters who live in Georgia; $3,575–or 2%-came from outside Georgia.

Valarie was elected to the local school board in Decatur in 2002 and served as its president from 2005-2011. She was elected president of the Georgia School Boards Association in 2012-13.

Her opponent, Alisha Thomas Morgan, has been endorsed by the corporate reformers, the hedge fund managers and billionaires, who support privatization, charters and vouchers.

On Morgan’s website, she boasts that she has been endorsed by the Wall Street hedge fund managers group, Democrats for Education Reform; by the voucher-loving American Federation for Children (Betsy DeVos of the Amway fortune, sister of Erik Prince of the infamous Blackwater security company); by Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst; by billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s daughter Emma Bloomberg; by billionaire Eli Broad; and by Frank Biden, brother of Joe Biden, who manages a for-profit charter corporation in Florida called Mavericks.

Most of Morgan’s funding comes from out-of-state donors. Morgan has collected $21,203 from citizens of Georgia. She has collected $70,675 from out-of-state donors.

Here is the list of outside donors to Morgan.

LastName FirstName Cash_Amount
Aluise Joseph 500
American Federation for Children Action Fund-Georgia PAC 3700
Arnold John 1500
Bender Benefits & Insurance 3000
Bing Jonathan 250
Blew James 500
Bloomberg Emma 500
Bloomberg Emma 500
Bloomberg Michael 3700
Bloomberg Michael 6300
Bradley Katherine 1000
Bradley Sean 200
Broad Eli 3700
Broad Eli 6300
Conforme Veronica 250
Cunningham Peter 200
Deane-Williams Barbara 150
DeLaski Kathleen 500
DeVos Jr. Richard & Elisabeth 6300
Dostart Steve 250
Dostart Steve 250
Duncan Damon 250
Elisa Louis 100
Elisa Louis 100
Ferguson Wilkie 250
Fields Jarett 75
Fisher John 1000
Francis Gregory 200
Fuller Howard 250
Fuller Howard 250
Gaal Michael 250
Gordon Scott 250
Groff Peter 250
Groff Peter 250
Hilton Adriel 100
Hilton Adriel 100
Holifield Johnathan 250
Huizenga J.C. 2500
Jackson-King Carolyn 150
Johnson Alex 250
K12 Management Inc. 2000
Kihn Paul 250
Kihn Paul 100
Kirtley John 3700
Ledre Jr. Reo 200
Leslie Kent 200
Lomax Michael 250
Martin Rayne 100
McGriff Deborah 250
Nellons-Paige Stephanie 500
payton jr tony 150
Peabody Malcolm 500
Powell Jobs Laurene 6300
Rees Nina 500
Revenaugh Martha 500
Ritchie Daniel 3000
Rudall David 250
Russell Jerome 500
Schilling John 150
The Alex’s Group LLC 150
Thiry Kent 4300
Thompson Elizabeth 100
Thompson Elizabeth 100
Tilson Whitney 250
Total 70675

USA Today was first to report the cheating scandal in the District of Columbia.

Here is the follow-up story by Gregg Toppo, about the memo first leaked to John Merrow.

Eventually, the allegations were investigated by the DC Inspector General, who decided not to look at the erasure analysis or to interview many people. It was not the kind of full-scale investigation carried out in Atlanta by professionals. The DC Inspector General decided the cheating, if it happened, was not widespread.

This was confirmed by the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Education.

But suspicions lingered, as did the cloud over the district, and the cloud refused to go away.

Matthew Di Carlo dissects the latest effort by Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst to sell the idea that evaluating teachers by test scores is accurate, unbiased, and necessary.

Di Carlo analyzes the “myths” and discovers that some of them are facts.

This is embarrassing. Rhee really needs to hire a competent research department.