On Monday, Michelle Rhee's educational reform group, StudentsFirst, released its first set of grades for states' schools. Tennessee got a C-.
According to Nooga.com,
Despite the average score, Tennessee's grade was good enough to rank 11th nationwide.
"Tennessee has made significant strides to identify excellent teachers and principals, but it must do more to ensure these educators are retained," the report's summary reads. "The state has adopted meaningful educator evaluations, developed alternative pathways to certification and reformed tenure. The state must now link performance with salary decisions, ensure ineffective teachers are exited from the classroom and prohibit seniority from driving layoff decisions."
Then on Tuesday, she met with folks at The Tennessean to talk about her wishlist for education reforms in the state.
Rhee is “anxious to see” the creation of a so-called parent trigger law that allows a majority of parents at a failing school to force changes through a number of methods, including turning the school over to a charter management company, she said during a meeting with members of The Tennessean editorial board and news staff today.
She also hopes Tennessee will create a statewide charter school authorizer and a voucher system for low-income students to attend private schools.
The Tennessean's story notes that Frontline also had a story about Rhee on Tuesday, but apparently they didn't ask her about it directly, since the paltry information in the story about the show is from "a TV Guide description."
Too bad. It'd be nice to know if Rhee's reforms have actually worked before we unquestioningly accept her as having the path to better education. Frontline's investigation raises concerns that D.C.'s test scores may have improved because of widespread cheating, not because Rhee has some great solution to our education woes.
The 17-month probe focused on just one school: Noyes, which was named a National Blue Ribbon School in 2009 after students made impressive gains on reading and math tests. It also twice won an award from Rhee that brought cash bonuses for staff, and it had some of the highest erasure rates in the city.
Investigators found some test-security problems at Noyes but no evidence of answer-sheeting tampering. Based on those findings, they decided not to examine other schools.
But Cothorne, the former principal who alleges that she saw staff members after hours with erasers and test booklets, said investigators never interviewed her.
Cothorne claims that when she made it harder for staff members to cheat, "math and reading scores dropped more than 25 percentage points from the year before."
But there is one fact that is seldom expressed clearly in stories about the education reformers, and that is that wherever they have implemented their agendas, they have largely failed to improve schools, even by their own entirely test-based metrics. New York’s famed improvements under Bloomberg have been largely illusory, and Rhee’s D.C. schools weren’t just beset by cheating, they were no better when she left them than they were before her campaign of mass firings and intimidation. If tonight’s “Frontline” tarnishes Rhee’s golden reputation, state governments across the country might look upon some of her goals and claims a little more skeptically in the future.
I doubt that will happen in Tennessee's case. But, hey, even if we end up no better off than we were before we fell in love with Rhee, it's nearly impossible for us to end up much worse. Even though Rhee's grading system puts us right at a tad below average with our C- while claiming we're the 11th best in the nation, the numbers from the Feds are more depressing. According to them, we're 42nd in eighth-grade reading scores and 46th in eighth-grade math scores.