Education 'Reformer' May Have Been Caught Cheating

Education 'reformer' Michelle Rhee, the much-touted darling of Arne Duncan and unfortunately our President, is now being investigated for falsifying test records of her students to improve her resume.

Rhee responded to the investigation by saying

""It isn't surprising," Rhee said in a statement Monday, "that the enemies of school reform once again are trying to argue that the Earth is flat and that there is no way test scores could have improved ... unless someone cheated."


In its months-long investigation, which included documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, USA TODAY looked at 103 public schools in the nation's capital where tests showed a pattern of unusually high numbers of answers that had been changed from wrong to right. The improvements in test scores earned Rhee and the school system national attention.

But since 2008, more than half of D.C. schools were flagged by a testing company for having unusually high rates of wrong-to-right erasures. At one school, Noyes Education Campus, the number of erasures in one class was so high that the odds of winning the Powerball grand prize were better than the erasures occurring by chance.

A 'reformer' who was on a rising path in Washington political circles has near-to-impossible turnaround scores in schools to bolster her resume. What gives?

In the social sciences, there is an oft-repeated maxim called Campbell's Law, named after Donald Campbell, a psychologist who studied human creativity. Campbell's Law states that incentives corrupt. In other words, the more punishments and rewards--such as merit pay--are associated with the results of any given test, the more likely it is that the test's results will be rendered meaningless, either through outright cheating or through teaching to the test in a way that narrows the curriculum and renders real learning obsolete.

So human nature dictates that teaching to a test does not create accountability for our teachers or our students, it only incentivizes cheating.

And, ironically, when Democrats start blaming teachers for poor results - more likely due to poverty than bad teaching - it emboldens guys like Scott Walker:

Walker's argument - that greedy teachers are putting their own interests over the interests of the public - resonates in part because in recent years, many Democrats have made that argument as well.

Exhibit A is former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee.

At the end of the day, movements that are being proposed by Arne Duncan and his kind (even here in Colorado) which include great ideas such as increasing class size to improve education,
are not motivated by real reform, but rather to game the system in order to receive the favor of those paying for it - such as the billions provided by the Gates foundation or Philip Anschutz.

These 'reform' efforts may merely just may be misguided good intentions - but why take the chance when they are more likely exactly what we see in Wisconsin: a right-wing assault on the most leveling aspect of our democracy, a fair and free public education.

Teachers should be allow to teach a child from a holistic perspective - are they hungry? cold? emotionally challenged from a family issue? - without being worried about firings based on a testing system created by some politico in DC.

If getting ahead means cheating to gain favor with rich donors who back a right-wing Republican agenda, then maybe we should examine whether those who claim to be Democratic 'reformers' actually have our children's interests at heart -- ahead of their own.