April 15, 2011
The work of the former D.C. School Superintendent, Michelle Rhee, has been under concerted attack since she left office. Rhee antagonized the teacher unions and created powerful institutional and ideological enemies. A couple of recent studies have attacked her tenure in office. Paul Peterson, director of Harvards Program on Education Policy and Governance, released a report for Education Next whose results were summarized in a Washington Times article he authored.
Peterson presents the following paragraphs of analyses:
In my report ... I put to one side data from the Districts own assessments now subject to cheating allegations. Instead, I consider the performance of District students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a low-stakes test for which incentives to cheat are minimal, as the performance of no student, teacher or school is identified and about which no cheating allegations have been raised.
Gains are not enormous in any one year, but over time, they add up. In 2000, the gap between the District and the nation in fourth-grade math was 34 points. Had students gained as much every year between 2000 and 2009 as they did during the Rhee era, that gap would have been just 7 points in 2009. Three more years of Rhee-like progress and the gap would have been closed. In eighth-grade math, the gap in 2000 was 38 points. Had Rhee-like progress been made over the next nine years, the gap in 2009 would have been just 14 points, with near closure in 2012. In fourth-grade reading, the gap was 30 points in 2003; if Rhee-like gains had taken place over the next six years, the gap in 2009 would have been cut in half.
There is more valuable analysis by Peterson that makes the entire article worth reading. It points to the critical fact that true educational reform will be difficult and met with considerable opposition by entrenched interests.