The Case against Michelle Rhee: How Persuasive Is It?

By Peterson, Paul E. | Education Next, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview

The Case against Michelle Rhee: How Persuasive Is It?


Peterson, Paul E., Education Next


Recently, two separate studies--one by Alan Ginsburg, a former director of Policy and Program Studies in the U.S. Department of Education, the other by a committee constituted by the National Research Council (NRC)-- have sought to discredit the work of Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of schools for the District of Columbia.

According to Ginsburg, Rhee was no more effective--probably even less effective--than her predecessors. Not surprisingly, his argument was quickly picked up by American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten. In a Wall Street Journal interview, she asserts that Michelle Rhee "had a record that is actually no better than the previous two chancellors." In a blog post dated March 29, 2011, Diane Ravitch makes the same point: "The gains under Rhee were no greater than the gains registered under her predecessor Clifford Janey, who did not use Rhee's high-powered tactics, such as firing massive numbers of teachers." Yet the evidence Ginsburg musters to support such claims falls well short of its mark.

In the second study, the NRC committee does not deny that student performance in the District of Columbia improved under Michelle Rhee's chancellorship between 2007 and 2010, but it says there is no scientific evidence that proves the work of the chancellor is responsible for those gains. "The problem was the [test score] changes that seem to be going in the right direction can't be attributed to the specific changes in the system," the study committee's co-chair Robert M. Hauser told an Education Week reporter. While it is certainly true that one cannot, in the absence of experimental evidence, establish a connection between policy changes and test-score outcomes, Hauser added a carefully worded slap at Rhee: "All districts should be cautious about generalizing from the kind of aggregate overview data that have been used to suggest successes of changes made in the district to date." The reporter is then informed that "students' NAEP scores started to improve before the overhaul law passed, as noted in a report last month by Alan Ginsburg."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The NRC study bears the more prestigious imprimatur, but it is the Ginsburg study that is most likely to be cited in future discussions of merit pay, teacher tenure, and the like. So our fact-checking of the two studies begins with his contribution to the discussion.

The Ginsburg Report

Alan Ginsburg, though now retired, was until very recently the ultimate Washington insider. For more than a generation he was known as the Department of Education's data-collection guru, the person inside the bureaucracy who understood best what information to collect and how to collect it. So it is of considerable interest that Ginsburg has now chosen to give aid and comfort to Weingarten and other union leaders by leveling a hard-core attack on "The Rhee DC Record."

To an Education Week reporter, Ginsburg insisted that his critique of "The Rhee DC Record" is not "intended to be anti-Rhee." He is reported as saying that he acted only because "he believes they [his findings] should serve as a check on a policy of mass dismissals of teachers as a way to improve districts.' For me, it's the much larger question in this country of building a large teaching force.'" It is nonetheless quite disconcerting that he--and those who rely on his work--say that she was engaged in "large-scale firing" and "mass dismissals" when in fact she released in 2010 just 241 teachers for low performance.

Ginsburg excludes any and all information coming from the D.C. exams, known as the Comprehensive Assessment System (CAS), required by the federal law known as No Child Left Behind. He explains that decision on the grounds that "performance levels for 2006 and afterwards are not comparable with those from prior years." But that does not preclude a comparison of Rhee's record for the years beginning in 2007 with the situation in the year before she arrived. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Case against Michelle Rhee: How Persuasive Is It?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.