Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Paul Moore on a "Kindler, Gentler" Rhee

Miami's Paul Moore sent this over the transom. My view is that Rhee is getting advice from the same PR people that handle Randi Weingarten, who probably told her "We can't sell out the DC teachers like we did in NYC unless you tone it down a bit." Look for the fix to come real soon, with the AFT trumpeting a great victory and selling it to the teachers with a PR blitz. A year later - uh, oh!

As her corporate masters are forced to stand down by the collapse of their global economy, Michelle Rhee has begun to change her tune in Washington D.C. The new "kinder, gentler" Rhee is reflected in this WaPo article.

As the article says, Rhee has told private audiences that the money behind her campaign to abolish seniority rights for teachers comes from Gates, Broad, Dell and Robertson.

For all the defenders of the public schools, those standing up to the corporate onslaught from NYC to LA to New Orleans, there was another revealing passage in the article. It reads, "Rhee and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) also highlighted several statistics that they described as encouraging news. They reported that 14 of 17 senior high schools increased their graduation rates last year. Although the cumulative growth was only 1 percent, it represented significant gains at some schools, including Bell Multicultural (14.3 percent) and H.D. Woodson (10.2 percent)."

What this claim reflects is the success of a nationwide effort to manipulate graduation rates. It is a handmaiden of the strategy used by Rod Paige in Houston to claim dramatically higher test scores. Of course, the "Houston Miracle" has since been exposed as the "Houston Fraud". But by the time the world learned that, among a battery of tricks, students were kept in the 9th grade for three years to avoid testing Paige was the US Secretary of Education and he had the protection of the Bush justice department.

The harebrained pedagogy and the absurd policies of the privatizers were never meant to actually work but it must appear to be producing results. They cannot cite any objective measure of progress so they trumpet the appearance of success in several areas--parental involvement, student discipline and school violence statistics, and graduation rates.

To use Florida as a case study on graduation rates, the Florida Department of Education is consciously directing a policy to drive students out of certain public high schools. The NCLB Act and the FCAT have done their appointed task. Several years of low test scores have isolated the state's inner-city schools and laid the groundwork for an attack.

The FDOE has begun this attack under a program called Differentiated Accountability. The program is described here.

In the DA high schools the administrations have been directed to drive out as many students as possible. Every DA high school has been significantly depopulated with an eye to presenting higher graduation rates at the end of this coming school year.

So next fall the FDOE will send out another celebratory press release like this year's, which read, "Governor Charlie Crist today announced that Florida’s graduation rate reached its highest point ever last year at 75.4 percent, according to results released today by the Florida Department of Education (DOE). This rate exceeds the previous year’s rate by three percentage points and represents an overall improvement of 15.2 percentage points since the 1998-99 school year. The results indicate that rising numbers of minority graduates continue to play a significant role in the improvement of Florida’s overall graduation rate."

“Similar to last year, graduation rates for African-American and Hispanic students showed some of the largest growth this year, increasing by 3.8 and 3.1 percentage points, respectively. White students also showed sizeable growth, with a 2.6 point increase in their rate compared to 2006-07."

Reporting from the rabbit hole,
Paul A. Moore

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