Yes, Rhee saw the test cheating memo

(By Susan Biddle/For The Washington Post)
Michelle Rhee (Susan Biddle for The Washington Post)

The education world is abuzz over the publication by independent journalist John Merrow of a secret memo that says nearly 200 D.C. educators may have cheated on  standardized tests in 2008 when Michelle Rhee was schools chancellor. (You can read the memo and more here.)

Just to be clear, because some have wondered, Rhee did see the memo, according to Merrow. He wrote in a post on his blog, Taking Note:

I have a copy of the memo and have confirmed its authenticity with two highly placed and reputable sources. The anonymous source is in DCPS; the other is DC Inspector General Charles Willoughby. A reliable source has confirmed that Rhee and Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson discussed the memo in staff gatherings. Sanford came to Washington to present his findings in late January, 2009, after which he wrote his memo.

Rhee, however, did not push for a thorough investigation and instead, repeatedly, publicly minimized the extent of the cheating.

No, the memo doesn’t prove that cheating took place, but it does suggest there was more going on than investigators have so far uncovered. There have been several probes, but two — one by a private testing firm and the other by the D.C. Inspector General — were limited. Another, by the U.S. Education Department’s Inspector General, resulted in no action taken, though the extent of the investigation is unclear.

If the memo isn’t enough to spark a new investigation, this should be: My colleague Emma Brown reported in this new story that teachers in 18 D.C. classrooms cheated last year on high-stakes standardized tests during the chancellorship of  Henderson, Rhee’s successor in the post, according to the results of an investigation released Friday by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education.

This confirmed cheating took place after security was tightened as a result of the earlier suspicions. All in all, a new probe — by investigators with real subpoena powers, which is how the Atlanta cheating scandal was uncovered — is clearly warranted.

 

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss | April 13, 2013