Council to Challenge Rhee's Résumé

By Nikita Stewart and V. Dion Haynes
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, June 30, 2007

The D.C. Council will question acting D.C. schools chancellor Michelle A. Rhee next week about claims in her résumé that she improved students' test scores when she taught in Baltimore a decade ago, council members said yesterday.

Although Rhee acknowledges that she has no documentation to prove the dramatic changes, three educators who worked closest with her at a Baltimore elementary school support her position that her students experienced big increases in standardized test scores.

Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) played down suggestions that the council was conducting an investigation into the résumé details, saying he and other council members will scrutinize her achievements at a confirmation hearing Monday.

"Whenever you make those kind of statements, people will look for corroborating evidence," Gray said.

Rhee's résumé asserts that the students made a dramatic gain: "Over a two-year period, moved students scoring on average at the 13th percentile on national standardized tests to 90 percent of students scoring at the 90th percentile or higher."

"When people say, 'Do you have documentation?', I've been saying no," Rhee said yesterday. "I think this is an important thing going forward for teachers to have documents to say, 'This is what the data look like.' My lesson is: How do we set up a system so teachers can have this kind of information on their students?"

Focus on Rhee's résumé follows controversy surrounding other mayoral nominees. Although Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) has touted his education plan as a partnership between him and the council, some council members say they have felt left out of the process for selecting top members of the administration.

Gray, in particular, was blindsided by the choice of Rhee. Fenty introduced her to Gray, the second-highest elected official in city government, at 11:30 p.m. the day before he publicly revealed her as his choice.

Questions during Monday's council session will reflect concern about her having limited experience as a teacher and none as a superintendent or chancellor, Gray said. Rhee, 37, is the former chief executive of the New York-based New Teacher Project, a nonprofit group created in 1997 that recruits and trains teachers to work in inner-city districts, including D.C. public schools.

"This is somewhat of an unconventional appointment," Gray said. "She's basing a lot of her fitness on her experience in the classroom and her recruitment of teachers. . . . If you say something, you should be able to back it up."

From 1992 to 1995, Rhee taught at Baltimore's Harlem Park Elementary, one of the worst-performing schools in the city and among nine schools run by a private company, Education Alternatives. During her first year there, she taught second grade. In her final two years there, she received approval to teach the same group of students in second and third grades.

In an interview, Rhee said the improved scores were seen in a comparison of results on the California Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills, which students took at the end of first grade before she had them and at the end of third grade. She could not produce data to support the statement.

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