The Washington Post

Phony accountability in Rhee’s D.C.

What is going to happen to the D.C. school system for failing to keep its promise to the federal government in its successful Race to the Top funding?

First, the promise: D.C. schools officials, who won $75 million in 2010, said in the application that it could produce a reading proficiency rate of 56.6 percent in 2011 if it was a Race to the Top winner (which it was last year).

That didn’t happen.

Here are the actual results of the 2011 D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System exams that were released last week: 43.9 percent for elementary students, 48.2 percent at the secondary level. Math scores were about eight points less than projected in the application.

My colleague Bill Turque noted that D.C. officials had made similar promises to the private foundations — Walton, Broad, Robertson and Arnold — that had forked over millions of dollars to help fund a new teachers contract implemented by former schools chancellor Michelle Rhee that was focused on performance pay based on student test scores.

Turque asked a senior U.S. Department of Education official what would happen to the District’s four-year Race to the Top grant for failing to get the scores it promised.

The answer: Pretty much nothing. Why? Test scores aren’t the be all and end all, apparently, and that the city will be judged by its total reform record.

In an era when teachers and principals are being evaluated primarily on test scores — a reform encouraged by Race to the Top — you tell me what’s wrong with this picture.


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Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.


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