Just hours after Florida education commissioner Tony Bennett resigned because of allegations that he manipulated Indiana’s grading system to ensure a friend’s charter school would get an “A” rating, queen of the education reform movement Michelle Rhee tweeted the following:
It should be no surprise that Michelle Rhee is so quick to praise Bennett–even as his own emails expose his politically- and financially-motivated corruption and absence of ethics and judgment. After all, Rhee herself has been the subject of investigations for what the Office of the State Superintendent of DC described as a host of test security violations, many labeled as “critical,” during Rhee’s tenure as Chancellor of the DC schools.
According to John Merrow, Rhee was “fully aware of the extent of the problem when she glossed over what appeared to be widespread cheating during her first year as Schools Chancellor in Washington, DC. A long-buried confidential memo from her outside data consultant suggests that the problem was far more serious than kids copying off other kids’ answer sheets.”
Yet Rhee, to whom Adrian Fenty gave supreme power when he appointed her as chancellor of DC schools, remains unfazed and unapologetic for security breaches that occurred on her watch. As chancellor, she fired teachers and administrators arbitrarily and without hesitation, and her determination to “clean house” earned her praise from union busters and others who sought to blame all of problems in public education on educators. (Rhee’s willingness to fire school staff without hesitation is especially curious, given that she herself spend very few years in the classroom; her first year was disastrous by her own account, and she had so little control of her students that she taped their mouths shut with masking tape so they would be quiet during the trek to the lunchroom.)
Reformers like Bennett share Rhee’s no-nonsense (actually, all nonsense) philosophies, and their aggressive and sweeping attacks on public schools have drawn attention and favor from people on both sides of the political spectrum. In today’s depersonalized, clinical, hostile reformy dream-world–where test scores rule, teachers are largely ineffective, things that can’t be measured aren’t worth learning, and privatization and profit are the answers–people like Michelle Rhee and Tony Bennett are shining examples that substance is not important–but that appearance is. The illusion of success is what matters, and numbers and data can easily be manipulated to mean whatever one wants them to mean. The financial and political favors one can gain from holding children’s educations hostage are more important than the children themselves, and by systematically dismantling public education, those participating in the destruction can profit immeasurably.
And apparently, “fewer failing schools” is something to brag about–even if it’s clear that the data to support such an assertion has been manipulated.
This, everyone, is the morally bankrupt face of education reform.