Let’s just say it now: Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of Washington, D.C.’s public schools, is a fraud.
On Jan. 7, her national StudentsFirst organization, funded by a number of major pro-privatization, anti-union groups and foundations, issued its “State Policy Report Card.”
New Jersey was given a grade of “D.”
But wait. The low grade has nothing to do with student achievement, or the quality of New Jersey’s public schools, which are ranked second overall in the nation, and which lead the nation in a number of categories.
No, StudentsFirst rated states solely on how well they had adopted the policy proposals that it supports: policies like vouchers, more charters, evaluations and compensation tied to student test scores, elimination of seniority, and other such corporate “reforms.”
The two states rated at the top of Rhee’s grade sheet? Louisiana and Florida, where student achievement always ranks at or near the bottom in the nation.
Perhaps the best quote in response to this “research” came from Richard Zeiger, a deputy superintendent for California, which got an “F” grade from Rhee.
He called the failing grade “a badge of honor.”
We at NJEA feel the same way about our “D,” which is a misleading insult to arguably the best public school system in America.
Rhee’s organization, which she has tried to sell as a “bipartisan grassroots movement for reform,” is being exposed for the totally partisan front group that it is. Noted blogger Jersey Jazzman summed it up in a recent entry, referring to StudentsFirst as a “right-wing, Republican money funnel that pretends to be a bipartisan education ‘reform’ group.”
This in the wake of a Huffington Post story noting that StudentsFirst had just witnessed the exodus of a number of prominent Democrats from its staff, one of whom said: “It gets tiresome to have to defend who we are.”
The litany of policies that StudentsFirst used to grade the states reads like a veritable Christmas list for the right-wing corporate reform movement: merit pay, vouchers, slipshod alternate-route certification, public humiliation of teachers who fail to raise test scores, unlimited charters, and the elimination of all job security protections for veteran teachers, including seniority.
But we can thank noted education researcher and writer Diane Ravitch for unveiling what she called the “ultimate irony” of Rhee’s report.
“Rhee wants teachers to be evaluated and fired by test scores,” Ravitch wrote. “She wants schools to be closed by test scores. But when she ranked the states, she didn't look at test scores! If she had, her number one state – Louisiana – would have been at the bottom of her rankings.”
That’s why we give Michelle Rhee and StudentsFirst a big red “F” – for the fraud she is committing in the name of reform.