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Memo raises troubling questions about Rhee and cheating

“First, it strongly suggests that Michelle Rhee knew in 2009 of widespread allegations of cheating in D.C. public schools and failed to act,” she says. “And second, it indicates that rather than conducting a full investigation of the allegations, a strategy was devised to dodge them.

“Those of us in D.C. at the time heard rumors that Rhee pressured principals to improve test scores and that she looked the other way when evidence of cheating was put before her. As John Merrow concluded, Rhee’s overzealous fixation on testing and measurement, and her efforts to silence and fire anyone who questioned her reckless, destabilizing strategies, ultimately failed D.C.’s kids. Under Rhee’s tenure, DC-CAS scores showed little or no gain, and the performance gap between low-income and upper-income students actually widened. Schools were destabilized by the constant churn of teachers and principals being fired, relocated or leaving out of frustration. Our children deserved better.

“In 2011, my colleague Nathan Saunders and I called for an immediate, full-scale investigation to be conducted by an unbiased third party. The Sanford memo—suggesting 70 schools may be at issue—also calls into serious question whether the investigations done by the D.C. inspector general and the U.S. Department of Education inspector general, as well as the actions of D.C. State Superintendent of Education Deborah Gist, were comprehensive and thorough.

“We renew the call for a full investigation, and ask the D.C. City Council, with its full subpoena powers, to conduct a series of hearings. That would be putting students first.”

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