Despite the rising contempt for Gov. Rick Scott, this one kind of flew under the radar. With the exception of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, our local media outlets seem determined not to notice that the credibility of Gov. Scott's education adviser has been grossly undermined by a cheating scandal.
Michelle Rhee, the nationally adored star of the documentary Waiting for Superman and staunch proponent of corporatized education reform, built her reputation by lifting test scores at low-performing D.C. schools while she served as chancellor. Now, the scores that built Rhee's credibility appear to be part of widespread test fraud that occurred during her tenure, according to USA Today.
Rhee's theory, which essentially moves schools toward privatization, became immensely popular among politicians and bodes well with Scott's privatizing zealotry.
As D.C. chancellor, Rhee doled out about $1.5 million in bonuses to principals and teachers of schools that showed significant improvements in student test scores. But the USA Today piece revealed that scores from these schools had tremendously high levels of "erasures," basically meaning that the wrong answer was frequently erased and changed to the correct answer.
Amid the revelations, education expert Diane Ravitch blasted Rhee in a column on the Daily Beast.
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Her theory seemed to be that if she pushed incentives and sanctions hard enough, the scores would rise. Her theory was right, the scores did rise, but they didn't represent genuine learning. She incentivized desperate behavior in principals and teachers trying to save their jobs and meet their targets and comply with their boss' demands.
And it was only a few weeks ago that Scott signed SB 736, which ties teachers' pay to students' performance on standardized tests.