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Finally! Someone is Noticing Arne Duncan’s Connection to Michelle Rhee!

February 28, 2012

The New York Times is finally on to something!  Damn!  It took them long enough.  The title of this piece in The Times is: “Amid a Federal Inquiry, an Unsettling Sight.”

The article starts with a simple enough question:

What was Arne Duncan doing sharing the stage with Michelle Rheeat a recent education conference?

That is a damn good question, elucidate please:

Mr. Duncan is the education secretary.

Ms. Rhee was the chancellor of schools in Washington from 2007 to 2010.

Since last summer, the Office of the Inspector General in Mr. Duncan’s department has been investigating whether Washington school officials cheated to raise test scores during Ms. Rhee’s tenure.

You would think Mr. Duncan would want to keep Ms. Rhee at arm’s length during the investigation. And yet there they were, sitting side by side last month, two of four featured panelists at a conference in Washington about the use of education data.

“This is an amazing panel, so I’m thrilled to be part of it,” Mr. Duncan said in his opening comment.

If there is any hope of getting to the bottom of what went on in the Washington schools — whether Ms. Rhee is as amazing as Mr. Duncan said, or whether test scores were inflated by cheating — it is through the inquiry by the inspector general. (Catherine Grant, a spokeswoman for the office, confirmed that an investigation was under way, but would not give details.)

This is how tone deaf Arne Duncan is.  He has no idea, nor does he care about teachers, I have said this time and time again.  Just appearing on the same stage as Rhee is a major denigration to this nation’s teachers.

Here in another article, this time on the HuffingtonPost we find the real reason why Duncan was on the stage with Rhee:

Politics is once again making strange bedfellows. A top Mitt Romney supporter and one of Barack Obama’s wealthier contributors have a common cause: They’re both backing Michelle Rhee.

Did I just read that right?  One of Obama’s wealthier backers is behind Rhee’s Students First?  Now we know why Duncan was on the stage lauding Rhee.

Until now, identifying Rhee’s usually anonymous donors has been largely a guessing game. But recent lobbying filings in Pennsylvania name New Jersey hedge funder and Romney backer David Tepper and the Texas-based Laura and John Arnold Foundation as among the largest donors to StudentsFirst, Rhee’s national lobbying and advocacy group that pushes for rigorous teacher evaluations and school choice. And though the filings don’t give dollar amounts, a source close to the donor community said the Arnold grant amounted to tens of millions of dollars.

Rhee, one of the biggest names in the education reform movement, drew attention during her stint as chancellor of Washington, D.C., schools. There, her oft-laudedteacher evaluation systemteacher firings and bureaucratic shakeup landed a broom-wielding Rhee on the cover of Time magazine and made her the focus of the documentary “Waiting for Superman.” Her critics point to allegations that her record in D.C. was inflated by cheating, a matter that has yet to be settled by an ongoing federal investigation (though its scope has been narrowed to 35 classrooms).

After Adrian Fenty, the mayor who appointed Rhee, was voted out of office, Rhee left to found StudentsFirst. SF has quickly become a big name in the education reform lobbyangering unions and working with legislatures that have altered their teacher hiring laws to the group’s liking.

The New York Times continues:

Ms. Rhee’s reputation as a national leader of the education reform movement has rested on those test scores, which soared while she was chancellor. Then, last March, USA Today published the results of a yearlong investigation of the Washington schools that found a high rate of erasures on tests as well as suspiciously large gains at 41 schools — one-third of the elementary and middle schools in the district.

Since then, Ms. Rhee has refused to talk to the reporters who know the story best, although she has been talking to many other people.

During the last year Ms. Rhee has, according to a spokeswoman, scheduled more than 150 public appearances as the head of Students First, an advocacy group that favors vouchers,charter schools and evaluating teachers by test scores, while opposing tenure and teachers’ unions.

Ms. Rhee has also given speeches around the country for a fee of up to $50,000, “plus first-class expenses,” according to an e-mail from Peter Jacobs of the Creative Artists Agency that was posted online by one of Ms. Rhee’s critics. (Emily Lenzner, spokeswoman for Ms. Rhee, said that the former chancellor charges for a “handful” of speeches a year and that the “amount varies.”)

Does it really matter that Secretary Duncan has appeared onstage with Ms. Rhee?

Mr. Duncan doesn’t think so, according to his spokesman, Justin Hamilton. “It’s irresponsible for a New York Times columnist to presume guilt before we have all the facts,” Mr. Hamilton wrote in an e-mail. “Our inspector general is investigating the cheating issue in D.C. public schools, and we should all let the findings speak for themselves.”

The Office of the Inspector General is an independent oversight agency, although the secretary can refer cases for investigation. 

Richard L. Hyde is one who believes that Mr. Duncan should keep his distance. Last year, Mr. Hyde directed 60 state agents in a nine-month investigation of cheating in the Atlanta public schools. They identified 178 teachers and principals in nearly half of the city’s schools who cheated — 82 of whom confessed. The case they built is so strong that criminal indictments are expected.

Mr. Hyde said that to get witnesses to cooperate in such investigations, they must believe that the political leadership is committed. “I’m shocked that the secretary of education would be fraternizing with someone who could potentially be the target of the investigation,” he said. “The appearance of a conflict of interest is troubling because it can cause the public to lose faith in the investigation.”

In Atlanta, the governor at the time, Sonny Perdue, provided extensive resources for the inquiry and then stayed away. “I purposely kept a very low profile and let investigators do their work,” Mr. Perdue said in an interview.

Ms. Lenzner, the spokeswoman for Ms. Rhee, noted in an e-mail that Washington’s scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress had improved under Ms. Rhee’s leadership, a sign that the gains made on other tests were real. The federal test is considered the gold standard of assessments and beyond tampering.

Washington did record some of the highest gains in the nation on the federal math tests. However, reading results were less impressive, with eighth graders scoring lower under Ms. Rhee than they had a decade before.

In Atlanta, gains on the federal tests were even higher than Washington’s, yet cheating was pervasive on the state tests that are used to rate schools, principals and teachers and to pay performance bonuses.

There is another page on the New York Times article and I highly suggest you click through and read it.  This is what we, as teachers are up against.  The reformers, Rhee chief among them, are fully entrenched with very connected large political donors.  We HAVE to elect politicians who will back the interests of teachers and students not billionaires with pet hobbies in education reform.

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