THE BLOG
05/07/2014 04:30 pm ET Updated Jul 07, 2014

Bush and Rhee Endorse a Book -- Fortunately, Not Mine

I announced on April 27, 2014 that my book on key individuals and organizations exploiting public education is now published: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who's Who in the Implosion of American Public Education.

Harvard professor and senior fellow at the Hoover Institute Paul Peterson and two others also have a book coming out; it is entitled, Teachers Versus the Public (nice, huh?). Based upon information from a PR email dated 04-28-14, it is obvious that Petersen's et al. book aims to prove that teachers (and their unions) are an impediment to publicly-desired "reforms" such as merit pay (i.e., teacher pay based upon student test scores), vouchers and charters.

If only those self-interested teachers were somehow brought into check, then "popular school reform proposals" would be rid of an "obstacle."

In what Peterson's et al. PR people seem to believe a selling point, they offer two endorsements for the teacher-blaming book: former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and former DC Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

Well. I am a public school teacher, and I can assure Peterson -- and Bush and Rhee -- that I intend to be quite the "impediment" to so-called "reforms" designed to privatize public education.

Time to put some of my book, A Chronicle of Echoes, to good use.

Here is an excerpt from one of my chapters on Bush and his connection to the Hoover Institute. Hoover likes Bush's letter grades. Now, if only they would work:

If school letter grade calculation is "revised," it is a tacit admission that the grade calculation was not as "good" as it should have been in previous years, yet schools were still subjected to the consequences of the "not as good" system. Furthermore, there is the issue of the inability to compare school letter grades from one year to the next. If the criteria for calculation are in constant flux, then comparisons from one year to the next are meaningless.

Bush doesn't talk too much about such issues. And the Hoover Institute, in its promoting of the Bush 1999 A+ Plan, did not anticipate the potential chaos that floating criteria could make of the school letter grading system. According to Hoover:

The grading system under A+ (Bush's 1999 Florida education reform package) does a satisfactory job of identifying higher quality schools and an even better job of identifying those that are the least effective...

So many revisions to the now-tedious Florida school letter grade formula bring increased opportunities for calculation errors. In 2012, the Florida Department of Education forgot part of the formula in the calculation of school letter grades for 213 Florida schools. This omission did not inspire confidence in an already-capricious school letter grade system:

State education administrators, who are in charge of grading schools and students, failed to follow their own formula.

In fact, they forgot part of it.

In his endorsement of Peterson's et al. book, Bush states, "... for the sake of our country, and for the continuation of the American Dream, out education system must improve."

Too bad for those who view him as a suitable endorsement that he doesn't take his own advice.

And now, for an excerpt from A Chronicle of Echoes on Michelle Rhee and how she measured up as a teacher based upon her own students' test scores:

If it is test scores that are supposed to distinguish education management schools from community public schools, then Tesseract/Edison did not deliver in Baltimore. Neither did Michelle Rhee.

During her three years at Harlem Park Elementary, Rhee's students' CTBS test scores were nothing remarkable. At the end of her first year, Rhee's students' scores fell to around the 20th percentile in both reading and math. At the end of her second year, Rhee's students' reading scores were around the 15th percentile, and math scores, around the 38th percentile. Finally, at the end of Rhee's third year, students's CTBS scores were the best they have been during her time as teacher: reading scores were around the 45th percentile; math, 55th percentile (the number of test takers in Rhee's third year [1994-95] was lower than in other Baltimore schools: only 64%). However, Rhee advertised that by the end of her third year, 90 percent of her students scored at the 90th percentile. Her statement has not been validated.

In a more tempered note, another article refers to "some students [in the class originally at the 13th percentile] soaring to the 90th percentile." "Some students" is much less spectacular than "90 percent." However, even "some students" remains unvalidated.

It is worth repeating that in her first two years as a TFA teacher, Rhee's students' CTBS scores were seriously low in comparison with the scores of other test takers. This is certainly not an argument for the five weeks of training that placed Rhee, a woman with a bachelors in government, in the public school classroom. It is important to add that Rhee was not teaching alone for three years; she was part of a teaching team for her second and third years. Thus, the idea that student test scores can be directly connected to a single teacher, for better or worse, is immediately foiled by the complexities inherent in modern American education...

Model TFAer Michelle Rhee had assistance in the classroom.

By her own admission, Rhee had a terrible first year. I am not surprised that her second and third years involved "combined classes with another teacher, and together they taught the same children for two years." So, Rhee, who later became chancellor of DC schools, only taught alone for a single year. And she fared badly. Then, she taught with assistance for the next two years. Then she taught no more.

Michelle Rhee's endorsement alludes to the "huge stake in how... schools teach our kids." She continues with "work[ing] collaboratively... toward a world-class education system."

I'm thinking Rhee's teaching record nullifies any solution she might espouse regarding "world-class education."

And I haven't even detailed here the suspicious test score scandal during her time as DC chancellor -- but I do so in my book.

Paul Peterson et al. have a new book coming out. They have chosen Bush and Rhee as showcased endorsers.

I have a new book coming out. I, too, showcase Bush and Rhee.

It won't be pretty for those two -- nor for Peterson, who has chosen to align with the likes of Rhee and Bush.

Originally posted 04-28-14 at deutsch29.wordpress.com