Advertisement

Harvard educator and researcher defends Michelle Rhee's tenure

A Harvard educator and researcher has come to the defense of former D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, after a series of newspaper investigations and reports have been released questioning the academic and stylistic accomplishments of her embattled tenure.

Paul E. Peterson, director of Harvard's Program on Education Policy and Governance and a Hoover Institution fellow, released his own analysis that seeks to debunk the recent critiques of Rhee's accomplishments during her time in D.C. He also blogs about it here.

Advertisement

Peterson picks apart several studies and reports about D.C. test gains in recent years, and analyzes other factors of Rhee's tenure that could account for the district's progress in recent years. Of note, he looks at D.C.'s NAEP scores--considered the most reliable measurement of student acjievement available--to find holes in the arguments against Rhee's academic gains, even suggesting that the critiques may be more appropriately directed at her predecessors.

He concludes:

"In all the numbers Rhee's critics have assembled, the two facts that stand out have nothing to do with test scores, but rather with student and teacher absenteeism. One does not know how quickly leaders can have an impact on student learning, but strong educational leaders are known for their impact on school culture. If we take Rhee at her word, changing culture was what she was trying to do, and those falling absenteeism indicators suggest that she may have had an effect, even in a short period of time. It's even possible that a change in the D.C. school climate accelerated learning gains. About that one cannot be certain when only two years of NAEP data are available. But one can be quite sure that a case against Rhee has yet to be established."

Advertisement
Advertisement