Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cheating awards?

Okay, so I agree with Jay Mathews that D.C. Public Schools chief Kaya Henderson shouldn't  have chosen J.O. Wilson Elementary School Principal Cheryl Warley to receive the Post Foundation's Distinguished Educational Leadership Award, even though she sounds like a pretty good principal.

Yes, it's obvious that Wilson and dozens of other D.C. schools were part of the pattern of systematic, widespread cheating that led to the district's reported test-score gains, which in turn were erroneously credited to Michelle Rhee's leadership. It was Rhee who took all the credit and built her reputation on the supposed test gains and who left town before the cheating scandal was uncovered. She bailed out, leaving principals like Warley holding the bag.

Oddly, Mathews never once mentions Rhee in his entire column, leading one to assume that Erasure-gate was simply a matter of 103 district schools each individually having their children erase incorrect answers and replace them with correct answers, with the blame falling entirely on principals like Warley and her faculty. Henderson, who was Rhee's assistant during erasure-gate, in a way has set up Principal Warley by nominating her for the award.

Mathews also fails to mention that the Post and its Foundation--the award giver--is intimately tied up and invested in the current national obsession with standardized testing which has led to similar cheating scandals from Georgia to Maryland and beyond.

The Post Company's subsidiary and main profit center, Kaplan, Inc., is one of the leading purveyors of the kind of high-stakes testing that has helped create the climate for cheating. Of course, they're only a small part of the profitable system of standardized testing madness that is foisted on schools and teachers by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, supported by power philanthropists like Gates and Broad, and directed by Secretary Duncan. Melinda Gates herself was on the Post's board before another scandal involving Kaplan and the Gates Foundation forced her to resign.

So in a way, the Post Foundation is simply awarding schools and principals for playing a dangerous (for kids) game that it has helped create. If they are going to reward cheating and fraud, then Rhee and their own Kaplan, Inc. should be the first two recipients.

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