Measuring the yardstick
I am quoted in the article “D.C. schools nominee fails to validate success,” (Page 1, Thursday) as part of the controversy over the appointment of Michelle A. Rhee to lead the D.C. public schools. Perhaps the community will allow me to provide some clarity over an education evaluation issue.
Attributing student achievement to a particular teacher is difficult, particularly among highly mobile populations such as those children who attended Harlem Park Elementary School during Mrs. Rhee’s tenure. I have been asked if my office could review detailed testing records from the 1994-95 school year, which is difficult because those archives are not easily accessible since our systems changed in 2000. Even so, student records from the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS) vendor would have indicated only the teacher to whom the test administration was attributed and not to the teacher who was responsible for the year’s instruction.
The data I have shared with reporters for The Washington Times and the Baltimore Sun are derived from the Title I report, which collapses all third-grade classes together. The reading gains that year go well beyond the 2 NCE gain that was the Title I standard. However, it is worth noting that this school was emerging from a controversial privatization management contract and weak student performance was recovering — an effect statisticians call “regression to the mean.”
Mrs. Rhee was unknown to me during her time in Baltimore, but colleagues who did know her have spoken of her talents in the highest terms. I would not want inconclusive Baltimore City CTBS data to be part of the discussion of her qualifications.
Research, Evaluation, Assessment and Accountability Officer
Baltimore County Public School System
Paul Greenberg had a very interesting column on Sunday (“Notes on a ‘Constitutional Crisis,’” Commentary).
It states: “When the president decided to fire a handful of federal prosecutors who serve at his pleasure and replace them with appointees he liked better he was accused of violating the Constitution.” So, all of the people who have said that there was no White House involvement are liars and perhaps perjurers?
Then he plays the blame game, saying President Clinton fired all U.S. prosecutors. True, but how many did he smear? How many did he call “poor performers” because they were not loyal Clintonites or didn’t use their offices to push his liberal agenda?
He then excuses the vice president’s refusal to follow an executive order requiring every executive “agency” and “entity” to inform the Security Oversight Office how much material had been classified. So, the vice president’s office does not meet the definition of a federal agency. That the vice president does not meet that definition, nor that of an entity, is arguable.