I liked the Frontline documentary on Michelle Rhee a little more than Somerby did. To some extent, I understand why they chose a give-’em-enough-rope approach, and I think they left it pretty clear that Rhee’s approach made the rampant cheating that Rhee refused to investigate inevitable. Still, I agree with Somerby that some of Rhee’s false claims demanded more specific refutation. And I think that the access they had to Rhee was in some way a disadvantage; a documentary that put Rhee’s D.C. tenure in the larger context of the education “reform” movement would have been better.
Also, I’d like to add a point to Erik’s post about the Students First “report card” that many media outlets unaccountably treated as something other than worthless propaganda. The fact that the the criteria the group uses has no discernible relationship to student performance is bad enough. But the crietria themselves give away the show. Consider, for example, one reason why the group ranks Louisiana highly:
Louisiana also recently enabled new teachers to participate in a more portable retirement plan.
Note the Orwellian language here — teachers are being “enabled” by being shuttled into a pension system that transfers risk from the state to them. Amazingly, the methodology being used by Rhee’s grifters gives states a “4″ (the highest score) if they have defined contribution pensions and a “0″ if they have defined benefit pensions. In other words, states get higher rankings for their education systems if they make their pension benefits less attractive! Even more amazingly, pension “reform” is an “anchor” category, meaning it gets three times the weight of some of the other categories that might actually have a clear positive relationship with improving a state’s educational system.
Students First, in other words, can’t even make any pretense that it’s about anything but reactionary policy proposals that have some vague connection to education. Maybe for the next round they can just go all the way and give states better report cards if they cut marginal tax rates and pass new abortion regulations.
…Dean Baker has more.