Huffie Joy Resmovits turns in a good account of this whole American Federation of Teachers funded attack site on Michelle Rhee fiasco.
Bottom line: C’mon, are we in middle school? I happen to think Students First should disclose its donors, I like transparency. But the way to push on that is not to set up an anonymous attack site that basically amounts to character assassination. Rather it’s – obviousness alert – to take a stand on transparency by being transparent and then expecting it of others. More fundamentally, how did a union that fought for workers rights and against authoritarian regimes around the world and for a variety of unpopular but important issues here at home (including, instrumentally, in our field academic standards long before they were cool) find itself behind an anonymous website with photoshopped pictures of someone?
I’m all for a lively debate and Michelle Rhee’s positions and policy recommendations are certainly fair game for the public debate and even websites designed to argue the other side, but even if AFT President Randi Weingarten was not barnstorming the country calling for move civility in the education debate this particular site would still cross a bunch of lines. We should all be embarrassed.
Update: Apparently much of the photoshopping is being cleaned-up. Sort of contradicts the official line that the AFT is proud of this…Also, Rhee biographer Richard Whitmire weighs in below.
32 Replies to “Common Sense Last”
The lede on the HuffPo piece contains some extraordinary logic, that Rhee refusing to disclose Students First funding is the equivalent of the AFT hiding its attack website.
Here’s an equivalent: the AFT refuses to disclose how much money it spent in the mayoral election to get rid of Rhee and Rhee refuses to disclose Students First funding sources. Frankly, I think each side should disclose. Regardless, that’s an equivalent.
The equivalent to this secret website would be the disclosure that Rhee/Gates/Bloomberg had secretly funded a website, complete with photo shopped art, that draws together attack blogger material pretending to be ‘research’ — all designed to smear Randi Weingarten.
Imagine the outrage if that were revealed. Imagine the headlines in the mainstream press — the headlines we haven’t seen in this case.
Now, try to imagine Al Shanker’s reaction were he to learn what the AFT is doing.
Full disclosure: I am the author of The Bee Eater
Or imagine a website, complete with photo-shopped art, that would draw together all attack material on any schoolteacher who happens to be a union rep (example, the random stuff that appears on websites where kids rate teachers, plus any test score data, plus any not-as-funny-out-of-context photos from facebook, etc)?
Since when is posting what Miss Rhee has said or done an “attack”?
What did they post that was not true?
Thinned skinned, aren’t you all.
RheeFirst was set up long before the call from Rhee to reveal the names of Studentsfirst donors and is really a different issue.
Many internet sites are anonymous and are judged by the quality of their materials. The materials on Rheefirst originated in respected and respectable news outlets (e.g., NYT, USAT, WP) and research organizations.
Please read some of these articles, as many people already have in their daily newspapers or in the empirical studies that come across their desks during a normal day, if they work in the fields of educational or government policy.
It already exists.
Check this out:
Totally middle school. A wise person once observed that we spend most of our lives trying to get over high school. The great education debate has sunk to new lows with this one.
No wonder we can’t get anywhere on real policy reform when our debate is dominated by a bunch of pre-adolescents.
Sadly, I don’t think even this will put an end to the false dichotomies and labor law pretending to be education policy frame on our public education systems.
I started The VIVA Project, http://www.vivateachers.org because I firmly believe that until we start letting classroom-based professionals have an equal voice to all the education personalities (politicians, public administrators and union leadership alike (not to mention 3P advocacy efforts) in identifying the problems & solutions that will actually have a positive impact on students and their teachers we’re going to continue to get this kind of “debate”. I have colleagues-in unions and out–who share the passion for letting teachers own their profession (not just their workplaces), but there aren’t enough of us yet.
For today’s juvenile Political update:
There’s exciting news today in the Los Angeles Times. The Los Angeles Board of Education voted unanimously to let local educators (i.e. teachers) elect to run charter schools before allowing outside organizations to do so. This will enable teachers to be full professionals as they make all decisions regarding school governance. We can also depend on teachers to be good stewards of tax money.
To me, teacher-run charters will result in the change that will make a difference for students. Once teachers enjoy full empowerment, the profession will be able to attract and retain highly qualified individuals and hopefully will no longer lose almost 50% by the fifth year of employment. Also, with teachers at the helm, instruction will be based on strategies that work, rather than the fad du jour.
As to administration, I’m hoping teachers at these charter schools will vote for a head teacher, who will serve at the pleasure of the faculty. Now that is change!
I like how folks who are defending the site act completely stunned that anyone is calling it an “attack blog”, and make sure to reference “attack blog” with scare quotes to emphasize this utter disbelief.
Really? It’s more than the photoshopped pictures, the tagline suggesting she has an immature fixation on getting attention, the cutesy way of fitting her name into other common words like ‘Rheeform’ and ‘Rheepublic’, and the fact that it makes large negative claims about her record and frequently cites blogs and opinion pieces as evidence.
It’s that someone thought it’d be a decent counter to her reform work to fashion a website for the sole purpose of shitting all over her reputation. Instead of making this about issues, it’s again about HER. It makes me wonder what some think an actual attack blog would look like, if this doesn’t fit the definition.
As expected, Chris can’t identify the falsehoods on the website.
It’s humorous to see Mr. Whitmire pine in.
This past February, he was comparing those who doubt Ms. Rhee’s Baltimore Miracle to the racist birthiers.
Andy had no problem with that.
We have also seen Miss Rhee attack the USA Today as being an “enemy” of “school reform” for publishing data from DCPS on the erasure analysis. (She seemed oblivious that the editor of the USA Today story is the wife of Jay Mathews. That would explain Jay’s recent criticism of Miss Rhee, including highlighting the study of EAI in Harlem Park ES and Baltimore and absense of any miracle.)
And then last week, we see the lawyer Steven Brill slyly slime the “enemies” of school reform linking them to the Holocaust Deniers.
And again, Andy is silent.
As the failure of Miss Rhee’s “reforms” (or deforms) in DCPS become too glaring to ignore, the screeches from her and her comrades in the Professional Education Reform movement increase.
when the walls, come tumblin’ down”
There is a school, perhaps in Spain, where every two years a couple of the staff/teachers get voted to serve as principal and the administration.
It’s not someone they strive for.
Yes, it would be a good idea for two teachers to be voted in to serve as head teachers. However, many teachers do not aspire to the job and lack the necessary skills so it would have to be a person who demonstrates an interest in administration. The important thing is that the person or persons, would still remain TEACHERS and would serve at the pleasure of the faculty.
I hope the teachers in Los Angeles realize what an important opportunity they have to be fully empowered professionals. They will have the ability to make decisions regarding almost all aspects of their school, including hiring, firing and promotion. They will be able to discuss best practices and won’t have to change their approach every time a rich lady shares her teaching ideas with the governor. This will mark the beginning of full professional status for teachers.
As for Michelle Rhee, I’ll always remember that the first person to see her as she is, both literally and figuratively, was the photographer for Time Magazine. And now many people see. “
I have done so many times before, as have others. If you want(ed) to debate these issues maybe you should go back and do so, instead of backing away from every thread you spit in. The “holocaust deniers” thread is even fairly recent and is a great example of your preferred shit-and-run debate tactics.
The main topic of THIS blog post is specifically about the union’s hand in creating a website attacking Rhee. Do you want to reply to what I wrote above?
Actually, Chris, will you point out, using data as that is your preferred method, how RheeFirst “attacks” Rhee?
Is quoting one’s words (and pointing out when they are false) “attacking”?
It seems it is for the Professional Education Reform crowd.
They don’t like the spotlight shined on their “shit”.
Chris, Andy or Richard will claim the AFT put the teenage girls up to making claims to the police?
As for “shitting” over her reputation,the “shit” is the data that shows her failure in DC to reduce the achievement gap between races or to show increased performance by tests scores as kids go through the grades.
The “shit” is her Baltimore Miracle fantasy you you believe.
The “shit” is her deliberate or incompetent misrepresetnation of the 1996 and 1997 value added studies to support her policies (http://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/2011/08/11/value-added-scrutinizing-the-most-widely-cited-study/).
Oh, and I am not “stunned” that Rhee et. al would call it an “attack” site.
From the get-go, she has demonstrated a Lillian Hellman attitude towards the truth.
Like her attacks on USA Today.
Hopefully, this is a sign that her 15 minutes are up.
Time of Your Life
***”Actually, Chris, will you point out, using data as that is your preferred method, how RheeFirst “attacks” Rhee? ”
Here it is again in list format. Let me know what you disagree with:
* Photoshopped picture of Rhee wearing a tiara. Doesn’t really counter her reform policies, does it?
* Website name and tagline imply that Rhee’s motivated just for herself. This isn’t supposed to be a barb attacking her motivations?
* The “Rheepublic of Rhee”, “Rheeform”, “RheeFirst!”. The website creators don’t even pretend to want to engage a mature, honest debate with her, but instead intend to taunt. Is that defensible?
* Blogs and editorials repeatedly cited as clear evidence supporting negative claims about her reputation. It’s hugely dishonest to level large claims about someone’s reputation while citing outside sources as evidence when these outside sources lack a peer review process and clear examples of credibility. The evidence used is clearly contentious and yet the authors pretend otherwise. Pretending no debate exists in an attempt bolster the support for these claims… is that honest?
* Designing a website with all of the above elements making it blatantly obvious the intention is to personally discredit Rhee. Everything she says is supposedly a lie, and their readers are encouraged to take action by attending her public appearances and perhaps passing along those pre-made fact sheets about how she lies. Really? This is all intended for honest debate of the issues? This doesn’t at all indicate that the creators wanted to make these issues specifically about her?
What’s really pathetic is that you again ignore my requests to further respond to past debates that you’ve dropped before, and you follow with similar tactics as displayed on the RheeFirst website. The latest thread you posted in is clear evidence of this. You asserted that there were no other group of deniers other than Holocaust deniers, and assumed Brill was thus calling everyone “like Nazis”. When I gave you clear evidence of your errors, you refused to admit fault. You obviously knew little of what you were writing about, and when confronted, you left without owning up to your ignorance. This happens constantly in these debates, as it clearly happened just recently when it was about Nazis(!).
So I have to ask, why do you then expect anyone to take such claims and sources at face value when you can’t be bothered to defend them when someone asks?
It’s an attack site, end of story. Marlowe seems to basically argue: 1) she deserves it; and 2) it’s true (I guess other than the photo-shopping piece).
Disagree on both, but actually neither of the above is relevant to the question of whether it is an attack site. Just because you agree with the substance doesn’t mean it isn’t an attack. When you take on someone’s fiance and post photo-shopped pictures, it’s an attack site. It’s farcical to argue otherwise.
It exposes the AFT and its supporters on two fronts. 1) They are running scared. The fact that the union is scared of this less than one-year old organization is quite something. Creating this site and running it through multiple routers to hide it? Wow. Why so scared? 2) The calls for civility from Weingarten and Ravitch are laughably disingenuous.
Honestly, between this site and Ravitch’s ridiculous episode with the Rhode Island state superintendent (in which Ravitch lied about her and then had to back off), the union has completely ceded the moral high ground. No wonder surveys now show the public doesn’t think unions help public education any more. Good grief.
Only in the Professional Reform Movement is a fact an “attack.”
Only in education debates is that drivel considered a reply
Come on, edconsumer and Chris.
Here’s a post from RheeFirst:
Analyze it for the “attacks”, “lies” and “smears”
If I was to put together a website with the picture of Muammar Muhammad al-Gaddafi in a dress and photos of the victims of the Lockerbee bombing,
Chris, Andy, Richard, edconsumer, Michelle and Hari would accuse me of “attacking” Gaddafi.
Only in the Professional Education Reform movement.
Chris Smyr Says:
September 1st, 2011 at 8:42 pm
Only in education debates is that drivel considered a reply
More name calling and fact avoiding from Chris.
Care to detail the lies, smears and attacks here, Chris or Andy:
Twice I had to post an explanation of the obvious reasons that RheeFirst should be labeled an attack site. Twice you ignored all of it. I’m not sure if it comes across as clever to you to post 4 comments in a row without a response to anything in this thread, but it is certainly a useless waste of comment space.
Distraction #1: One example doesn’t detract from all of the things already said about the website. I’m sure there are some fact-based articles there. What’s revealing is that the higher quality ones are typically the ones that say less about Rhee, like this one, which says nothing at all with respect to Rhee or reform. The academy that the two visited was an F-ranked school back in 2002, the first letter grade it ever obtained. Since then, it earned 2 D’s, then 2 C’s, and finally in 2007 it worked its way up to a ‘B’ grade. Since then, it has obtained B’s and A’s. Given the school’s demographics, those are amazing numbers and the school, staff, and students rightfully deserves recognition for the improvement they have achieved and for maintaining their success. Their newest expansion into elementary, in its first year, did post a failing grade, but so did the success story of its middle school when it first opened. As the new elementary school failed its first year, grades 6-8 continued to achieve.
Distraction #2: So comparing Gaddafi, a terrorist sponsor and perpetrator of crimes against humanity, to Michelle Rhee and ed reform is a valid analogy? Wow! You really need to check your grasp on reality.
Distraction #3: What facts am I avoiding? You always seem to claim this yet never offer evidence of it happening.
Distraction #4: Citing Guy Brandenburg as some sort of expert is hilarious and a great example of how the website capitalizes on the lack of peer review and credibility that I explained above. It’s also a bit early to blame Rhee for the possibility of cheating throughout DCPS, as well as to suggest the gains made in her tenure were all due to cheating, so it’s interesting how prominent “ErasureGate” is displayed on a website designed to “set [Rhee’s] record straight”.
To get back on topic: are you ever going to give a response?
As always, you dodge what is in front of you.
SOP for Chris.
Nothing you posts shows how this is a website that attack Rhee with lies and smears.
When my daughters were young, they liked to pretend to be princesses and they would wear a tiara. What’s wrong with Michelle wearing one.
Distraction 1. Find for the postings that smear or tell lies about Michelle. You have yet to find one.
D2. Oh yes, ignore the model and focus on the example. Typical from the Professional Education Reform movement. Michelle’s a master of that domain.
But for simple you, what if I put up a site that had pictures of the women JFK carried on with after he married Jacqueline? Would that be an attack site?
D3 See D1. What are the “lies” and “smears” and “shit”?
D4 You label Guy as an “expert” and then you attack him. Again, what facts did Guy get wrong? You posted to his website, and because he pointed out how dishonest and full of shit you were, you ran away.
It is also funny that you swallow her creationist-like Baltimore Miracle, but when the data doesn’t go your way, all of a sudden you want “peer review.”
Who peer reviews the distorted analysis you squat and post here.
Now Chris joins Michelle in being the Lillian Hellman of the PERM.
Avoid discussion of facts and support
PERM in action.
*****”Nothing you posts [sic] shows how this is a website that attack [sic] Rhee with lies and smears.”
Here it comes…
*****”When my daughters were young, they liked to pretend to be princesses and they would wear a tiara. What’s wrong with Michelle wearing one. [sic]”
What does the tiara imply about Rhee?
You didn’t respond to the blog name and tagline. What message are they intending to get across?
You also didn’t respond to the cutesy way of using her name in ‘Rheepublic of Rhee’ and ‘RheeFirst!’ Does that suggest the website is looking for an honest, mature debate?
You also didn’t respond to how blatantly obvious the entire website intends to personally discredit Rhee. Encouraging readers to take action by attending public appearances, passing out fact sheets about how she lies– that doesn’t at all indicate that the creators wanted to make these issues specifically about her?
*****”Find for [sic] the postings that smear or tell lies about Michelle. You have yet to find one.”
The two articles you copy-and-pasted above provide little relevant information for attacking Rhee, yet the website implies that they are evidence of her wrong-doing. You didn’t respond to that.
Here you also didn’t respond to how it’s dishonest to cite outside sources that utilize contentious evidence only to come away with far-reaching conclusions, particularly when these outside sources lack a peer review process and clear examples of credibility. The introductory paragraph on the site’s homepage links to another great example of this: a document entitled “Rhee-Writing History” that contains 6 sections. Cited as evidence for each section:
* A “study” that’s not really a study at all, as it’s not peer-reviewed and it’s published on the owner’s personal wiki
* Guy Brandenburg, a retired teacher who blogs, who’s not peer-reviewed and so can choose to post or substantiate whatever the hell he wants, and who also publishes on a personal site instead of from some more credible source with identifiable standards
* NAEP data but dishonestly– Rhee’s claim was most likely referring to the subgroups described by NAEP in its 2009 report card: ELLs and SD student data are not specifically tabulated in these reports almost certainly because of the larger error inherent in their analyses. Looking at the specific ELL and SD data for, say, Grade 4 Math, further explains the problematic rebuttal: scores for both groups increased by several points, but the large error involved made both jumps statistically insignificant with a p=0.089 and p=0.081, meaning there’s an 8-9% chance the jumps were due to chance. Statistical significance would require anything below 5%.
* … well, nothing. The document claims that of the teachers hired in 2006, over 70% left 3 years later. The citation that is given later in the blurb is a Bill Turque article, in which he cites Mary Levy’s numbers saying the 3-year attrition for DCPS is 59%, but also expounds that payroll records between 2001 to 2010 point to 5-year attrition rates of 76%, suggestive of a trend that does not implicate Rhee as a causal factor. This section is also a straw man because Rhee’s claim being presented is that she helped “change the conversation and dynamics around human capital and the teaching profession”, to which she would likely cite other stronger pieces of evidence, like her IMPACT model.
* Graduation rates but done incorrectly– it attempts to fault her for not using the NCES calculated graduation rate for 2009, but the trends in graduation rates have been increasing over the past 4 years regardless which source one pulls the numbers from. If we were to go ahead and look at NCES calculated rates, we’d find the same increasing trend as the one calculated in-house: 54.9% in 2007, 56% in 2008, and 62.4% in 2009.
* …again, nothing. This should raise some red flags considering the section is dedicated to finances. I believe the arguments are drawing from Mary Levy’s testimony in March 2011. DCPS’s struggle with fiscal transparency is not one that started (or ended) during Rhee’s tenure, and the lack of access to verifiable financial data likely led them to rely wholly on this testimony. This is problematic; Turque’s article on the matter included a response from a DCPS official explaining that Levy seemed to be using different definitions of central office staff in her analysis, thus the increase in central office staff included a large number of employees who worked mainly in schools, such as the “master educators”. This would explain how central office waste was excised even though Levy found more central office staff.
If we look at Levy’s numbers, the increased per-pupil expenditures were partly the result of the near-doubling of SPED administrators and the hiring of testing and accountability officials– evidence of the leadership and accountability Rhee cites in her claim.
*****”Oh yes, ignore the model and focus on the example.”
You compared Rhee to Gaddafi. GADDAFI. Please explain in exacting detail why you think that is a good analogy.
Your JFK analogy seems to further indicate that you’re not following the many reasons already outlined above that suggest RheeFirst is intended to be an attack site.
*****”You label Guy as an “expert” and then you attack him. Again, what facts did Guy get wrong? You posted to his website, and because he pointed out how dishonest and full of shit you were, you ran away.”
No, I would never label Guy an expert, but the website sure seems to imply it. I used him as an example of the dishonest tactics I’ve already explained on three separate occasions above.
When I last posted on his site, he questioned my motivations and wondered out loud if I drank the “[TFA] cult’s Kool-Aid”. Unfortunately, there was no reply to how unscientific and dishonest it was of him to cite the opinions of a researcher that had the same lack of data as anyone else to substantiate his claims. There was a LOT that was wrong with what was being argued, as readers can find in the links below:
*****”Who peer reviews the distorted analysis you squat and post here.”
No one, which is why I’m not writing fact-sheets citing these blog comments as evidence. What would be a more leveled and honest approach is to link to these discussions so readers can decide for themselves which arguments are stronger. This would lead readers to see that you generally fail to ever give rebuttals explaining what exactly is “distorted” about what I “squat and post here”.
Thus, instead of folks assuming Phillip must know his stuff when his screeds are cited as evidence, they can be pointed first to a link where he compared Rhee to Gaddafi. Or to one where he thought “deniers” translates into “like nazis”.
You ask for rebuttal when you give nothing to rebut.
And you have yet to point out one lie RheeFirst has posted.
What is the difference between a website that details the work of Rhee, Kennedy or Gaddafi?
Or a website that lists the names of the slaves Jefferson and Washington and Adams owned?
Or a website that lists the military engagements of Thomas Stonewall Jackson?
Only in Chrisoland would telling the truth be considered an attack.
I still don’t get the defensiveness. So the teachers union is running an attack site? Why be defensive about it?
As far as I can tell, there are only two reasons to run away from it: 1) the AFT is busy calling for civility while running an attack site hidden by multiple servers. 2) it sort of makes you wonder what’s up when the nation’s largest political donor is so scared of a brand new nonprofit.
There’s nothing wrong with a labor union attacking companies or people who they find threatening. But usually they don’t deny it, and usually it’s large corporations, not small nonprofits. I guess that’s why the subterfuge – it’s sort of embarrassing, you know?
Phillip, to say that I’ve given you nothing to rebut at this point, or that I haven’t just documented *several* lies and smear tactics, is telling. Brill was spot on with the term he coined; climate change deniers could learn a lot from these attempts to defend RheeFirst.
End an argument by calling someone a Nazi.
Al Gore: “Remove the doubt. Reveal the [Nazis].”