Another One for the “I Told You So” File

By Lloyd the Idiot

More than two years ago, I wrote about how the best thing that could happen for then DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee was her firing.

Turns out that I was right, at least if you believe today’s Washington Post.  Since the pinheads on the DC Council fired here in October 2010, she’s become one of the leading voices in education, appearing on Oprah and Frontline and, of course, penning a book.

Driving her popularity is a simple philosophy:  hold the adults (including teachers) accountable.  An amazingly simple (and popular) concept – unfortunately, all too often derailed by those who would be held accountable.  From the Post article:

Rhee, 43, aims to spread the kind of change she promoted in the District: closing failing schools, evaluating teachers based in part on how well their students perform, firing weak teachers and paying bonuses to successful ones. She also supports private-school vouchers for low-income children and says parents should be able to shut down weak schools through “parent trigger” laws.

It would be great to see Rhee’s type of drive in the Loudoun School system, but, alas, we have Herr Hatrick.

Wonder how well he would do if he were fired?


  • LocoConservative says:

    Digging her notoriety. She’s definitely a sane voice in her profession. Nice to note Hatrick’s “contributions” , too.

  • Loudoun Insider says:

    Please fire Hatrick and hire Rhee. Thank you.

  • David Dickinson says:

    What LI said. Even a staunch fiscal conservative like me would be willing to pay her twice what Hatrick gets (and he is the highest paid employee in the County system).

  • Chances of Rhee taking any offer from Loudoun: 0.000

    Why the heck would she?

  • David Dickinson says:

    She wouldn’t. But, it never hurts to ask.

  • Baron Rosedown says:

    Never going to happen as long as Hattrick is in the wheel house. $56M or 5% (reduced from his original 11.68% request) for status quo. By 2015 the LCPS fiscal budget will be $1 BILLION.

  • David Dickinson says:

    Well, Hatrick should have been fired long ago. I’m still holding out hope that he will be.

  • Elder Berry says:

    Rhee is barely a professional educator and she used DC schools as a laboratory for untested untried ideas. In the main those ideas did not do much of anything to improve student performance over the long term.

    Rhee is an anti-teacher union buster. How does that make sense when the one thing that has been definitively linked to improved student performance is paying teachers more.

    Loudoun schools are in the main successful. Yes, they are expensive. Do you want to trade that for cheap and unsuccessful? If so, say so.

  • Hillsboro says:

    > Rhee is an anti-teacher union buster. How does that make sense when the one thing that has been definitively linked to improved student performance is paying teachers more.

    You’re delusional, EB. Rhee wasn’t anti-teacher or anti-union. She was anti-tenure.

    The contract she and the union negotiated offered a 21% increase in base pay for the teachers. And it had the enthusiastic support of the WTU/AFT brass.

  • NateDogg614 says:

    “You’re delusional, EB. Rhee wasn’t anti-teacher or anti-union. She was anti-tenure.”

    Frankly, if there’s one thing that needs to be busted up, its the tenure system. Hold the teachers accountable for their performace and if they can’t hack it then they should be sacked.

    I mean, it’s for the children. Right? Am I right folks??

  • Erv Addison says:

    Elder Berry, you assert that “Loudoun schools are in the main successful.” What is your rationale and support for that statement?

    Because LCPS tells us that it graduates around 94 or 95 percent of its students (keeping in mind who decides who graduates)? Because LCPS high schools place high in the US News & World Report rankings (based primarily on AP class enrollment, which LCPS doesn’t even charge students for — and no longer requires students to take the AP Exam — and where student success in those classes is irrelevant to the report)? Because LCPS tells us that over 90% of its graduates continue onto college (but never tells us that one-third to one-half of them will not finish college)? Because Loudoun students score well above average on the SATs (which is primarily a function of their families’ social-economic statuses, not LCPS)?

    Given that this past week was midterms for high schools and the children of families I know were able to use completed “review packets” which were identical (verbatim) to the midterm as “open notes” in multiple courses, I have a difficult time agreeing that our schools are “in the main successful.” As one14 year-old student told me, “I think that’s cheating.”

  • Elder Berry says:

    For pity sake, if you choose to disregard every standard measure by which school success is generally determined, what school system in the US do you think IS successful?

    I’m not talking about some head-in-the-clouds “perfect” schools, I’m talking about the real world, and by that measure Loudoun does as well as or better than most.

    I agree that most schools today are not necessarily educating kids in the manner I was accustomed to, but I know kids in the top-ranked Fairfax schools as well as top schools in California, and Loudoun does just as well as the former and better than the latter.

  • Erv Addison says:

    Thank you for helping making my point: “What school system in the US do [I] think IS successful?” A rara avis for sure, if we “choose to disregard every standard measure by which school success is generally determined” — since none of those measures measure what the school is doing.

    I disagree that it’s “head-in-the-clouds” thinking to expect an institution that we spend 70% of our county budget on and is the only game in town to actually add value to a process. It is “real world” thinking to expect that my child and other students meet the expectations of employers when they leave LCPS, but the reality is that far too many don’t, as evidenced by surveys of those “real world” employers. It is “real world” thinking to expect that when a school system touts itself as superbly preparing our kids for college, that they not only do just that, but prove it by actually attempting to measure the outputs, not just the inputs.

    And, unfortunately, the scientific measures available to us — but that LCPS and virtually every other school in the country refuse to use internally and publicize to its customers — show that our kids are not prepared for college. Check out how many students have to take remedial English and math and science college courses (and paying for them) before they can start taking the classes that count toward graduation and a college degree. Check out how many have to take the college courses they hoped to skip by taking AP classes. Check out how many of our Loudoun graduates who don’t make it through their freshman years, much less to a Bachelor’s in even six years.

    Rather than the “standard measures” our schools use and want us to use, I look at the studies they choose to ignore and hide (such as Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities by Bowen et al. and the National Student Clearinghouse analyses).

    I asked what your rationale and support for your position is and ask it again relative to your last paragraph? Elder Berry, I understand the source of your impressions; they are pretty common. So, I now ask what your observations of what goes on in our schools’ classrooms every day tell you? Do you think the interactions between staff and students truly challenge both and promote learning?

    Join me in my school’s classrooms and then let’s discuss some more how well Loudoun is doing in adding value to the process and how much of its “success” is the result of SES factors.

  • Eric the half a troll says:

    Erv, you asked for measures and they were provided and you simply rejected them. Please provide your own measures (sourced and verifiable) if you wish to have this discussion. Otherwise, you are arm waving. I have three products of the school system and as is true everywhere while there are not so great teachers in the LCPS system, there are really terrific ones who are doing what you seek. If your problem is in teacher quality, then the recent moves to cut benefits and reduce spending (mostly in the area of teacher salaries in the end) certainly will not help us attract the best in the business. My kids got a top quality education here. They got into their first choice school (so far) and they WERE extremely prepared for the demands of college. Frankly, of all the parents I know, I have yet to hear one say their child was NOT prepared for college.

    BTW, seeing as how success in education starts at the K-5 level, I am sure you are concerned with a push by our school board to (once again) close the most successful and highest rated elementary schools in the county.

  • Kevin Kuesters says:

    Erv’s question is an excellent question and one I have been asking since I’ve been on the board…and I don’t really get a concrete answer. Most Loudouners perceive that the school system is good, but perception does not prove reality. The board is putting together a community priorities survey where our intention is to ask the county citizens what they want out of the school system. [My personal view is that the mission of LCPS should be to prepare students for college or the work force.] I would highly encourage all of you to participate in the survey and especially to provide us with feedback on what you think the role of LCPS should be and how we should define success.

  • Erv Addison says:

    Eric the half a troll,
    As you requested, here are just a few of the numerous verifiable sources I’ve used in my research. I am similarly interested in third party sources that support LCPS’s and others’ assertions that Loudoun schools are providing a superior learning experience for our students and tax dollars outside the beneficial SES factors most of our students enjoy relative to other schools across the country.

    Crossing the Finish Line:
    Completing College at America’s Public Universities

    College Completion: Graduation Rates and Data for 3,800 Colleges
    “Getting More Complete”(Inside Higher Ed)
    “To Raise Graduation Rate, Colleges Are Urged to Help a Changing Student Body”(The New York Times)
    “Helping Degree Seekers Finish What They Start”(The New York Times)

    Feel free to find thousands more by Googling “college completion rates.”

    I also add my own observations from teaching within those Loudoun classrooms every day of the school year in forming my opinions and concerns.

    Kevin, your comment that most “Loudouners perceive that the school system is good, but perception does not prove reality” is similar to the statistical challenge when it comes to assessing the value of top-tier universities: Is UVa a great school because it delivers a great education or because it admits only great students? We need to be asking the same question here.

    If you believe the mission of of our schools — and my efforts in the classroom — is to prepare students for college or the work force, then I would hope you would find authentic measures of achievement of that mission. The National Student Clearinghouse (located just a hop, skip, and a jump from us over in Herndon) provides this data to interested high schools for a mere $400 per school. That’s about $6,000 annually to receive eight years of data on all Loudoun graduates, including how many actually attend college, how many years it takes to graduate, how many drop out and when, as well as how many transfer and to where.

    Montgomery County Schools in Maryland use this data.

    It seems to me this would be a great starting place in attempting to assess success.

  • Eric the half a troll says:

    Closest thing I could find to a local school thread. So the R school board has decided to require an economics and personal finance course to its graduation requirement thereby reducing the number of APs available to our grads by at least one. This will have the net effect of making our grads less competitive for college admittance in an already ridiculously competitive process.

    WTF? This smack of Fox and friends. Thanks a lot (for nothing)!!

  • Eric the half a troll says:

    Erv, I just read your comment above. I asked for numbers comparing Loudoun to other schools which show Loudoun is not preparing their kids for college (which I think is what you are claiming). Do you have such data?

  • Erv Addison says:

    Eric the half a troll,

    At the risk of creating a Mexican Standoff, I’m also asking for anyone (Bueher? Beuhler?) to provide authentic data that it is.

    The best data for Loudoun schools is provided by the National Student Clearinghouse, which can only be obtained from the Clearinghouse by LCPS. In other words, for it to be made public, LCPS would have to pay the (modest) fees of $400 per high school per annum for the preceding eight years worth of graduate data and make it available to students, families, and taxpayers.

    The data confidentially matches each graduate’s college record to their Loudoun student record, enabling us to see how many students actually attend college, how long they stay, how long it takes to graduate, and whether they transfer to other colleges. The data also integrates with LCPS’s Naviance system, which would allow our high school students to examine aggregate data about how well Loudoun students (by high school) fare at specific colleges, thus enabling them and their families to make more informed college selection decisions.

    Unfortunately, you or I cannot see this data — which would answer our question — because LCPS says it hasn’t purchased the data. The word from our school system is that — despite the rather paltry cost of $6000 — it examined the data a couple years ago and found it “too inaccurate” to be useful.

    It is surprising to hear this assessment for two reasons: (1) data integrity should be pretty solid given that the Clearinghouse originally assembled the data to ensure its ability to determine when students left college so its clients (banks) could begin collecting on student loans, a rather significant driver of accuracy I would say; and (2) an exhaustive search of the Internet has failed to turn up any scholarly or other documentation showing that other schools find the data inaccurate.

    In fact, quite the opposite. For example, Montgomery County Public Schools, just across the river, has praised the service for enabling it to measure its own progress toward goals of fostering college success in its grads.

    Lacking this information, I looked for other ways to evaluate the future prospects for Loudoun students. The extensive Crossing the Finish Line study I mentioned above did have access to the Clearinghouse data for Northern Virginia. Although it did not single out Loudoun, I feel confident that the aggregated data for Loudoun, Fairfax, Arlington, Fauquier, Prince William, and Stafford counties shouldn’t be significantly unrepresentative of Loudoun.

    The study states that the college graduation rates for Northern Virginia schools fall between 50 and 60 percent.

    Montgomery County, although not as nosebleedingly affluent as Loudoun but ain’t exactly poor, did publish their figures and it experiences a similar level of “success.”

    So, Ethat, while I’d love to present data that shows exactly what our students are doing in college — good, average, or bad — I can’t because LCPS hasn’t made it available.

    Alternatively, we can only rely on the highly acclaimed published research on Northern Virginia, the experiences of close-by, similar school districts, or LCPS’s self-published data about irrelevant SAT scores and graduations rates.

    I would love to get my hands on the Clearinghouse data and would be gladdened if it showed Loudoun students significantly fared better than most. Maybe it would be worthwhile to request the data LCPS says it did get a couple years ago and see what it shows, but likely nothing short of a FOIA request would result in it ever seeing the light of day.

    In the mean time, we must be satisfied with the less than “concrete answers” that LCPS provides even to the school board receives.

  • Eric the 1/2 Troll says:

    “The study states that the college graduation rates for Northern Virginia schools fall between 50 and 60 percent.”

    Erv, forgive me but I can not access that book unless I pay for it. Please tell me how these rates compared to other schools in the state/country?

    According to this site, Virginia as a whole is about average (20th in the nation and just below the national average).

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