Michelle Rhee's first response to the public emergence of a suspicious pattern of changed answers on tests during her time as Washington DC schools chancellor was to lash out.
That drew responses like this onefrom Mark Kleiman, who also noted that had he been a DC voter last fall, he would have voted for Adrian Fenty and by extension for Rhee:
It was, barely, possible that Rhee was culpably negligent – but no worse – in the cheating and the cover-up via a grossly inadequate “investigation.”However, her slime-and-defend reaction to the exposure of the cheating eliminates that possibility. She was, and is, complicit in the cover-up, if not the cheating itself. There is simply no honest explanation for the very high ratio of wrong-to-right changes to right-to-wrong changes....And there’s no way someone as sophisticated as Rhee could not have known this.
So Rhee called a Washington Post reporter and altered her approach:
She told me that what she said Monday — her word, repeated often in our conversation — was “stupid.”She said that she thinks cheating might have occurred in the District and that she is glad her successor, Acting Chancellor Kaya Henderson, ordered a new investigation. Rhee said she still believes that the vast majority of teachers and administrators would never falsify test results, but that there can be exceptions. She said we should improve test security procedures so such abuses could not recur. She said the D.C. schools should ensure that D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System tests, after being completed, are not left in principals’ offices where tampering is possible.
Let's look at the timeline. When a highly suspicious pattern of wrong-to-right erasures and changed answers on tests was first flagged in 2008, Rhee's administration declined to investigate, and she touted some of the questionable schools as top performers and doled out bonuses to teachers and principals. After another year of suspicious results, a cursory investigation was held but results were not released. Then, this week, when USA Today published its investigation—an article she'd refused to comment for—Rhee's response was to talk about her enemies and their flat-earth beliefs.
And now that refusing to comment to USA Today and lashing out have failed her, Rhee's response is to try to pin the suspicious results on a few bad apples and piously call for increased security.
Rhee is a media star, and this tactic may succeed. But if you look at this progression of events with any honesty, it's clear that Rhee is the bad apple. She created the incentive to cheat. She not only did not investigate reports of possible cheating, she rewarded the suspicious schools and held them up as models for all others. This gets to the absolute core of what she built her reputation on, and she has to be held to account.
(Who definitely won't be holding her to account? The Sam Adams Alliance, a conservative group that's nominated her for its "public servant of the year" award—to be judged by a panel including Andrew Breitbart.)