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'Rhee'ly bad timing for Indiana rally

The rock star for the "Education Reform Rocks" rally at the Indiana Statehouse today is Michelle Rhee, whose record as chancellor of the Washington D.C. schools is hailed by so-called reformers as nothing short of miraculous.

Which makes the details of a USA Today investigation published Monday sort of embarrassing. The newspaper reported that "more than half of D.C. schools were cited since 2008 for having unusually high 'erasure rates,' which signify wrong answers changed to right ones on tests."

In other words – cheating. In some schools, there were as many as 10 erasures per student.

Rhee's successor has called for an inspector general review, noting that the school district uses the test scores for evaluation and compensation, illustrating another troublesome aspect to tying teacher salaries and bonuses to student test scores.

And it's probably not a coincidence that the same day the USA Today story broke, President Obama appeared to make a clean break from the school reform crowd, telling a Washington audience that high-stakes testing is bad for education.

Indiana rally organizers are probably wishing that the D.C. schools story could have waited until next week or, better yet, until after their pro-voucher, pro-charter, anti-union legislative agenda is in place. It sure doesn't look good when your headliner is at the center of a breaking scandal.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at kfrancisco@jg.net.

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