D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray yesterday said he has been investigating claims of remarkable student achievement that appear in the resume of acting schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee from her tenure at a Baltimore elementary school in the 1990s.
“It’s up to her to document that,” said Mr. Gray, at-large Democrat. “She indicated what the outcome was.”
The Washington Times reported yesterday that Mrs. Rhee, 37, has been unable to substantiate a claim of dramatic increase in student test scores during her three-year stint at Harlem Park Community School that she placed on her resume.
The lack of documentation did not sit well with some council members, who have criticized the Fenty administration for its secrecy in selecting Mrs. Rhee and for copying portions of a school report from a school system plan in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C.
“The last thing we want is another unneccessary and embarrassing lapse,” said council member Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat. “It’s like ‘Resume 101’ — what you put on your resume better be verifiable and accurate.”
“If she’s going to state her record of achievement, it has to be trackable,” said council member Yvette Alexander, Ward 7 Democrat.
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat, earlier this month chose Mrs. Rhee to help reform the District’s public school system. Mrs. Rhee began her three-year teaching career at Harlem Park Community School in the 1992-93 school year through the Teach for America program.
In the 1993-94 school year, when she taught second-graders at the inner-city school, those students scored at the 13th percentile on standardized tests.
By the end of the 1994-95 year, after Mrs. Rhee taught the same students as third-graders, 90 percent of them scored at the 90th percentile, according to her resume.
Mrs. Rhee said the test results were achieved on the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS).
The Times reported that education experts note that most low-income schools have a high student-turnover rate and Mrs. Rhee taught her students as part of a team. Tying the percentile jump specifically to her is extremely hard to do, they said.
In addition, the normal curve equivalent score (which is similar to a percentile) on the CTBS for Harlem Park second-graders was 27 in reading and 43 in math in the 1993-94 school year, according to a 1995 report published by the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.
The report also shows that third-graders at the school for two years achieved a score of 45 in reading and 51 in math in 1994-95.
Mrs. Rhee told The Times that she was informed that her students scored in the 13th and 90th percentiles but did not ask for documentation of those scores. “As a new teacher, I didn’t think those things were particularly relevant,” she said.
Fenty officials yesterday did not respond to questions about whether the administration attempted to verify the test results claimed on Mrs. Rhee’s resume during their search for a schools chancellor.
Mr. Gray said he examined Harlem Park test scores from Mrs. Rhee’s tenure — which coincided with an experiment by the Baltimore school system to let a private company manage the school — from which he concluded that her students showed little progress.
“I think we’ll want to know a lot about her educational experience and she cites that as part of her educational experience,” Mr. Gray said.
Other council members also said they would use the public hearing to air their concerns to Mrs. Rhee, who visited members yesterday at the John A. Wilson Building.
“You will have people that have some very tough questions for her,” said Harry Thomas Jr., Ward 5 Democrat. “If she weathers those and handles them, she’ll be all right. If she falters, she may have some problems.”
Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat and former school board member, said the hearing would serve as a “full airing of all the issues” but that Mrs. Rhee’s success as chancellor may not hinge on her time in the classroom.
“We’re not asking her to be a teacher,” he said. “We’re asking her to be [a] leader.”
Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican, said she simply hoped that the claims on Mrs. Rhee’s resume were valid.
“I just hope that what is in anybody’s resume is the truth and nothing but the truth,” Mrs. Schwartz said.
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