In case you’ve somehow managed to miss it, today marks the release of Michelle Rhee’s new advertorial, Radical: Fighting to Put Students First. So to mark this special occasion I’d like to propose a toast, although not to Rhee, whose ghastly edu-celebrity may at last be waning (see book sales, declining number of). Let’s raise our collective wine boxes in honor of the woman who has emerged as perhaps the sharpest thorn in Rhee’s side: former Washington DC principal and whistle blower extraordinaire Adell Cothorne.
If you are a regular reader of Diane’s blog, you are likely familiar with Adell’s story; it’s one we certainly haven’t heard the last of. Adell has spoken out, boldly and bravely, about Erasergate, the epidemic of answer changing on standardized tests that took place while Michelle Rhee was in charge of the DC public schools. Her story stings in part because it was Adell’s admiration of Rhee that drew her to Washington in the first place. But when she witnessed what she was convinced was test tampering by teachers at her school she spoke up, and when officials failed to act she filed a whistleblowing suit, alleging that the DC Public Schools were defrauding the government.
The details of Adell’s case are widely available; as she likes to say, for the first time in her life she can now be Googled. I’m interested in what it means.This story of cheating and what appears to have been an official cover up (which is why Michelle Rhee is now lawyering-up) has major implications, and not just for Rhee’s own ever more tarnished legacy. The corporate reform project that seeks to distill teaching, not to mention students, down to a single test score, also hangs in the balance.The teachers in Adell’s school were under immense pressure to raise test scores, so raise test scores they did. Here’s how Adell describes her own cause: “I sincerely hope that my telling the truth brings about a TRUE discussion about the impact that tying teacher evaluations to assessment has on public education.” I hope so too.
Taking on Rhee, Inc. hasn’t come without personal costs. Adell gave up her job as principal and abandoned, at least for now, the doctorate she was close to finishing, a study of the use of culturally competent instruction to eliminate the achievement gap for elementary school-age African American males. She says that she felt she had no choice but to walk away from her job and her studies because of a fight that felt more important than either. “I needed to do what was right for not only those kids in DC but all students. Testing is killing our education system.”
In the coming days we’ll be treated to endless news stories and puff pieces about Michelle Rhee. Thanks to the bravery of Adell Cothorne, much of this coverage will now include words like “investigation,” “tampering,” “suspicion” and “cheating.” So let’s toast to Adell and hope for better days ahead. And since a little something sweet is just the thing to accompany that toast, why not sample a fresh baked cupcake? Adell thoughtfully provided the following recipe, one of dozens of varieties of cupcakes that she bakes at her new shop, Cooks n’ Cakes. She named this one in honor of Rhee and her successor, Kaya Henderson. It’s called “Let Them Eat Cake.”
Let Them Eat Cake Cupcakes
Preheat oven to 325
Place the following ingredients in your favorite mixing bowl:
2 sticks of butter
1 ¾ cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl combine the following ingredients:
2 ½ cups of cake flour flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ tsp. salt
Add to mixing bowl and mix on low for 2 minutes
Add 2 cups of milk Mix on low for 2 minutes
Add 2 oz. oil to the mixing bowl. Mix on low for 1 minute
Pour batter into prepared pans. (Makes 24 cupcakes)
Bake for 20 minutes
Uncork winebox. Announce “Let them eat cake” before eating.