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Follow the bouncing Edelman... Josh Edelman -- former Chicago 'New Schools' chief -- helped cover up Michelle Rhee's D.C. test cheating scandal according to federal lawsuit and ongoing investigations by reporters

Anyone who cares about public education should care about the D. C. cheating scandal, but there's a special hook for parents and teachers in Chicago. In a federal complaint filed against the D.C. government, former D. C. principal Adell Cothorne identifies Josh Edelman as one of two people she called after seeing teachers apparently erasing answers on student standardized tests. A spokesman for Edelman says he "never heard from Ms. Cothorne about these specific cheating allegations." The wording of that phrase "these specific" sounds like kissing kin to Bill Clinton's infamous testimony to the grand jury "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is. Edelman may have a chance to explain in court.

Josh Edelman is one more flyspeck in George Schmidt's long-established dictum that "everything bad starts in Chicago."

Edelman went to the D. C. job as Deputy Chief of School Innovation for DC Public Schools after being dumped from his post as Executive Officer of the Office of New Schools at Chicago Public Schools, hired by then-schools chief Arne Duncan.

In 2009, Substance reported that Edelman's office "was responsible for the closing of more public schools in Chicago than any executive in the 150-year history of public education in Chicago."

Above, Arne Duncan on February 17, 2008, held a press conference at the headquarters of the Chicago Public Schools to announce that CPS was beginning a new program to save inner city schools called "turnaround." At that time, CPS was announcing that it was doing a "turnaround" to a South Side inner city elementary school, Sherman school. Sherman was turned over the the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) and given extra resources to implement its promised "turnaround" strategy. Standing with Duncan at the time was CPS "Chief of Staff" David Pickens (third from left above), who was in charge for a time in presenting the various rationales in Power Point format for firing the entire staffs at city schools and replacing them with so-called "turnaround specialists." Five years after the above press conference, Sherman (now called "Sherman School of Excellence") is still showing the same test scores (and other so-called "outcomes") as comparable schools in the heart of Chicago's poverty belt, including the Englewood community where Sherman (and other "turnaround" schools) is located. Despite the failure of "turnaround" in Chicago, Arne Duncan became U.S. Secretary of Education one year after the above photo was taken and exported the Chicago Plan, including the failed "turnaround model", to the rest of the USA. David Pickens left Chicago Public Schools following a scandal under Duncan's first successor, Ron Huberman, and moved to Washington, D.C. where he is still promoting the same Chicago Plan policies. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Where is he now? Josh Edelman is now Senior Program Officer, Empowering Effective Teachers, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and was recently appointed to the board of "DC School Reform now," a group headed by David Pickens, first Chicago schools CEO Arne Duncan's Deputy Chief of Staff and then Senior Advisor and System-Wide Manager to the CEO and then Chief of Staff to the Chicago Board of Education.

Also on the DC School Reform board is another employee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Tucker, Deputy Director of Policy Development, U.S. Program Policy and Advocacy.

Where is she now? After what she describes as her worst year in education, Adell Cothorne runs a cupcake shop, Cooks 'N Cakes. Her partner is also a former D. C. principal. You can see a promo on YouTube. She hopes to return to education one day.

Kudos to Jay Mathews for the piece below.

D.C. principal slammed for reporting cheating

By Jay Mathews Washington Post blog, Jan. 10, 2012

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/class-struggle/post/dc-principal-slammed-for-reporting-cheating/2013/01/10/24e7b47a-5ac7-11e2-9fa9-5fbdc9530eb9_bl

If you were waiting as I was for a firsthand account of test tampering at a D.C. public school, it came this week. At the time of the March 26, 2008 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education (above), CEO Arne Duncan had been privatizing as many of Chicago's real public schools as possible since 2004 as part of the ruling class's "Renaissance 2010" program. One year after the above photo was taken during the regular monthly meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, Duncan was in Washington, D.C. serving as U.S. Secretary of Education and bringing the neo-liberal Chicago Plan to the entire USA. Within a few months, in Chicago, Duncan announced what would become "Race To The Top," a program to close hundreds of American public schools and turn them over to charter schools and so-called "turnarounds" as part of the government's continuing attack on public schools and teacher unions. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.A 42-year-old former principal says she was reduced to tears and hounded out of her job after she reported cheating at her Northeast Washington campus. Adell Cothorne was hired in 2010 by then-D.C. schools chancellor Michelle A. Rhee to run the Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus. She had been an administrator in Baltimore and Montgomery counties. She was warmly welcomed by Wayne Ryan, the award-winning principal she replaced at Noyes. He was promoted to instructional superintendent and became her boss.

Cothorne was thrilled to land the Noyes job. Its test scores were among the best in the District, and it had been named a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the U.S. Education Department. But just weeks into the school year, she couldn't square those high test scores with what she says she saw in classrooms: mediocre teaching and faltering student performance. She began to worry that the scores were fraudulent.

On Nov. 3, 2010, just hours after her students took the DC-BAS test, a practice exam, she discovered three staffers with pencil erasers poised above test answer sheets, in the midst of what looked to her like changing answers, she told me. That night, she says, she called two D.C. school officials she trusted to report what she had found. She assumed they would report the matter to their boss, then-acting schools chancellor Kaya Henderson. Cothorne said she doesn't know whether Henderson was ever informed.

But on Nov. 19, according to Cothorne and documents she filed in federal court, Ryan ordered her to his office and said: "I heard that you don't respect the legacy that has been built at Noyes." Ryan did not respond to requests for comment, and a man who answered a phone listed in his name declined to comment. Cothorne first told her story to education correspondent John Merrow in a PBS "Frontline" documentary scheduled to air again Thursday. She also gave a detailed account in a two-hour telephone interview with me and my wife, Linda Mathews, who conceived and edited a March 2011 series in USA Today that revealed widespread wrong-to-right erasures at several D.C. schools, particularly at Noyes.

Cothorne also filed a federal complaint against the D.C. government in May 2011, alleging that the awards that Noyes and the school system had won had been obtained fraudulently by faking test scores. That lawsuit, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, was unsealed in December and was publicly reported this week, after the U.S. Education Department and the U.S. Justice Department decided against joining it. D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, in a statement, said Cothorne's lawsuit was based on "fictitious claims." She said "there is no widespread cheating at DCPS."

What is most striking about Cothorne's account, which fits with testing data and previous reports about Ryan's methods, is that no D.C. official with the power to investigate her complaints ever bothered to interview her about them.

On March 26, 2008, Josh Edelman (above) was the Chief Officer for New Schools at Chicago Public Schools. For four years during the time that Arne Duncan served as "Chief Executive Officer" of CPS, Edelman was in charge of the behind-the-scenes work to implement Mayor Richard M. Daley's "Renaissance 2010" plan. That plan involved the massive closing of real public schools, based on an ever changing set of pretexts, and the opening of dozens of charter schools in Chicago. Often, the real public school buildings would be refurbished at a cost of tens of millions of dollars, then closed as real public schools only to be leased to charter schools for $1 per year. When Arne Duncan left CPS to become U.S. Secretary of Education in January 2009, Edelman got a job working for Michelle Rhee, who was then Chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.In the federal complaint, she identifies Josh Edelman and Hilary Darilek, then both prominent D.C. school officials, as the persons she called on Nov. 3 after accidentally discovering the apparent erasures. D.C. schools spokeswoman Melissa Salmanowitz said Edelman and Darilek said they "never heard from Ms. Cothorne about these specific cheating allegations." They said they were in frequent conversation with her but that she never told them about the erasing incident. While what happened at Noyes could be seen as a he said, she said incident -- and it is certainly possible that Cothorne misinterpreted what she saw -- Henderson's rejection of Cothorne's account is in tune with her dismissal of other evidence of cheating at Noyes. The school had 75 percent of its classrooms flagged by the testing company CTB/McGraw-Hill for unusual numbers of wrong-to-right erasures in 2008, followed by 81 percent in 2009 and 80 percent in 2010. At least five Noyes classrooms had wrong-to-right erasure rates of more than 10 per child, while the D.C. average was fewer than two. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill testing expert Gregory Cizek, who worked on the investigation of similar erasures in Atlanta, said only test tampering could produce so many changes from wrong answers to right ones. At a time when test security was tightened system-wide, Cothorne changed the locks on the Noyes room where answer sheets were kept for tests in April 2011. The result: Scores dropped dramatically. The portion of Noyes students proficient in reading fell from 61 to 32 percent, and in math from 54 to 28 percent. By the end of the 2010-11 school year, Ryan had left the district. D.C. officials never made clear whether the most highly touted principal in the district was fired or resigned. Despite the decline in scores at Noyes, Cothorne was asked to stay. But, in the summer of 2011, she quit to start a cupcake shop in Ellicott City and recover from what she said was her worst year in education. No one in power ever explained to her what happened. The subject of cheating was toxic. Cothorne's next supervisor told her to focus on "moving forward." Isn't anyone in the D.C. government curious about what happened at Noyes, and why? Don't they want to know why scores so quickly peaked, then immediately plummeted? Perhaps the D.C. Council or a congressional committee can find a way to take testimony from all involved, under oath, and get to the truth. Cothorne, who wants to return to education, said she still thinks of how much more she could have done if the test scores had accurately reflected her students' achievement levels, or if headquarters had exposed the lying and cheating she says she saw at Noyes. "The kids did not get the caliber of instruction that they needed" -- remedial work, extra tutoring, perhaps counseling, she told me. Cothorne was trying to protect the students and the system, while it appears the system is just trying to protect itself.

mathewsj@washpost.com

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