Question: who looks like the bad guy in Frontline‘s look at former Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee‘s tenure in D.C., which is set to air tomorrow?
A) Teachers’ unions, for putting the interests of adults above those of students?
B) Mayor Vince Gray, for putting politics before principles?
C) Rhee, for creating chaos for its own sake?
D) District Inspector General Charles Willoughby, whose office investigated possible test-score cheating at Noyes Education Campus without bothering to interview a principal who says she once walked in on staff members sitting around open test books with an eraser?
If you picked D (or picked another answer but your teacher changed your answer to D anyway), you’re probably correct. LL hasn’t seen the Frontline piece yet, but the Post got an early look and reports that it ain’t pretty where the IG’s investigative prowess is concerned. Former principal Adell Cothorne tells Frontline, per the Post, that “just after students took a midyear practice version of the city’s annual standardized test, she stumbled upon three staff members sitting late at night in a room strewn with more than 200 test booklets. One of the adults was at a desk, holding an eraser. The other two sat at a table, booklets open before them.”
Cothorne says she tightened security around test booklets after that episode, and that that year’s standardized test results showed a 25 percent drop in scores from the year before.
Yet Cothorne, who left Noyes after a year to go sell cupcakes, says she was never interviewed by the IG’s 17-month long investigation.
How can this be? Willoughby didn’t talk to Frontline and LL hasn’t been able to get him on the phone for comment. When LL and others noted shortcomings with the IG’s investigation when it came out in August last year, Willoughby’s office said the IG’s investigative report spoke for itself.
But Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, who recently took over as chairman of the D.C. Council committee that oversees the IG’s office, says that answer won’t do. McDuffie says that if what Cothorne says is true, it would be a “glaring” omission on the IG’s part.
“It really raises some serious concerns about the adequacy” of the investigation, McDuffie says. He adds that he’s sending a letter to Willoughby shortly requesting details about the test-score investigation.
Willoughby’s work has long been the subject of critism of some councilmembers, who say the IG moves too slowly and is absent on the big issues of the day.
Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh says she’d like “like to see a new person in that spot” when Willoughby’s term expires next year.
“We need somebody who is timely, thorough and really brings zeal to the effort, because that’s the whole the point of the inspecter general,” Cheh says.
Update: Here’s McDuffie’s letter to Willoughby. The councilmember also expresses concern with the speed of some of the IG’s investigations.