Aug 20, 2015

Rockin' IMPACT: How to Improve Your Teacher Evaluation Score

By Candi Peterson, WTU General Vice President

Great teachers are not born, they're made. It takes time to become a great teacher.

We are more than just the sum of our teacher evaluation (IMPACT) scores. But let's face it, IMPACT scores determine whether teachers remain in our school system or get fired. I've seen great teachers get forced out of DC Public Schools because they didn't really have a good grasp of the Teach standards by which teachers are judged. Not to mention the training that has been provided in recent years by DCPS has been less than adequate.

It seems like a 'no-brainer' to me that professional development is one of the main ingredients to turning around teachers' effectiveness. Not just any professional development but specific training on the Teaching and Learning Framework (TLF), Common Core state standards and job-embedded professional development.


When I learned of the Masted Educator led professional development series on IMPACT last year, I began encouraging many of the teachers I knew to sign up for a workshop after school. After all, getting training on strategies to improve your teaching practice from the very people that evaluate you- couldn't hurt, in my opinion.

I hope all new DCPS teachers and any teacher who has received a Developing or Minimally Effective IMPACT evaluation score last school year will sign up for one of the Master Educator Led professional development sessions, - Setting Up For Success.

This year, Master educators will host Teach Sessions to introduce and deepen understanding of the Teaching & Learning Framework. Four series (General Education, Special Education, Language Acquisition and Early Childhood) will be provided starting on August 24.

All participants must register for each session they will attend on PD Planner at dcps.schoolnet.com or complete the Google Survey at https://goo.gl/5dfsKP. Participants will receive 2 PLUs for each session. For more information, please see the  “Setting Up For Success PD Sessions" flyer below or reach out to impact.dcps@dc.gov or contact them on 202-719-6553.

Hope you will share the flyer with your colleagues and encourage them to sign up as well. Use the scroll bar on the right of the flyer to see the entire flyer. Here’s to a successful year and Rockin' your Impact evaluation!

Aug 16, 2015

State of Our Union: California Teachers Take on Their Union

Friedrichs v. CTA to be heard by Supreme Court
By Candi Peterson, WTU Gen. Vice President

Statements or expressions of opinions herein 'do not' represent the views or official positions of DCPS, AFT, Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) or its members. Views are my own. 

California veteran teacher of twenty-eight years, Rebecca Friedrichs, a fourth grade Anaheim public school teacher leads the fight to sue her own teachers’ union in a federal lawsuit, Friedrichs vs. California Teachers’ Association.

Friedrichs has had longstanding problems with the way the California Teachers Association (CTA) collects union dues from rank and file members and how her union spends the dues money they collect. Friedrichs is fighting an “agency shop” agreement which forces teachers to pay fees for collective bargaining that the union performs not only for members but non members as well. 

Joined by nine other teachers and the Christian Educators Association in their lawsuit, these teachers argue that the California Teachers Association (CTA), the largest affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA), has no right to spend the rank-and-file's money on political campaigns with which members disagree.  Friedrichs was opposed to a portion of her union dues going towards efforts to defeat the school voucher campaign. Other measures such as Proposition 30 were supported by Friedrichs union, which she opposed.

In California, public school teachers can create an “agency shop” arrangement whereby all teachers in a district are represented by one union. Nonunion teacher members must pay fees for their union’s collective-bargaining work.

If this case prevails, this could eliminate public sector unions right to automatically collect fees from public employees.

This case is scheduled to be heard before the Supreme Court later on this year. 

To give a brief history, thirty-eight years ago- the Supreme Court ruled in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977) that states may allow unions to collect fees from non-members to pay for collective bargaining costs, but not for the unions’ political spending. 

Under state law, teachers and government workers covered by collective bargaining agreements are not required to join a union and pay dues. But they must pay a fee — a bit less than dues — to cover the union's cost of representing their interests, for example in negotiating higher wages.

About half of the states and Washington, DC, public sector workers are automatically enrolled in unions.  

Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, a non-profit interest group who is working with corporate law firm, Jones Day who represents Rebecca Friedrichs and the other aggrieved teachers says, “This case is about the right of individuals to decide for themselves whether to join and pay dues to an organization that purports to speak on their behalf. We are seeking the end of compulsory union dues across the nation on the basis of the free-speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment,” he said.

Not surprisingly so, public sector unions are gravely concerned about the ramifications such a challenge to the Abbod v. Detroit Board of Education could bring.

American Federation of Teachers (AFT) issued the following statement on the upcoming case,  “In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a group of educators backed by a right-wing pressure group filed a lawsuit that has made its way to the highest court in America. It asks the court to decide whether public sector unions may continue to charge nonmembers a fee equal to the cost of representing them to their employer.

This fee is called "agency fee" or "fair share." In states where there is no fair share, the union must sign up everyone as a member—not merely a fair share payer—to keep the union strong. If the court rules against us, then our work to support working families and reclaim the promise of public services will become harder. “

Other national unions have expressed concerned if the court rules against the teachers union, public employees could pay neither fees nor dues, but still reap the benefit of union negotiated contracts as well as representation in workplace complaints. Some also believe it is part of  an ongoing effort to undermine and weaken the existence of unions in this country.
           
Washington Post reporter Emma Brown did an interview with the leading plaintiffs, Rebcecca Friedrichs and Harlan Elrich. Read it here.

I can’t help but believe that this case has little to do with first amendment rights. It seems like it has more to do with these teachers being used as pawns by right wingers who are more interested in dismantling public sector unions.

Friedrichs claimed that she was powerless to make change from within her union by serving on the union's Executive Board. She said, "every time I would bring these things up I would just get shrugged shoulders from our union executive board. They wouldn’t even give me a response." 

Certainly there were other ways this problem may have been addressed by directing her concerns with the union leadership, rank and file members and trying to get an amendment to the CTA's constitution. One such example would be having a separate political arm under the umbrella of California Teachers Association (CTA) that did not require compulsory fees from  full or agency share members. Membership dues should not be used for political purposes. This way members would be free to voluntarily donate to political causes of their own choosing.

What will it look look if the Friedrichs plaintiffs are successful? I shudder to think.

Moshe Marvit, attorney and fellow with The Century Foundation sums it up best, what  a victory in this case may look like, “the burden will then be on unions to shift more of their resources to constantly convincing their membership to choose to pay their dues. Public sector unions will be like public radio, having to spend more and more time on pledge drives, espousing a message of fairness and responsibility, in order to encourage workers to pay their fair share.”

You tell me would you rather have a union that regularly hosts membership drives or one who  gets you a contract and defends you in workplace disputes?

© Candi Peterson 2015

Aug 2, 2015

NY Principal Commits Suicide Amidst Testing Irregularities Investigation

TCCS Principal Worrell-Breeden 
By Candi Peterson, WTU Gen. Vice President

Statements or expressions of opinions herein 'do not' represent the views or official positions of DCPS, AFT, Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) or its members. Views are my own. 

One of my worst twenty-something memories was a visit to my best friend after her boyfriend committed suicide in their apartment. He shot himself in the head on the bedroom floor. When I arrived to help my friend retrieve her belongings, I vividly remember seeing the large pool of blood matted into the carpet. The impact of this man’s decision to end his life stayed with me for many years to come.

Those memories came rushing back when I heard about the forty-nine year old Harlem principal who took her life by jumping in front of a New York subway train.

Principal Jeanene Worrell-Breeden committed suicide in April of this year.  According to the NY Post, “around 9:20 a.m. April 17, Worrell-Breeden walked onto the platform at the subway station at 135th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue in Harlem and threw herself in front on an oncoming train. She was rushed to the hospital, where she would die eight days later (April 25th) from her injuries. The medical examiner ruled Worrell-Breeden's death a suicide.”

According to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, one-third of all suicides are from hanging. Subway related suicides are the least likely form of suicide and represent 7% of suicides in New York City. Men are far more likely to attempt suicide via subway than women.

The aftermath of Worrell-Breeden’s suicide sucks for everyone she leaves behind. Her family, her school community- her colleagues, her students and their parents.

Worrell-Breedon was the founding principal of Teachers Community College school, an elementary school in West Harlem. A tribute to honor the popular principal is listed on the school’s web page. It reads- “Principal Breeden was a tireless champion for all of the children of TCCS, and she will be greatly missed.”

Worrell-Breeden was a highly accomplished career educator, graduate of Penn. State, held two master’s degrees (from NY City College and Fordham) with 20 years of experience in NY City public schools and served as a classroom teacher, staff developer, assistant principal and principal.

Authorities revealed that the suicide occurred during a Department of Education (DOE) investigation that started the same day the principal took her life.  A complaint was made that Worrell-Breeden cheated on the Common Core standardized test. An internal investigation found that the principal had cheated by forging students’ answers.

Prior to her death, Worrell-Breeden confided in a colleague that she had completed 3rd grade students answers on incomplete exams. While students were interviewed, the principal had yet to be questioned due to her untimely death.

Department of Education (DOE) spokeswoman, Devora Kaye issued the following response to parents, "Principal Worrell-Breeden was the subject of allegations of testing improprieties.” An investigation substantiated these allegations, and we closed the investigation following her tragic passing."

There are plenty of ways to commit suicide, but few more painful than hurling oneself in front of a train. Why would anyone want to suffer this way? Has it come to this for those of us in education?

There is so much emphasis on high-stakes testing that many in education feel the heat. According to Arthur Goldstein, NYC educator and fellow blogger, “the recent example could only have been possible against the backdrop of ed. "reform."  Ed. "reform" is killing the teaching profession; it kills the will of some students to learn.  It closes schools, rips communities apart and, apparently, takes lives.  I would argue its long-range damage will be far more severe and, sadly, that damage remains to be seen.”

And for some like Worrell-Breedon, it drove her to choose "dishonesty" and impose a self-justice that’s unthinkable.


© Candi Peterson 2015

Jul 26, 2015

DC Corporate Profiteers Expose the Dark Side of Charter School Industry

Written by Candi Peterson, WTU General Vice President

Recently, an education colleague asked me how do we make charter schools better? I really had no answer to his question in light of some of our recent local charter school scandals. Some of the lessons learned nationally from charter school mismanagement reveal that it is a business opportunity for some to make a quick buck at taxpayers and students’ expense.

Nobody embodies one of the most glaring problems of mismanagement of charter schools better than former Xerox Corporate executive Ken Amos in the District. He was exposed for siphoning off taxpayer money into the hands of for-profit management companies owned and controlled by the non-profit charter school sponsors all for their own personal gain.

Amos owned one of the largest charter school networks in DC. Amos is a DC Native who is highly regarded by many as a long time advocate for parents and children. He founded Dorothy I. Height Community Academy Public Charter School, known as CAPCS in 1998. DC law requires that charters schools operate as non-profit corporations.

Dorothy I. Height Community Academy Public Charter Schools served more than 1,600 students at four campuses, Armstrong, Burdick, Keene and Nicholson, including an online school.

In June 2014, Amos was charged by then DC Attorney General Irvin Nathan of funneling $13 million dollars in charter school funds for over a decade to a for-profit management company he owned.

The lawsuit alleged that Amos forced the charter school to pay his management company more than $13 million in what was known as “management fees” since 2004. According to Nathan in the lawsuit, "the diverted funds were used to enrich the company and Amos, to the detriment of the school."

Stories like Amos are all too common. I remember being surprised when J.C. Hayward, a popular Channel 9 news anchor here in DC became embroiled in the Options Charter school scandal in 2013. This scandal led to Hayward being removed from her post as Channel 9 anchor after a long-time stellar career of forty years.

The lawsuit alleged that three former managers, the Options school’s board chairwoman, Hayward, and a senior official at the D.C. Public Charter School Board allegedly concocted an elaborate contracting scam that led to improper payments of more than $3 million to for profit companies

Days after the Washington Post submitted a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request seeking information about contracts between the school and two for profit companies founded by the schools senior managers; Exceptional Education Management Corp. (EEMC) and Exceptional Educational Services (EES), the DC charter school board launched an investigation.

The sad thing about these stories, both schools ultimately closed their doors to its students, totaling 2,500 students. Regulations governing charters differ among states. In the District of Columbia, for example, a separate school board authorizes charters and monitors them.

Options closed at the end of school year 2015 after being placed under receivership and parents were given the choice to attend another charter school; Kingsman Academy. In February 2015, the DC Charter School Board unanimously revoked CAPCS charter and the school officially closed at the end of school year 14-15. The school’s campuses were transferred to other entities including DC Public Schools.

Amos and his management company settled his lawsuit by entering into an agreement to repay $3 million dollars, a far cry from the $13 million dollars diverted from the school.

Charter school closings due to financial mismanagement underscore the need for more transparency, oversight and accountability. The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) claims that within the last 20 years, the federal government has spent $3.3 billion on charter schools but cannot account for which charters received taxpayer money and how those public dollars were spent.

This just isn’t acceptable.

Many believe charter schools should be held to the same standards as public schools to make sure students get the most of out of their educational experience and protect taxpayers’ investment.

The Annenberg Institute for Reform at Brown University has put out its own set of standards to bolster oversight for charters. Here are a few of their recommendations: [1.] charter school finance documents should be made publicly available; [2.] require charters to report administrative expenses; [3.] all vendor or service contracts should be made available to the public; and [4.] protect governing board members, students, staff, parents from retaliation for whistle blowing. Read the full report.

The Annenberg report is a major contribution to offering constructive suggestions on key concerns in the charter sector. Somebody has got to stop making it easy to steal from the kids.

© Candi Peterson 2015

Jul 12, 2015

Teachers Say No Freaking Way to AFT Endorsement of Hillary Clinton

By Candi Peterson, WTU General Vice President

On Saturday, July 11th - the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President, Randi Weingarten came under fire after her executive council voted overwhelmingly to endorse Hillary Clinton for the democratic primary for President of the United States. AFT is the parent organization of Washington Teachers' Union, Local 6 and has 1.5 million members. 

In an AFT press release, President Weingarten said "Hillary Clinton is a tested leader who shares our values, is supported by our members and is prepared for a tough fight on behalf of students, families and communities. That fight defines her career." 

Weingarten added that Clinton is a "product of public schools and believes in the promise of public education.... Hillary understands that policymakers need to work with teachers and their unions. She's ready to work with us to confront the issues of children and their families today, including poverty, wage stagnation, income equality and the lack of opportunity."

Even though AFT's press release explained the process of how members were polled, including several town hall meetings, multiple surveys and a "you decide" website, the announcement of the endorsement erupted a firestorm of outrage from AFT teacher members nationwide on twitter.

In the course of hours, many teachers hurled questions at @Rweingarten and @AFTunion twitter accounts asking, when was there was a poll of the membership and requesting links to all of the polls. 

Renowned NY Teacher *blogger, Arthur Goldstein  (known as NYC Educator) said "...AFT Link says they used telephone town halls and a web-based survey, I didn't even know existed."

Katie Osgood, a special education teacher from Chicago said "I know many AFT members too and have not heard one person polled either." Mary Ahern called it "B.S. and queried how many of the over 1 million members responded?”

Activist teacher members and others lamented that the AFT endorsement of Clinton was a clear reminder of President Randi Weingarten's autocratic leadership style that treats teachers like passive herd-driven professionals rather than independent thinkers with a voice.

Phil Soreneson tweeted to President Weingarten, “glad I’m NEA, u don’t speak for me, u just made teachers’ look politically inept. Thanks for nothing.”

Naturewoman tweeted to AFT, "guessing you did not poll your members! No to Clinton who promotes Teach for America and charters!" Mr. Stevens echoed "Clinton endorsement is a joke & local union voices are being silenced to retain AFT union funding."

Minnsanity added, "AFT tried to shove NCLB, common core, PARCC and now Hillary on us - we ain't buying." Barmak Nassirian ‏summed it up best in his tweet, "sad day when political expediency trumps legitimate representation of members' real priorities." 

Within hours teachers demanded fellow members to contact AFT and demand they rescind the Hillary Clinton endorsement. Teachers began adding their comments to Diane Ravitch’s education blog where she posted AFT’s press release on the Clinton for President endorsement. So far 147 comments have been posted, to date.

Given no one could locate AFT’s poll of members', the Badass Teachers Association  (BAT) took matters into their own hands by conducting a poll on Face Book. So far   1240 teachers endorsed Bernie Sanders and only 84 endorsed Clinton. One teacher said "Weingarten has this thing about giving false information via polls... It's scary." 

Some of our AFT members  are taking matters into their own hands and have created a petition to demand AFT rescind their Hillary for US president endorsement. Click on  LINK  for the petition. So far 1,109 had signed on.  

I too was up in the wee hours of the morning watching all of this unfold. Right here in DC, as an active member of WTU local 6 and elected General Vice President- I wondered how I had never been polled or invited to participate in AFT’s web based town hall or knew of members who had?

I concur with Aixa Rodriguez’s tweet, “it is 2:23 am and I am so mad at  AFT’s  #prematureendorsement I cannot sleep. And so I tweet. And all my friends are up too….”

Don’t get this twisted, in the words of Lace to the top, “The story isn't Randi Weingarten and AFT’'s endorsement of Hillary Clinton. The story is all the amazing teachers saying no freaking way!!!!”

 © Candi Peterson 2015

Jul 5, 2015

Allegations Surface: DC Principal Receives Monthly Wine Shipment at NW Elementary School

Tubman Elem. School wine delivery
By Candi Peterson, WTU General Vice President

There aren’t many employers that would allow you to have your "wine of the month" shipment delivered to your job. Surely having a wine shipment sent to your elementary school likely will earn you a reprimand, even your walking papers.

When a local school principal (allegedly) received a monthly wine shipment from Last Bottle of Napa, California at her NW elementary school, here in DC– it caught the attention of a Fed-X employee who informed school staff. A picture of one of the wine delivery sent May 15, 2015 was provided to The Washington Teacher.

Pay attention to the shipping label on the box (pictured left)  which reveals the shipment was delivered to Amanda Delabar at 3101 13th Street NW, District of Columbia 20010, which is the address of Tubman Elementary school where Delabar is the principal. The label is stamped home pre-paid ALCOHOL and requires an adult signature.

One might ask what’s wrong with having wine delivered to you at your place of employment, which just so happens to be an elementary school? As an educational leader, principals are models of leadership for teachers and students and should maintain standards of exemplary professional conduct.

“If a principal would reprimand one of his/her staff for a similar type of offense then they too should refrain from engaging in such behavior”, stated a DC principal who wished to remain anonymous.

The Child, Youth, Safety and Omnibus Amendment Act of 2004  requires criminal background checks for certain DCPS employees who work with students prior to the commencement of employment, and reasonable suspicion drug/alcohol testing. This act led to the creation of the DCPS 2013 Employee Mandatory Drug and Alcohol Testing Policy which has certain provisions that also prohibit intoxicants at work.

Given that DCPS is committed to protecting the safety, health and welfare of young people in its charge, as well as that of its employees, a  safety sensitive employee (i.e. principal, teacher, school staff,) are prohibited from possessing a container of alcohol, while on duty (see Section 6 for prohibited conduct on page 10).

Under the 2013 drug and alcohol policy, the consequences are rather severe and gives DCPS the right to require a fitness for duty, place an employee on administrative leave, detail the employee to a non safety-sensitive position and or terminate any covered employee who engages in any of the prohibited conduct outlined in Section 6, 

We need to bear in mind that principals are people with the same follies as their staff.

As a side note, DC Public Schools has no problem administering discipline to teachers when found guilty of similar offenses.

Should principals be held to the same treatment as their employees, if found guilty?

What do you think would be an appropriate way to handle this situation ? You tell me. Feel free to write me at thewashingtonteacher@gmail.com

© Candi Peterson 2015

Jun 28, 2015

H.D. Woodson Grad Receives Full Ride At Emory University

Christopher Chandler receiving Lorraine H.Whitlock award
Pictured CM Yvette Alexander, salutatorian- David Wynn,
Mayor Muriel Bowser & Ward 7 Dem, Ed Potillo
By Candi Peterson and Malcolm Lewis Barnes

You hear a lot about what’s wrong with DC Public Schools, but very seldom hear about the success stories. On June 25th at the 11th Annual Lorraine H. Whitlock Memorial Scholarship dinner sponsored by the Ward 7 Democrats at the Kellogg Conference Center on the campus of Gallaudet College, Woodson High School senior, Christopher Chandler added that scholarship to his already impressive achievement as the valedictorian of his 2015 class.

With a 4.18 Grade Point Average (GPA), Christopher had already received a Bill and Melinda Gates Millennial Scholarship to study engineering at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia which offers a unique 3/2 program which allows their participants to get grounded in liberal arts by studying three years at Emory followed by  two years at Georgia Tech’s rigorous engineering program.

“The one teacher that stands out the most was Laura Fuchs”, said Christopher. She helped him achieve his 4.18 GPA as his AP instructor who taught AP government and U. S. history. He credits her innovative teaching style with assisting him with the type of study guides and exposing him to the study skills that he feels will help him transition successfully to college. And he also feels that he was not the only one to benefit from Ms. Fuchs tutelage as he credits her with assisting the majority of her smaller 10 to 15 students in her class to achieve marked improvement.

Fuchs reacted as a proud teacher who takes delight in her student’s success. “Christopher is inspiring, gracious and humble.  He has an unending work ethic and always tries his best. At graduation, every time I got close to him I cried”, stated Fuchs. Her tears were tears of joy. She recalled how hard Christopher worked even during his 7:30 am AP Government class. Arrangements were made so Fuchs students could arrive at school earlier than the standard 8:45 am arrival time to fit in another class, known as the zero period since there wasn't room in their senior schedule to take this class.

Fuchs arrived at HD Woodson in 2007 as a DC Teaching fellow and completed her Masters degree at American University, while teaching. She believes in experiencing 'civil action' with her students. Also serving as Washington Teachers' Union, Committee on Political Education (COPE) Chairperson, Fuchs can often be found attending DC City Council hearings and education town hall meetings in the evenings with her students in towe.

Chandler was also inspired by a professional role model who successfully transitioned from DC Public Schools to a career in engineering. He met electrical engineer, Joanne Wilson two years ago and was impressed with her career success as a telecommunications professional who worked her way from Southern University to a position on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

He also received great assistance from his college mentor, Kevin Mungin from the College Success Foundation of DC that is also funded by the Gates Foundation that helps public school students from middle school to map out their career fields by arranging college field trips and career shadowing opportunities.

His college mentor also exposed him to the Higher Education and; Readiness Program or HERO program, which works closely with Woodson students from middle school through graduation. Chris started in 7th grade doing a “Design Your Dream Home” project because he was originally interested in architecture. Then he migrated to engineering when he got to high school when he got exposed to the advances in cellphone technology.

And finally he credits his parents were there the whole time. “Everything starts at home” said Chris. “And our lifestyle at home set the tone for how I performed in school”. He praised his parents, Renee Carthens and stepfather, Otis Leach for providing the consistent family support that kept him focused though out his time in high school at Woodson.

And to add icing to his graduation cake, Christopher added the Lorraine H. Whitlock Memorial Scholarship to the full ride that the Bill and Melinda Gates Millennial Scholarship provided to study engineering, which was named after the lifelong education and community activist from the Deanwood community of Ward 7. Chandler’s story is one of inspiration where as an African American student he defied the odds in an urban high school where only 60% of his peers graduate in four years.

Count Christopher Chandler as a true success story, but credit the love and support he received from his parents, help he received from his AP instructor Laura Fuchs; his college mentor Kevin Mungin, and his professional role model, Joanne Wilson for inspiring him from middle school through graduation to valedictorian with a college career goal.

© Candi Peterson 2015