Jan 4, 2009

A Parent Responds to Colbert King

Kathryn Pearson-West, an active Ward 5 parent wrote a follow up email to yesterday's WaPo article by Colbert I. King titled "Beyond Publicity, What is Rhee Producing ?" which highlighted Chairman Vincent Gray's proposal to appoint an 'independent evaluator' to examine the impact of education reform under Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Kathy sent copies of her response to WaPo reporter Colbert I. King, Chairman Vincent Gray and DC city council members as well as Iris Toyer from Parent's United, Mary Levy and myself. This recommendation by Chairman Gray mirrors what happened when NY Public school parents sought an 'independent evaluation' of Chancellor Joel Klein's reform efforts in many of New York's small schools. The independent evaluation was titled the "Small Schools Study" and it provided a more accurate assessment of public education reform in NY.

What are your thoughts on Gray's plan to appoint an independent evaluator ? Feel free to weigh in. Here's Kathy's follow-up email:

January 3, 2009

Chairman Vincent Gray and Mr. Colbert King:

"I read with great interest the article, "Beyond Publicity, What Is Rhee Producing?" Many citizens are asking just that. What are the actual improvements in the school system ? The school bureaucracy has been greatly expanded resulting in a deputy mayor for education, a state education agency, a local education agency, and an agency for school renovations. The chancellor gets paid more than other superintendents that had all these roles, however, I have yet to see where the nation's capital is headed in terms of education and what the real vision is. I applaud the council for deciding to spearhead an evaluation process in the spring. Now is the time to see what substantive improvements are being made that were not set in place by the previous school administration.

Citizens might want to see a lot more than union and school bashing and school leadership that appears to relish the limelight and closing schools and firing people. I was glad to read that the Council is going to move forward with an evaluation project to see what progress is really being made with the schools and to see what the DCPS leadership is up to. It seems like the chancellor has absolute power and having that much power with not much accountability to or respect for the citizenry/taxpayers may not be the best thing for the District of Columbia. Spending seems to be uncontrolled--spend then present the bill without any regard to a budget. Hopefully the evaluation process will somehow involve ordinary citizens and parents to get their input. Involving groups like Parents United would also be a plus. Since Ward 5 was greatly impacted with the closing of so many schools, it would be especially worthwhile to focus additional attention on our schools to see what or if there is any impact on educating our young people.

It might also be worthwhile to check with various communities to see if there are any performance measures/criteria that they might want to see included in any evaluation of the school system. I have copied Iris Toyer, Parents United; Mary Levy; and Candi Peterson, Washington Teachers Union, who I have seen quite active on many of the education issues and are active on list serves getting information out to citizens. I have also copied the Ward 5 Council member and the At Large council members. Keep up the good work on promoting positive education reform and academic excellence for all our young people. I agree with the old African proverb quoted in the article: "When elephants fight, the grass gets trampled." Yes, as the article states, "If a Rhee-union war paralyzes the school system, children may be the ones who suffer."Happy New Year and have a super fantastic day." (Posted by The Washington Teacher).

Kathryn Pearson-West
Ward 5 citizen


The Washington Teacher said...

I noticed on the WaPo website that the on line posters failed to comment either positively or negatively on Chairman Gray's proposal of an independent evaluator for DCPS. Many weighed in on everything but this. I am curious to find out what you think about the appointment of an independent evaluator? Yeah or nay and why ?

Racism is nothing New said...

Waht is Michelle Rhee producing?

Outside of setting up African American educators and hiring young whites to replace them not much. Same ole same ole

Anonymous said...

sorry about the "what" typo. Please don't fire me Rhee.

Old School DCPS said...

Though she has never come out and said it, it is obvious that Rhee prefers teachers educated in Ivy League colleges or more "white" universities than historically black colleges. Maybe with the exception of Howard, Fisk or Spelman, she gives the impression that graduates from HBCs are less well educated than teachers who attended mostly white schools and therefore are better teachers.

The Washington Teacher said...

Old School DCPS: Would you give some examples of what makes you arrive at your conclusion ? In what instances does Rhee give the impression that teachers who attend HBC's are less educated and those that attend primarily white schools are better educated and therefore better teachers?

Please enlighten me.

Old School DCPS said...

Perhaps it isn't obvious and I'm not directly saying this is what Rhee or her team believe. Yet many DC teachers feel that Rhee prefers white teachers and wants to get rid of older African American teachers. Where does TFA recruit? They are always saying how their teachers are from Ivy League colleges. The post above mentions that young whites are replacing African American educators. These young white teachers aren't from Hampton or Morgan States.

Anonymous said...

That was a great letter and so real with concern.Rhee has a list of accomplishments and that's not to argue but this approach to reform no doubt is ? Especially under NCLB a law unfunded in reauthorization. What's she doing ? It's called sell out Public Education to subcontractors and developers for profit, connecting to special interests with federal dollars and ed. tax credits. Enter NCLB and the restructure penalities aspects of the law creating inequality. I'm not sure who the Counsil has to consult but Dr. Marzano & Associates phone number 303-629-9197.
The Charter School results are on change.gov. and Public Education is ahead in results inspite of the NCLB underfunded law.American citizens aren't going to sell out Public Education for privatization and it's catching on fast with many protests across the US and starting in our cities.
You want to keep an open mind for changes in education but research Rhee reform and see it for what it is.Call the Phi Delta Kappa International for an audit to be published for Public transparancy.

Not sold, this reform approach is going to make us competitive internationally in the US. Get that broom and sweep in an independent evaluator Chairmen Gray !Certainly he's had time to discuss with the attorney's to come to terms with the decision the situation needs support in business.
Close down our American Public School buildings under NCLB an underfunded law ? No, and that's not going over well with citizens in the US for democracy.Obama's team has already recognized a bailout for Crumbling Public School buildings and CNN announced it many times.
Public Education is deeply rooted in the hearts of Americans and we've taken a hit on NCLB. Stop closing our American Public School buildings for corporate gains and fund the schools.This nation was founded on democracy and the dismantling of democratically elected school officials isn't working or are the mandates on NCLB.A mayor and Rhee in charge with no Public transparancy? There isn't even an audit published with millions of tax payer dollars involved.You bet he needs to make the call !
The last time Rhee checked into the Counsil they we're irate about the budget. A past audit not published with results however, reported in the media showed concerns and Levy called attention to the budget months ago. The news has shown Public School buildings closed for sale to developers and it's all over U-tube.

Anonymous said...

Old School ! If we lose our pro's and tenured teacher's in all this radical educational reform ? We're going to be up the creek in a serious jam. We'll send you a mega phone and get up !Today we're all the colors of a rainbow !

Anonymous said...

It appeared that we are still in slavery in DCPS. The fact is that teachers are not being protected by their union. The union appeared totally turned their back on their educators concerns and issues to be addressed. Their Rhee plan is to get rid of African-american teachers and replace them with white people. They are playing dangerous and very dirty games with peoples life. Its not fair, its not right, and its immoral.

Anonymous said...

Teachers have left George Parker and Nathan Saunders in place and now their going to cost hundreds of teachers their jobs. All they know is game playing. Their not the only one's playing games play close attention to their lackies.

DC Teacher Chic said...

Wow, Candi, bravo. We're hardly bosom buddies, but I applaud you for asking for evidence for Old School's assertions. Now if only we can get more clarity from the other poster (actually, likely the same person) who claims we still have slavery in DC. Sigh.

The Washington Teacher said...

To Anonymous #4 & 5 which seems to be the same person. As I often state in response to concerns about the union, dues paying members also make up the union as well not just our elected leaders. It is incumbent upon all union members to become involved in union matters which impact your occupational future and to help ensure that the necessary checks and balances are in place as required. When the membership fails to get involved, stay involved then any finger of blame also has to point back to you as well when things are not to your satisfaction.

As for lackey (not spelled lackie), the definition is a servile follower. I am not sure what you mean when you reference game playing and "play close attention to their lackeys." Perhaps there is some hidden inference in your message which I will not try to decipher.

Reminder for all who post here: The purpose of dialogue is to contribute constructively to the conversation which by the way is your views on the proposed appointment of an independent evaluator. Yeah or nay and why ?

The Washington Teacher said...

Point of Clarification: I was not asking Old School DCPS for evidence about their assertions. We are not in a court of law so evidence is not required for my purposes. I really was interested in clarification as to why they believe what they do about Rhee and her office. I think they answered to my satisfaction.

I am not going to engage in any conversations on this blog about racism or slavery. I have been disappointed because I have observed racist comments on other blogs which have resulted in what appears to be a lack of respect for diversity.

But what I will say is that there are some conversations that blacks and whites just cannot have. There are some issues that some of us will probably not see eye to eye on because we come from different vantage points.

Slavery and race issues should be reserved for a real live forum where people cannot hide behind anonymous names and can see each other face to face. Let's put a period at the end of this sentence and move on.

Anonymous said...

Here we go again... worried about black and white issues... PEOPLE have you looked around America lately??? There are so many other things to worry about! Stop with the black and white stuff... STOP! We are losing our country and you are worried about BLACK and WHITE! COME ON!

Mr. Potter said...

I for one applaud the idea of an independent evaluator. If many people are concerned (as they clearly are) then there should be someone who can fairly and independently evaluate the changes that have occurred during Rhee's tenure. My guess is that they will find some things have gotten better, some of gotten worse, and some have remained unchanged. My money is on more good changes than bad, but it's not for me to say.

I also wanted to respond to the comments about Rhee wanting to replace African-American teachers with white teachers, specifically those from Teach for America. First, I have heard Rhee celebrate the efforts of specific teachers who are black. Second, her deputy, Kaya Henderson, is a black woman. Finally, I really don't think Rhee cares what color a person's skin is, as long as they are teaching children well. But that's just my opinion.

Also, in response to the claims that Teach for America is a group of white people, I would say this: TFA is an organization of mostly white people, but it has high goals for diversity among its teachers, and generally recruits a corps of individuals that accurately reflects the American population. In fact, Teach for America's recruits are more diverse than the college-educated public in general. And, while it is true that TFA is heralded as recruiting from the Ivy League schools, they recruit from hundreds of schools across the country, including numerous HBCUs. If anyone is interested in learning more about TFA's commitment to diversity, it can be found here: http://www.teachforamerica.org/admissions/our_commitment_to_diversity.htm

Old School DCPS said...

Candi, I was reading the draft of the DCPS 5 Year Action Plan, which must be around 80 pages and is available on the DCPS website. I focussed immediately on the pages referring to teachers. It's not pretty at all, to say the least. The first point under the heading teachers is remove poor performers. It continues "...the overall quality of our teaching corps is unacceptably low." It gets worse and says "But we must face an uncomfortable reality: too many of our teachers are not up to the demanding job of educating our youth effectively." This is really scary stuff. I feel like we teachers have a bullseye on our backs. The plan mentions a buy-out, but I heard there's no money for one, even though it's mentioned in the plan as a way to get teachers out. What have you heard?

Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard about Teaching Fellows being placed in schools in February and March? I met two Fellows TODAY and they stated that they would be placed in position in Feb or March. What is going on?

The Washington Teacher said...

Old School DCPS & Anonymous:

I do not know how a buy-out will be funded.It sounds like when the Teacher Transition Award was offered last year. Not a lot of money was offered and there were a small number of takers.

I also have not heard about TFA teachers coming in February. Keep me posted.

Anonymous said...

Just saw the newshour piece on you. Please stop whining and just get to work teaching.