Feb 6, 2009

Rhee Rhee-acts to Taking A Lashing From DC Teachers !

Over the past several weeks, Chancellor Michelle Rhee has held meetings at the central office beginning at 4:30 p.m. Many contend that Rhee's recent "question and answer" style meetings are a 'direct response' after Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson took a beating on Rhee's behalf at the January 16, 2009 Human Capital Initiative hearings at the DC City Council. The hearings have played non-stop on DC television and on-line. For those who attended or watched it , it was clear that Ms. Henderson's 'head was in the clouds' when it came to what DC teachers, parents and other constituents have been saying about the Rhee administration's five year plan and human capital initiative. If you haven't already, I strongly encourage you to read the 5 year plan in its entirety on the DCPS website @ www.k12.dc.us

Many who testified expressed concerns about the five year plan and efforts to rid the system of such programs as the National Board Certification program for teachers as well as Rhee's plans to rid DCPS of a significant share of our teaching force and a buy-out of even more teachers from restructured schools. Approximately 3 teachers who had been fired without due process under Rhee's administration testified as well including blind teacher Fred Kamara. DC Teacher- Jeff Canady from Emery Education Center testified and answered questions from the council about being placed on a 90 day termination plan despite having the highest test scores at his school which by the way was recently ranked as # 7 city wide. Mr. Canady suggested that he has been the victim of retaliatory practices by Principal Ron Taylor, after contacting Rhee's office due to lack of working technology as well as being outspoken in the press. Another teacher who testified was nationally board certified and questioned the slashing of this program by Rhee later next school year.

The council members attested that in their talks with teachers, parents, and community members in schools and the community at large - that there are great concerns about the ongoing educational reform efforts. Charmian Gray pointed out that there is a disconnect between what Kaya Henderson reported and what the council is hearing. Chairman Gray suggested that it was indicative of a pattern that Rhee had not managed change very well. Gray admonished Henderson and strongly cautioned that Rhee needed to address this issue.

These last two Rhee meetings have generated approximately 40-50 teachers with promises of pizza and free parking at last week's meeting. Some teachers were upset when advised that the Chancellor's office would not pick up the tab on last week's parking especially since parking is quite expensive at the central office and off-street parking is limited during rush-hour. This week- DC principals were requested to ask their teachers to attend Rhee's meeting. Of course some complied. However, notices that were mailed out regarding details of this week's meeting clearly indicated that parking was available , however, there was no mention this time that it would be free.

A little birdie told me that Rhee assured veteran educators who attended the after school meetings that she does not want to get rid of them despite what is reported in the press . Rhee stated that she has been misquoted in the press. Funny, Rhee would state this given that DC's five-year plan reveals that she wants to rid our system of a significant share of teachers.

What's your take on the purpose of Rhee's recent meetings with DC teachers at the central office? Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts. (Posted by The Washington Teacher).

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

I attended one of the sessions this week and heard about another from a reliable coworker. One of last week's sessions was announced via email to a very selected group of teachers. Most of them were new TFA and DC Teaching Fellows. My colleague attended and said people identified themselves as such when asked for their names and schools. Very few veteran teachers were there, she reported. My coworker found out from a friend and attended, though she didn't receive an email invite. The meeting lasted around 2 hours where Rhee took teachers' questions about supplies, support, a new teacher evaluation, the discipline code and other issues on teachers' minds. It appeared as if Rhee was trying to reach out to new teachers and show them support.
This week's meeting had around 50 teachers in attendance, mostly but not entirely veteran (or at least not 20-something)teachers. The first question a teacher asked was the big one. She was brave to do so. The veteran teacher asked Rhee about the perception many DC educators have that her reform efforts want to rid the system of older teachers. All around the room, teachers over 40 were nodding their heads. Rhee blamed the media for putting this perception out there. She said there is no memo or mandate that says that. But it's Rhee's own words and actions that give great creedence to the so-called perception and no one challenged her. No one followed up on her preference for TFA, who are recent college grads. She said there was no mandated school quota for the 90day plan. Other topics on teachers' minds were brought up. Again, it appears that Rhee knows she has started off on the wrong foot with DCPS teachers and wants to mend some fences. As for parking, I alwys park in the street and use the meter. So far, I've been lucky.

Anonymous said...

cynic that I am, I suspect that she is taking names at the meeting - literally - to punish or reward or somehow co-opt those in attendance. If you're too outspoken - she'll find a way to get rid of you, or perhaps keep you on as a means of showing she doesn't mind outspoken people, thus encouraing others to speak up, so she can smoke out even more trouble-makers and get rid of THEM.

I don't think this is paranoia on my part. I just don't think she's suddenly turning into a good person. I thnk she's an opportunist.

Kat said...

Last week's session invitations were not limited to "new TFA and DCTFs", so please don't propagate that rumor. I've been receiving them from my PD office, and our (non-TFA) teachers received them as well.

As for the veteran teacher asking in the 2/4 mtg. about the perception Rhee is trying to rid the system of older teachers, that teacher was, when asked by Rhee, completely unable to provide details about the origin of her impression. The response she gave was very vague and non-specific, and from what I could discern, could be summarized as "other people." Rhee gave her time to think more about it, but an hour later, she still had not responded (I left at 6, so maybe she did come up with something.) Brave, maybe so...but prepared would've gotten her a lot farther in my estimation.

And that last explanation -- "If you're too outspoken - she'll find a way to get rid of you, or perhaps keep you on as a means of showing she doesn't mind outspoken people, thus [sic] encouraing others to speak up, so she can smoke out even more trouble-makers and get rid of THEM" -- is the craziest thing I've heard on this topic. Seriously, it ventures into conspiracy theory territory.

Anonymous said...

Hi, it's me again - that Anonymous saying crazy things.

I already know rhee's a liar and already know - from listening to council testimony, as well as from talking directly with teachers, that teachers have been targeted for speaking out.

Go ahead and think I'm crazy, but remember what I said later when more good people get axed.

As for that veteran teacher - you're right, she should have known her source, but Rhee also could have acknowledged the source - her own plan. Just because the teacher didn't know it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It looks like Rhee just used that teacher's lack of knowledge to make her look bad. Also, maybe the teacher was taken aback -- no longer sure it was in Rhee's own plan, when rhee challenged her. Rhee is much more devious and and disingenuous than the average teacher.

Anonymous said...

I am the first anonymous that posted and attended the session on Wednesday evening. I am not paranoid and am the first to denounce conspiracy theories especially regarding DCPS and DC politics in general. But I AGREE WITH the notion that Rhee may well be taking names to get rid of people and I sure don't want to find out the hard way. Why am I posting anonymously if I weren't being cautious? Don't I wish I could use my name, even my blogging name, but know better.
As for the meeting last week, I was told that most of the attenders, with the exception of a handful of others, were young, new white teachers, many TFA and DCTF. I didn't say so immediately because I didn't want to put that out there for some of you to jump on. Rhee herself has stated a preference for those teachers (irregarless of race or ethnicity). TFA teachers are by definition in their 20s, as opposed to veteran teachers, who are in their 40s, 50s and even 60s (and many of them excellent, dedicated career educators). I wish I knew the average age of DCPS teachers for purposes of this discussion. I have often heard of 30 year veterans. A 50-year DCPS teacher was recently honored at her church.
We have the impression that Rhee wants to get rid of older teachers by reading her own words as reported magazine and newspaper interviews. There is not some media conspiracy out there putting words in Rhee's mouth. For the most part, the media is reporting what she says. And of course most telling are the words in her plan. "...too many of our teachers are not up to the demanding job of educating our youth effectively. Some teachers will be bought out of their contracts." She wants to transition those teachers out and replace them with new TFA types. Who does she want out? Veterans, to be replaced by TFA. Plus her history with TNTP gives support to the thoery of what kind of teacher she wants in DCPS, not the ones she has, but new ones she wants to bring in.
And thank you Jesus, that my principal recognizes me as a valuable part of our school and that I am not on the 90 day plan.

lodesterre said...

I didn't attend the meeting, in large part because I didn't find out about it until it was too late and in part because I have committments at that time to my students. I never received a notice and I am DCTF. A colleague, who is a veteran teacher, non-TFA/DCTF etc. did attend and I received information from her.

What I heard from her was a lot of blaming of the media, i.e. the media did this, the media said that and the media took this out of context. The problem, as stated before, is that her 5 year plan disputes this. She can also be seen in quite a few taped sessions - the Aspen Institute, the Saint-Ex Cafe night, and others - that have been televised several times on cable. Here her words can be heard in context.

I found this link on a DCWire post that quoted a parent in Sacramento (or it might have been a teacher) who had complaints about Rhee's time out there. The letter, mistakes and all, should be read in its entirety - http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/citydesk/2007/07/02/rhee-hearings-liveblog/ - whether it is a disgruntled teacher or parent what is disturbing, and hard to dismiss, are the similarities between what happened in Sacramento and what is happening now in DC. This letter was dated July 2007, a good year before any of her plans were really put into effect. Most disturbing of all, and I would love to know if this is accurate, were the turnover statistics cited at the end of the post.

You have to scroll down to get to this letter but don't pass a couple of other letters that are there as well. One talks about funds and misappropriation and the other is by a DC Teaching Fellow.

Old School DCPS said...

BREAKING DCPS NEWS: I just read on the WaPo that Rhee has plans to close 3 ES in SE, including Draper, Webb and Birney. Candi, please set me straight. Did Rhee not say that teachers from closed (and reconstructed) schools will have their positions abolished, that there will be no memo of understanding to automatically place those teachers in vacancies in other schools for SY 09-10, as was done at the beginning of this SY for teachers from closed/restructured schools?

Anonymous said...

After a long, hard day at work with my little "ankle biters", all of whom I love, many times in spite of themselves; the last thing I feel like doing is fighting North Capitol Street traffic. We ALL know what a trip to headquarters is like.... I just think it's wonderful that one teacher who responded has never had any problems. Unfortunately, I've literally circled around the block quite a few times, over the years I've been with the system. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you're not. Lucky is more "not", than "often". Ms Rhee might have thought more about visiting every school, on some sort of timed schedule. She's visited some. What happened to the rest of us? It's easier, for her to get to us, than vice-versa. It would show a level of caring and concern for those of us who work long, hard hours, and probably have more to do once we get home. I have spent all of my energy during the day, educating, exhorting, collaborating, chastising, communicating, parenting, small-grouping, writing, testing, reevaluating, fussing, loving, correcting(I'm sure there are more "-ings"....)

I am also a National Board Certified Teacher. There may not be any empirical evidence at the present, that directly correlates test score increases to test scores; but you can bet your bottom dollar that the time and effort one puts into this very reflective, and rigorous process, makes a teacher MUCH more aware of his/her practice, and in the long run, that's what matters. If you know better, you do better. Doctors must pass exams for medical school. Lawyers must pass the bar. Every profession has some sort of high-stakes requirement, something that says, to coin President Obama's phrase, "Yes, I(emphasis on I) can!" Should this not be the same for those of us in the "most noble profession"? Ms. Rhee should recognize that. She too, was once a child in school. Who taught her?

Anonymous said...

Rhee blaming the media sounds right. she was the media's darling - convincing the sophisticated WaPo editorial board of her magical powers to fix the DC schools simply by remodeling the schools and getting the right teachers in there, and denying any other problems.

then the media started to turn on her - I'm sure she sees it this way -- and now it's their fault. She feels betrayed and WATCH OUT when Rhee feels betrayed.

However, she doesn't have mayoral control over the media and journalists can't be cowed the way teachers can. Teachers can be fired or leave, or just try to hide. The media wants news - good or bad - and it's too late to make them go away now.

Anonymous said...

rhee was there AT THE TIME this report was filed. Here's a copy. This really points to poor judgment. http://media.sacbee.com/smedia/2008/04/15/21/Child_Abuse_Report.source.prod_affiliate.4.pdf

And to think he could have been around our children running schools. Wow ... There is no way to say he would be fit given the actions in here. I find it hard to believe the previous police report could have been fabricated.

Anonymous said...

link to inappropriate allegations for KJ one:
http://www.sacbee.com/101/story/893111.html

financial deal rhee's boyfriend cut to get out of trouble WITH A MINOR:
http://www.sacbee.com/101/story/951761.html

The Bee also obtained a "demand letter" sent by the teen's lawyer to Johnson after the police investigation had concluded. The letter, sent by attorney Kent E. Turley as a precursor to a civil lawsuit, outlined the girl's allegations against the then-Phoenix Suns point guard.

Copy of police report on incident:http://media.sacbee.com/smedia/2008/04/15/21/Phoenix_Police.source.prod_affiliate.4.pdf

And she wanted this person to work with children in DC? WTF? What kind of judgment is that, particularly of a mother with young children?

Anonymous said...

here is an article linking rhee in print to johnson and his 'organization'http://www.publiceducation.org/nclb_articles/archive/20071114_Nonprofit.asp

she was there when the data was allegedly cut and spliced as well as during times where accusations of fiduciary impropriety were hurled: http://www.sthope.org/press_releases/rhee1.pdf an outraged parent/citizen in sacraremento: http://www.susanohanian.org/outrage_fetch.php?id=522

Anonymous said...

good info:

http://blog.edu-cyberpg.com/2008/12/08/THE+MICHELLE+THAT+OBAMA+SHOULD+AVOID.aspx

Anonymous said...

Here's the full link (assuming it prints)
http://blog.edu-cyberpg.com/2008/12/08/THE+MICHELLE+THAT+OBAMA+SHOULD+AVOID.aspx

or just type in http://blog.edu-cyberpg.com/2008/12/08 and search the december archives. It's a good compilation of news stories and comments on Rhee, most of which I'd already seen.

The thing that gets me the most - Rhee trying to shame/bully Obama into supporting her plan or be seen as not supporting black children. The nerve, Michelle, the nerve. he's got a combination of smarts, insight and power that dwarfs anyone you've dealt with up to now and he owes you nothing. Don't think for a minute that you can pull the wool over his eyes.

Anonymous said...

Again, I want to direct our focus back to the question of whether Rhee wants to rid DCPS of most of its current teaching staff, many of whom are veterans in their 40s, 50s and 60s. In one of the teachers' meetings in answering a teacher's question, she said it was the media promoting that perception. And again I maintain that Rhee's own words, rather than any media sensationalism or misquote, clearly state her position and intention regarding current DCPS teachers. Looking at the draft of the 5 Year Plan, available on line, under A.Teachers, page 26, the first heading is "Remove poor performers". The second sentence under that heading couldn't be clearer: ..."the overall quality of our teaching corps is unacceptably low." teachers are not imagining that Rhee wants many of us out. Her own words leave no doubt.

Anonymous said...

Yep - and she's also made it abundantly clear that she thinks the best arrangement is one in which new grads spend just a few years teaching before moving out of teaching and into educational admin positions. Thus she plans an ongoing system in which there are never any veteran teachers. Do you get it? No one with experience, no one with an organizational memory, no one with anything other than the Rhee "vision" of educational heaven in which teachers have attended a few months of intensive indoctrination and are then sent to the salt mines of the "teachers are everything" mentality that burns people out or sends them fleeing. How nice for the kids.

Anonymous said...

I am a DCPS parent. A fascinating read and I thank you. I would like to know, however, why "removing poor performers" as stated in Rhee's plan necessarily equates with "removing veteran teachers" as some of you say Rhee is trying to do - except that to be a poor performer one must have been around for a while in order to exhibit poor performance. Good veteran teachers should have little to worry about, in theory. The stories of good teachers being let go are worrying - but id this the norm or the exception? And is this reform about the teachers? Or the children?

Anonymous said...

Dear DCPS parent, "in theory" is the key phrase. Rhee is not operating according to any theory except her despotic one that says anyone who gets in her way, goes. This already has involved some good teachers. Even if it is just a few, i.e., the exception, rather than the norm - how is it ever acceptable and how does it help the children and what effect does it have on other good teachers? I have an answer to that last part - it makes teachers fear for their jobs, knowing being "good" is no protection, that you have to be a believer - a Rhee sycophant - in order to survive - maybe, unless your principal, who is by definition controlled by Rhee or he/she wouldn't still have a job - is told you have to go.

lodesterre said...

Reform should be about the teachers, the parents and the children. All need to be involved and, for reform to truly take place, all have to buy into the process.

Many teachers have equated the phrase "removing poor performers" with the removal of veteran teachers because of things Ms. Rhee has said - things that have not been distorted by the media. She has repeatedly used words such as abysmal and unacceptable to describe the majority of the teachers in the system. Figures such as half the workforce have been thrown out to describe what needs to go. When you are talking about 2000 out of 4000 it is hard not to think that some good people won't be swept up in such a wave.

There are some terrible teachers in our system. Everybody knows this and works with at least a couple. But there are also many teachers in impossible situations, without proper resources and support who are trying their best and who feel that they are not in Rhee's plans for the future.

Rhee is now meeting with groups of teachers - something she should have done from the very beginning. I can't speak to other schools but her visit to my school was cursory and nothing but a photo op for TIME. If she is having these meetings now why couldn't she do this a year ago?

If you go to the blog www.realeducationreformdc.blogspot.com you can find some excellent testimony and articles by teachers and parents who have solid ideas for how to change our system. Ideas grounded in research and examples from school systems that have been successful (and I am not talking NYC which is ranked 21st on the GEO's Education Report Card).

Trust has been a word thrown out by Ms. Rhee quite often. As a teacher you have to build trust with your students. You have the cache of being their teacher and that gives you the initial trust but that only lasts the first week of school. After that you must demonstrate why you should be trusted and earn that trust. For myself, a DC Teaching Fellow who came to teaching after a successful private career, and as someone who feels confident that my students, my parents, my principal, my colleagues all regard my teaching skills highly, I feel she has not only not earned that trust but has sowed distrust.

This recent effort is encouraging but only mildly so. She will have to reform herself before she can begin to reform our system.

Anonymous said...

Lodesterre - I basically agree with you, except I'm much more cynical about her finally talking with teachers. I think she's only doing it because she's been convinced - by her lawyer? fenty? that she must. She is trying to save her own skin and look good. Nothing in her personality or actions up to this point tell me anything different. She is a manipulator - this is how she's been successful in her career and it was working beautifully here until she went overboard with the media. Now she blames them -- how typical of someone with an anti-social personality. This is not my diagnosis - she called herself that in the newsweek article.

lodesterre said...

Actually I do agree with you. I was being kind and giving the benefit of doubt.

Anonymous said...

Ha! that's the "nice teacher" coming out in you. Best to bring that character out when dealing directly with kids and only kids.

Nice teachers are gullible teachers - Rhee is counting on it. At this point it isn't working so well, especially with veteran teachers, who end to be less gullible - which is another reason she wants them gone.

It's gotten to the point that when someone identifying themselves as a teacher is pro-Rhee, I think the person is either incredibly gullible or a spy.