Apr 16, 2009

Herald of Truth Award

And the Award Goes To: Bill Myers, Staff Writer for the Washington Examiner

"Here's to a real DC journalist dealing with covering the news on public education reform in DC and not sweeping it under the rug. " The Washington Teacher

Although it is reported that DC's Shadd Transition Academy has improved since the beginning of the school year, some are not so happy about Bill Myer's recent DC Examiner coverage which outlines a chronology of horrors in three Examiner articles. As you may recall this special education program was under the direction of Dr. Phyllis Harris, DC Deputy Superintendent for Special Education who was hired by the Rhee administration from Oakland, California. Many soon learned that Dr. Harris had her own share of problems even as an administrator in Oakland public schools. As reported first on The Washington Teacher blog, Dr. Harris allegedly got the boot from the Rhee administraton during the fall of 2008 , according to inside sources.
The Washington Teacher covered a piece titled: "SOS - DC Shadd Center: A Wholly Mess" on October 9, 2008. This entry was a follow up to "NO Special Education Teacher For You." A DC teacher colleague sent me an email regarding some of the problems at this self-contained warehouse for students diagnosed with emotional disturbances. I also talked with other un-named sources. I reported that there was a significant teacher and service provider shortage at Shadd with morale problems and many safety concerns for both students and staff. In addition, sources acknowledged that DC's central office administrative staff were deployed to Shadd due to teacher vacancies . DC teachers also complained that some staff were placed at Shadd outside of their area of certification .

Unfortunately, what many fail to realize is that DC special education centers like Shadd are just the tip of the iceberg with what's wrong in special education in the District of Columbia Public Schools . This year many of Dr. Harris' newly created special education programs even like the one where I work in S.E. were poorly designed from the outset. Not only did many of these programs lack a written model of service delivery, they also lacked the necessary certified special education teachers and related school personnel and the program resources, professional development that came too little too late and out of control students who present discipline and safety issues that contribute to high turnover rates of inadequately trained teachers and para-professional assistants. Many of these newer programs rarely receive the 'promised assistance' from central Office special education managers. Local school principals that house some of these special programs often have to supplement their limited school resources .

Here's to DC teachers and related service providers who stayed put in some of the worst special education programs and try to 'wing it' on their own without the resources they need despite Chancellor Rhee's daily regimen of teacher bashing . There is no apology that can compensate our DC parents for the types of atrocities that occurred at Shadd and other special education programs serving the E.D. (emotionally disturbed) population. Here's Bill Myer's most recent April 14th article titled:

Council woman challenges Rhee on special-ed ‘disaster

"An Examiner investigation published Monday revealed a host of problems in the planning and opening of Marion P. Shadd Elementary School in Southeast D.C. A D.C. councilwoman Monday pressed Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee to explain what went wrong in her attempt to create a special school for the city’s most troubled kids.

Mary Cheh, D-Ward 3, said Rhee should give a public explanation for a series of costly failures at the Transition Academy at Shadd Elementary, a refuge school designed to provide intensive therapy for some 175 “emotionally disturbed” teens and young adults. “As they’re experimenting, our kids aren’t getting the services and care they need,” Cheh said. “You may have had a colossal waste of money in a part of the school system that has been wasting money for years.”

An Examiner investigation published Monday revealed a host of problems in the planning and opening of the school. Not enough teachers or staff were hired, the building was considered unsafe and infested with rats, and kids were rushed to emergency rooms in droves thanks to daily, sometimes hourly, riots in the hallways. The school was supposed to be Rhee’s case study in rebuilding the moribund $300 million special education system, which is already subject to two federal consent decrees. Instead, the school system fell further behind as untrained special-ed bureaucrats were thrust into Shadd in a vain effort to keep the peace. By October, a federally appointed monitor was declaring Shadd “a disaster.” A desperate “relaunch” by Rhee’s bureaucrats has calmed things down, but Rhee is still being urged to close the school and start again.

Cheh supported Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s takeover of the $1 billion school system and approved Rhee as chancellor. But she said the revelations at Shadd were a blow to the chancellor’s credibility. “Every time we ask about special ed, we’re told, ‘Trust us. There’s a plan. We’re making progress,’ ” Cheh said. “This undermines all that. They should come forward with an explanation and also say what comes next.” Rhee didn’t respond to requests for comment. " (Posted by The Washington Teacher). Article courtesy of http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/


Anonymous said...

First of all, for a child to qualify as special ed in DCPS as ED, they must really be "out there" in terms of behaviors and issues. I have known many troubled children who never get all the way to be categorized as ED who certainly may be. Generally, a child needs to have demonstrated some outrageous behavior over a few years to get to ED. Anyway, a center like Shadd can't have these downtown Rhee types who may believe in the children but have little experience. Sure, they may have an Ivy League degree, be 26 years old and working on a Harvard EdD, but Shadd is a pretty hardcore place that seems to be falling apart. Highly experienced special ed professions would help turn the place around, but the current leadership prefers another type of teacher. And see what that is getting us.

meaningful change said...

You are absolutely right about Shadd being the tip of the iceberg and instead of really trying to fix the mess they are more concerned about covering it up so it won't tarnish Rhee's less than stellar record.

It is hypocrisy over and over again with Fenty and Rhee. This shows once again that Rhee cares more about politics, i.e. 'adult issues' than children and it should be considered criminal neglect or endangerment.

Most of these children have suffered enough abuse and neglect at the hands of their parents and now they get taken advantage of again because Rhee feels like it is acceptable that they suffer through this kind of environment for almost 8 months now.

And I also agree- thank you to Bill Myers.

JesseAlred said...


I am a veteran teacher in Houston seeking a dialogue with Teach for America teachers nationally regarding policy positions taken by former Teach for American staffers who have become leaders in school district administrations and on school boards. I first became aware of a pattern when an ex-TFA staffer, now a school board member for Houston ISD, recommended improving student performance by firing teachers whose students did poorly on standardized tests. Then the same board member led opposition to allowing us to select, by majority vote, a single union to represent us.

Having won school board elections in several cities, and securing the Washington D.C Superintendent's job for Michelle Rhee, Wendy Kopp's friends are pursuing an approach to school reform based on a false premise: that teachers, not student habits, nor lack of parent commitment or social inequality, is the main cause of sub-par academic performance. The TFA reform agenda appeals to big corporations who see our public institutions as inefficient leeches. This keeps big money flowing into TFA coffers.

The corporate-TFA nexus began when Union Carbide initially sponsored Wendy Kopp's efforts to create Teach for America. A few years before, Union Carbide's negligence had caused the worst industrial accident in history, in Bhopal, India. The number of casualties was as large as 100,000, and Union Carbide did everything possible to minimize its responsibility at the time it embraced Ms. Kopp. TFA recently started Teach for India. Are Teach for India enrollees aware of the TFA/Union Carbide connection?

When TFA encountered a financial crisis, Ms. Kopp nearly went to work for the Edison Project, and was all but saved by their managerial assistance. The Edison Project sought to replace public schools with for-profit corporate schools funded by our tax money. Ms. Kopp's husband, Richard Barth, was an Edison executive before taking over as CEO of KIPP's national foundation, where he has sought to decertify its New York City unions.

In 2000, two brilliant TFA alumni, the founders of KIPP Academy, joined the Bush's at the Republican National Convention in 2000. This was pivotal cover for Bush, since as Governor he had no genuine educational achievements, and he needed the education issue to campaign as a moderate and reach out to the female vote. KIPP charter schools provide a quality education, but they start with families committed to education. They claim to be improving public schools by offering competition in the education market-place, but they take the best and leave the rest.

D.C. Superintendent Michelle Rhee's school reform recipe includes three ingredients: close schools rather than improve them; fire teachers rather than inspire them; and sprinkle on a lot of hype. On the cover of Time, she sternly gripped a broom, which she presumably was using to sweep away the trash, which presumably represented my urban teacher colleagues. The image insulted people who take the toughest jobs in education.

TFA teachers do great work, but when TFA's leadership argue that schools, and not inequality and bad habits, are the cause of the achievement gap, they are not only wrong, they feed the forces that prevent the social change we need to grow and sustain our middle class.. Our society has failed schools by permitting the middle class to shrink. It's not the other way around. Economic inequality and insecurity produces ineffective public schools. It's not the other way around.

Ms. Kopp claims TFA carries the civil rights torch for today, but Martin Luther King was the voice of unions on strike, not the other way around. His last book, Where do we go from here?, argued for some measure of wealth distribution, because opportunity would never be enough in a survival of the fittest society to allow most of the under-privileged to enter the middle class.
Your hard work as a TFA teacher gives TFA executives credibility. It's not the other way around. Your hard work every day in the classrooms gives them the platform to espouse their peculiar one-sided prescriptions for school improvement. I would like a dialogue about what I have written here with TFA teachers. My e-mail is JesseAlred@yahoo.com.

Maestra said...

I had the unfortunate "pleasure" to work under Ms. McCutchen, the principal of the former Douglass Transition Academy and now the Shadd Horror Academy. I have never in my 20+ years as an educator met anyone so unprofessional and utterly clueless as Ms. McCutchen. How did she escape Rhee's rounds of firings is beyond me. If anyone should have been gone for having ZERO interest in children learning, it should have been her.

Anonymous said...

I'm not aware of any special ed programs in DCPS that serve their students well. I know there are many talented and dedicated special ed staff within DCPS, however they are as poorly served by the system as the students are.

On a side note it was difficult to read this post due to the amount of grammar errors and run-on sentences. I know this is a blog and is supposed to be written "at the moment" but you're trying to represent teachers and education, so please proof your work before hitting post.

Lindsey said...

Sounds like the last anonymous is a member of your hater fan club. Hi haters. I bet you know many haters since you do a lot of work for DC teachers. I didn't pick up on your run on sentences. If you had spelling errors maybe they were taken care of or magically disappeared. Anonymous needs to get a life and hate on some of the other blogs . Don't feed this troll fellow bloggers.

Anonymous said...

Hello Candi,

First off, I would like to commend you on your efforts to point out the injustice and inequalities in our system. I am a newly hired service provider and have been following your blog for a couple of months now. I haven't seen any blogs that speak to the service providers and the current management style. I left a system recently that did not offer professionalism. I heard that DCPS service providers were under new management and I was hoping that I could take advantage in expanding my career. To my disappointment, I'm finding that it's not happening. Since you are a service provider, are you able to post a blog to speak to what is happening within the department of related service providers with respect to management?

andrew said...

Michelle Rhee was served up to the DCPS by the "global economy". Globalization is at the very foundation of business model for schools, charters, vouchers, data driven instruction, merit pay, standardized testing, and most perversely of all, paying students to consume their version of education. It was the reason the Business Roundtable and Bill Gates were interested in public education at all. The CEO's wanted a profit making private school system and Gates wanted visas for Indians and Taiwanese who work for less. Lacking any discernible qualifications, her shocking appointment as Chancellor of D.C. public schools, can be understood only when you realize that Michelle Rhee was brought in to inflict maximum damage on the district's public schools and its children. And as a cultist (Teach For America, New Teacher Project) and true believer she came at a bargain basement salary. Really qualified superintendents were courted (Mayor Fenty even visited Miami with several members of the D.C. commission to interview Dr. Rudolph Crew) but those candidates would have asked questions. They could not be counted on to mindlessly take a club to D.C.'s public schools. The havoc and chaos that Rhee caused was no accident. It was the plan!

But in the midst of the global economic wreckage Rhee looked around the other day and her financial backers were in trouble. Melinda Gates' and her husband lost $18 billion of their personal fortune last year, and Eli Broad's KB Homes and his insurance division of AIG are in freefall. The Gateses and Broad have gone to see about their own survival.

The recent Time magazine profile provides great insight into Rhee's true mission. In it she denigrates every other adult in the D.C. school system including her staff. She mocks teachers that dare speak of building an emotional connection with their students. She clearly and coldly exploits a true leader at Anacostia High, young Mr. Rhodes, to advance her agenda. She seems to have no use for children being nurtured emotionally in the classroom. Just teach them to read for the test! And make sure there's no poetry involved!

When the history of Michelle Rhee's brief tenure in Washington, D.C. is written one of the last chapters will describe Randi Weingarten's futile attempt to save her and the heroic resistance of the WTU rank-and-file.

Blessed are the union teachers, for they shall inherit the public schools.