Jun 28, 2009

DC Parents Outraged Over Friendship Takeover of Anacostia High

A teacher known as 'Sad Anacostia Teacher' forwarded me a copy of an letter which an Anacostia senior high parent sent to Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee. Anacostia Senior High is being reconstituted this year with the assistance of Friendship Edison charter schools. The high school is located at 1601 16th Street, SE. where Rodney McBride was the former principal. I featured concerns on my blog on June 25th from an Anacostia teacher which revealed that half of their teachers have been excessed. I have received other emails that allege that there have been discriminatory practices in excessing 50% of Anacostia's teachers. This outraged parent's e-mail to Chancellor Rhee suggests that like DC teachers, Anacostia parents feel disenfranchised by the Rhee administration, complain of the lack of transparency and have concerns about the way this school takeover is being conducted. Here's a copy of the letter as promised :

Dear Chancellor Rhee:

"Today is a sad day in the lives of students and parents of Anacostia High School, when you Mrs. Rhee want to turn over our school to people like Mr. Donald Hense of Friendship Edison. When the founder of Friendship Edison says that the reason the students of Anacostia can’t learn is because their mother’s are on crack cocaine this is a sad day. He made this statement at the Anacostia construction meeting. Again as a parent why would someone say this about our children’s parents this way? Is this the way you Mr. Lew, The Mayor, The Gates Foundation and members of your staff think about our students at Anacostia who belong to us ?

I attended a meeting today at Anacostia . I thought that we were going to talk about the construction of Anacostia, but it was not the case. For the first half or more it was about Friendship's programs and their history and not about Anacostia’s building. I talked to the staff of Mr. Lew’s shop before the meeting and Mr. Robinson told me they would have a few words in the beginning and that did not happen. Friendship took over the meeting. Again the lies that people tell us to get us in a room so that they can say they had a meeting with parents of Anacostia, so that they can get paid by The Gates Foundation. Friendship told the Gates Foundation that they had met their obligation as it relates to the DC Education Compact and the community, parents and students, when in fact they never met with the parent body and they gave out false information along with Mr. Justin Cohen a member of your staff . I have heard back from Andrea at the Gates Foundation and she has let me know that she has spoken both with Friendship Charter Schools folks and with Justin at DCPS regarding our concerns. At this point she feels that the project is on target as described in the plans as they have documented opportunities for parent and community engagement – among benchmarks they are responsible for. The parents of Anacostia did not know any of this and the cover up grows.

When people say things about our children I have problems with it, here is a statement made by a member of your staff:, Mr. Justin C. Cohen of the Office of Portfolio Management:

"The Chancellor asked me to respond to your last email. The DC Education Compact serves as the fiscal intermediary for grant funding to DCPS from the Bill and Belinda Gates Foundation. Acting in this capacity sometimes requires them to disburse funding to organizations that support our work, and such is the case with the Friendship Schools. DCPS does not pay the DCEC any funds; rather they disperse grant funding on our behalf. To your other point, the No Child Left Behind act establishes targets for standardized test scores and attendance at individual schools. While it is one indicator of school performance, it is an imperfect and incomplete measure. Friendship's high school - the Collegiate Academy - has consistently outperformed every DCPS high school, except for our selective admission magnet schools. In addition, the Chancellor does not have control over the charter schools in DC, as those are overseen by the DC Public Charter School Board, a completely separate independent entity. We appreciate your concerns, and I encourage you to come to us with questions about these arrangements, as we want to make sure you have the appropriate facts. "

A member of Mr. Lew’s staff told us Mr. Lew did not care about this meeting, so writing him gets us nothing. He is not going to look at it any way. (He will just delete it). Mrs. Rhee the parents at Anacostia did not know about this meeting but the parent and staff of Friendship knew, and they came to a school that they do not teach at or their children did not go to. This tells me that this is about money not about making the city schools better. Mr. Cohen said it best in his e-mail that the test is an imperfect and incomplete measure, so why do we take the test and why did you change Anacostia school staff if it does not mean anything ? Our children are in trouble at Anacostia when Mr. Beck of Friendship follows the young ladies of Anacostia to the rest rooms with a video camera and films them going in and coming out. He told the young men of the building he was taking their pictures so when he took over he would put them out. What happened to the investigation on him because Mr. John Davis of your staff knew about it and did not turn it over to your security force unit? All these things have been going on since you made the move at Anacostia. It is time to remove Friendship Edison from Anacostia. If you don’t, you are looking at a war on your hands. I hope you can take care of this matter before it gets bad." - Signed an Anacostia SHS parent

visit: http://www.nclb.osse.dc.gov/aypreports.asp

*Anacostia SHS made Safe Harbor in reading in 2008 for Black/Non-Hispanic groupings. They went from 6.28% proficient in 2007 to 21.15% proficient in 2008. As a result of having 95% students tested and reducing those non-proficient students by 10% earned them safe harbor in this category.

Posted by The Washington Teacher


Anonymous said...

Wow! Everyone can't be lying. How long is she going to be allowed to run a school system into the ground? I mean really what's next?

Heather said...

Rhee doesn't have much choice here. Anacostia has failed for so many years that NCLB mandates that a reconstitution take place. Friendship has the most successful open-admissions high school in the city, and it is also in a high poverty neighborhood. What is the problem?

Anonymous said...


What you're saying is not true at all. During the 2007-2008 school year, Anacostia was one of the few secondary schools in SE that made Safe Harbor. Lybbe Gober, the principal at the time, was actually showing signs of turning the school around and legally Rhee could have kept the entire staff at the school since it made Safe Harbor. Instead, Rhee for some unknown reason fired the principal and thus the school became exponentially worse with record amounts of reported violence. This has been a recurring theme for Rhee: she will hastilly fire teachers/principals when she doesn't need to and the schools that experience these losses in staff will go on to become worse. Blind supporters of Rhee like Heather need to wake up and take a good look at the facts.

Heather said...

Actually, anonymous is incorrect here. According to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) Anacostia did not make anything close to Safe Harbor in 07-08 (or any other school year) in math OR in reading. In fact, the Special Ed students at Friendship do better than the regular ed students at Anacostia. But let's just keep everything the same, rather than try to replicate a successful model.

By the way, test scores are available here: http://www.nclb.osse.dc.gov/aypreports.asp

It has nothing to do with defending Rhee. In this case, I am just stating the fact that NCLB mandates that reconstitution take place after a school has failed for so many years.

The Washington Teacher said...

Heather: Your statement is not accurate for Anacostia for the latest year 2008 for which scores are available.

I looked at the chart that you referenced as well which is listed under year 2008. For 2008, Anacostia met Safe Harbor for blacks and non- hispanics. Anacostia went from 6.28% of their students being proficient to an increase of 21.15 % of their students being proficient in 2008 for this same ethnic grouping. If you look in the top column it does not reflect this, but you must scroll down and look across from each ethnic grouping. I think the rationale as defined below, is that they had at least 95% tested and reduced the percent not proficient from the previous year by 10 %. Anacostia did not meet safe harbor for their special ed. population but it should be noted that less than 40 students tested. The gains in reading for the majority of their population is significant and they should be given credit for this.

Anacostia did not met safe harbor in math.

" Safe Harbor is achieved if a group that does not meet the proficiency target in the current year has at least 95% tested and reduces the percent not proficient from the previous year by 10%. In 2006 the reduction in percent not proficient has been adjusted because of the difference in proficiency standards on the DC-CAS and the SAT9."

The Wahsington Teacher said...

Heather: As the owner of this blog, I feel compelled to moderate your comment before publishing it. My earlier comment in response to your post was that Anacostia did make safe harbor for the grouping of blacks and non-hispanics in reading in 2008 as per the OSSE website.

You previous comment that Anacostia was no where near safe harbor seems to be intentionally misleading. As always you are so critical of others and for some odd reason have trouble applauding the significant gains that Anacostia SHS did make.

Some people have made the observation that Rhee has double standards as it relates to NCLB mandates. She did not place all eligible schools under restructuring even with AYP scores that didn't meet NCLB mandates.

Heather said: "Actually, my comment is accurate. Anacostia did not make safe harbor in reading or math. And making safe harbor for one subgroup for one subject for one year does not remove NCLB mandates."

The Washington Teacher said...

What is interesting to note is that Friendship Edison public charter schools on the elementary and secondary level did not make AYP or safe harbor either for 2008. What is puzzling is why would they be slated to take Anacostia SHS over when they couldn't achieve AYP ? Go figure.
*My questions are rhetorial in nature.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for backing me up, and helping to prove the validity in my previous comment. The test scores went up significantly, and I am glad you were able to prove that to Heather. However, one important thing that you forgot to mention about 2008 Anacostia: it was a MUCH SAFER SCHOOL. There were no stabbings, fires, etc. as there were this year. Lynne Gober is a great administrator. She is teacher friendly, motivational, and supportive. There was absolutely no rhyme or reason that she was fired, but then again there seems to be no rhyme or reason to a majority of Rhee's terminations.

Sam said...

Open admission maybe. But the day the kid acts up he or she is "counseled out" meaning, put out to attend Anacostia.

Student Advocate said...

I have to agree with Sam. Friendship can't possibly compare itself to Anacostia when it comes to student population because it is not a neighborhood school and does not have to accept everyone.

I am sick of hearing how charters serve the same population as DCPS. Although they may have open enrollment or a lottery, many charters have other ways of being selective. As Sam mentions, they can "counsel" kids out or just not invite them back for the next year. I have seen this firsthand with my students at a DCPS high school.

Charters often make students and their parents sign an agreement that ensures that they will get the highly motivated parents and students. For example, students must agree to a longer school day, school on Saturday, and some require parents to commit to attend monthly meetings.

Most of DCPS, on the other hand, have to accept everyone within their boundaries and cannot easily remove students except in extreme cases.

And...What about the parents? They have been disrespected, ignored and lied to. This is unacceptable! As the first anonymous poster said, "Everyone can't be lying."

Anonymous said...

How will Friendship deal with the special education students of Anacostia? Are they all the result of “crack mothers?” When many of these students are already under serviced by DCPS, what will Mr. Hense and company bring to the table?

I know a parent who child was kept in a charter school until the 11th grade and then sent back to her neighborhood school because she was not a “fit.” She had been enrolled in this school since the 9th grade. This school collected DCPS funds for this student. They provided her no services and as she approached graduation and transition suddenly found out she was not a “fit.” SHAME, SHAME, SHAME.

Anonymous said...

I was at Anacostia for the meeting in question. How many of you were? Friendship/Hense didn't say what is being reported. Talk to some of the parents, staff and other people who were there and then let us know what you find. I look forward to the day when instead of debating false reports, the discussion becomes centered on how we work together to serve all children better.

Anonymous said...

I heard Mr. Hense make this statement. Sorry you didn't.

Anonymous said...

I am very curious about Heather and others quick to defend Hense/Friendship. The parent sent this letter to Rhee and I it appears that the person signed his name, if this was a lie, you would think someone in authority would say so. You seem to suggest that this "anacostia parent--perhaps on crack is lying."

I get the impression that you all are cheerleaders for the terminator and her enablers.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that bloggers are so quick to jump on one man's alleged comments; AS IF doing so or emboldening the allegations will change the state of DC students. Our children are not performing well over all. PERIOD! The fact that folk are more interested in pulling each other apart rather than working together to find solutions is sick! Anacostia is NOT doing well, despite the gains. Drugs HAVE devastated our communities. Our children ARE suffering. Some of our parents who are challenged with drug addiction DO undermine the strides of charter and public charter school staff determined to show their students more successful paths.

Clearly, Hense has dedicated his professional life to creating programs and institutions that seek to provide practical tools for success to DC children and Families. Surely there have been some set-backs, as there are with all institutions-BECAUSE, OSTENSIBLY, NO ONE HAS FIGURED IT OUT YET... Clearly Heather understands that highlighting allegations is futile. WHERE IS THE PROOF?? RECORDING? TRANSCRIPTS? Clearly Anonymous doesn't agree with Heather. Who cares? What about the children? Does any of this banter help them? Our kids are killing each other, failing in school, joining gangs. CLEARLY THIS FACT OVERSHADOWS THE FACT THAT MANY DC STUDENTS ARE MAKING GOOD CHOICES, AND EXPERIENCING MEASURABLE SUCCESSES. The state of DC schools, and our children is so much bigger than Rhee, Hense, Heather, Anacostia, etc. THIS AIN'T ABOUT YOU! Get out of your feelings!

Anonymous said...

Granted, Anacostia Senior High School made progress this past year.

But c'mon! There are people defending a school where almost 8 out of 10 students do not meet reading and math standards?

Don't our kids deserve better than this?

Anonymous said...

You are right it is not about one man’s comments. It is about a DC Government led by Fenty that allows individuals like Rhee and Hense to take control over a population they seem to disrespect. It is about the children of Anacostia.

Anacostia has had 5 principals in 5 years. Assistant principals (one a former principal, one a former attendance counselor and one a former sixth grade teacher) with one having more than 2 years in their positions fall short in leadership skills. They play a supportive role in the Rhee plan "go after the teachers." Where is the leadership in this school? Yes, there are problems at Anacostia but with the lack of support from Rhee, it will continue. Is it the teachers’ fault? Like any organization, you will find individuals who should never be allowed near children. But the same applies to the administrative team, who should provide leadership and examples to their staff. With the track record of administrators at Anacostia Rhee has failed in this area. Principals and assistant principals are selected on personalities rather than abilities. There is still a “who you know” MENTALITY OPERATING IN DCPS.

Teachers are not guilt free in this, the senior teachers are frustrated after being defined as incompetent, and the younger teachers (mostly TFA and DC Fellows) are dropped into schools pumped to believe they will save the system. When the younger ones realize they are up a creek without a paddle, they too finish their two years and head to charter schools or other professional venues. Where does this leave the children?

Yes, I children do deserve better than this. I am afraid that the “Rhee Solution” does not provide the answer.

Anonymous said...

If you want to know what Donald Hense and Friendship House is all about, go to guidestar.org and pull down the 990s for both Friendship House and Friendship Schools. For a while, he was receiving two full-time salaries. If I remember correctly, it was OUTRAGEOUS. It is all about the money!!! A full-report was given to the D.C. Teachers union four or five years ago. They sat aroud and did nothing. I wrote a paper on Edison Schools in D.C. for a strategic corporate research class sponsored by the AFL-CIO and pass it to the union. Low and behold, it is blowing up.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I really wish that parents and other so called concerned citizens would investigate the validity of their facts before ranting about and spreading false information. The bottom line is that Anacostia, as well as many other DC public schools have traditionally not met the mark. While Friendship is not a savior to Anacostia, the DCPS/Friendship partnership is an attempt to bring about a much needed change in a school that has been plagued with failure; whether or not it had one O.K. year. Like it or not, many of us believe that drugs are destroying our schools. If Mr. Hense made the comments alleged in previous comments, I'm sure it was to shed light on the situation, and not to insult parents. Further, Mr. Hense is just one man. I doubt that all those angry blogging parents have done much to improve Anacostia. Those of you looking for a fight would better serve your community and children by becoming informed participants in improving our schools. Neither Friendship House nor Edison Schools is currently affiliated with Friendship Public Charter Schools. The doors to Friendship House have closed and Friendship Schools dismantled its partnership with Edison years ago.

Let me be clear! I am not a supporter of Ms. Rhee. Nonetheless, I champion her decision to do "something" about the Anacostia problem. While Friendship Collegiate Academy has not met the requirements established by NCLB, their overall record of achievement is significantly superior compared to other open-admissions high schools. Yes, contrary to popular belief, Friendship Collegiate is open-admissions and cannot solely admit the "cream of the crop." Again, investigate. Talk to parents, teachers, and other staff at this school before you attack its reputation and performance.

As a product of DCPS, parent of DCPS graduates, member of the community, and educator--I'm thrilled that things are changing at Anacostia.

Let's take that anger (energy) and help make Anacostia the best for our children.

The Washington Teacher said...

I don't think anyone can deny the NCLB scores listed from the OSSE website for the school year 2008. This is the last available scores to date.

Anacostia did make safe harbor in reading and the gains made were significant for 1 school year. No denying this. I suggest anonymous that you check for yourself since you are a non-believer.

visit: http://www.nclb.osse.dc.gov/aypreports.asp

*Anacostia SHS made Safe Harbor in reading in 2008 for Black/Non-Hispanic groupings. They went from 6.28% proficient in 2007 to 21.15% proficient in 2008. As a result of having 95% students tested and reducing those non-proficient students by 10% earned them safe harbor in this category.

Anonymous said...

I have not disputed the scores. They are easy to investigate. I am saying that change is necessary to address the consistent failure of this school and others in our fair city; despite its minimal gain last year.

Anonymous said...

Heather, where do you teach? Do you even teach in DC? Are you having to deal with the repercussions of Ms. Rhee's actions?

Anonymous said...

It's ironic that the primary defense of the state of Anacostia is the test scores:


You see, where there are incentives, there are cheaters. Anacostia students didn't all of a sudden get smarter. Sorry. (Note: I don't blame the teachers for the cheating, the USA Today article suggests it was someone/a group in the DCPS office. Rhee put incredible, and inappropriate pressure on schools to make impossible goals)


IS NCLB's Standardized Tests and AYP imperfect and incomplete as an indicator or school performance? Yes. But, when you have the percent of proficient students in the teens (or single digits), then something is wrong with academic quality.


But, to me, the biggest issue as to why Friendship needed to be brought in was the issue of violence and crime at the school. In just the 2 school years before Friendship was brought in, there were 222 crimes at the school (or on the way to/from). 101 of those were violent. Read some of the incident descriptions below, and consider if this was alright, if complacency was the best option.