Sep 26, 2009

Cover Up of DC Teachers Protests by The Washington Post

In typical Washington Post style they cover up the news rather than report the news. Bill Turque who attended our rank and file teacher rally wrote a story for The Post and it appeared on line on Thursday evening. As is customary, the WaPo article generally appears in the on-line version and then appears in the Wash. Post the next day. This time that did not happen. Surprising ? No. I suspect that now that Chancellor Rhee and Mayor Fenty are losing favor with many in this city we will see little to none of Turque's article. The only coverage that appeared in their paper was a photo from our teacher rally featuring our very own Sheila Gill, WTU Executive Board member and school counselor holding a rally sign.

Well if the Post won't report their news I certainly will. Here is our story that should have been printed in The Washington Post.

D.C. Teachers Rally Against Rhee, Union Head
By Bill Turque, Washington Post Staff Writer
September 24, 2009 7:41 PM

"A small but vocal band of District teachers, angry about impending layoffs, rallied against Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and their own union president in front of the school system's central offices early Thursday evening.

"Our teachers are running scared right now, because they're not sure they'll have a job," said Malvery Smith, a second grade teacher at Turner Elementary School@Green in Southeast. Smith, who has taught in the city for 14 years, was one of about 60 District educators in the plaza in front of school headquarters on North Capitol Street.

They were joined by supporters and community activists. Teachers protested Rhee's Sept. 16 announcement of a still-unspecified number of layoffs. It came more than three weeks into the school year and nearly seven weeks after the D.C. Council sliced $20.7 million from the 2010 DCPS budget. The cuts, which also hit other city agencies, were triggered by a continued decline in tax revenue.

Teachers who will lose their jobs are expected to be notified by Sept. 30. Word of the layoffs followed a spring and summer when the school system filled 900 teaching vacancies. Rhee said she did not expect the council's cuts, which were approved July 31. She waited until mid-September, she said, so that the staff reductions could be done in tandem with the annual "equalization" process, which shifts teachers at under-enrolled schools to others in need of more educators.

But teachers scoffed at that explanation Thursday, contending that Rhee is seeking another way to oust veteran instructors. "That doesn't hold water," said Willie Brewer, an instrumental music teacher at Marshall Elementary in Northeast who has worked in District public schools for 26 years.

Jerome Brocks, a veteran special education teacher said there was only one reason Rhee is pursuing the cuts. "It's to get rid of veteran teachers of color," said Brocks, who is black.

Rhee has denied targeting teachers because of age or race. Washington Teachers Union President George Parker did not attend the rally, which was organized in part by two of his most outspoken critics, union board of trustees member Candi Peterson and its general vice president, Nathan Saunders. They have denounced Parker for weak leadership and aligning himself too closely with Rhee in contract talks that have lasted nearly two years.

The District's 4,000 union members have been without a contract for three years. "Our union leadership has led us to this point," said Tom O'Rourke, a social studies teacher at Roosevelt High School. "Management knows they can wait us out and pick us off one by one."

Parker said the union didn't endorse the rally because it was "hastily and loosely organized. "It did very little to serve the interests of our members, although it may do a lot to serve the political interests of Candi Peterson and Nathan Saunders," he said.

Parker said the teachers union will hold a rally Oct. 8. It has been a turbulent first few weeks of the new school year for D.C. teachers, who have been trying to adjust to a series of changes made by Rhee.

In addition to the impending layoffs, the District has unveiled a new, rigorous evaluation system that will include improvement in standardized test scores as part of the criteria for assessing some instructors. It is linked to a deeply detailed new set of teaching guidelines and strategies that cover everything from classroom presentation to checking for student understanding to instilling the belief that hard work leads to success.

School officials have also introduced a revised version of the student disciplinary code that is intended to de-emphasize suspensions and push teachers to work harder at keeping misbehaving students in the classroom."

Posted by The Washington Teacher featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence, article courtesy of the WaPo


lodesterre said...

Although the majority of teachers who will be affected by cuts will be African American I do believe that Rhee is not targeting any one group. I actually believe that she is trying to rid the system of anyone who has been in DCPS for more than 5 years. I have heard two tidbits from credible sources recently. One is that a principal of a very highly regarded NW school has told their staff that the principal was instructed not to give 4s on the evaluation ("it is impossible for me to give you a four" is a direct quote)and the other is from a colleague who is friends with a Master Educator. Their ME friend told them that the MEs have been instructed to judge teachers as harshly as possible. One upper NW school had the MEs in their school for a week and the evaluations left a lot of unhappy teachers. IMPACT has been designed for and is being executed as a way to rid DCPS of as many teachers as possible. If it is unfairly harsh to one and all than no one can cry ageism or racism.

Thanks for organizing the protest Candi and for everything you have done to get the word out to people.

The Washington Teacher said...

Thank you for your post and your kind words. Quite insightful about the IMPACT evaluation all be it not surpirsing. I suppose that Rhee's 5 year plan was our warning tha she wanted to get rid of a significant share of her workforce through layoffs, terminations and by any means necessary.

lodesterre said...

The latest I heard is that the Master Educators were told to only give 4s to those teachers who have National Board Certification. Interesting considering MR's comments about NBC last year.

just me talking said...

I don’t feel as strongly about IMPACT as some people feel who have written on your blog.

Some things I like about IMPACT:
I’d rather be evaluated on five evaluations than 1 or 2.

I haven’t found anything in the rubric yet that is not best practices (I‘ll admit, I‘m still culling through the rubric, though).

The rubric does give concrete examples of what evaluators will be looking for.

Teachers can appeal their evaluations.

DC teachers requested people who were more objective than principals - and we got it. I don’t agree with people being told to “judge as harshly as possibly” if that is true. Then that is not being objective. They should be told to just use the rubric and document what they see. I don’t agree with not giving teachers 4s if they earned it. However, all of that for me is hearsay right now.

I think it’s fair to judge teachers on only part of the rubric (just the TEACHING component) rather than the whole document since we are just getting it after the start of the school year.

I also like how the aspect of teaching counts for more than getting an IEP written or shuffling papers.

I wish people would actually post what their idea of a quality teacher evaluation looks like (who conducts it, how often, how they measure effectiveness, what should happen to people with low scores or high scores, etc). So many people making complaints but so few making counteroffers.

A group was passing around flyers last year that said, “We can do better (than the WTUs proposal last fall).” For some reason, they never printed up their “better” idea and rolled it out for everyone to see.

Someone asked somewhere else on your blog, “Is this (IMPACT) what you teachers asked for?“

I did sit in on one of the teacher focus groups last spring. The completed IMPACT looks like what was presented to the group that I sat in on, and none of us objected to it at the time. We attempted to give ideas on how to evaluate the “Non-value added” category, but we all admitted that it was very challenging to develop a standard way to evaluate children that would be reliable. I think IMPACT is the best idea so far because I think a lot of teacher’s ideas went into creating it.

Lindsey said...

I, too, thought it strange not to see the article in the post the next day (friday). Did anyone see the WP magazine with Rhee-Rhee's huge face on the cover??????


DCPS teacher said...

"Just Me Talking" is right on the money. If you're going to complain about the system, you better have something better in mind.

IMPACT is as fair an evaluation system as any I can think of. In other words, in theory, it should be great. The problem, right now, seems to be how to implement it--how to ensure that MEs standardize the scores they give and how to make sure that confused teachers get the necessary professional development to help them navigate the system.

But, arguing that this is racist or stupid or outrageous is childish.

Me too said...

Just me talking:

Hear, hear. You're talking for me, too. Thanks for putting my thoughts into your words.

just me talking said...

Just to follow up - a teacher at my school was evaluated by a ME last week and spoke about it today at our morning teacher's meeting. For her, it was a positive experience and she looks forward to having the post-conference with the ME. She taught the same way that she teaches everyday and emphasized that she had no worries because she is confident about her skills. The ME did not seem evil.

This was from a teacher who has only had one week to look at the rubric and become acquainted with it before being evaluated.

DC DOES have strong, effective teachers, and this particular teacher did not feel the need to worry.

Anonymous said...

Keep up the fight DC teachers and students! You are on the front lines of a coordinated political attack. NYC teachers are facing the same political decisions from our leadership, rather than sound educational practice. Rhee and Klein are the same political animal. Shoving inexperienced teachers in front of our children, and ridding classrooms of those teachers with experience and understanding of the craft of teaching because they don't want to pay them the higher salary they have earned and deserve is criminal. Klein and Rhee should be arrested for crimes against children.