Bill Turque on his DC Schools Insider blog reports on the educational forum hosted by Robert Vinson Brannum and the D.C. Federation of Civic Associations, D.C. Federation of Citizens Associations and Wards 4 & 5 Council on Education. The forum was held on Wednesday evening (March 31) at the DC City Council building. I was in attendance along with many of DC's wrongfully terminated teachers, parents, community members and interestingly enough WTU President George Parker standing on the sidelines. The keynote address was given by a spokesperson from the U.S. Department of Education. The panel included Dr. Clifford Janey, Nathan A. Saunders, and DCPS parents including Lee Glazer, Maria Jones, Iris Toyer, Keith White and Mia Pettus. The discussion was facilitated by Cherita Whiting. Here is Turque's version of last nights event:
Janey: "It's not a coup" by Bill Turque
"The gathering at the Wilson Building Wednesday night was billed as a community forum and panel discussion on education reform. But it didn't take long to morph into an emotionally-charged rally for what the 150 or so in attendance clearly saw as their dream ticket for 2010: Gray-Janey-Saunders.
D.C. Council Chairman and newly-minted mayoral candidate Vincent C. Gray didn't disappoint the audience, put together by a coalition of community groups deeply unhappy with Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's approach to education reform. ("It's a new day! We're going to start with Gray!" exulted co-sponsor Cherita Whiting, chair of the Ward 4 Education Council).
He came with red meat for the anti-Rheeites, trashing her decision to reassign Hardy Middle School principal Patrick Pope and accusing her of not engaging with parents or articulating a coherent vision of education the District from early childhood through college.
With Washington Teachers' Union president George Parker looking on, Whiting lionized WTU general vice president Nathan Saunders, his opponent in next month's union elections, as a "standup guy" who "speaks for the teachers when they can't speak for themselves." Saunders called the union contest "a precursor to the mayor's race" and said his victory would create momentum for ousting Fenty and, by extension, Rhee.
Former D.C. schools superintendent Clifford B. Janey, shunted aside in 2007 by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in favor of Rhee, got a big hug and testimonial from Gray. "What a first-class professional. What a first-class human being."
Now superintendent in Newark, Janey never directly mentioned Rhee or Fenty. But he rejected one of Rhee's core contentions about school reform, which is that nothing is more important than the quality of the classroom teacher. Janey said such an approach, with its laser focus on test scores and achievement gaps, writes off the crucial links between school, home and community, and the potential contributions of parents.
Citing what he called "unassailable" research -- although he couldn't recall the exact source when I asked him later; he said he would send it to me -- Janey said just 13 percent of a child's academic progress is attributable to what goes on in the classroom and seven percent is driven by school leadership. The other 80 percent, he said, "is a function of what happens within the family and community."
"It stuns me that people just don't get it," he said. "And it doesn't mean teachers don't have an effect and can't have a greater effect than what is reflected in the research." But Janey said the achievement gap and other metrics are "just the tip of the iceberg."
"Much like attendance and truancy, looking at the achievement gap should only begin to raise other more fundamental issues about the lack of connection between schools, families and communities," he said.
Janey clearly enjoyed the hugs and hero treatment. But he said he and Gray are not plotting a restoration of the pre-Rhee DCPS. "It's not a coup."
Of Gray he said: "I do wish him well. We need some healing in this city."
Posted by The Washington Teacher, featuring Candi Peterson- blogger in residence, story courtesy of DC Schools Insider.