Apr 20, 2010

Honor Brian Betts-Stay Honest On Student Success

This submision by guest blogger, Efavorite is timely in light of the recent death last week of Principal Brian Betts of Shaw Middle School at Garnett Patterson in Washington, D.C.
"The front page Washington Post article on the tragic death of Shaw Middle School Principal Brian Betts accurately states, “Rhee held Betts up as her model principal, but it created expectations that he had trouble fulfilling. Math and reading proficiency rates on the school's 2009 DC-CAS assessments, already low, declined again.” But then it goes on to quote Rhee saying just yesterday that back in ’09 when the Shaw scores came in, Rhee, impressed with cultural changes in the school, told Betts, "We'll take care of the academics later."
She may have said that to him then, but this is the first time it’s gone on public record. In the summer of ‘09, Rhee publicly lied about the scores at Shaw, saying that they stayed “about the same.” She even mentioned non-traceable statistics showing an increase, when in fact the public records show that Shaw’s scores decreased. I’m gratified that the Post is now reporting that accurately. However, at the time, it published Rhee’s lie, and it was only after I protested and showed the proof that Jay Mathews of the Post corrected the information. Rhee had already lied about the Shaw scores to PBS, who also published a correction on its website after I directed them to the official records.
Only in the wake of Mr. Betts’ death does Chancellor Rhee admit that academics can be taken care of “later” – that it’s possible to be an admirable, beloved and acclaimed educator, worthy of working in an improved DCPS, even in the absence of increasing academic achievement. Unfortunately, she does not apply such a sane approach to the rest of the educators in DCPS. Instead, teachers can be rated down on the minutest of details of their classroom instruction, and if the new contract is passed, teachers can be rated down or dismissed if their kids’ scores don’t rise in a year’s time.
Perhaps in honor of Brian Betts, Chancellor Rhee and union officials will change course to officially accept the Chancellor’s newly stated and perfectly logical, research-based position that “academics can come later” after cultural changes. And let’s remember that cultural changes – not only in the school, but also in the home – don’t happen overnight and do require much more than effective teaching."

Posted by The Washington Teacher, Candi Peterson - blogger in residence with guest post courtesy of Efavorite, picture courtesy of WaPo.com


Anonymous said...

Excellent comments!

Anonymous said...

Betts's death was truly tragic. Equally tragic is the duplicity shown by Chancellor Rhee. Thank you eFavorite for shining a light on this. Someone should clue in the New York Times. Their editorial today sounds almost naive, given the information that has surfaced about Rhee lately.

Sheila H. Gill said...

What happens in the dark will come out into the "LIGHT."

Integrity, honesty, and dignity define an individual's character.

Stay Honest and the Truth will set one "FREE!"
RIP Mr. Betts.

Does Rhee or George have any credibility?

Vote "NO" to the WTU T.A.
Read Section 40.2 on page 103

Anonymous said...

Not to nitpick, but Jay's response to Efave was significantly more nuanced than simply agreeing to the correction. Efave may not have liked it, but Jay continued to argue Rhee's statement was reasonable.

Anonymous said...

Jus wondering, but out of respect for Mr. Betts, it might be good to tone down some of this. Colleagues have noted, btw, he was hopeful about the way current school reforms would turn out in DC in the end, when all is said and done. RIP, Bryan Betts.

Anonymous said...

The only true words that MR has spoken the entire time that she has been Chancellor. "academics can come later", after cultural changes take place. Hopefully MR will remember this when the DC-CAS scores come in. Many , Many schools are dealing with so many cultural issues that are causing major problems with teaching and learning in classrooms across not only the city but across the nation. Great example, today one of my students came to school after being absent yesterday when we reviewed ways to prepare for the test. One major way was to make sure that you eat a good breakfast. Well, this student hadn't eaten anything since Sunday evening when all the food was eaten because parent didn't have any more money until today(payday). Yes, he could have eaten breakfast at school , but he was TOO late. The only reason why I found out when he had had his last meal was when I woke him up after I noticed that maybe in about 10 minutes into the test he had closed his test booklet and declared that he had completed the session. I'm sure that he thought that he was finished, because it was much easier to dream about lunch( the first anticipated meal since Sunday)rather then thinking about why "CODY "a character in the first story was worrying about being the new kid in school. "academics verses culture". Tomorrow I will make sure to have some snacks for my student because maybe his parent was unable to cash the check to buy dinner tonight. "culture verse academics." The sad thing about this is it is not an exception, too many times it is the rule.

EFavorite said...

Here's the complete conversation between Jay Mathews and me on the subject of Shaw's scores:

Efavorite: I think a correction should be made about the Shaw score information, just as John Merrow did on the PBS "Learning Matters" website after it aired the same inaccurate information about Shaw back in August. Rhee said in the Q and A:

“Shaw was a failing middle school that needed to be restructured. Anyone who has been in the school under the new leadership can attest to the fact that the school's culture and environment has improved radically. The test scores stayed pretty level this year (not uncommon for the first year of a turn around) and we expect to see greater gains in the years to come. I'm excited by what Principal Betts, the staff and students have done there!”

That's not accurate. As you reported in your Sept. 28 column:
"Shaw dropped from 38.7 to 30.5 in the percent of students scoring at least proficient in reading, and from 32.7 to 29.2 in math."

Me: I think efavorite is right. We stand corrected. But efavorite overlooks the more important issue of what those score drops mean. My column also said that only 17 percent of those 2009 Shaw students were at the school in 2008. It is mostly an apples and oranges not-so-useful comparison. As I said, if you compare the scores of just the 44 students who were there both years, the result is different: "The students’ decline in reading was somewhat smaller; it went from 34.5 to 29.7. Their math scores actually increased a bit, from 26.2 to 29.5” That is closer to Rhee's view that the test scores stayed pretty level. But a very low level, as I said.

Jay - Speaking of apples and oranges, the -4 and -9 numbers are the ones under discussion, not other un-verified data only mentioned in your column as a result of what sounds like a private conversation with the chancellor. I disagree that I’m “overlooking a more important issue.” I can’t overlook something that’s not visible. How deep do I have to look to find that other data, or is it even available for the public to peruse? How do I know it actually exists? Shaw’s standing is based on the same official, publicly available “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) data used for all the schools, so it’s incredibly disingenuous for Chancellor Rhee to use different data when discussing Shaw’s scores. This is apples and oranges writ large, with fingers crossed behind her back.

Besides, if Shaw had experienced an increase of 4 and 9 using the standard data, I doubt if you or Chancellor Rhee would have said the scores "stayed pretty level." You’d simply say “increased.” Children first, Jay. You and the Chancellor should set a good example. Second graders can see that -4 and -9 are declines. And they know the difference between a fact and a self-serving distortion."

Mathews "nuanced" response was based on data that only the Chancellor had access to. It wasn't possible to check it and she had already lied about the public data.

Also, please click on the PBS link for more detailed information.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous how wonderful of you to be thoughtful about your students and use your own resources to buy then snacks. This is a part of our job that people just don't see. Paying for field trip, buying a gift, or school supplies for our students.

Maybe we should not use the death of Mr. Betts to attack the chancellor. I am sure his death is surreal to his family and friends. She has provided us with enough material all on her own.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 6:11

Your statements show you are an outsider to schools. There is no "end". The schools are a system and children flow through in a constant cycle. They don't stop and start like a faucet at your convenience. DCPS was here long before MR and we wiil continue to flow long after she is gone.

Anonymous said...

This is just another event that Rhee has not been honest about. More will be exposed because of her hidden agenda.

Peter said...

anon at 9:19 pm

I don't think this is what MR means by "culture." I think she's referring to the culture of the school -- the climate that children are learning in. Shaw has made amazing strides at becoming a place where children want to be, largely because of Mr. Betts' heroic efforts. Just like great teachers build positive classroom culture before they can actually teach children well, MR was saying that positive school culture can come before academics. I don't think she was speaking about larger social issues.

Anonymous said...

Our school had breakfast, snacks before the DC CAS, in the break in DC CAS, after the DC CAS, and extra special lunch for all test taking students. I agree about cultural issues but I think more kids are being fed DC CAS week than any other time. There are all sorts of things going on for DC CAS week, prizes, give-aways,lots of attention - just wait until after DC CAS when all the attention goes away, the kids will really act up then. Sorry about your student, but Sunday - Monday/Tuesday with no food requires a call to CFSA or if you know the family and feel comfortable talking to them give them some referrals. There are some, though limited, resources available for families after-hours and weekends at area foodbanks/emergency assistance centers. There are also shelters where the families can go and eat at the weekend, and a couple were they can take a way food but not many. The family should also sign up for services at a foodbank, sign-up now, not wait until payday. If you are able to speak to the family and feel comfortable you can refer them to one of the lead community agencies, there is a program in each ward of the city or call Dept. of Human Services if you don't want to go the CFSA route.

evision said...

i've gone through this blog. i found it really interesting. nowadays im working and also studying in college.

Anonymous said...

We know what MR was stating when she stated "school climate." Only an outsider would define school climate to educators.

Many principals are no longer with DCPS due to poor student performance on the DCCAS. These schools receive no additional support or money.

We reward principals with money when their schools make gains. Shhhhh! Please do not mention that some of these schools may have cheated. Lets not talk about test security. That is a joke. Let alone test monitoring.

MR's parents must be very proud of her. lol

Macy said...

Anonymous @ 7:16 on 4/21
Efavorite is not attacking the chancellor. I think that if Brian Betts legacy is important then we should use it as an opportunity to honor his memory by telling the truth as Efavorite suggests. I don't think it serves the interests of Brian Betts family, DCPS students or Shaw middle school when people exaggerate or lie about accomplishments that did not occur.

Thanks Efavorite for keeping us on our toes and to Candi for publishing this piece.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 8:58am said: "...DCPS was here long before MR and we wiil continue to flow long after."

I agree that this is a fitting and perfect statement that DCPS will outlast Ms. Rhee and push aside anything that Ms. Rhee do. Said very well. But what will teachers do then?

Anonymous said...

I agree with friends and coworkers who uneasy with use of tragedy of Brian to push things he probably not agree with. Brian was strong supporter of Mrs Rhee. He would not be happy with this "honor."

Chad said...

I have a problem calling Betts a hero. He is no more heroic than many other teachers,principals and dedicated staff who work hard every day. The only difference he was Rhee's golden child, got more money alloted to his school and didn't produce test results she expected. Despite this Rhee still sings his praises because she is too egocentric to admit she made the mistake in picking him. Now that he is dead she doesn't have to.

Anonymous said...

Very nice commentary on perceived and actual student success.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 8:28 am

To continue my metaphor; As the students flow the teachers will continue to be the strong banks which guide them to their final destination. Sometimes meandering, sometimes rushing over rocks and hazards, and sometimes attempting to contain much more than we are able and breaking...

Anonymous said...


You hit the nail on the head. Rhee is basting in the "glory of all thing Betts." Another great pick by her.

BULL - he may have done many nice things for the children but he could have been a Rhee supporter because SHE GAVE HIM A PRINCIPALSHIP.

Anonymous said...

Why isn't Rhee providing comment on the Wilson teacher who was kidnapped by one of her students??

Why is she ignoring this awful event? Is it because she can't spin it to make herself look good?

I am disgusted by this.

DCPS grad said...

First timer for comments here .. I'm sorry about the death of Brian Betts but I honestly don't understand making him a hero and spending so many DC dollars in creating a hero legacy for a new DCPS principal with decreased test scores. I saw that ALL students were bused to the wake and now there is a service next week. Who's paying for all this and are ALL students REQUIRED to attend? What really bothers me is Dr. Dorothy Height and Rev. Benjamin who are TRUE documented heros just passed and the coverage of them and their accomplishments are almost non-existent compared to the in the media compared to this principal with decreased test scores that the Chancellor always cites in her "ineffective" justification. Dr. Mary McCloud Bethune was Dr. Height's mentor -- now talking about a lesson that should be taught to DCPS students coupled with the accomplishments of Rev. Hooks. OMG ... what an opportunity we are missing.

Anonymous said...

Anon. at 9:45 the morning of the 23rd: your message sounds vaguely like teachers are leading students to they final reward. Wierd tone. Possibly not what you meant.

But this is not as strange as the kicking of Principle B. Betts in several posts. Give the guy a break--he is in heaven, no?

As for Dorothy Height: there will be a funeral/memorial service in the National Cathedral next week. You should all try to go. As for media coverage there sure has been a lot, look in the national news. There will be a ton of coverage next week; don't worry. Betts is just a tragic local murder that some people are using for they own ends. Not great example for young ones, wouldnt you say?

Anonymous said...

Excellent point DCPS Grad. Learn about these true "Icons" who were and continued to be heroes until they died.

Excellent point!

Anonymous said...

@Chad said..., I agree with this blogger. Mr. Betts' tragic death is just so sad. I pray for his family, and school. The children that he taught are missing him. The reason why agree with @Chad, is because there are countless educators in DCPS and around the nation, who give money and time to their students. A lot of these teachers are sometimes the only people in a child's life that demonstrates caring and kindness. These teacher fuss, teach, cry, and give to their students everyday and every year. Yet, no one knows about this. The public does not hear nor read about these front-line workers.I am so blessed by my good and sometimes not-so-good (behavior)students. I am sure Mr. Betts cared about his students. Michelle Rhee is so fake that I don't even think she has a soul. She is using Mr. Betts' death as a new shield for her crusade to break our union.
Teachers are the ones who fight daily for the lives of their students. Stay strong and fight for your livelihood and your students future.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 3,55pm, Saturday. You say about the loving and skilled activies of teachers: "Yet, no one knows about this." That is strange beause most parents would know about it. If a tree falls in the wood does anyone hear it? I do not understand why the parents do not know. At the same time you call Mrs. Rhee "fake." Do most parents know about that label?

Anonymous said...

@April 25, 6:12AM
I am responding to two points you made concerning my viewpoint about teachers and parents. The first point I would like to tell you is, most teachers who give their own money for field trips, caps/gowns, food, and sometimes clothing do not tell the parents. They do these things because they care about their students. There are some parents who are anti-teacher, and could careless about their child, and there are parents who care and support teachers. The second comment you made was my calling Rhee fake. Rhee is fake, and all parents should realize this by now. Ms. Rhee's actions speak louder than words.

Anonymous said...

I think saying no one knows about this referred to the press not knowing. I can't think of another principal or teacher who received as much press as Brian Betts. Losing him is awful, irrespective of his public popularity. And there are many, many unknown teachers and principals still helping kids everyday.

Anonymous said...

from anon. 4/20 @9:19 to anon. 4/21 @7:16

sorry if I offfended anyone.The statement that MR made regarding culture and academics really angered me. So many schools also need to improve school culture before addressing academic. This should be a consideration given to all struggling schools.

to Peter @ 1:28 I understood what culture MR meant. I am not sure that you understood what I meant. This is really not the place to debate my point. Perhaps we will be able to have another oppportunity, but not here.

to anon. 4/21 @ 8:15 Thanks so much for all the information. Of course the social worker and the counselor were notified and they addressed the problem. Our school also had some of the same things in place(breakfast, snacks and peppermints). We were not aware of my student's problem until we were into the testing session. Remember the student was late (9:20) minutes before the start of the test. Just to let you know when my student returned the next day he had eaten and was ready to test. Thanks again for the information and your concern.

Anonymous said...

Anonymus at 222pm--U say her axtions speak louder then words and that she is fake. I can not understand what u mean. Read the comments of others on this blog who say or act like they are teachers--listen to they schoolyard language, calling names and such. How do you think these "teachers sound in the classroom? Are they fake? If teachers have lost respect the way politics and people are they need to earn it back.

Anonymous said...

@ April 27 9:34AM
You seem to be very confused or you just plain silly. Maybe you are a Rhee plant. How about learning how to use the spell check next time, and use real words instead of letters to communicate your thoughts. If you don't like what someone else has to say or their point of view, then find a new blog spot. Every one's opinion matters, including yours.

Marva Berry said...

Now that the police investigation of the murder of Brian Betts has been completed and the report has been published, we should all be aware of the fact that it has been alleged that he was killed by three teenagers, one of whom he met on a telephone sex chat line and invited to his house for the purpose of having sex but was allegedly murdered and robbed instead.

Based on these facts, I don't think that Brian Betts is worthy of any honor or accolades. When a 42 year old highly successful middle school principal goes trolling sex chat lines to find teenagers to have sex with that is known as pedaphilia. In fact, the circumstances related to his death revealed that he betrayed the trust placed in him by the citizens of DC by preying on disadvantaged inner city youth who most likely were current or recent students in the very school system that employed him.

We must demand that Michelle Rhee take the same public stance that she took when she made the unsubstantiated claim that an unspecified number (which turned out to be one)of the teachers who were fired in the fall were terminated for having sex with students.

It should be acknowledged that Betts was neither a hero nor a savior of our children and all of the tributes and accolades need to be removed from the official DCPS website. What kind of message are we sending to the students by continuing this sham in the face of published facts about his immoral activities with the very teenage population that he was hired to educate, guide and protect.

In fact, Ms. Rhee has a legal responsibility to call for an investigation into his relationships with his former students to determine in any of them have been victimized by him and to provide them with the necessary support systems.

Further post by on this subject can be found on Michelle Rhee's and my facebook page.

Anonymous said...

@ Chad you absolutely hit the nail on the head. Shaw under his leadership was smoke screens and mirrors. He absolutely had preferential treatment and access to resources that neither of the former administrators had. However, being the so called "face" of MRs vision this type of injustice was acceptable.

I also think its important to note that the former AP Kimberly Douglas has stepped up to the plate as acting principal since BB passing with not so much as a thank you from MR. I guess she is not the "face" MR is looking for...