Jul 19, 2010

Why Not Blame DC's Teachers ?

Are the winds changing under Chancellor Michelle Rhee ? Given the recent announcement of low standardized test scores on the elementary level in DCPS, Efavorite poses some interesting questions for us to consider.

Written by Efavorite, guest writer

Have you noticed that Chancellor Rhee has not pointed the finger of blame at DC teachers for the 2010 DC CAS score decline in the elementary grades? How weird for someone who, up to now, has given teachers complete responsibility for student achievement, and has pushed for additional and easier ways to rid the system of teachers who she feels are not up to the task.

Rhee’s been complaining about the low quality of DCPS teachers since her arrival here, so these new declining scores could have been positioned as proof that her major reform of firing more teachers needs to be stepped up immediately! At the press conference announcing the scores, instead of the vague “we have to take responsibility” and “dig into the data,” Rhee could have simply blamed teachers and promised to fire more of them, using the new options at her disposal in her historic, ground-breaking union contract.

So what’s up? Maybe her $100,000 media consultant is worried that mentioning teacher quality right now would reflect poorly on the 900 new teachers Rhee hired last summer, breaking the budget and instigating an October RIF. These recent hires make up almost a quarter of the teaching corps now, so in theory they could be having quite an effect on student achievement.

It could be that Rhee is hesitant to bash teachers in the middle of a rough recruiting season, especially knowing that a bunch of current teachers, including some of her own hires, are now up for dismissal based on their students’ declining DC-CAS scores. Perhaps it’s more personal. Rhee may have decided not to attract too much attention to herself during the press conference, thus allowing more time to weigh her own options. With the DC mayoral election right around the corner, anything could happen. Future DC teacher-bashing and teacher-firing opportunities could abound! Then again, she could opt to go national, much as Sarah Palin did, extending her star power over the whole country.

Meanwhile, keep you ears open. The Chancellor has to mention teachers sometime soon. “Effective teachers” have been the cornerstone of her reform efforts. Remember, she thinks “Teachers are everything” and “the only solution we have.” Surely she won’t abandon them now.

Rhee must be waiting for the right moment and the right spin.


Anonymous said...

E: Wouldn't we all like to know whether the last hired 900 fared better or worse in the test scores than the earlier cohorts? What is your best "educated" guess?

And could we work around the empty vs. full glass approach? If, as many would say, teachers are not "everything," what is the right number (percent of total educational impact) to represent their impact in learning--that would pass muster with education experts, parents, and your own professional experience?

Also, as you seem to be up on Chairman Gray's views, how does he describe the importance of teachers in education?

TFT said...

Excellent question!

I_educ8 said...

Rhee doesn't have to bash teachers in the media anymore, especially since such behavior not only makes her look bad, but it also makes her more of a liability to Fenty and his fledgling campaign. But if she continues to quietly terminate large numbers of mostly veteran teachers and hire new, hastily trained teaching fellows, it's the same net result, is it not?

Look at how she and Fenty trumpeted the recent CAS scores at Ballou and thanked the teachers for "doing a fantastic job" in one breath and talked reconstitution of the entire staff in the next. They both speak with forked tongue, true to their ophidian nature.

It's all about good PR at this point.

But watch out if Fenty gets back in office. (Please, God, No!) She'll be back to her trashing and bashing of teachers, especially veterans.

phillipMarlowe said...

Is there a reason axototl that you don't post as axototl on this blog(ue)?
It's not too hard.

Just click the 3rd radio button next to Name/URL and put axototl as your name. You can leave the URL part blank, unless you want to use your picture.

Anonymous said...

So Rhee is saying that she is willing to help teachers who come to work everyday and teach children. She tells Tom Sherwood in the attached link that she wants to keep teachers around who try and put their best foot forward although their lessons may flop sometimes. Ummm. So why not just fire the teachers that she hates: the ones that put their feet on the desk and read the paper, the ones who hit children; the ones who have sex with children, or the ones who do nothing. Let's face it Michelle you hate teachers who have more than 5 years in the system. Yes it would be great to see the test DATA. How many of the 900 were n testing grades? How many Riffed teachers were in testing grades? I would be no correlation. I know at least 50 teachers riffed who were early childhood or counselors or special subject teachers.

Linda/RetiredTeacher said...

This excellent column by efavorite reminds me of my first three years of teaching in the "inner-city" of Cleveland. During those innocent times I fancied myself as the sole educator of my forty fifth-grade students. If the scores went up, I patted myself on the back. If they went down, I became disheartened and blamed myself.

After the fourth or fifth year I understood that I was an important part, but still just a part, of each student's educational life. There was much to learn outside of school as well. I learned the importance of the home, a lesson that was to prove invaluable to me later on when I became a mother.

Because Michelle Rhee never got beyond the second or third year of teaching, this is a lesson she probably did not learn but I suspect she's learning it now.

Anonymous said...


Any updates on the WTU election? Is George Parker just planning on staying until a judge forces him out?

Anonymous said...

LOW test scores on the elementary level was no surprise to me. With the hostile environments created by the principals and the cluster instructional supervisorss. it's no wonder the test scores dropped. I happen to teach in the cluster with Adderly who feels that not too many teachers in our cluster are effective. We have had so many changes happen in our cluster in the name of improving student achievement. These changes seemed whimsical because too often most of the changes didn't make sense. ex. something called "Forty days and Forty Nights" this was suppose to be some testing plan she decided to use in preparation for the DCCAS. WHAT THE HELL!!!! of course it was just wasted paper.

In additon to the admins., and MEs coming to our classroon, we were threatened with, yes threatened that Adderly and company would be visiting too. Some teachers that she visited stated that often she would make negative comments to the teachers in front of their students. Often she would visit classrooms after MEs had been. The MEs sometimes had given the teachers a good positive rating with great comments and Adderly would come in and disrepect and say negative comments. In all the years that I have taught, I have never seen teacher morale so low. Excellent educators (even those of us who are still being asked to demonstrate for others TFAs and FELLOWS in particular) have been shaken to our professional core. I have said that I would stay and contiue to teach, but I now know that I am done. It is not because of the children, it is because of all the bullsh## that is going on. As so many others have said, DCPS is losing and has lost so many excellent, dedicated and committed educators. If there were better economic times, these educators would be picked right up by other systems as they did in the past when teachers who left before all this Fenty/Rhee mess began. Those that left must have had a crystal ball that predicted what was in store in the future for DCPS educators. I know that I could go on and on but nothing has changed or will change. So since I can't beat them and I'm not joing them then, it's time to leave them. I'm sure much to MR's delight. I am one of those veteran teachers who has been rated highly effective and can so very easily drop down to minimally effective. I think that before I get my pink slip too, I'll go on and put in my retirement papers.

The Washington Teacher said...

Anonymous @ 10:56

The update on the WTU elections is that AFT Prez Randi Weingarten now has her 3 henchmen/henchwomen conducting an internal investigation of why the WTU elections haven't been held, the reduction of WTU General VP Nathan Saunders salary to zero and the refusal by George Parker to not approve Saunders continued leave of absence. This Wed. July 21 hearing will be held at the AFT office. I suspect the outcome will be to Randi's liking since her investigators work for her if you get my drift.

Efavorite said...

I_educ8 – interesting point about now having more tools to terminate making it possible to terminate teachers quietly.

Still, I don’t think bad-mouthing teachers ever made her look bad to the people who count the most to her reform efforts. That would be foundations and others who see teachers unions as the cause of all the ills in education – even though high-performing school districts have unions too..

Anonymous said...

A lot of the new teachers found DCPS intolerable..I am one of them who is trying to get out.. Secondly, her bashing of the veteran teachers never held water. I learned so much from the vets at my school. It is the inept administrators that's driving my desire to get out.. not the kids or the vets!!

Angela said...


Thanks for the update on the Parker/WTU Saga.

I am a 2008 retired DCPS teacher and am mad as hell that Parker negotiated a contract, for the first time in union history, that kept retired teachers from getting the benefit of the pay increase during the time which they worked. While this pay increase is important to working teachers, for me, this situation has impacted retirees like me for a lifetime.

Since the AFT will be in town to investigate the election/Saunders issue, I want you to know that us retirees will be at the AFT office on 555 New Jersey Avenue, NW at 9:00am to meet these investigators to demand they investigate our retiree issue as well. We have written the AFT on this matter, and they proclaim it to be a local issue negotiated by Parker and his team. I remind President Weingarten that she helped Parker negotiate this contract and must take some responsbility as well. So, if there are other affected retirees (2007-2010) who want to join us...NOW IS THE TIME TO STAND UP AND SPEAK OUT! We are also collecting names of retirees who have been impacted by this unfair representation of our union leader.

By the way, when they asked Parker why he did this to retirees, he said he did not know? Can you believe that! I don't.

Retirees........JOIN US!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, new teacher, for posting your comments about veteran teachers, especially that the bashing never held water. I am a veteran teacher who has always reached out to new teachers, be they fellows, TFA or recent ed school grads. They are teaching our children and I can help them for our children's sake. but in some of the programs, these new teachers are told that we don't use highly effective teaching strategies, or are set in our ways and resistant to change. Yet when most new teachers come to schools, they need help. Hopefully most of them come to the same conclusion, that our years of experience have been most beneficial, despite what is said about us.

Anonymous said...

The sad part about this Rhee/Fenty/WaPo/Kaplan mess is, that DCPS will suffer for years. Teachers that might have otherwise try to get a teaching job here, will say, no way will I work in a hostile environment. DCPS which is now a part of the DC Government will reap what they have sowed, letting Rhee/Fenty/WaPo/Kaplan unleash all of this negativity on this city. This city, just like so many urban cities will never get rid of disadvantaged families. We are in a World Wide Depression. The city council could have done more to help DC teachers, but they are not a school board. A school board would have been of value, when it comes to true educational reforms. Rhee& Co. did more harm than good. We will now sit back and wait for the test results. Any person with a brain knows that the hostile environments that many teachers and staff have worked in for four years, also had students present when all of this ugly unprofessional behavior by the Rhee/Fenty/WaPo/Kaplan, et al. was carried out. How does one think our students fared. Not very well.

Anonymous said...

Candi- Who were the people on the contract negotiation team. In previous years we knew. This time around they seem to be anonymous.

The Washington Teacher said...

Anonymous @10:28 The people on the WTU contract negotiations team were:

George Parker - Chief Negotiator
Randi Weinagten- AFT President
Joe Carillo, Vernon Williams (retired Spingarn), Erich Martell (Wilson), Emily Washington (Luke C Moore) and
one other person who I am blocking her name right now. She use to work at Stoddert.

I_educ8 said...


Regarding the “whys and wherefores” behind Rhee's teacher bashing (or recent lack thereof), I think, undoubtedly, there are those inside and outside of the District who applaud her efforts. However, for District residents whose lives have been upended for capricious, baseless, subjective, personal and arbitrary reasons by vindictive administrators (both in the schools and central office), there is great potential for voter backlash.

Why Rhee has quieted her venomous rhetoric likely has more to do with Fenty not being able to afford alienating any more voters during this critical time in the campaign cycle.

Just as Candi reported months ago, Rhee promised to terminate many teachers in July and we see that her promise has been realized. There was no fanfare or rallies/protests (as was the case in October 2009), but the end result is the same. So many times, we get caught up in the drama and miss the behind-the-scenes machinations. I’d like to know just how many educators were “separated” this month and what was the breakdown regarding years of service, age, race, etc. I’d also like to know how many teachers were excessed in June and have now failed to find a new placement for 2010-2011. How many new hires have there been and what were the dates of their hire? How many of her appointees (principals and teachers) have been deemed ineffective by the data?

I don't think we need to focus our efforts on psychoanalyzing Rhee or pondering her motives. Rather, let's keep her lies, discrepancies, and LACK OF POSITIVE RESULTS/SUCCESS on the front burner.

Sheila H. Gill said...

Clearly, Rhee will use teachers as scapegoats especially veteran educators. "Why Not Blame DC's Teachers?"

Rhee's favorite quote to Fast Company magazaine 2010, "I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school. Why wouldn't we take those things into consideration?" Manufactured Reduction in Force - November 2, 2009.

BEWARE TEACHERS!! Rhee is waiting for the perfect moment to present termination letters to Elementary Teachers who administered the DC CAS assessment and have low IMPACT scores.

Please have a Plan B and C to fall back on!! Secondary Educators are next in line.

DCPS Fact: Only two DCPS High Schools made AYP in 2009!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Candi, I am anon.7/20 @12:02 I noticed that my very long post was posted three times in a row. I'm sure that you didn't mean for that to happen. I hope that it wasn't a mistake made on my part. If so I'm so very sorry.

The Washington Teacher said...

Anonymous @ 4:12
The error has been taken care of.

Anonymous @ 10:28
I left off Mary Collins, WTU Field rep was also on the WTU Contract Negotiation team as well.

Anonymous said...

Hi Candi,
I certainly will not take the credit for the following comment. I was reading some of the 96 comments written about an article recently written by Bill Turque on 7/14/10, titled. "D.C. Elementary Schools lose Ground on Test;Secondary Gains Continue." On the 4th page of comments I found this great summary of the MR regime. It is quite long but really accurate and informative and a must read. If you choose not to post it due to the length I will understand. Here it is......
It should not be forgotten that a structured and systematic approach to teaching identified learning standards based on specific learning objectives was instituted in Dr. Janey's administration under the leadership of Dr. Wilmar Bonner. A rigorous professional development program supported on-going instructional support for teachers was actively in place. Many teachers complained about posting standards in the classroom and having to be accountable to teaching the standards,however, within a year a positive difference could be observed in learning environments, teaching practices and the way teachers talked about teaching and learning. Students were responding to those teaching practices in measurable ways that were visible in their work and test scores. When Michelle Rhee took over the school district in June 2007, she made no changes in the instructional program for 2007/2008 or 2008/2009 school years, nor did she support or reinforce the academic reform instituted by Dr. Janey. Her focus was elsewhere. Teachers continued to do what they were taught to do, but learning standards slowly came down from classroom walls and teaching to specific objectives was left up to individual teachers. For two years the instructional program was essentially ignored by Michelle Rhee. Her academic leadership was inconsistent and unstable as evidenced by the high turnover of central office personnel in charge of the academic programs. The test results this year reflect the decline in the rigorous academic program and support that was implemented under Dr. Janey and still practiced after he left as nothing else was in place. Changes to the academic program, professional development and teacher support began to change in the spring of 2009. The effects of the changes to the academic program instituted under Michelle Rhee's administration are refelected in the test scores this year and are telling.

The Washington Teacher said...

Moderated reply to Anonymous:

wth r u talking about? Of course this is rhetorical question. U make no sense. Comprehend the written word. You sound like you drank the Rhee kool-aid & just trying to start trouble.

This blog was created so that people could have a venue to discuss issues and their real feelings about education without fear of retaliation or censure. Rhee is so insignificant in this equation. Stop with your guilt tripping.

Happy trails!
Anonymous writes: I don't get it. There are so many teachers rooting for bad results on tests and other kinds of bad outcomes--to embarrass Rhee if they can. But aren't they just damaging the children? Aren't the DCPS run for the children?

Anonymous said...

I hear that IVA (individual valued added) points for those teachers in the testing grades will be added on to their IMPACT scores by this Friday. This counts for 50% of their evaluation. Additionally 5% for SVA (school value added) that most all other groups receive as well, based on school DCCAS scores, will be calculated by Friday. For many elementary school teachers, THIS WON'T BE PRETTY. At my friend's school, they dropped 20points in reading. My school also took a hit. Candi baby, follow this closely.

EFavorite said...

Additional response to anonymous at 12:54

Rhee’s damage to the kids is already done and is ongoing. What I’m rooting for is stoppping it, so the school system can get back on track as soon as possible.

As I_educ8 points out, the public should be more informed about the facts of her destructiveness.

Just yesterday in a published email to WP reporter Bill Turque, Rhee stated: “The fact is that over the last three years, DCPS students have made unprecedented gains in academic achievement, according to every measuring stick available to us (DC CAS, NAEP, graduation rates).”

Based on official, published information, this is completely untrue regarding NAEP (unless you interpret “unprecedented” to mean “never happened.”)

Please see the NAEP scores from the late 90’s until 2009 that I listed there:

Anonymous said...

I don't know any teacher rooting for bad test scores just to stick it to Rhee or some unpopular principal. We're about to get our finalized IMPACT ratings. Everyone will be getting at least 5% for school-value-added. Around 20% of DC teachers are group 1, where 50% of their IMPACT rating is based on their students' test scores. In addition, those group 1 teachers eligible for a step increase won't get one if their final rating is not in the effective or highly effective range. And most of all, as dedicated teaching professionals, we want our students to do well and show how smart they are through decent CAS scores.

Anonymous said...

I teach because, as a teacher, I have enormous power to affect my students. Almost everyone I talk to have at least one teacher who literally changed their lives. If you subscribe to the fatalistic, self-serving point of view that teachers cannot affect student achievement, you truly need to find another line of work.

Anonymous said...

from anon.7/21/10. I think that what I was trying to convey was misunderstood. I thought that the person who originally wrote this comment was trying to show how before MR came to DCPS Dr. Janey had all of the components for effective teaching and learning in place, and for the first two years that MR was in control, she had no clue what to do so she left everything in place. Which means during those two years students'test scores were improving and teachers were feeling good about what they were teaching and how they were teaching. MR's first two years were successful not because of her, but because of what Janey already had in place.
Then by the 3rd year MR came out with all her MESS that is in effect now. Heck no please don't think I was singing her praises ,I was just trying to let others who might not have known what things were already in place and working for our children long before there was Michelle Rhee. Sorry if anyone got the wrong impression that I was giving her credit for anything other then the mess that we are in today because of her.

Anonymous said...


Sorry my comment is not about this post but I want to share a thought with you about the whether or not George Parker should be eligible to run for WTU president.

I don't know the details about George's claim that the former election committee had no authority b/c he says it was not set up properly.

Let's say that this is true. My point is that George should have notified all WTU members that the deadline for submitting nomination petitions for the WTU leadership would be delayed until a proper election for election committee members took place. This should have been sent out at the very latest in April.

Instead no such communication occurred and all members were left with the assumption that the deadline was hard and fast. I really think this is the only evidence that one needs to show that he is not eligible to run.

Do you know if this point has been made? Has George or Randi ever explained why no such notification happened?

usereason said...

To Anonymous at 12:54:

I didn't root for students to do poorly on the recents tests. I just know that we reap what we sow. I was glad to see Rhee reaping what she has sown sooner rather than later - after I have left the school system and no longer keep up with the happenings here.

If the scores had not gone down this year, they would go down eventually simply because Rhee is not supporting the teachers like she should. It was inevitable. Don't expect the upper grades to sustain their progress over the next two years either under these circumstances.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that every teacher in group 1(testing teachers) have worked extremely hard th prepare their students for the DC-CAS. We as teachers understood that 50% of our IMPACT scores rested on the test results.(which is unfair) I am terribly upset and insulted when anyone implies that maybe some teachers didn't do their best to prepare their students or even didn't care whether their students did well or not. If anything is true I'm sure most of us wanted to prove that we did work hard with our students inspite of the unfavorable working and learning environments.

The Washington Teacher said...

Anonymous @ 842

You make a good point. I am not sure if your point has been made by anyone but is is a possibility that the elections comm. made this point. Randi Weingarten nor George Parker are trying to be reasonable and if they were they would have had an election of officers by now.

Parker constantly violates the rule of law in our union and then is perplexed when others call him on it. Trying to ask Parker or Weingaren to do the right thing is like asking a venemous snake not to bite.

The Washington Teacher said...

I don't think teachers have to cut off their ear to prove to anyone that they are committed to educating their students. This is nonsense. Those who expouse (sp?) this rhetoric are those de-formers interested in privatizing our public schools. This is part of their agenda.

Please stop apologizing. No one can define you or your level of commitment. No other profession has to bow down and apologize. This is one of those times when I say offering the middle finger is appropriate. Lets put a period here and move on.

Anonymous said...


Did you see Bill Turque's new post? Apparently DCPS Kaya Henderson said a "sizable" number of teachers will be fired because of IMPACT. Have you heard anything??

Anonymous said...

@July 21 @7:16PM, I understood and agree with you. What DCPS is going through now is pure Rhee-formation.
We are working with a novice make-believe-pretend superintendent. In the 1960's the Hippies always said, "never trust anyone over 30".
That saying could be used today, instead of over 30, how about under 40. Rhee and Fenty are both under 40 years of age, and it shows. Neither one of them has a clue about running a school system.
I have never, nor will I ever let Rhee and Co. define my teaching skills or abilities. Impact is a sham, and so is Rhee.

n said...

Are the TFA teachers held to the IMPACT observation tool as well? Have any of them been fired before their two years are up?

n said...

So let me get this right. You can be a first year teacher, and you will be scored 50% on if your students do well on ONE standardized test, with no comparison as to where they were the year before? Then, if because of this score you are found minimally effective you can get fired at the end of that year?! With no mentoring or help to improve? that's just it?

Anonymous said...

The LC Moore building rep was seen sucking up to Kevin Johnson at the Ward 7 straw pool event.

Remember, the rep also encouraged the crooked principal (a Rhee excellent principal) to dismiss teachers who questioned the changing of students grades. She also supplied "work packages" to failing students in many different subject areas.

Talk to some of the teachers who were excessed out of LC Moore.

I have also been told that this individual considers herself to be an advisor to Rhee.

Two faced shameless one. It is time for you to go home.

Anonymous said...

Please tell me when someone is going to address the AYP scores correctly. As we know most people who are TRUE educators know that you do not base grades, student progress on one test.
Since we know that MR and company are not true educators, then we would not expect for them to understand that this is not acceptable or logical in the true educational community to use one testing instrument to evaluate and rate teachers. Unfortunately this year (only this year) we had a principal who did not allow and time during the day for teaching of test takings skills and reviewing. Whereas, in many opther schools the major complaints have been too much teaching and reviewing of test taking skills. the end result was the majority of the schools fell down in test scores this year.
I just retired this year, but because I am so committed to education that I feel that I want to see something done that will improve the educational environment in our city for our students and our educators.
I would like to see all DCPS educators hired and retired have a protest in front of the 1200 first street. The terminator needs to go along with the mayor.