Jul 24, 2011

No Mentor Teacher For You !

Written by Candi Peterson
So it seems that there was another round of DC teacher positions eliminated by the District of Columbia Public Schools. Inside sources report that ten teachers were excessed on July 16, 2011 from the DCPS Mentor Teacher program (formerly known as the Helping Teachers program).This leaves approximately fifteen DCPS teachers to mentor first and second year teachers citywide in the District.
Given that there is research and literature documenting the importance of mentor teachers, DCPS could not have picked a worse time to reduce their already scanty mentor teacher department. The Center for Inspired Teachers cites a 2006 New Teacher Center report that shows that students whose teachers received strong mentoring support make bigger gains in reading than those in un-mentored classrooms. The New Teacher Center report also found that in a comparison of approximately 100 new teachers in three school districts, students of teachers who received two years of support from mentors, made gains comparable to those of students of veteran teachers.” See the following link for more information: http://www.newteachercenter.org/pdfs/NTC_Policy_Brief-Hill_Briefing.pdf
Are you wondering what those in charge of DCPS could be thinking? I know I am. As such, I asked a DCPS mentor teacher how these cuts to DC’s mentor teacher department would affect new teachers. This recently excessed mentor teacher who requested anonymity due to fear of reprisal, had this to say: “New teachers will now have limited support and will not have that one-to-one professional and technical guidance that a mentor offers such as organizing teacher classrooms, understanding instruction and data, getting through a typical day and classroom management skills, etc. Our students will suffer in the long run.”
Now that data is available from the US Department of Education’s (DOE) Office on Civil Rights, we can see educational trends across school districts in the U.S. Based on 2009 DOE data, 42% of teachers in the District of Columbia have two years or less of teaching experience while only 10% of teachers have less than two years in Fairfax County Public Schools and Montgomery County Public Schools, which are much larger school districts. I would venture to guess that other school districts like our suburban counterparts recognize the importance of teacher mentoring programs and would fight to the death to keep these types of programs in place even during a tight economy.
If we want real transformative change in public education, then we must first be honest about what is happening in our public schools. We must stop supporting knee-jerk administrative decisions to cut valuable programs which are not in the best interest of teachers or students. Let's start by standing together with other Americans in the national Call to Action Rally to Save Our Schools on July 30, 2011 on the Ellipse. We hope to see you there. For more information visit: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch.org

© Candi Peterson 2013

Jul 17, 2011

The Controversy of IMPACT

Written by Candi Peterson
DC Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson issued “You’re fired letters" this past week to 206 DC teachers. Before DC teachers knew of their own fate, the mainstream media had received a lengthy DCPS press packet on Friday, July 15 from the Office of the Chancellor (OOC) lauding teacher terminations and celebrating highly effective teachers eligible for merit pay. Bill Turque, staff writer for the Washington Post reported on the details of the DCPS firings as early as July 15. Turque wrote: “Of the 206 fired, D.C. officials said, 65 were rated ineffective this year and 141 were judged minimally effective for the second consecutive year, triggering dismissal.” An additional twenty-one teachers who were effective and/or highly effective were also terminated by DCPS because they could not find a permanent placement.
Friday's teacher firings are a continuation of Michelle Rhee's educational plan to terminate a significant share of the DC teaching workforce while establishing job loss as a likely consequence of poor classroom test scores on standardized tests. In DC, fifty-five percent of a teacher's performance evaluation is tied to student test scores in the testing grades. Prior to getting elected as DC Mayor in 2010, Vincent C. Gray who was then Chairman of the DC City Council stated that there was controversy over IMPACT teacher evaluations after the announcement of 241 teacher firings. At the time, Gray stated that he wanted to look further into the 2010 teacher dismissals. Fast-forward to 2011, we have heard nary a word from Mayor Gray on this issue now that he has been elected as city mayor. I guess with all of the ethical dilemmas the Gray administration has faced during his short tenure as mayor – teachers’ dismissals aren’t the priority they once were while he was campaigning. If Gray doesn’t take the time to review the IMPACT controversy, then shame on him.
Given that USA Today newspaper broke the story on March 28, 2011 that half of all DC Schools likely corrected students mistakes and cheated on standardized tests, one has to wonder why Chancellor Kaya Henderson is moving forward with the dismissal of teachers based on flawed standardized test score data. Unfortunately, it took Henderson three years to finally support an investigation into allegations of a DCPScheating scandal that was previously made known to the Rhee/Henderson administration by former State Superintendent Deborah Gist in 2008. It begs the question, can we really trust that a comprehensive investigation will be completed by the DC Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby who appears to be a one man operation? Given that USA Today newspaper had an entire investigative team of 12 reporters when looking into cheating on standardized tests and former Governor Sonny Perdue had Georgia law enforcement to take over their investigation into the 2010 Atlanta public schools high erasure scandal after he declared a local investigation as “woefully inadequate”, why should we expect anything less in our nation’s capital?

Now is the time to support the end to the test driven culture in Washington, DC and elsewhere. I concur with teachers and parents for education reform that we must demand a call to action and insist on a thorough federal investigation of the extent of cheating in DC Public Schools over the past three years, the causes and the consequences, and needed corrections in our school system culture. This investigation must address specific allegations of erasure and falsification on answer sheets, as well as any district actions that might have encouraged cheating, or that were taken to cover it up. It is also time to call for a moratorium on the IMPACT evaluation system and teacher terminations until a federal probe has been conducted into the DCPS cheating scandal. Anything less would be a real tragedy.

© Candi Peterson 2013