Feb 14, 2012

DCPS School Closings and the Displacement Equation

Eliminating poor performing seats poses no threat to children.
Only to seats.
The administration of Mayor Vincent Gray recently commissioned a study of DC schools by the Illinois Facility Fund (IFF) which was paid for by the Walton Foundation (Wal-Mart) and several other interests heavily invested in charter schools. The study divided DC schools into 4 tiers (Tier 1 being the highest “performing” and Tier 4 being the “lowest performing”).  The methodology used to rank the schools into Tiers was by looking at Standardized Test Score Results (DCCAS).
Overall the study offers 4 recommendations:
  1. Fill seats in Tier 1 Schools. Sustain the performing capacity of Tier 1 schools.
  2. Invest in facilities and programs to accelerate performance in Tier 2 schools.
  3. Monitor Tier 3 schools.
  4. Close or Turnaround Tier 4 DCPS Schools. Close Tier 4 charter schools and replace them with high-performing publicly-funded charter schools.
If you believe that test scores are the only thing that determines whether or not a school is worthy then using them as the sole criteria in the IFF’s study won’t bother you.  If, on the other hand, you view a school as an integral part of the community and for that reason should be supported, then you might have hoped the study might look into why so many DC schools are failing academically.  Despite the firing of hundreds of teachers from DCPS, academic performance has failed to improve by more than a few points.  It would have been nice if the issue was that simple.  Closing more than 20 public schools during the Fenty Administration may have increased class sizes and saved the city money but the achievement gap between white students and black students is wider than it’s ever been.  Following the recommendations of the IFF study may increase the number of publicly-funded charter schools but as there’s no real evidence that charter schools are actually doing better academically than DC’s public schools, it hardly seems like a recommendation designed to improve the schools.
Please note.  I’m aware that the mainstream media has suggested that the publicly-funded charter schools are in fact doing better academically than the traditional public schools but test scores just don’t bear that out.  If you doubt this, please research it for yourself.  Great Schools is one source for test scores and academic rankings.  You might start there.   I site them also because they’re rankings take more into account than academics.  According to their site, the top-ranked DC schools are all traditional public schools.  Although their rankings are hardly conclusive, I’m reasonably certain that they’ve been replicated by other reputable sources.  So, if in fact, the best schools in DC are traditional public schools, why would the Illinois Facilities Fund recommend that DC’s “Tier 4″ schools be replaced by publicly-funded charter schools?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to suggest that these low-ranking schools, which are mostly in Wards 7 & 8, be encouraged to emulate the successful public schools west of the Anacostia River?   The cynic in me believes with all sincerity that the real reason behind the IFF’s recommendation that DC’s public schools be replaced by charters has something to do with the fact that the Illinois Facilities Fund is a non-profit lender that lends mainly to charter schools not only in Illinois but soon across the whole of the United States.  Increasing the number of charter schools in DC may not improve the academic performance of DC’s student population. It’s not likely to reduce the achievement gap between our white and black students but it may very well help to increase the bottom line of the Illinois Facilities Fund (which given it’s emerging status as a national entity would prefer to be referred to as the IFF).
I’m also confused by the Gray Administration’s confidence in the study, not because of what appears to be a clear conflict of interest, but because the recommendations don’t seem to align with the purpose of the study itself.  According to the Washington Post, Deputy Mayor for Education De’Shawn Wright’s reason for commissioning the study was, “to identify communities in greatest need of more education options.”  The report recommends that the communities in greatest need of more education options either close their schools or replace them with charters.  I don’t see how closing schools will provide the communities in Wards 7 & 8 with more educational opportunities.  Isn’t that a direct contradiction of the purpose of the study?  Presumably more charter schools will increase education options but if you’re simultaneously closing down potentially good public schools doesn’t that limit a families options to which ever charter school will accept their child?  As charter schools are not public schools in the sense that any child in the surrounding community can attend, a neighborhood’s charter school option simply won’t be available to every neighborhood kid.
Examine the IFF study yourself and see if you don’t come to similar conclusions.  Just so you know how many communities are likely to be impacted, here are the Tier 3 and 4 schools the report recommends to close or turn around broken down by Ward.  In total, there are 38 DC public schools are at-risk of closure.  Notice how many are in Wards 7 & 8.
Ward 1
Bruce Monroe @ Parkview Elementary School
Cardozo High School
Ward 4
Macfarland Middle
Raymond Educational Campus
Brightwood Educational Campus
Roosevelt High School
Ward 5
Noyes Educational Campus
Burroughs Educational Campus
Browne Educational Campus
Spingarn High School
Wheatley Ed. Campus
Ward 7
Plummer Elementary
Beers Elementary
Randle Highlands Elementary School
Aiton Elementary School
Drew Elementary School
Kelly Miller Middle School
Woodson High School
CW Harris Elementary School
Davis Elementary School
Nalle Elementary School
Ward 8
Orr Elementary School
Ballou High School
Hart Middle School
Hendley Elementary School
King Elementary School
Leckie Elementary School
Anacostia High School
Kramer Middle School
Garfield Elementary School
Stanton Elementary School
Johnson Middle School
Malcolm X Elementary School
Ferebee-Hope Elementary School
Terrell/McGogney Elementary School,
Patterson Elementary School
Simon Elementary
As a parent and a resident of Ward 7, I’m all too familiar with the struggle to insure that my daughter gets a good education. What I see when I look at the above list of schools is an administration that would prefer to disinvest in low-income communities (like mine!) rather than implement the practices that they know work in wealthy communities.

Feb 6, 2012

WTU VP Candi Peterson's PERB Complaint Against WTU

Press Release & WTU VP's PERB Filings

WTU General Vice President Candi Peterson has agreed to hold off on her lawsuit against the Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) in favor of handling the dispute through informal mediation or arbitration. However, after first seeking arbitration itself, WTU has reversed itself and is now plowing ahead with litigation.

In response to aggressive litigation tactics by WTU President Nathan A. Saunders, WTU General Vice President Candi Peterson has been forced to file a Standard of Conduct complaint with the DC Public Employees Relations Board (PERB) on December 2, 2011 contesting her removal. In her complaint, WTU General Vice President Peterson alleges that her removal  was "based entirely on a personal affront taken by WTU Nathan A. Saunders to WTU General Vice President Peterson's exercise of free speech." See Peterson PERB Complaint(s) filed December 2011. Click links below to view:

Peterson 12/2/11 Perb Verified Req. for Preliminary Relief

Peterson 12/2/11 Perb Standards of Conduct Complaint

Ms. Peterson's attorney, J. Michael Hannon has requested PERB to take immediate action to return her to office saying, "removal of a duly elected labor leader is a fundamental abuse of the rights of the entire labor organization to representation by its duly elected officers."

WTU General Vice President is concerned about WTU's legal tactics. Peterson stated: "I don't understand how President Saunders can use union money to fund his legal attack against me. This is purely personal on his part,  and I expect other union members will object when they realize his temper may cost WTU half a million dollars in legal fees."

For additional information on the status of this case, please contact :

Hannon Law Group
1901  18th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009
(202) 745-6880 Direct ∙ (202) 232-1907 Receptionist

Feb 1, 2012

Help Us Expose DC's Equation for Displacement of Our Students

Won't you please join me along with members of Empower DC, parents, teachers and community as we fight the displacement of our students and the privatization of our public schools. I have featured a guest post by Liane Scott which outlines the plan to expose DC's Equation for Displacement. Hope to see you this Saturday @ 11 am. Details listed below. Spread the word.
Candi Peterson

The Displacement Equation

Guest post By Liane Scott

What do DC’s proposed school closings have to do with the loss of affordable housing in the District of Columbia? Could it have something to do with the fact that many schools are being closed down in neighborhoods that are of interest to for-profit developers? What about the loss of community services like affordable child care? Has the government of the District of Columbia come to the conclusion that running the city is a lot cheaper if they have fewer children to educate, especially if those children have parents who are not so well off?

Come to Empower DC’s Info and Action Summit this Saturday, and explore these questions further. We believe that…


Help Us Expose DC’s Equation for Displacement

Saturday, February 4th, 2012
11:00 AM – 1:30 PM

@ Empower DC – 1419 V Street, NW

U Street Metro (Green Line) street parking available.
Lunch Provided & Childcare Available

This Saturday, Empower DC will make plans to MAKE OUR DEMANDS KNOWN at Mayor Gray’s ONE City Citizen’s Summit, the following Saturday, February 11th at the Washington Convention Center. The city may not be investing in certain communities because they have plans for those neighborhoods that don’t include the current residents. Let’s let them know that we know what’s up and that we’re not going to stand for it. Please contact Daniel at (202) 234-1991 ext. 104 or Daniel@empowerdc.org to RSVP and request childcare.