Jan 30, 2009

What's Up With Our Union Contract Proposal ?

Haven't heard nary a word from our teachers' union president, George Parker about our pending contract proposal. Today is the day it was supposed to be presented to Chancellor Rhee's negotiating team. Let's hope there will be an update on our weekly Sunday robo call. Stay tuned for more. (Posted by The Washington Teacher).

Jan 23, 2009

Coming Soon: DC Teachers' Contract Proposal

As promised, the DC teachers' contract proposal is coming soon. As most of you are aware, the Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have been working together during the past several months in order to develop a teachers' contract proposal that supports student achievement, provides meaningful compensation for our union members and is based on sound research based educational practices.

Thursday evening was our first glimpse of the newly revised teacher contract proposal. Of course there is still some very minor tweaking to be done. From where I sit- the proposal looked good based on the power point presentation that I saw. I believe that generally the proposal will satisfy many of the concerns that I heard many of our teacher members raise.

Next Steps
The proposal is scheduled to be submitted to Chancellor Rhee by the end of January 2009. Both the WTU and AFT have agreed not to disclose specific details about this proposal until Chancellor Rhee's negotiating team gets an opportunity to review the plan and make a determination whether or not they will accept or reject this offer. As you may be unaware contract negotiations should remain confidential. Once a decision is made about the proposal, additional information will be forthcoming to the membership.

I do encourage all WTU union members to attend our upcoming Representative Assembly meeting scheduled next week on Monday - January 26, 2009 from 4:30-6:30 pm @

McKinley Technology High School
151 T Street NE, Room 150
Washington, DC 20002

Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) will speak at this very important meeting. Please encourage your school building representative or an alternate to attend this meeting and bring back important information to teachers. All union members are encouraged to attend. Please bring a copy of your union ID card to gain entry to this meeting. Look forward to seeing you all there. (Posted by The Washington Teacher).

Jan 20, 2009

Don't Miss This Free Workshop onTeaching Lincoln

Join dozens of educators in the TV studios of WHUT – Howard University Television for a Teacher Training Workshop on teaching Lincoln in the classroom. WHUT and Howard University’s Department of History are hosting this multimedia Workshop.The workshop is FREE with registration and includes lunch. For additional information, e-mail lincolnwhut@gmail.com or call 202-806-3059.

Saturday, January 24, 2009 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM
WHUT-Howard University Television, Studio D
2222 4th St. N.W.
Washington, DC
Keynote speaker Dr. Edna Green Medford, a Lincoln expert

Overview of LOOKING FOR LINCOLN broadcast program and Website
Free Lunch
Hands-on lesson plan demonstration.
Great Door prizes and takeaways. Free on-site parking
(Posted by The Washington Teacher).

Jan 18, 2009

The Story The Washington Post Won't Report

On Friday, January 16th a DC City Council hearing was held on the human capital initiative. Ten DC teachers testified at the hearing after school hours including three DC teachers who were terminated under Rhee's administration without due process. One teacher reported that she was fired via email by McKinley principal David Pender while teacher Fred Kamara never received notice of his termination . Denise Hamilton and Fred Kamara both appeared at the council hearing. Both are blind teachers and their stories were featured on this blog earlier in the year. The story- "DC Teachers Say Morale Is Low" as written by Bill Turque on the DC Wire blog on January 17, 2009 will not be reported by our local mainstream press. Here's the story in its entirety:

D.C. Teachers Say Morale Is Low

"At an 11-hour hearing Friday on the D.C. schools' "human capital" policies, teachers charged that Michelle A. Rhee's quest to reform the historically poor-performing system--which includes a pledge to replace significant numbers of them--has created a culture of fear. Morale, many said, has never been lower.Seemingly arbitrary and capricious performance evaluations, petty retribution for questioning authority, and just plain bungling were recurrent themes in the discussion with D.C. Council members, headed by Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D).

Fred Kamara, a special education teacher, said he worked for several weeks (without pay) before learning that he'd been fired. Kadesha Bonds said the principal never came to observe her classroom work before filling out her evaluation form. She was fired last summer.Jeff Canady, a third grade teacher at Emery Education Campus in Northeast, received "exceeds expectations" in multiple categories on his June 2008 evaluation, scoring 25 out of a possible 30 points. This fall, he was placed on the so-called "90-day plan," which puts instructors on notice to improve their performance or face dismissal. Canady said he is the same teacher he was last June, the only difference being that he complained to Rhee and other administrators about conditions at the school, including a lack of Internet service.Speaking in a soft but deliberate tone, Canady said that in 17 years, "I've never had one single principal or individual say anything about my teaching."Resources promised and not delivered was another frequently cited complaint. Crystal Silvia, a social worker at Bruce-Monroe Elementary School at Parkview, said the school was supposed to begin the academic year with an additional social worker and a psychologist. It hasn't happened."I feel like what I'm doing most of the time is crisis management," Silvia said.

Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson told council members she concurred that morale was bad. "I expect that some people will be frustrated with the rate and pace of change," she said. "It makes our job a lot more difficult when people are frustrated."But Henderson added that Rhee and her team were trying to reverse years of neglect and mismanagement within a short span of time. "If all of our teachers were great and wonderful, we wouldn't be the lowest performing school district in the country."Henderson said DCPS has been pushing to overhaul its personnel practices. The system's payroll, which had 9,933 employees when Rhee took over in 2007, is now just over 7,000, although only a few hundred jobs were actually eliminated. Most of them, including transportation, facilities management and food service, were off-loaded to other agencies or outside contractors.

A more sophisticated new teacher evaluation system will be rolled out in the spring and implemented next fall, Henderson said. Among the metrics to measure teacher effectiveness will be a new "value-added" category that measures the academic growth of their students year-to-year.But Gray cautioned Henderson that none of these innovations would amount to much if the Chancellor isn't more effective in fostering trust among teachers and managing the tensions triggered by change."If that doesn't change, this thing is going to drop of its own weight," he said." (Posted by The Washington Teacher). Article courtesy of the DC Wire.

Jan 13, 2009

A Blogger's Advice To Rhee: Rebuild DC Schools First

While I was reading some of the responses on my blog, one especially caught my eye from blogger- Lodesterre. I thought that it deserved front page billing. He makes the point that there are differences in schools west of the park (upper north west) versus schools east of the river (far south east) in terms of the level of resources, support and educational leadership often lacking in these schools. It seems to me that this blogger's argues that Rhee's decision to terminate and/or buy-out a 'significant share' (Rhee's words) of the entire DC teaching corps does not represent a substantial education plan. Certainly I do not know of any research-based practices to support terminating a significant portion of your work force. Lodesterre sums it up this way : "..teachers are the heart of education. Well, a doctor doesn't replace the heart in a sick body. First the patient must be made strong, then you replace the heart."

I pose to all who blog here: How would you rate Rhee's 5 year education plan ? What other solutions to education reform would you propose particularly for some of our poorer and most neglected schools ? Keep in mind that the reality is that many teachers and administrators do not voluntarily choose to work at these schools given the location (far SE), discipline issues, lack of parental support, crime rate and lack of resources and administrative support, etc.

lodesterre said...
"My school does have instructional coaches, but then I work in a pretty good school. A lot of the schools do not. Go into the SE, SW, NE and parts of NW that don't look like Cleveland Park or Chevy Chase and you have a different world. With each step closer to Anacostia and beyond you will find yourself in an alternate reality. I used to work in one of those schools before being excessed by an administrator, I might add, who was a nightmare and used the procedure to rid herself of anyone who stuck up for the children (believe it or not). Look at where Chic was, Nalle. If you had ever been to that school, and I have numerous times, or knew someone who worked there, and I do, then you would know that the school does not have everything it needs.

Many of us were far from perfect as beginning teachers. We all needed help to survive our first couple of years and certainly could have used more. Imagine a teacher in a school where the coaches are pulled to do a thousand different things by the administrator. At my old school I had a reading specialist 8 days the entire year. I documented it. This was in a school where the reading scores were way below what they should have been. The reading specialist was always running some errand for the principal. I made noise, complained through the proper channels and was excessed at the end of the year.

The schools that need changing most are beyond dysfunctional. They are in conditions that go beyond "bad" teaching. To focus on the teachers and believe that getting rid of all of them will change things is short sighted. I honestly believe that you first build the support structure you need to have in place before you start putting up and painting walls. I don't see Rhee's plan. I know she has it on the DCPS website but to me it is more of the same: get rid of the teachers, replace them with TFA and DCTF and NTP teachers and our world will be transformed. There is no coherent, substantial plan that she has had in place. Her professional development and her family support plan have come as afterthoughts - thrown in after numerous complaints were made. Her one idea of change is to bulldoze and rebuild. This is a waste of talent and resource that, despite what you may think or say, does exist in these places.

There are fundamental issues which Ms. Rhee has felt can be dealt with after replacing all the bad teachers. She has said that teachers are the heart of education. Well, a doctor doesn't replace the heart in a sick body. First the patient must be made strong, then you replace the heart." (posted by The Washington Teacher).

Jan 11, 2009

Rhee Plans Termination of Thousands Of DC Teachers

You do the math ! During this Saturday's executive board meeting, WTU President George Parker revealed that Chancellor Michelle Rhee vowed to abolish DC teacher positions in 33 schools facing restructuring under NCLB at the end of this school year, unlike last year. This move will leave many DC teachers in restructured schools without jobs. Rhee has also proposed in her 5 year action plan to buy out teachers in closing and restructured schools who have reached retirement age. Last year it was estimated by DCPS that 350 teachers took advantage of the Teacher Transition Award buy-outs. Add to this a projected number of 400 teachers who may be terminated under the 90 day plan as well as another 800 teachers who may face termination for not meeting NCLB's highly qualified status either because they are teaching outside of their certification area or have not fulfilled the required qualifications under NCLB. Similar to last school year, principals were encouraged to fire probationary teachers with provisional certification. Approximately 78 probationary teachers were fired last year and more of the same is promised this school year despite pending lawsuits against DCPS.

In the 5 year action-plan submitted by Rhee's office to the DC City Council this fall states: "... too many of our teachers are not up to the demanding job of educating our youth effectively. We therefore plan to identify and transition out a 'significant share' of the teaching corps in the next two years. Some teachers will be "bought out" of their contracts ... We will also aggressively exercise the option to not renew teachers who are provisional status...."(page 26 of 5 yr. action- plan). What's interesting to note is that Rhee's recruitment efforts plan to fill the unprecedented teacher vacancies that these terminations will create through the 'New Teacher Project' (Rhee's ole' stomping ground) and an ongoing partnership with 'Teach for America.' (pg. 27 of 5 yr. action plan) 5 year action plan courtesy of DCPS website www.k12.dc.us

How many of DC's teachers will be terminated this year ?

650 teachers terminated in 33 restructured schools
350 teachers offered buy-outs in 33 restructured schools
400 teachers terminated on 90-day plans
800 teachers terminated who are un-certified and/or teaching out of certification
78 teachers terminated on probationary status

2,178 - Total # of DC Teachers To Be Terminated and/ or Offered Buy Outs *These numbers are projections based on the 5 year-action plan, last years estimates and approximations, etc. (Posted by The Washington Teacher).

Jan 7, 2009

More Terminations Without Explanation By Rhee & Company

According to sources who wish to remain anonymous, Tammye Martin- Special Education's Chief of School Based Programs at the DCPS central office got fired Tuesday by Rhee's administration along with five other staff members. It has been reported that these staffers were told that their services were no longer needed. What a way to start off the new year -termination without explanation. (Posted by The Washington Teacher).

Jan 4, 2009

A Parent Responds to Colbert King

Kathryn Pearson-West, an active Ward 5 parent wrote a follow up email to yesterday's WaPo article by Colbert I. King titled "Beyond Publicity, What is Rhee Producing ?" which highlighted Chairman Vincent Gray's proposal to appoint an 'independent evaluator' to examine the impact of education reform under Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Kathy sent copies of her response to WaPo reporter Colbert I. King, Chairman Vincent Gray and DC city council members as well as Iris Toyer from Parent's United, Mary Levy and myself. This recommendation by Chairman Gray mirrors what happened when NY Public school parents sought an 'independent evaluation' of Chancellor Joel Klein's reform efforts in many of New York's small schools. The independent evaluation was titled the "Small Schools Study" and it provided a more accurate assessment of public education reform in NY.

What are your thoughts on Gray's plan to appoint an independent evaluator ? Feel free to weigh in. Here's Kathy's follow-up email:

January 3, 2009

Chairman Vincent Gray and Mr. Colbert King:

"I read with great interest the article, "Beyond Publicity, What Is Rhee Producing?" Many citizens are asking just that. What are the actual improvements in the school system ? The school bureaucracy has been greatly expanded resulting in a deputy mayor for education, a state education agency, a local education agency, and an agency for school renovations. The chancellor gets paid more than other superintendents that had all these roles, however, I have yet to see where the nation's capital is headed in terms of education and what the real vision is. I applaud the council for deciding to spearhead an evaluation process in the spring. Now is the time to see what substantive improvements are being made that were not set in place by the previous school administration.

Citizens might want to see a lot more than union and school bashing and school leadership that appears to relish the limelight and closing schools and firing people. I was glad to read that the Council is going to move forward with an evaluation project to see what progress is really being made with the schools and to see what the DCPS leadership is up to. It seems like the chancellor has absolute power and having that much power with not much accountability to or respect for the citizenry/taxpayers may not be the best thing for the District of Columbia. Spending seems to be uncontrolled--spend then present the bill without any regard to a budget. Hopefully the evaluation process will somehow involve ordinary citizens and parents to get their input. Involving groups like Parents United would also be a plus. Since Ward 5 was greatly impacted with the closing of so many schools, it would be especially worthwhile to focus additional attention on our schools to see what or if there is any impact on educating our young people.

It might also be worthwhile to check with various communities to see if there are any performance measures/criteria that they might want to see included in any evaluation of the school system. I have copied Iris Toyer, Parents United; Mary Levy; and Candi Peterson, Washington Teachers Union, who I have seen quite active on many of the education issues and are active on list serves getting information out to citizens. I have also copied the Ward 5 Council member and the At Large council members. Keep up the good work on promoting positive education reform and academic excellence for all our young people. I agree with the old African proverb quoted in the article: "When elephants fight, the grass gets trampled." Yes, as the article states, "If a Rhee-union war paralyzes the school system, children may be the ones who suffer."Happy New Year and have a super fantastic day." (Posted by The Washington Teacher).

Kathryn Pearson-West
Ward 5 citizen

Jan 1, 2009

Another DCPS Official Bites The Dust !

Check out Bill Turque's story on the DC Wire about Tonya Vidal Kinlow who has left her ombudsman post after a little over 1 year on the job. Who will fill her shoes remains to be seen. Here's the details:

"...In a voice message on her office phone, Kinlow said her resignation was effective on Dec. 22 and she expressed thanks for the support she received.Kinlow could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Mafara Hobson, spokeswoman for Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, said the mayor was satisfied with the work of the office. No word on a successor.

A former Capitol Hill staffer, lobbyist and member of the old D.C. Board of Education, Kinlow was named by Fenty to the newly created position in October 2007. The official announcement said she would be "the city's face of customer service for education," assisting parents and students with problems or questions about DCPS, public charter schools or the University of the District of Columbia.

Kinlow and her staff ran down hundreds of complaints, sometimes facilitating meetings between parents and administrators, or coaching them on how to solve the disputes themselves. The office's casework was described, on an anonymous basis, in monthly reports. Safety, along with enrollment and registration, were the issues that most frequently surfaced, Kinlow said in her November report.

She drew some criticism for falling behind on a legal requirement to file the reports. Kinlow didn't post the March, April or May reports on the District's website until June. Kinlow said at the time that the office was developing a new data management system and that she wanted to make sure the information was accurate." Picture courtesy of The WaPo. (Posted by The Washington Teacher).