Feb 28, 2010

Another DC Teacher Quits Voluntarily: Who's To Blame ?

A DCPS special education teacher at Maury Elementary School calls it quits. 
Lately, I have received a number of emails and text messages from teachers and colleagues about how many DC public schools teachers are voluntarily calling it quits. Teachers that I have spoken to admit that some of their reasons for leaving are due to the IMPACT evaluation which was rolled out this year without it first being piloted. Many complain of inadequate training which is provided 'on the job' while teachers must digest an instrument that is complex and misinterpreted by principals, instructional coaches, program managers and master educators (who often aren't so master). Power points to supplement IMPACT are still being developed as we speak to help further explain rubrics that are not so specific. Teachers and service providers are rated in areas in which there has been limited training. Not to mention, the fact that it will take a total of three years for teachers to be graded on all of three of the IMPACT components. Teachers are complaining in some schools that they have lost their planning periods to more grade level meetings, extra duty, more paperwork and many other demands which result in lost time to plan. As a result many of our teachers come to work as early as 6:30 or 7 a.m. and stay until 6 or 7 p.m. and continue to work into the night. Yet they are still demonized in the press by Rhee and company. Time for family, friends and social activities is virtually non-existent.
Many teachers and service providers are receiving poor performance ratings on IMPACT evaluations with scores averaging in the minimally effective and ineffective range. Even I received a low impact score of course being marked down in the attendance area due to allegedly being seen at a protest rally while I was on scheduled leave. Could it be that Rhee's plan is to rate teachers low so that she can force out a significant share of our teaching workforce through terminations, lay-offs, resignations and retirement as revealed in her five year educational plan? 
I received an email from a teacher asking me to post the resignation of yet another certified DCPS teacher. Her email states - Hello Candi, "A certified special education teacher with a masters degree resigns from Maury Elementary School due to belittling by Principal Carolyne Albert-Garvey. Maury is located at 1250 Constitution Avenue NE. 20002. The principal heavily imposed special education coordinator (SEC) duties which is a full time job by the way and gave an unjust Impact rating. SEC duties "IMPACTed" no pun intended on this special education teacher's planning and instructional time. This special education teacher had a case load of 12 special education students in testing grades 3, 4 and 5. Go Figure... Now the school is left with a brand new uncertified teacher. Thanks." Signed, anonymous teacher
                                                                                   Posted by The Washington Teacher featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence and whistleblower.

Feb 26, 2010

Rhee's Motto: Speak No Evil

The DC Schools Insider blog features a story about DCPS lining up support for the upcoming Council annual performance oversight hearing on March 15. Turque who writes for the Insider blog wrote "Testimony at these events tends to become an open-ended infomercial for those unhappy with Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee. So Peggy O'Brien, Rhee's family and public engagement chief, is reaching out to those who have had kind words for DCPS and have asked what they can do to help." Talking points have been created by Rhee's staff as well as a plan to give those willing to testify favorably, a reminder call about 1 hour before their turn comes up on the council docket. In my open letter to Peggy O'Brien, I discuss what is wrong with this picture:

February 26, 2010
Dear Dr. O’Brien,
I am most concerned about your inappropriate effort to solicit positive testimony only from a group of parents who have previously expressed support for the Chancellor’s reforms. In your role as chief of Family and Public Engagement for a tax-payer supported agency, you have an obligation to appeal to all DCPS stakeholders to testify at the March 15th City Council hearing, not just to identified supporters. In the interest of all the DC residents your office represents,
I ask you to do the following:
*Post an announcement on the DCPS homepage about the hearing, inviting all family and parents of DCPS students to testify. Just announce it. Do not provide positive, unsubstantiated talking points as you did in your original email.
*Send an email to your original group of supporters acknowledging your error in using your public office to solicit positive views only.
Of course, I understand that your office would welcome positive testimony, given the chancellor’s recent controversial remarks about RIFd teachers hitting and have sex with children and her sliding poll numbers. Thus, I suggest you contact groups like DC School Reform Now, a non-profit organization founded by former Teach for America workers to support the Chancellor’s reform efforts. Interest groups such as this would see it as their mission to mobilize their members and provide talking points that are strictly supportive of the Chancellor. Unlike public agencies, they don’t have an obligation to serve all citizens, but only those who share their point of view.
Candi Peterson
From: Peggy.O'Brien@dc.gov
CC: Katherine.Gottfredson@dc.gov; Jason.Crawford@dc.gov
February 23, 2010
Dear Parents and Friends of DC Public Schools,
"I've lived in this community for 40 years, raised two children here, sent them to DCPS. I know that more people than ever are feeling optimistic about DC Public Schools because I talk to parents and community members every day and they tell me so.
And for good reason. Test scores and graduation rates are up, facilities have been modernized, our teachers are more qualified, more effective, and better supported, access to technology is system wide, early education is expanding and improving, and programs to address reading and learning problems are proliferating.
I am reaching out to you because you have expressed your support of DCPS reforms at some point during the past year, either to the Chancellor or to me directly--and we are coming up to a time when expressions of support would be most helpful.
The DC Council will hold a DCPS Agency Performance Oversight Hearing on Monday, March 15, starting at 10 a.m. at the Wilson Building. These hearings are opened with public testimony. People sign up in advance, and then testify in the order in which they have done so. If you are willing to share your story at the hearing, please contact Aretha Latta at 202-724-8196, or email her at alatta@dccouncil.us to be placed on the list. Once you are on the list, we would be happy to call you an hour in advance of when you would be expected to testify if you are not able to attend the entire hearing. Just let us know if you've signed up. You can also submit written testimony if you cannot attend the hearing.
The District of Columbia deserves a more complete picture of the school reform efforts underway. Your testimony can help provide that. Thank you for considering this."
Peggy O'Brien, Ph.D.
Chief, Office of Family and Public Engagement
Office of the Chancellor
District of Columbia Public Schools
Posted by The Washington Teacher, featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence, email courtesy of DC Schools Insider blog.

Feb 23, 2010

Cracking The Mystery Of Chancellor Rhee's Spreadsheet

Here is a guest column by Efavorite in which she analyzes Michelle Rhee's spreadsheet which was sent to Chairman Vincent Gray at his request. As Efavorite notes, this spreadsheet was created by Rhee after she was called on the carpet by Gray. This is an excellent analysis and a must read for everyone. Two thumbs up to Efavorite!
"Looking at the spreadsheet Chancellor Rhee provided to Chairman Gray is making me dizzy.
I can’t figure out why she would tell “Fast Company” magazine that she used the RIF as an opportunity to get rid of teachers who hit children and had sex with children, but then only RIF eight on a list of 68 “substantiated” abusers.
When I take a closer look at the spreadsheet, I see that three of the 8 RIFd teachers on the list were not even suspended for their actions, and none of them were sex offenders. Meanwhile, many others who were not RIFd did get suspended. So again, it’s a mystery why she would leave teachers in the system who got five day suspensions, while RIFing people who only got a verbal reprimand or were asked to do mediation with the principal.
To Rhee’s credit, she did RIF the only person who got a 10 day suspension, but then she oddly allowed the person who got the only nine day suspension to continue teaching. Weird. Also, another 25 people on the list left DCPS unrelated to the RIF, via termination, voluntary resignation or retirement. Still, there are 38 left whom she could’ve RIFd before cutting into some of the competent, non-abusive teachers who supposedly had to be let go for budgetary reasons.
On the surface, it looks like she is doing a very bad job of cherry picking from this list of potential RIFees. But it’s more likely that this list didn’t exist until Chairman Gray asked for it, making any relationship between it and the Chancellor’s RIFing decisions completely serendipitous.
If the Chancellor really had used the RIF to rid the system of bad apples, she would have constructed this list in advance and then fired everyone on it. She would have held a national press conference in which she announced her latest brilliant plan to “put children first” and received accolades from the adoring media for her bold, no-nonsense approach to school reform.
Obviously, that didn't occur to her. When you operate by the seat of the pants the way she does, these things happen. It’s the kind of thing really smart, but dysfunctional people do and get away with most of the time. Not this time, though. This time she’s backpedaling and painting herself into a corner and other mixed metaphors. Whatever is happening, a good manager would never do it. It’s fun to watch, I admit, but it’s tiring, and it isn’t helping children. Let’s stop it."
Posted by The Washington Teacher, featuring Candi Peterson- blogger in residence with Efavorite as guest columnist.

Feb 21, 2010

Could It Be Goodbye To Pope Of Hardy Middle School ?

Update: Principal Patrick Pope wrote the following email to me:
Dear Ms. Peterson,
"While I was flattered at the adjective "revered", it was with some confusion that I have read that sources state that I am planning to leave DCPS this summer. It is simply speculation and not true. Please keep up the great work of keeping us all on our toes. But if you want to check out my status as a DCPS employee, don't hesitate to contact me."
Patrick Pope
Hardy Middle School
My inside sources tell me that Patrick Pope, Principal of Hardy middle school located at 1819 35th Street NW in Georgetown DC will be calling it quits this school year. If this turns out to be true, little wonder after Rhee dissed Pope when she announced on December 4 to Hardy parents that he (Pope) would end his 11 year career at Hardy and would be replaced by Dana Nerenberg, principal of Hyde-Addison elementary school in NW. Nerenberg with only 4 years experience will run both Hyde-Addison and Hardy middle schools next school year. Rhee revealed that Pope will lead a new state of the arts middle school scheduled to open next year in a centralized location. Well I guess Pope's planned departure, if true may be a sign that he is not happy about his re-assignment.
Certainly I am sure this announcement will not make either Hardy parents or students happy especially after the student body wrote more than 150 letters to Mayor Fenty as part of an English class assignment to protest Pope being replaced. Subsequently, Hardy students went to the DC City Council when their letters went unanswered by the Mayor in an act of civil disobedience and support of their desire to have their principal (Patrick Pope) remain at Hardy. Could it be that another revered DC principal will soon bite the dust ? What a way to end a career.
Posted by The Washington Teacher featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence, picture courtesy of The Georgetown Metropolitan blog .

Feb 17, 2010

Battle For 'Change In WTU' Kicks Off As Told By Loose Lips

We Can Do Better

Washington City Paper writer, Mike DeBonis who features a column known as 'Loose Lips' reports this week on the Washington Teachers' Union upcoming 2010 election. Nathan Saunders', WTU General V.P's campaign for the Washington Teachers Union (WTU) top slot as union president is spotlighted in this article. DeBonis speculates in his coverage that 'yours truly' will run on Saunders' slate. While this has yet to be confirmed, DeBonis mischaracterizes me as a 'special ed. aide' and I plan to request a retraction of this inaccurate statement. Debonis credits The Washington Teacher blog as a reliable source of information, however, I disagree with his choice of adjectives used to describe the spirit and purpose of this blog. Had DeBonis taken the time to consult with me, perhaps he would not have missed the mark on my position and would have more accurately depicted The Washington Teacher blog. Be that as it may, here's 'Loose Lips' column in its entirety.

Update: I received an email from DeBonis today making the correction to his earlier release and have noted the corrections here. I am only including excerpts of his article. Please read the Washington City Paper to see the article in its entirety. Here's the article link (click on underlined words):

Battling for the Top Spot at the Washington Teachers' Union

Rancor in the WTU ranks threatens to explode in upcoming election

By Mike DeBonis
Posted: February 17, 2010

"News flash: It’s campaign season, and there’s a big-time election coming. The fate of our city is at stake—it’s a race that stands to impact big-time issues: education reform, relations with the city workforce, ongoing financial pressures. No, LL does not speak of the mayoral race. What’s he’s talking about here is the presidency of the Washington Teachers’ Union.

An internecine battle that’s been brewing for the better part of three years is threatening to explode this spring, as WTU President George Parker runs for a third term as chief of the high-profile union. His only declared opposition thus far is Nathan Saunders, who has spent both of Parker’s terms as general vice president, a post that, in recent years, Saunders has used to assail Parkers’ leadership at near every turn.

If you thought relations between the mayor and D.C. Council are bad, they’ve got nothing on the rancor within the WTU executive ranks. As Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has embarked on her mission to overhaul the D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) in no small part by improving the quality of teaching, Saunders has repeatedly sought to undercut Parker.....“I’m of the ilk that a union represents its members’ interest, not as a communications funnel for management’s interest,” he says by way of slamming Parker......

Teachers have been working without a contract since October 2007, and since Rhee made it plain early on that she planned to make big-time changes in contractual terms a cornerstone of her tenure, negotiations repeatedly broke down to the point that a third-party mediator—former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke—was brought in last year to seal a deal. In recent weeks, both Parker and Rhee have said that they are very close to reaching an agreement—statements that have Saunders and others wondering: What are they waiting for?........

Elizabeth Davis, a longtime WTU activist who ran unsuccessfully against Parker and Saunders back in 2004, says that without a contract in place, “It gives the impression to members that you have a chief negotiator who can’t negotiate a good deal for teachers.”

In 2008, Parker badly misread his constituency when word of a two-tier “red and green” teacher-compensation system leaked. Teachers who were willing to give up their job security—the work rules typically referred to as “tenure”—could see their pay rise by 50 percent or more, an amount unheard of in the teaching realm. But if Parker thought that teachers would jump at the chance for a massive raise, he was wrong.

In an unforgettable moment, Parker polled thousands of teachers assembled at the Washington Convention Center for an August 2008 “Welcome Back” event. With Rhee behind him on the dais, he asked teachers to raise their hands if they liked the red-and-green proposal; the teachers, with boos and hisses, made it clear that they weren’t down with the tiers, all but killing the proposal. .......

Saunders says he’s in the process of putting together a slate. He says he’s looking for “teachers that embody a certain amount of values…equality, freedom, fairness, integrity, responsibility, and security.” Rumors have it that Saunders has tapped Candi Peterson, a firebrand social worker who runs a blog, the Washington Teacher, that is a reliable source of anti-Rhee invective and rabble-rousing. Saunders declines to knock down the rumors: “I want Candi Peterson in a significant role. We haven’t come to terms on that.” .........

The mechanics of a union election don’t much resemble those of a council or mayoral race. The politicking is done mostly via mailers and signs posted in teacher lounges. Candidates can make the rounds to the 140-plus DCPS facilities, but pressing flesh with time-strapped teachers can be a tall order........Saunders says he hopes to have a victory wrapped up as early as possible—hopefully before too late in the summer, because he has other ambitions. “I want the WTU to play a significant role in the mayoral election,” he says. “By prolonging this into September, we aren’t a factor in the Fenty election, and if we aren’t a factor, then we’re guaranteed Rhee again.” .........

Posted by The Washington Teacher, featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence, article written by Mike DeBonis, Wash. City Paper, photograph taken by Darrow Montgomery.

Feb 13, 2010

No WTU Executive Board Meeting For You- Again !

While the Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) office was opened Friday for business- no WTU Executive Board meeting was scheduled this second Saturday of the month as required. Not only was a meeting not scheduled by President George Parker- there was 'NO NOTICE ' of our regularly scheduled meeting this time, not even a notice that there would be a cancellation. I checked with three other WTU Exec. Board members to see if I had missed something. Well other executive board members have not heard nary a word either.
Do I detect a pattern here or what ? So it seems that under the helm of WTU Prez' George Parker we have once again failed to hold another monthly executive board meeting. Who pray tell is conducting the business of our teachers' union ? Certainly it is not our elected membership.
Here is a list of seven in total of the WTU Executive Board meetings and Representative Assembly meetings that have been cancelled recently by President George Parker :
February 13, 2010 WTU Executive Board meeting (not held)
January 26, 2010 WTU Representative Assembly meeting (cancelled abruptly)
January 28, 2010 WTU Executive Board meeting postponed
December 12, 2009 WTU Executive Board meeting cancelled
November 13, 2009 WTU Executive Board meeting cancelled
October 10,2009 WTU Executive Board meeting cancelled
September 12, 2009 WTU Executive Board meeting (not held)
Posted by The Washington Teacher, featuring Candi Peterson - blogger in residence

Feb 12, 2010

No Professional Development Day For You- DC Teachers !

How did your professional development day shape up ?

No Child Left Behind's (NCLB) emphasis on accountability and demands for a high quality teacher in every classroom has spawned an industry of professional development opportunities. Although DC schools had been closed most of this week due to unprecedented snow accumulations - this Friday school opened on time @ 8 a.m. (unlike the Feds) only to teachers, service providers and administrative staff for what was scheduled to be a full day of professional development. Chancellor Rhee confirmed the importance of this day in a written email in which she stated: "Because we have such a limited number of these days, and because the worst of the weather has passed, I have decided to move forward with the scheduled activities tomorrow." The agenda in many schools included more on the job training on the IMPACT evaluation (the new teacher evaluation) in which many teachers have complained that training has been wholly inadequate so far.

DCPS teachers and related service providers including myself received an email yesterday evening alerting them that all off-site professional development sessions in DC public schools were cancelled due to inclement weather. We were told to report to our school site. A copy of this announcement was also posted on the DCPS website on February 12.

DC Teacher Chic tweeted earlier today: "Neither the principal, the vice principal, nor the instructional coach is here. Who is running this so-called professional development? " So far I have heard two reports of how city-wide professional development day went for most- one that half of the teachers showed up and professional development was called off and another that half of the teachers showed up and professional development started at 10 and ended at noon. Some teachers were advised by school administrators that they could do whatever they wanted to do with the remainder of the afternoon including go back home.

I'd love to hear how your professional development day went at your school. Please feel free to weigh in with your stories.

Posted by The Washington Teacher, featuring Candi Peterson - blogger in residence

Feb 9, 2010

Snowmaggedon In DC !

DC Public Schools closed Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010.
DC Public Schools closed Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010. At this time, administrative offices will open on time. However, administrative employees should continue to check the DCPS website and email for additional updates as the weather progresses this evening and during the early morning hours.
Happy Shoveling !

Posted by The Washington Tecaher featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence

Feb 8, 2010

Some DC Streets Still Haven't Been Plowed On Monday !

Imagine DC students walking through these untouched sidewalks and streets?
UPDATE: DC Schools closed Tuesday. Guess parents complaints made an impact as well as all those yet to be plowed DC streets.

Posted by The Washington Teacher featuring Candi Peterson, blogger in residence (picture # 1 courtesy of Wash. Post online and picture #2 taken Monday, provided courtesy of C. Whiting)

DC Schools Open Monday ?

Rhonda Roads said it best in 'the mail', an on-line magazine publication by Gary Imhoff about Chancellor Rhee's decision to initially open DC schools on a 2-hour delay. After many parents complained to the Mayor and TV news stations did this administration decide to reverse their decision later. Here's what Roads sent to Chancellor Rhee:

"An E-mail to Chancellor Michelle Rhee: Are you f---ing crazy? Totally out of touch with the world? No Metro bus service. Feds closed. Universities and charters closed. Most sidewalks are not clear and most residential side streets are not plowed. Children will have to walk in the streets.

Are you even in town, or out in Sacramento? Another example of your poor leadership. Please resign."

Posted by The washington teacher, featuring Candi Peterson blogger in residence