Dec 20, 2012

What's the Impact of DCPS School Closures on Teachers & School Staff?

By Candi Peterson

There has been a great deal of confusion and angst over what will happen to DCPS teachers and school staff after the school consolidation takes place in 2013-14. The districts plans have been made clear in a recent "DCPS School Consolidation Staffing Overview." ( Click on the words DCPS School Consolidation Staffing Overview for attachment). Some DCPS teachers and staff at select schools were provided copies of this 3-page document by their local school principals shortly after Chancellor Henderson's announcement of the school consolidation plan. Other employees at schools slated for consolidation were not provided copies of this document for reasons unclear.

One thing is for sure, whether you received the school consolidation document or not - excess letters will be handed out to teachers and school personnel beginning in June, 2013. By definition, an "excess is an elimination of a teacher's position at a particular school due to a decline in student enrollment, a reduction in the local school budget, a closing or consolidation, a restructuring or change in the local school program when such an elimination is not a reduction in force (RIF) or abolishment." (Refer to page 27 of the WTU Collective Bargaining Agreement)

The School Consolidation Staffing Overview raised many pertinent questions that teachers, school staff and parents should pay attention to as it will have an adverse effect on what happens to employees in consolidated schools.

How will school consolidation affect Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) members?

DCPS answer: " WTU members at consolidated schools will be subject to the excessing process as outlined in the WTU contract. Please note that no one will be excessed until the end of 2012-13 school year."

What happens to Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) members?

DCPS answer: "After being excessed, WTU members will have 60 days to interview for new placements. After that period, WTU members who are unable to find placements may be eligible for an extra year of employment to find a permanent position. These options are only available to WTU members who are in their third year and beyond, and whose most recent IMPACT rating is Effective or Highly Effective. All other WTU members who are unable to find positions will be separated from the system."

Will excessed Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) members be given preference over external hires?

DCPS answer: "In accordance with the WTU contract, DCPS principals will have the authority to hire from whichever source they choose. That said DCPS will work to facilitate the placement of as many WTU members as possible."

Since school staff who are members of the Council of School Officers (CSO), Teamsters, AFSCME have a different collective bargaining agreement, they will be subject to a different set of rules than WTU members. The DCPS consolidation staffing overview states members of other unions will be guaranteed a job at another school as long as the overall number of positions increase and they remain Effective or Highly Effective.

How will school consolidation affect principals and assistant principals?

DCPS answer: "As we do every year, DCPS will evaluate all principals and assistant principals for reappointment in the spring. School leaders from consolidated schools may have opportunities to panel or interview at other schools. Principals and assistant principals who are not reappointed may be eligible to retreat to their last permanent position."

In all the information on student enrollment, average yearly enrollment, building capacity and so-called under utilization provided by DCPS, the one data set that is never addressed is the number of teachers and staff affected. An estimated 12, 233 students are projected to be affected by the school consolidations in the proposed plan. But where is the data on the numbers of teachers and staff affected?

Will it be the estimated 14 teachers slated to be excessed at Mamie D. Lee school with an 8 to 1 teacher-to-student ratio, or the 55 teachers and staff  affected by the 237 students being thrown into the mix when Garrison Elementary School faces closing?

It may be like the case of Malcolm X and the Black Muslims, when asked how many members of the Nation of Islam there were. His pat answer was, "Those who say don't know, and those who know don't say"!

Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) members, you have less than six months to find out the future of your job security as an estimated 1,200 teachers and staff or up to 30% of WTU membership may face the excessing chopping block as the WTU leadership stands silently by hosting and toasting Chancellor Henderson at union membership meetings and holiday gatherings when hard questions are ignored!

© Candi Peterson 2013

Dec 12, 2012

Brightwood Protest and Pushback to DC Public Schools Closings

Nathan Harrington protests meeting
By Candi Peterson
The last in a series of educational town hall meetings was held last week at the Brightwood education campus to hear from stakeholders re DC Public Schools consolidation plan to close 20 public schools.

Activist Nathan Harrington, a Congress Heights DC resident blew into the meeting talking over Chancellor Kaya Henderson creating a dramatic start to the meeting and appeared to create some hard feelings among participants who were politely waiting to be heard. “My fellow Washingtonians, it is abundantly clear that the intention of this meeting is to confuse and mislead the citizens of our city into passively accepting decisions that have already been made. A hour and a half of officials promoting their plans is not community input,” Harrington said.

Although stakeholders may not have agreed with how Harrington delivered his message, Henderson told the audience she had no problems allowing Harrington to continue if that’s what the audience wanted. Despite some mild protests by audience members, Harrington continued to deliver his two page speech as he moved throughout the room. A lone female security officer tugged and pulled on Harrington’s sweater trying to facilitate his departure from the room inefficaciously. Harrington concluded by inviting residents to boycott the meeting and reminded them of past experiences of trying to stop school closure plans was unsuccessful and fell on deaf ears.

“I want to hear from you. Come to me with your suggestions and we will incorporate your feedback and will show how we are going to include your ideas. You have my commitment that it will be different this time,” Henderson vowed as she promised participants to work through the month of December incorporating participants ideas in the consolidation plan.

The meeting represented multiple wards of 1,2, 3, 4, and 6. Parents with children in tow, teachers, community residents and activists filled the cafeteria/gymnasium discussing their concerns at tables representing their respective schools. The meeting resembled the same format offered at previous meetings with DCPS staffers facilitating the discussion mainly around questions that focused on what would make the consolidation plan a smoother transition and what had DCPS failed to consider.

An unusually high number of Council members made appearances including Muriel Bowser, Jack Evans, Tommy Wells and David Catania. City council members have not denounced school consolidation plans until Thursday nights meeting where Council member Evans came out against the closures of Garrison elementary school and Francis-Stevens education campus.

Powerful testimony provided by parents from Garrison elementary school included David Sallie who lives one block from Garrison and has a 2 ½ year old daughter. “I applied for preschool because of the activism of the PTA (at Garrison), amazing things are going on and there is momentum, a new principal and population changes which have not been taken into account, Sallie said.

Sallie appealed to the chancellor. "You are going to lose families if you cut Garrision. I don’t consider charter schools over public schools", he concluded.

The consolidation efforts had parents advocating for their schools and most often opposing the effort to merge their school with a lower performing school. Some of the most notable concerns of the evening were safety issues the school consolidations would create. The majority of participants opposed shuffling 6th grade students to high schools with significantly older students, students traveling into unsafe neighborhoods as well as the extinction of walkable neighborhood schools.

Virginia Spatz injected some much needed humor at the end of the night when she spoke of the un-central location of the meeting and how it took her 2 buses and a train to arrive at Brightwood from her Ward 6 residence. " The whole process is missing. We need the consolidation to be put on hold, and evaluation with research on grades 6-12. We didn't do so well before with the Pre K-8 model. We want to see some vision," Spatz said.

Speaker after speaker provided a laundry list of reasons why the school consolidations would create more problems then they would solve. Parents raised the issue that charter schools should not be off the chopping block and should be part of the consolidation plan as well.
Chancellor Henderson reassured the standing room only crowd at the end of the evening that, “We will make sure that every question will be answered and made public.” But admitted that of the final decision, “You’re darned if you do, and darned if you don't."

If Henderson's aim is to avoid the mistakes of 2008 school closures, then why was no consideration given to a 'community task force' to plan school consolidations ?  I concur with activist Nathan Harrington's assessment that promoting DC Public Schools' plans does not equate to community input. Somehow we are still putting the cart before the horse. There are better ways to consolidate schools that is if you are willing to do the research. Chancellor Kaya Henderson, like her predecessor is really no different than Michelle Rhee.

© Candi Peterson 2013

Dec 4, 2012

Deja Vu All over Again-DC Public School Closures

Written By Candi Peterson

Plans to consolidate twenty DC Public Schools were announced on November 13, 2012 followed by a rush of public hearings and neighborhood stakeholder discussions that gave precious little time for parents, teachers and administrators to respond. The edict sounded all too familiar to those of us who were around for the first round of closures in 2008.

In a nutshell, DC's Chancellor Kaya Henderson proposes to close twenty public schools because they are under enrolled and in DCPS’s opinion are too costly to operate. The list of school closures includes 8 elementary schools, 3 special education schools, 4 middle schools, 2 education campuses, the Choice program, 1 High School STAY program (School To Aid Youth) and 1 high school.

 Two days of City Council hearings that lasted until nearly midnight with over 50 witnesses followed the school closure announcement to allow for testimony from education stakeholders. Community stakeholder meetings were subsequently scheduled to get feedback at four ward-based meetings commencing November 27 at Savoy elementary school in Ward 8, a second meeting at Sousa middle school in Ward 7 on November 28 and a third meeting at McKinley senior high on November 29 in Ward 5. The last meeting will be held at Brightwood education campus on December 5. This meeting will represent multiple wards of 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6.

 Unlike the meetings of 2008 when stakeholders were escorted off to individual classrooms for private discussion, this year's format for ward based meetings included small table group discussions in an open meeting space like the school gymnasium. The discussions were facilitated by a DCPS staffer leading the dialogue around three main questions: [1] What has DCPS not thought about; [2] What can be done to strengthen the proposal; and [3] What could make the transition smoother. Participants reported back to the larger audience sharing their tables' response.

We need a moratorium on public school closings and charter school openings was a common recommendation expressed at the Ward 5 and 8 stakeholder meetings. When I attended the community meeting at McKinley, I couldn't help but feel the participants frustration and distrust that DCPS has already made its mind made up about going forward with the school closures .

Robert Vinson Brannum, VP of Ward 5 Council on Education questioned the school districts intentions. "The root question is are we working on the premise that the proposal is going forward. If at the end of everything, we say don't do it (close schools), are you going to go forward anyway”, Brannum said. 

 Comments from the McKinley audience ended with an obtrusive presence- none other than Ward 5 ANC commissioner Bob King. King who lives in the Fort Lincoln neighborhood has been a long time commissioner for 30 plus years and a community advocate as well as supporter of Thurgood Marshall elementary school. Commissioner King left a memorable impression when he spoke directly to Chancellor Henderson about Marshall's rich history, community support and the corporate sponsorships he garnered from Costco on behalf of the school.

"I have a written contract for $10,000 yearly from Costco, backpacks for all the students in Ward 5 and I personally delivered 68 computers, 10 smart boards and 1 projector to Marshall. You might be gone and the mayor might be gone, so please right your proposal to keep Marshall open," King said.

The ward 7 meeting at Sousa was markedly different than either of those in Wards 5 or 8. The Ward 7 education council took ownership of their meeting, decided not to entertain DCPS’ questions and presented a proposal of their own to keep schools open. Daniel del Pielago, education organizer of Empower DC said of the plan, "it reflected the concerns of parents and community and ultimately the plan said let's work to save and make our schools better instead of let's close more schools and see what happens as DCPS is saying."

Through two weeks of excruciating meetings the majority of community voices clearly oppose the closures, with only a promise from Chancellor Kaya Henderson to take the community’s recommendations into consideration before she makes a final verdict in January of 2013. A visceral lack of trust in the process exists at the community level, as DCPS and local council representatives appear to be hell bent on closing 20 schools regardless of community input, while ignoring loud persistent cries from the community to stop the madness and consider a moratorium. 

© Candi Peterson 2013

Nov 26, 2012

Here We Go Again: More DC Public School Closures!

Written by Candi Peterson

Let's take a trip down memory lane back to 2008 when Michelle Rhee was the Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools. Rhee rolled out a plan to abruptly close 23 public schools. Her premise was that the closing of under enrolled public schools would save the taxpayers $23 million dollars and that these cost savings could be used to hire additional teachers and create new programs. Sound similar to Kaya Henderson's Consolidation and Reorganization Proposal to consolidate 20 schools?

At the 2008 school closure meetings, parents and education stakeholders voiced strong opposition of Rhee's plan since closures were proposed before the community had a chance to have input. Stakeholders were distrustful of school closures since a disproportionately higher number of minority neighborhoods faced school closures, leaving Ward 3 schools unscathed. And it seems that the politically well connected, upscale neighborhoods west of Rock Creek will be spared again!

Parents are now asking many similar questions of Chancellor Henderson regarding her proposal to consolidate 20 more public schools that they once asked of Rhee. Stakeholders want to determine: What data was used to determine school closures? What will happen to closed school buildings? How will school closures impact DC Public Schools enrollment? Will teachers from closing schools be able to follow their students to receiving schools? What will be the actual cost savings of school closures? How will the money be used?

In 2008, Mary Levy, then Attorney for the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and long time DCPS budget analyst  predicted that closing schools would not save the money Rhee projected (23 million)."If these 23 schools are closed, it isn't going to save us a lot of money and it's not going to allow us to do exciting new enrichment programs," Levy said.

By looking closely at some of the available data (DC City audit report, Mary Levy study, etc.) from the 2008 school closures, student enrollment declined considerably. Many dissatisfied parents pulled their children out of DC Public Schools and students were more than twice as likely to enroll in charter schools. The DC City audit reported in 2009 that the loss of enrollment of DC Public Schools cost the school system five million dollars. Mary Melchoir, a DCPS parent and 2nd VP of Ward 5 Council on Education recently testified at the DC City Council hearings on proposed 2013 school closures. Melchoir cited a graphic example of what happens when schools are closed. “The consolidation of Brookland/Bunker Hill elementary school resulted in the loss of 211 students who left DCPS resulting in the loss of 2.5 million dollars”, Melchoir stated.

Given what we have learned from the DCPS 2008 school closures, it is not surprising that parents, city residents and community groups are calling for a 'moratorium' on school closures this time around. Empower DC, a well respected community grassroots organization is leading the effort to halt school closures. Daniel del Pielago, organizer for Empower DC's public education campaign in a November newsletter wrote: "The Chancellor and Mayor have made up their minds so far that more schools need to be closed. The City Council while expressing concerns about this process has not expressed any tangible opposition to continued school closures."

I wholeheartedly agree with del Pielago's position that the chancellor has it wrong and needs to develop a comprehensive plan for public education. I thought we learned what not to do after the Michelle Rhee experiment of 2008. I guess somebody needs to tell Chancellor Henderson what the definition of insanity is: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  

© Candi Peterson 2013

Aug 22, 2012

Restore Librarians to DC Public Schools

Please join me in signing this petition. As always thanks for your support.  Click on the word petition

Candi Peterson
Written by:  Bella Dinh-Zarr
My son Kai attends our neighborhood elementary school and loves his librarian, Ms. Woodard, who always had wonderful literacy activities for the younger, just-learning-to-read kids like Kai, as well interesting activities to foster a love of reading in older kids. Thanks to the excellent teachers and Ms. Woodard, our struggling urban school raised its reading scores by 14% last year! 
So I was shocked to hear that Ms. Woodard had been let go, due to "budget cuts." In fact, 57 schools and 16,600 students in DC will have no librarian next year. And the remaining librarians are being re-labeled as optional/flexible staff! According to an independent City Council analysis, the DC Public School system has enough in its budget to fund a librarian and top-notch library materials for all of its schools. But despite the claims by Mayor Vincent Gray and Chancellor Kaya Henderson that they want to improve literacy and reading proficiency (outlined in their new five-year plan), they have so far refused to shift their priorities and ignored all protests by concerned parents and students.
My husband and I, along with hundreds of other parents in D.C., are fighting hard to Save Our Librarians. Librarians from the whole DC area have been joining us in this fighting including Kamaria Hatcher, a librarian in Maryland, who helped us start this petition. We have been working non-stop, but the Mayor and Chancellor Henderson have so far refused to hear us. We need your help! Tell Mayor Gray and Kaya Henderson that librarians are not optional!
We want a librarian in every school (at least part-time in smaller schools, if needed), a per student allotment for library materials as other school districts have, and for librarians to be put back in the essential staff category. Please sign our petition and help us Save Our Librarians! Thank you!

Aug 1, 2012

Remembering Vanessa

Vanessa Countee
 Written by Candi Peterson

A DC Public Schools colleague died last Friday. Her name was Vanessa Countee. I always loved her smile, southern drawl and country charm. I fondly remember her regular greeting of "Hey Gurl !" Vanessa battled a long term illness, which she kept private. While I knew she had been sick, I wished I would have known how serious her condition was so our work group could have done more and bid our last good byes. 

Tomorrow is not promised to anyone. This is why it is so important to live life to the fullest so we don't have any regrets in the end. Tell those that matter that you care about them, while they are still here. Miss you Vanessa Gurl! Rest in peace, my friend. Vanessa's funeral will be held this Friday. (obituary below).


Vanessa Faye Countee peacefully entered into eternal rest on Friday, July 27, 2012. She was the daughter of deceased William and Helen Jones; sister of Jonathan Jones (Valerie), Adrian Jones (Sylvia) of Atlanta, GA and Monica Moore of Los Angeles, CA. Cherishing her memories are ex-husband, Roniotis Thomas of Washington, DC; two step-daughters, Angel and Alexis; four nephews, Jelani, Jabari, Micaiah and Malik; and one niece, Pedra.

Vanessa was a Social Worker for the DC Public School System and Premium Select Home Care. She was employed by Georgetown University Hospital. She received her Bachelor's of Arts in Psychology at Talladega College where she pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated. She received her Master's Degree in Social Work at Howard University.

The homegoing service will be held at Mount Cavalry Baptist Church, 5120 Whitfield Chapel Road, Lanham, MD 20706, Friday, August 3, viewing from 10 to 11 a.m.; Service starting promptly at 11 a.m. Interment will be at Ft. Lincoln Cemetery. The repast will follow at Mount Calvary Baptist Church. Services entrusted to J.B. Jenkins Funeral Homes, Inc., Landover, Maryland.

Jun 26, 2012

Ignoring DC Public Schools Erasure Gate!

to whiten with whitewash, to cover up or gloss over the faults or errors of; absolve from blame

Written by Candi Peterson

Last week, Washington Post education columnist, Jay Mathews and blogger of Class Struggle wrote an excellent piece titled: "DC Keeps Ignoring its Test Erasure Scandal." While I don't always agree with Mathews, he certainly hit the nail on the head this time. Two thumbs up to Jay Mathews!

Mathews believes that the results of the second investigation into the testing erasure scandal in DC Public Schools is a cover-up. I wholeheartedly agree with him. As a veteran reporter, Mathews knows a white wash when he sees one.  Mathews gives full disclosure in his article stating that he is married to Linda Mathews, editor at USA Today who conceived and exposed the series of articles in 2011 into testing erasure scandals not only in DC but Atlanta, Georgia, as well.

Mathews asked the million dollar question of DC Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson,"What about all those erasures?" Mathews writes: "Henderson seems uninterested in the question stating that I am pleased that this investigation is complete and the vast majority of our schools were cleared of any wrongdoing." What is interesting about Henderson's comments, is what she doesn't say. The  investigation conducted by Alvarez and Marsal is only for the 2011 school year. We are still awaiting the DC Inspector General investigation results for school year 2010 and there will be no investigation into years 2008 or 2009. DC officials limited the scope of the probe so that a full scale investigation will not take place. Go figure.

I'm troubled that in the years where there was a great likelihood that there was rampant cheating under the Michelle Rhee/Kaya Henderson administration, we will never have a legitimate answer as to what really happened. Mark Simon, DCPS parent wrote a post on the Concerned for DCPS list serve explaining why some think that an investigation into 2009 would be insignificant. Simon writes :"When IFF looked at the test score results for the past three years, they noted an abnormal bump in the scores in 2009. They said that since cheating was widespread across the school system, they discounted it as having an effect in any particular school."

In Mathews' article, he all but asks what's wrong with this picture, when an investigation does not make any mention of asking students about erasures. For me, this is problematic, especially since as Mathews writes, no students were questioned in the initial Caveon Consulting Company investigation. It seems to me this investigation didn't really want to find out what happened. Rather, as Mathew reports, Cate Swinburn, Chief of Data and Accountability for DC Public Schools had her own hypothesis that wrong-to-right erasures "might have been caused by students first making tentative answers, then going back to rethink them as teachers often recommend." How did Swinburn arrive at such a conclusion especially since students were never questioned by investigators about their own erasures? Not to mention, that the frequency of wrong-to-right answers, evidenced by erasure reports in DC Public Schools is unlikely to happen, according to Mathews' sources.

I am more inclined to agree with Mathews position when he makes the argument: ".... had investigators taken seriously the possibility that high erasure rates could have been due to principals or testing coordinators changing answers after students turned them in, it would have helped to determine if students who had many changes on their tests, remembered making them. " That is of course, if Alvarez and Marsal had thought to question students about their erasures. Mathews states DC students were asked questions that were not related to the issue of test erasures. Students were asked if they cheated? and if they knew who did? What else would we expect from a company whose motto is: "when the stakes are high, companies and stakeholders look to A & M to help find the right answer and deliver the solution ?"

In looking at the comments that followed Mathews article, I noticed that one poster asked why are we surprised at the results. I am not surprised at all especially at this 'no accountability administration' who regularly points the finger of blame at teachers for all that's wrong in public education. Being the idealist that I am, I did hope for a comprehensive investigation.

Mathews opines a final point in conclusion, with which I concur: "The failure to do the kind of thorough inquiry that revealed massive test tampering by principals and teachers in Atlanta after high numbers of erasures will leave many people here in doubt. The latest investigation, which cost $400,000, has done the children of D.C. no good at all."

Mathews' article can be viewed by clicking the title of his article: DC Keeps Ignoring its Test Erasure Scandal.

© Candi Peterson 2013

Jun 17, 2012

Is Teacher Churn Undermining Real Education Reform in DC?

Candi Peterson, blogger
An Op-ed in this Sunday's Washington Post, written by Mark Simon, education analyst and DCPS parent calls attention to the rate of turnover of both teachers and principals as a huge education reform. Simon argues the turnover rates are so high we're losing a lot of our best teachers and creating a hostile culture in too many schools. Turnover in charter schools is even higher.

By Mark Simon, Published: June 15- Washington Post

"I suppose the leaders of D.C. Public Schools want me to be happy that social studies teacher Kerry Sylvia won’t be coming back to Cardozo Senior High next year. The sound bite sounded appealing when DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced recently in her new strategic plan that one way to improve graduation rates is to focus on teacher talent — to remove bad teachers and replace them with better ones. But what if, however well intentioned, the reforms are actually leaving uninspired teachers in place and getting rid of some of the best talent?

When I heard that Sylvia had received a notice last month that she was being “excessed” from Cardozo after 13 years, it didn’t add up. I know good teaching, having taught high school for 16 years myself and helped to design the celebrated teacher evaluation system in Montgomery County. My daughter is about to graduate from DCPS, and I have been an engaged parent and a close DCPS observer for 14 years.

Sylvia is clearly a brilliant teacher, committed to her students, her school and its community. She is not only an award-winning teacher but also a leader and student advocate. I’ve talked with her students, several of whom told me that Sylvia’s class was the reason they come to school. If the District’s new plan is eliminating teachers like Sylvia, it’s on the wrong track.

DCPS has one of the highest teacher turnover rates in the nation. Richard Ingersoll of the University of Pennsylvania estimates that, “nationally, on average, about 20 percent of new public school teachers leave their district to teach in another district or leave teaching altogether within one year, one-third do so within two years, and 55 percent do so within five years.” In DCPS, by contrast, 55 percent of new teachers leave in their first two years, according to an analysis by DCPS budget watchdog Mary Levy. Eighty percent are gone by the end of their sixth year. That means that most of the teachers brought in during the past five years are no longer there. By comparison, in Montgomery County just 11.5 percent leave by the end of their second year, and 30 percent by the end of year five. DCPS has become a teacher turnover factory. It has a hard time keeping teachers who are committed to their school and the community it serves.

According to Tom Carroll, president of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, “Teaching is no different than any other profession — experience matters. Researchers have found that teachers reach peak effectiveness with about seven years of experience. But 80 percent of the teachers hired by D.C. this year will be gone before they get there.” Carroll estimates that “the District is burning about $12 million a year on teacher churn — $12 million that is spent hiring and replacing teachers with no gain in school performance.”

Three aspects of the Michelle Rhee-Kaya Henderson reforms contribute to higher rates of teacher churn: unstable school budgets from year to year; greater freedom for principals under the IMPACT evaluation system to identify teachers for dismissal or transfer; and school closings. But most of the turnover comes from teachers leaving voluntarily, not those excessed like Sylvia.

For years, researchers, such as Jane Hannaway of the Urban Institute, have advised DCPS that turnover can be a good thing because odds are that replacement teachers will be better than the ones who leave. But I’ve begun to wonder if perhaps the wrong teachers, in some cases great ones, are being pushed out.

Now, a significant new study by researchers Susanna Loeb of Stanford University, Matthew Ronfeldt of the University of Michigan and Jim Wyckoff of the University of Virginia upends Hannaway’s assumption. The study, “How Teacher Turnover Hurts Student Achievement,” concludes that, separate from the relative quality of teachers who may be brought in to replace those who leave, teacher turnover itself harms a school. Turnover affects morale and the professional culture at a school. It weakens the knowledge base of the staff about students and the community. It weakens collegiality, professional support and trust that teachers depend on in their efforts to improve achievement.

In March, Post reporter Bill Turque penned an insightful profile of another demonstrably terrific teacher, Sarah Wysocki from MacFarland Middle School, who was fired from DCPS after getting low scores in her IMPACT evaluation. The mechanical process of IMPACT insults good teachers and doesn’t do justice to the complexities of good teaching.

If the reform strategies in place in DCPS were working, then perhaps a resolute and unsympathetic response to so-called “soft issues” of staff morale and workforce culture would be understandable. But gains in student achievement in DCPS have stalled. The dropout crisis continues. It’s not that reform isn’t a good idea, but these modest results call for some humility. They might even call for listening to the wisdom of accomplished teachers we can’t afford to lose.

The writer is a DCPS parent, the former president of the Montgomery County teachers union and an education policy analyst at the Economic Policy Institute. He blogs at "

Jun 14, 2012

More DCPS Staff Excesses Next Week!

excess : an elimination of a position at a particular school due to a decline in student enrollment, reduction in the local school budget, a closing or restructuring, or a change in the local school program when such an elimination is not a reduction in force or abolishment.

Written By Candi Peterson

More DC Public Schools employees are due to be excessed at the beginning of next week. Inside sources report that emails were initially sent from Human Capital Chief, Jason Kamras to principals authorizing excess letters to be delivered on the last day of school Thursday, June 14. However, excesses have now been postponed until Monday, June 18.  Employees who will be excessed are non-WTU members and include a variety of school based positions.

Jun 6, 2012

The Cardozo Experiment: DC Public School Gets Race To The Top Funds

Written by Candi Peterson

So it seems that DC Public Schools will be using Race to The Top (RTTT) Dollars to create more school administrators and educrats which according to the Urban Dictionary is an officer, administrator or other bureaucrats in a school district. Similar stories are taking shape around the country as districts race to the top for funds under President Obama's signature 2009 reform effort for education. 

The last two weeks have been a helluva adjustment for Cardozo Senior High school staff, of which I am a part. We just learned that Cardozo Senior High beloved principal and the administrative team will be dismantled. Principal Grant of Cardozo Senior High in NW Washington, DC announced in our May staff meeting last week that she has not been re-appointed (after 5 years as principal) by DC Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson. Grant in her 'Swan Song' to staff, chimed "Don't cry for me." Not unlike her predecessor, Henderson is no different than former DC Chancellor Michelle Rhee in terms of firing principals. Lisa Gartner, staff writer for the DC Examiner reported in a June 5, 2012 article : "It's become something of a tradition for DCPS to shed dozens of principals each year.... In fall 2008, the school system replaced 43 principals. That number dropped to 26 in 2009, rose slightly to 30 in 2010, and fell back to 24 last school year." Gartner noted in the article that more than half of the principals being replaced were hired by Rhee.

As is typical in our district, when a principal is not reappointed, plans quickly roll out to hire a new principal. In the interim, an Instructional Superintendent (I.S.) steps in to oversee the 'transition process' and meet with the school staff for a brief question and answer session. A first meeting with our schools, I.S., Dan Shea occurred this week. When I questioned Shea as to why our principal was not reappointed, I wasn't surprised when I got the 'pat response' often provided by our district- "we cannot share that information as it is a personnel matter." Not even with the PTA, I asked? Shea responded no. 

A day later another meeting was held, after school with the I.S. and educrats from downtown. At this second meeting, we learned that in school year 2012-13 we will be gaining a planning principal, in addition to, an experienced principal partner, a planning vice principal and an instructional specialist. As I understand it, this team of administrators will be part of a planning team (not the team who actually runs the school) and some of them will travel the country for upwards of 5-6 months to observe best practices so they can incorporate successful educational models into the turn around of Cardozo Senior High School, which I believe will coincide with the school's planned re-opening in 2013. I don't think it is happenstance that the end of the planning year will coincide with the re-opening of the school's soon to be newly renovated building. Currently, we occupy an archaic elementary school building (known as Meyer Elementary), which has been modified with demountable trailers to accommodate our size.

In our last meeting, we were advised that approximately 6-7 DC Public Schools will receive Race to the Top (RTTT) Funds this school year, as well as, District funds to increase student achievement and attendance. Kramer Middle School in S.E. DC is already a recipient of RTTT funds and has gone through a similar process as outlined on the DCPS website. Additionally, Garfield Elementary School (whose principal, Ms. Tilghman was not re-appointed this year) and Johnson Middle School are slated to also receive funding. Ironically, Cardozo is  one of 38 DC Public Schools recommended by an Illinois Facilities Fund (IFF) study to close Tier 4 schools which are considered by the study to be the lowest performing and replace them with high-performing publicly-funded charter schools. (no final decisions have been made at this time, but according to statements made by DC Mayor Vincent Gray- he is in support of charter school expansion). This recommendation from the Illinois Facilities Fund study parallels the tenets of Race to the Top (allow or encourage public charter schools). It also would not surprise me for a minute, if plans are underway to reconstitute Cardozo's existing staff at the end of school year 2013, all the while using current staff to run the school while the planning principal and company are traveling and/or observing the instructional delivery of teachers and staff to implement in the turn around school model. When asked whether we could use any of our newly acquired funds to re-hire teachers we lost through excessing, we were informed by Shea that we would need to recruit more students, to get more teachers.

Race to the Top is defined as a 4.35 billion dollar contest, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), that is designed to spur reforms in state and local districts in kindergarten-12th grade education. "Districts in their plans to improve education must pledge to install a new system to evaluate teachers, use data to measure how well students are learning, pump resources into troubled schools and allow or encourage public charter schools" as reported by Lyndsey Layton, Washington Post writer in her January 10, 2011 article titled: "D.C. behind schedule in meeting Race to the Top promises."

Don't get me wrong about my analysis of Race to The Top. I am not saying that we don't need to reform our under performing schools. We do. However, if the Department of Education has 4.35 billion dollars laying around, why do we need a contest ? Why not share the wealth so that as many of our struggling schools, as possible, in the country have a chance to succeed and get the resources at long last that are needed? What's up with firing all the principals in exchange for a revolving door approach of newly hired principals that Michelle Rhee proved didn't work? Why not give the resources like Race to the Top funds to existing principals ?  After all, isn't it logical to conclude that had Cardozo Senior High School been given resources galore in the first place, sufficient staff, and a full planning year that we would have had a greater likelihood for success ? 

In the words of fellow teacher blogger, NYC Educator: "It's amazing that we jump through hoops to get race to the top money, agree to all sorts of reforms, and make such a big deal out of it when it turns out kids are the last to actually benefit from it. The money was never to reduce class size, to promote innovation, to improve instruction, but rather a chance to utilize a wishing well of Bill Gates Foundation/Eli Broad ideas hoisted upon the country. Here's a country that adores innovation in education, and no one cares whether or not it works as long as teachers and administrators can be held accountable for whatever ends up happening.... The Race is not about how well children do. It is, rather, about making clueless billionaires appear to be taking positive action on education. "

© Candi Peterson 2013

May 31, 2012

Arne Duncan's Close Ties to Victor Reinoso, Former DC Deputy Mayor of Education

Victor Reinoso (right)

Written by Candi Peterson

Word has it that Victor Reinoso, former DC Deputy Mayor of Education from 2007-10 under the Fenty administration is now a high-powered consultant to the United States Department of Education (DOE), working for Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education.  Confirmation that Reinoso is a local friend of Arne Duncan's was evidenced on Reinoso's personal Linked in account when he proudly displayed his DOE position until recently, that is. To refresh your memory further about Reinoso, as Deputy Mayor he oversaw the education reform agenda and was the person responsible for recruiting former DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee in 2007, a former elected DC Public Schools Board of Education member, former CEO of the Federal City Council and now a Senior Advisor to the President at Georgetown University.

Reinoso received recognition when he was caught plagiarizing Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina's public schools "school takeover plan" when he was acting deputy mayor.  At his 2007 confirmation hearing, the DC City Council had lively debate about his role in the plagiarism incident. In true politician style, Reinoso dodged questions about plagiarizing the takeover plan. The DC Examiner, on June 28, 2007 reported that Reinoso said he took full responsibility for the plagiarism, calling it a "shortcut" taken "to meet a deadline." He said the omission of attribution was unintentional."

Why is it important to connect the dots between Victor Reinoso and Secretary Arne Duncan?  With Reinoso  teaming up with Arne Duncan (who by the way has close ties to Eli Broad), it isn't a stretch to believe that a deal was cut to encourage Mayor Vincent Gray to maintain then Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson, after Michelle Rhee's ousting. I often wondered why Mayor Gray was adamant about not conducting a national search for a DC Public Schools Chancellor and didn't allow any resumes to be submitted when considering this high level appointment and I think I now have my answer.  Most recently, I imagine that Reinoso also influenced/supported Chancellor Henderson's honorary doctorate from Georgetown University, as a Senior Director there as well. This honorary doctorate will serve to further the occupational aspirations and enhance the political appeal of Chancellor Henderson, despite her obvious lack of education credentials. The awarding of an honorary degree like Henderson's creates press releases, attracts attention to the university and DC Public Schools and also signals the strength of "special interest groups" within Georgetown University.  

Certainly we can make the argument that relationships like Duncan and Reinoso are part of a larger aggressive school reform education movement in the United States and includes unequivocal support for mayoral control of public education, adopting the business/corporate model for school leadership, opening more charter schools, turning over public schools to charter school operators, creating a revolving door teacher workforce, changing the way teachers are evaluated, and stripping teachers of tenure in exchange for lucrative pay funded by education philanthropists. (i.e. Eli Broad, Bill Gates, etc.)

In the words of a teacher "It breaks my heart to see Duncan playing along. You should have seen my students when Obama won the presidency. Their eyes were shining. I tell them they will be the ones to walk across the stage, go on to the life they are supposed to live, and bring prosperity, health, security and life itself to their struggling families. Instead, it turns out Duncan owns his own his own stock in the Emperors New Schools Venture Fund." And if I had to make an educated guess, so does Reinoso.

© Candi Peterson 2013

May 24, 2012

It's Principal Firing Season in DC Public Schools!

Written By Candi Peterson

Recently letters were sent out to DC Public Schools principals notifying them whether their yearly contract as a principal will be renewed or not for another go round. As was the case with Michelle Rhee, DC Chancellor Kaya Henderson and her minions are following suit. Henderson is no different in many ways than her predecessor, Michelle Rhee. Of course as Rhee's former deputy, one wouldn't expect the apple to fall far from the tree.

Typically, DC Principals aren't told why their contracts are not being renewed, they are just given their walking papers. Of course we could a venture an all time guess. Firing is what this administration does well and of course "covering up cheating" on standardized tests. But I'll save the cheating dialogue for another day or at least until we get closer to the results of the investigation into the DCPS Erasure Gate scandal.

I'm really interested in hearing about the status of DC's principals. No matter whether your local school principal is getting the boot or not, drop me an email @ or so we can keep a tally of how many of our DC principals will be departing this year.   

© Candi Peterson 2013

May 22, 2012

Another DCPS RIF and More Excesses Up Ahead !

Written by Candi Peterson

With another school year coming to a close, more excess letters will be handed out by DC Public Schools to another group of Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) members as well as Council of School Officers (CSO) union members. Among those impacted will be DCPS School Psychologists. Historically, school psychologists' have been itinerant workers who were centrally funded and supervised directly by the Office of Special Education. School psychologists were generally responsible for several schools in most cases (sometimes more). Last school year, itinerant school social workers whose positions had previously been centrally funded by the Office of Special Education (OSE) were excessed and are now paid from the local school budget. 

"WTU school psychologists will be officially excessed from their central office positions on June 1, 2012. The effective date of the excess will be the last day of school June 14, 2012", according to a revised May 2012 "SEC and School Psychologist FAQs" that was sent to relevant staff on May 18, 2012 by Jason Kamras, Chief of Human Capital. By definition an "excess is an elimination of a Teacher’s position at a particular school due to a decline in student enrollment, a reduction in the local school budget, a closing or consolidation, a restructuring, or a change in the local school program, when such an elimination is not a ‘reduction in force’ (RIF) or ‘abolishment." Not unlike 333 DCPS teachers who were excessed on May 4, 2012, DC school psychologists will no longer hold their current positions at the end of the school year.

The SEC and school Psychologist FAQs packets posed the following question, "What will happen to the centrally-funded Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) school psychologists who currently report to the Office of Special Education (OSE) ?

DCPS Answer: WTU (school) psychologists "will have until August 15, 2012 to find a budgeted position at a school. If they cannot find a position by then, and if they meet certain qualifications, they will have access to the three excessing options in the WTU contract: 1) a $25,000 buyout; 2) early retirement, assuming 20 years of creditable service; or 3) a one year placement at a school during which they will continue to search for a budgeted position. To qualify for the three excessing options, WTU members must meet three criteria: 1) earn an Effective or Highly Effective IMPACT rating for 2011-12 school year; 2) attain permanent status (which one earns after two years of service in DCPS) by the effective date of excessing; and 3) have not opted into the IMPACT plus system."

Since Council of School Officers School Psychologists who are twelve month employees have a different collective bargaining agreement , they will be subject to a different set of rules than WTU members.

DCPS question: What will happen to centrally funded Council of School Officers (CSO) (school) psychologists who currently report to Office of Special Education (OSE)?

DCPS answer: "They will receive reassignment letters on June 1, 2012 explaining that they will be working at a school site, not for OSE, next school year. They will have until June 11, 2012 to identify a principal willing to hire them. After that point, the DCPS Office of Human Capital will begin to place them into remaining vacancies. This process will be completed by June 15, 2012."

Another reorganization is also underway for school year 2012-13 in DC Public Schools which includes a Reduction In Force (RIF) for many Special Education Coordinators (SECs). Earlier during the DC Public Schools budgeting process for SY' 2012-13, funding was no longer provided to local schools for Special Education Coordinator (SECs) positions. Many DC Public school principals complained about not being funded to keep their SECs. After an uproar by administrators, funding was made available to local schools for a small number of Special Education Coordinators (SECs) -approximately 40-50 according to my source. It is my understanding, that monies alloted for school social workers funding, which initially was part of the required school budget for 2012-13 was changed to flexible spending - thereby allowing principals to decide whether they wanted a school social worker or not. Last school year, all schools were required to have a .5 (half-time) school social worker at a minimum depending on the student population. Having the option to decide whether to hire a social worker or not, some schools used the monies for other positions such as the SECs position. It is sad to say that the majority of SECs will be losing their positions at the end of the school year.

DCPS question: "When will SECs who are losing their positions be officially notified?"

DCPS answer: "Affected SECs will receive official notification that they are part of a Reduction in Force (RIF) from DC Public Schools on the last day of school, June 14, 2012. The reductions will go into effect on July 15, 2012, according to the revised May 2012 SECs and School Psychologists.

You might be wondering by now, why is DC Public Schools jumping on yet another educational bandwagon? The short and dirty answer is that DCPS claims that they are shifting to another model which no longer includes Special Education Coordinators (SECs). According to an April 26, 2012 press release by Chancellor Kaya Henderson titled: Increase in School Psychologists to Help DCPS Better Serve Students, she states: "...DCPS will shift to a new staffing model for 2012-13 school year that better utilizes the expertise of school psychologists. The change will allow schools to improve student achievement by leveraging the skills of school psychologists to build a student network that collects data, identifies students at risk for poor academic or behavioral outcomes, provides evidenced based interventions and monitors student progress."

So here's when being a critical thinker really comes in handy. Not for a minute do I buy the hype that this change in staffing is what is in the best interest of DC's children. We must ask what's really behind these changes? I for one believe that the Henderson administration and company wants to make us think that the central office is saving a boatload of money yearly when in fact they are just playing a game of musical chairs with staff. They are just shifting the funding from the central office to the local schools budget. Don't be fooled into thinking that the reduction the central office will show in personnel costs is a cost savings measure. Not!

RIFing special education coordinators while a temporary cost saving measure to the District is a mistake and when the word gets out about the layoffs of special education coordinators (SECs), special education advocates and attorneys will be lining up to sue DCPS, litigation costs will sky rocket once again like they did pre-special education coordinator days. From where I sit, special education coordinators have been a God-send to the District of Columbia Public Schools, our students and staff.

It has been a long arduous battle for both school psychologists and special education coordinators (SECs) and their unions who have voiced concerns adamantly about the dismantling of SECs positions whose duties will probably be absorbed by local school staff and the excessing of school psychologists from the central office to local school psychologist/special education coordinator ordinairre. Here we go again- jumping from one educational bandwagon to another.

Someone has to set the record straight about what's really happening in our schools. I'd love to hear from DC Public Schools special education coordinators and school psychologists and others about what they think the real motivation is behind the move. Feel free to email me c/o or Confidentiality assured.

© Candi Peterson 2013