Slash and Burn

So our second favorite superintendent (chancellor), Michelle Rhee, of D.C., has dismissed 241 teachers (5% of the teachers) evaluated under a new system and found lacking. This article appeared in the NY Times. A few were dismissed for not having the right qualifications under NCLB (which would beg the question, who's fault is it for hiring them?). Ms. Rhee says:

“Every child in a District of Columbia public school has a right to a highly effective teacher — in every classroom, of every school, of every neighborhood, of every ward, in this city,” the chancellor said in a statement. “That is our commitment.”

In addition there were other employees from librarians to counselors to custodians who were dismissed. What is interesting is that there seems to be no administrators on that list. Every single principal in D.C. is doing a great job and the teachers are the problem? Hmmm. And, 737 employees were put on notice that they were in the second tier from the bottom so shape up or ship out. Only 16% were rated highly effective.

Naturally, the Washington Teachers Union, is going to challenge the firings.

A "value-added" component was used on these evaluations but, according to the article, it used to be used for diagnostics rather than making personnel decisions. Value-added was 50% of the evaluation. The teachers let go taught in 4-8 and that's because those are the grades that have annual testing data. The teachers were to receive 5 30- minute classroom observations during the school year ( 3 by the principal and 2 by a "master educator" not from the school). They were scored in 22 measures in 9 categories including:

"... classroom presence, time management, clarity in presenting the objectives of a lesson and ensuring that students across all levels of learning ability understand the material."

Also from the article:

Last month, the teachers' union and the District Council approved a contract that weakened teachers' seniority protection, in return for 20 percent raises and bonuses of $20,000 to $30,000 for teachers who meet certain standards, including rising test scores.

The main comments from the Seattle Times website seem to be "get rid of bad teachers and support good ones", "it's the union's fault" and "why aren't parents held responsible?".

I think everyone would agree that bad teachers have to be exited but if the next lower tier of 737 teachers were let go, what would happen in D.C.? Could a district find that many "highly qualified" teachers to replace them? What is left out, as AFT President Randi Weingarten says, are supports for teachers and professional development.

This is a highly public experiment that I'm sure has the attention of the Obama administration. All seems quiet on the negotiation front here in Seattle which is actually good news (as it means negotiations are probably going forward rather than stalling out).


kprugman said…
The firing of teachers is more like a witchhunt than a necessary culling. No news on negotiations more likely means no negotiating.

We should presume by now that the Superintendent along with her Pinkerton staff are holed up in the district office throwing water at the fire.

Here's the theory, no doubt thought up by some Ichabod -

"Water trickles down, so the public was told money flows like water. But as every angel knows, money actually trickles up and rightly so, for fire follows money and where there's smoke there's fire."
dan dempsey said…
"I think everyone would agree that bad teachers have to be exited but" what about Board members judged incredibly deficient by the Auditor's Report.

So who would invest this kind of WA DC "Slash and Burn" power to our seriously confused Seattle School's Superintendent? ... Oh Right .... the Board.
LouiseM said…
You all may be experts on the Seattle school district happenings, but not every district, so passing judgment on what is and isn't available to teachers in DC is not fair or accurate.

I would venture to guess that the majority of the 737 teachers hovering on the brink of "ineffective" will work their asses off to improve just like any other professional would. That means taking advantage of district provided professional development and coaching.

Michelle Rhee is doing the right things. We may not always agree on the order or methods, but at the end of the day she's doing something to try to fix that chronically broken system. Better than sitting back and just complaining and Monday morning quarterbacking.
Sahila said…
FightingforKids - hardly any of us here to whom you are preaching are sitting back complaining and Monday morning quarterbacking...

noticed the papers and the TV-radio news lately?

Instead of blaming teachers for the woes in public education here in Seattle, we got off our arses and took action aimed at changing the way things are done at the top - where the roots of the problems really lie...
kprugman said…
Its a witchhunt - give any adult with 5-7 years of college education and a classroom with 62 mostly illiterate students, 10 thrashed textbooks, 35 grafittied desks, and 10 folding chairs and I'd say the system is pretty much broken beyond repair.

District workshops are a band-aid compared to the hours of abuse being handed out to teachers in and out of the classroom.

Ten years of working in a stressful environment would cause cause anyone to lose their sense of self-worth. Substituting concern with neglect is as good as being racist, but scapegoating is criminal.
kprugman said…
On the first day of school an administrator asked a teacher how the day went and the teacher told her pretty good except she had 57 kids in class and 62 in another. The administrator replied just be lucky that you have a job.
kprugman said…
Much easier to sit in a board room and pretend to be an effective administrator and explain the intricacies of trickle-down theory and how it applies to spending money. Too bad it doesn't apply to classrooms.
WenD said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
WenD said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
LouiseM said…
I was not talking about you Sahila. You're either paranoid or such a narcissist that you think every conversation is about you.

For your information I was speaking in general about folks in the system who complain about the system they perpetuate then jump on folks who try to change it.
Fighting for Kids, where did I pass judgment? Honestly, I did ask why the principals weren't assessed as well but that's more a question than a judgment. Also, the article didn't mention professional development or how the DC district will help those second-tier from the bottom teachers. How do you know they are being helped or how they are being helped? That would be good information to know.
WenD said…
FightingForKids: Your handle reminds me of memes like "Trees Cause Pollution" or labeling murderers in El Salvador as Freedom Fighters. I've stated my reasons for not trusting SPS. You haven't. I'm willing to listen. Perhaps I missed it, but I don't recall your explanation for how you're fighting for kids, or why you support actions like Rhee's? Until you elaborate, I'll treat your comments as trolling.

At any rate, because I have an ADD brain, I approach things sideways, or hit 5 points at once, so I actually heard about Rhee's latest after reading about Chelsea Clinton's wedding. Chelsea attended Sidwell Friends, the most prestigious of D.C. private schools. The Obama children attend the same school. Did anyone even question this decision? I don't think so. The Bush children were young adults (even George W!) during their presidential tenures, so we have to look back to Amy Carter to find the only modern presidential child to have attended D.C. public schools. Her attendance, unlike the presumed entitlement to private schools for prestigious families, caused an uproar. My memory is dim, but I don't think the furor was over the quality of the school.

So here's my question. In the time that Rhee (and Broad) has been in charge, have her measures improved the lives of D.C.'s children? What was it like for Amy in D.C.'s finest schools? Have their schools changed that much since the 70s? (I think not, but I'm open to evidence to the contrary.)

I know, I know, a lot has changed since the 70s, but have they? What is it that justifies such a scorched earth move? My first thought: union busting. I say this because I've been in two workplace unions. They protect workers, but they've never prevented someone for being fired with cause.

So jumping from point A to point D, what would Amy, woman with a long history of fighting for justice, say about this managerial throw down from a Broad graduate?
LouiseM said…
WenD I'm not following your line of thought--sorry. I will say that like the Seattle school system and others across the country, the problems in the DC system took decades to create and will take a lot more than 3 years to fix. If you are expecting a single effort of change to create instant results, your expectations need to be recalibrated.
LouiseM said…
Melissa how do you know they're not being helped? Your whole approach to the article appeared a bit negative to me. Or maybe it's just me.
WenD said…
FightingforKids: But how are you fighting for kids? What do you think MG-J, or Rhee for that matter, is doing right, while their actions (at least from the evidence I see) is so counter intuitive, even borderline illegal? I'm all ears. Other than being keyboard commandos, what is it that the critics are doing wrong in your eyes? Please, be specific. G-d know Charlie, Mel, Dan and many others here have taken the time to be very specific
kprugman said…
Or maybe, FFKer is a KIPPer...:)

DC First Lady and Fight For Children board member Michelle Fenty announced Fight For Children’s 2010 award winners on April 14, 2010. KIPP DC: AIM Academy, a DC Public Charter School, won the Champion of Quality award and a $75,000 grant from Fight For Children. Truesdell Education Campus, a DC Public School, and KIPP DC: KEY Academy, a DC Public Charter School, were each awarded a Rising Star award and a $50,000 grant.
kprugman said…
Its my psychic dog. Can't help it...its my breeding :)
dan dempsey said…
OK now that we have ventured into the area of WA DC schools I shall write to my online buddy at Wilson High School in WA DC .... AP social studies teacher, Erich Martel. Perhaps he can enlighten us.

FightingForKids my problem with all this is lack of reliable data about anything. I have very little confidence in numbers presented unless I've gone digging. I've done no digging in WA DC.

I know that Rhee, MGJ, and NYC's Joel Klein all sit on the Broad Foundation Board. I know that NYC had such a huge increase in accommodations on testing last year that the testing was widely thought to be useless for comparison purposes.

In Seattle WASL Spring 2006 for the first time 10th graders were required to have sophomore credits to take the WASL previously sitting in high school for two years was sufficient. Result SPS WASL math score passing rate for grade 10 went from 40% to 55%, which meant absolutely nothing.

I cannot say much about Rhee and WA DC, other than she hangs with a crowd that inspires little confidence in me. Anyone who uses Everyday Math in an Urban School District and is going to hold teachers accountable for math performance is in my view Wacko. Note WA DC uses EDM.
reader said…
what would happen in D.C.? Could a district find that many "highly qualified" teachers to replace them?

Are you kidding me? Have you interviewed anyone lately? Do you sit on your school's BLT hiring committee? Any job posting will have a huge stack of resume's in a single day. I have done so recently. And the resume's pour in for difficult to fill positions, including spots in special education. There's no reason at all to keep teachers that you don't really want, or that are ineffective. There's no "right to a job"... similar to the right to an education. If you can't do the difficult job, bow out.

As to exiting board members. That opportunity is boundless every 4 years. No sense crying about it when you don't win. And the whole pity-party about the small potatoes the candidates need to raise elicits no sympathy from most. If you can't raise (or pay) a few hundred thousand for a cause you really believe in, you don't deserve to be on the board.
kprugman said…
Reader conveniently forgot to qualify their statements with certificated.

There are endless resumes for teaching positions, but hardly any of those applicants are actually certificated. Temporary emergency credentials are easy to come by for college students.

But while I could fill the position of custodian if they weren't facing larger cuts than teachers, the reverse would not be true. Reader is referring to what one might find in a vacant lot, as a bed of petunias.

The word is out to all school boards this year (via newsletter)- test those nasty unions! Blame the economy.
zb said…
"If you can't raise (or pay) a few hundred thousand for a cause you really believe in, you don't deserve to be on the board. "

Is this sarcasm, or are you really suggesting that paying a couple of hundred thousand dollars should be a requirement for serving on the school board?
kprugman said…
I believe that practice in these parts is called 'pay to play'.
reader said…
Krugman, you clearly don't look at resumes. Yes, there are many, many, many certificated and well qualified candidates for all teaching positions these days. My school could pick and choose, and weed out lots.

No ZB, the only requirement to be on the board... is to get the votes. Losing bloggers cry about the small amount of money required to get out their message. I don't buy it.
kprugman said…
I suppose you wrote resume reading into your job description and I hope you underlined 'weed out lots'.

Are you related to Nurse Ratched by any chance?

I suppose in lala land its possible to have a credential, but not be certificated.

Check out your substitutes. I think we can all agree there's a shortage of teachers. You are probably confusing teacher with consultant.

The shadow board certainly got somebody into a spin over the newspaper editorial today. I hope they used their heads on a wall afterward. Keep up the reality checks. SPS has nothing better to do except improve. The only losers in this story are the voters who thought they were electing a board that could think on its own. Not very difficult to find a board room, but oh well, another four years will slip by and maybe nobody will notice.
Sahila said…
oh please, reader... so its OK in your world to have people with money and power (but not a workable idea in their heads and certainly no relevant experience) basically buy the means to control the rest of the world, in this case public education... and if you have no money (money=power) but you have lots of good ideas and good management skills and experience in the relevant field (education), then you (and the community and our kids) are shit out of luck?
Charlie Mas said…
I may be naive, but I don't presume that spending more money on a School Board race necessarily equates to winning it. Regard Mike McGinn as an example.

So I don't begrudge people who have six figures to spend on their campaign.

The community isn't very engaged with the school district issues - the candidates who don't mention issues get elected over those who do and none of the local media report on the issues in the campaign. We care deeply about these things, but most of Seattle doesn't care at all and most of the rest doesn't care very much.

We here need to acknowledge that there was an election and the people now in office are the ones who won. For whatever reason.

They have the jobs. The recall isn't about the WAY they are doing their jobs - their policies and perspectives - but about the way they are NOT doing their jobs - supervising the superintendent, enforcing policy, and representing the community. The Directors are free to make bad decisions - they make them all the time - but they are not free to leave their jobs undone. That, for me, is what the recall is about. It's about firing them for non-performance.
reader said…
No Kprugman, you are living a lala land past, when we were desperate for teachers. No longer. Have you turned on the TV and checked out the unemployment rate? And, no school is going to interview people who don't have the credentials to teach. Duh. Substitutes at my kids' schools have been fantastic too; and have been with our school for many years. Most are retired teachers, one a retired head-teacher. Others, serve as long term-subs when teachers have been out on maternity leave. At this point, there are so many resumes... good, high quality resumes, credentialed, certified, certificated, reading to go... that weeding them out is part of the principal's job. How not? A friend of mine is a private school principal. Same situation there. Loads of great teacher candidates. Improving any enterprise through hiring is a great opportunity now.

Shahila, I think people who are serious.. would be able to raise the small amount it takes to win a school board election. Get real. This isn't the senate, and we aren't talking about huge sums. If you've got a clue, show us by raising enough to win. Don't complain about it later.

As to the recall itself. The audit did find some problems, all quite minor. It never recommended recalling the board.

The fact is, people who can't win, try other tactics. First, complain about election financing. For this race, it is all but inconsequential. Second, sue for ridiculous issues like "I don't like the math book you picked". And now, thwart the election issue completely, call for a recall. If you were good, you'd win on election.
kprugman said…
This is for clueless, who wants to read only what they want to hear.

2009: There is a national shortage of qualified teachers and its been aggravated by high attrition among rookie teachers, with one of every three new teachers leaving the profession within five years, a loss of talent that costs school districts millions in recruiting and training expenses, says the report, by the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, a nonprofit research advocacy group.

Not only are students and parents frustrated - so are the teachers. I hear the words daily spoken by teachers and they're too afraid to speak up - They would never encourage their own children to enter the teaching profession.

How would you like to find out you were paying for a life insurance policy you didn't know you have, that your superintendent signed you up for. Either you have no idea what I'm talking about or you're one of them so cut the song and dance, jettison the crooks, and change the laws so we can all get back to educating kids. People are tired of being yanked around by a group of wealthy (ignorant, racist) aholes.

This is not your plantation you bunch of schmucks.

Your district isn't growing and more and more students are dropping out of school.
kprugman said…
This is the type of school, Dewey was asking us to avoid.

By encouraging people to enter the teaching profession when roughly more than half will have dropped out within 10 years is doing a disservice to everyone.

You might think that math textbooks don't matter. That's your religion, but they do and we have alot of data to back up that claim. SPS board members went along with the administration and sabotaged parents and teachers attempts to implement the Singapore curriculum. It may not matter to you, but it mattered to us.
Education reform has created a monster school system with a compassion that matches Godzilla's.
kprugman said…
If the principal's job were to weed out bad teachers - that would be a very difficult, time-consuming job.

Especially, when the majority of our students cannot read or write at grade level and even fewer can understand their textbooks.

If the majority of students are having to repeat classes that puts even more stress on the master schedule. Principals are asking more teachers to take extra classes (would you do so, if you were given a bad evaluation?) - and still our classrooms are filled beyond their capacity.

We might agree on caps, but it doesn't change the reality of the situation. We don't have enough desks or textbooks for our students. New teachers go through 2years of credentialing. They have a 4-yr degree and there's a district mandated indoc program. Plus the credential that gets renewed every five years (100+ hours of teacher training). At what point does a principal step in to weed out bad teachers. This is more costly insanity from the reform movement, not to mention litigious and in reality, rarely enforceable.

No, reform has transformed school into a multiple choice test and they have disenfranchised the majority of the people.
Sahila said…
What is it they say? You can tell a lot about a person by the company s/he keeps?

DC School Chancellor Michelle Rhee (who sits on the Board of the Broad Center with our own MGJ) has justified mass layoffs of DC teachers, claiming she's getting rid of child molesters and abusers...

Ironically, her DC Mayor (and Duncan/Obama basketball buddy) fiance Kevin Johnson (used to play for Phoenix Suns)has been accused of sex with minors and paying off a girl who filed a complaint against him...

If you want to get more of the nitty gritty on Rhee, go here:
dan dempsey said…

I take issue with:
(1) "I think people who are serious.. would be able to raise the small amount it takes to win a school board election. Get real. This isn't the senate, and we aren't talking about huge sums.

The State sent allows a maximum donation per individual of $1600. You are right it is not the Senate and 7 contributors gave Peter Maier $70,000 in 2007.

The maximum total amount raised by any school board candidate outside Seattle was $15,000 in 2007.

(2) "The audit did find some problems, all quite minor. It never recommended recalling the board."

A.. The Auditor's Office is an investigative Office they do not recommend solutions like a recall.

B.. Quite Minor ... you must be kidding. Read the Audit.

In fact read these as well:
i.. reply to responses from three judges to a Writ filed with the Wa Supreme Court

ii.. Letter to Director DeBell on RCW 42.56.040 Duty to Publish Procedures.

It seems you trivialize multiple violations of State Law.

By September 30, we all will know if the KC Superior Court and the WA Supreme Court see multiple violations of state law as trivial or not.

Next round 9 AM Monday 7-26-2010 in Judge Inveen's court room.
dan dempsey said…

You said: "Second, sue for ridiculous issues like "I don't like the math book you picked".

Here you are clearly not acquainted with the facts of the case.
dan dempsey said…

You said:
"For this race, it is all but inconsequential."

Which "this race" are you referencing?
dan dempsey said…

You said:
"And now, thwart the election issue completely, call for a recall. If you were good, you'd win on election."

Yes let us discuss Laws and Elections ... great idea.

If the candidates were any good, then after election as Directors they would follow state laws, school board polices, and supervise the superintendent well enough so as not to be subject to a recall under state law RCW 29A.56.110

Clearly winning an election with lots of money is hardly any guarantee of capable leadership.

Again I say despite your attempts to minimize the truth that:

"The State Auditor found that the School Board completely failed in their duty to enforce laws and policy and completely failed in their duty to oversee the superintendent."

Recall the Seattle "5".
"The audit did find some problems, all quite minor."

Reader, first did you read the entire audit? Two, if not, you should because then you would retract that statement. Three, if so, I have no idea how you could make that statement.

I know these people at the Auditor's office and they are very worried and troubled. Other districts don't operate like this. These "minor" things are very much a signal of bigger things.

The bottom line is that our district wastes money and/or is not able to account for it and/or uses it for non-academic purposes that do not truly aid students or teachers.
hschinske said…
"The fact is, people who can't win, try other tactics."

People who can't win?! *Anyone* would have won in Harium's position (he had one opponent, who was not, um, shall we say, a serious contender). Yet he spent $63K or so.

Helen Schinske
reader said…
Yes Melissa, I read the audit... cover to cover. I didn't find it so terrible as to warrant a recall. The audit didn't list a recall as a remedy, in fact it found the district cooperative in its findings. No Dan, the audit didn't find the board "completely failed" in its duties. Your summary represents a complete lack of objectivity. And no Melissa, finding the small things doesn't mean there are bigger things. It specifically said it left out smaller issues. Finding the significant issues was the point of the audit. Yes Helen, some school board seats candidates ran unopposed. I do not know why Harium needed to spend what he did. It would be naive to think you could run and spend nothing. The malcontents who did run and lost, are the ones always seeking a legal and/or undemocratic solutions.
Sahila said…
I'm not a malcontent who ran and lost...

I'm just a malcontent who thinks that the way this district is run is neanderthal and inexcusable!

And that the people elected by the citizenry to supervise the way the district is run are not doing their jobs...

So, when the district doesnt change its ways - such as by complying with law - and the supervisors dont supervise and enforce, the citizenry has no option really except to file legal challenges/complaints...
Reader, who said anything about the audit saying there should be a recall? I didn't. That isn't the Auditor's role anyway.

You call the findings "small"; I don't. We would have to agree to disagree but that the Auditor had to say, multiple times, that they have already told the district, in other audits, about these problems and the district agrees with the findings and yet does NOTHING should tell you something.

They don't take the Auditor seriously. Well, maybe a recall election might.

I have to wonder who you are Reader to try to minimize this audit. It's one thing to believe that only people with money should run/win elections or that recall elections are solely for malcontents but dismissing an audit that calls out the Board (when that virtually never happens in a state audit)? Interesting.
reader said…
Well, wonder away Melissa. I don't work for the district, in case you were implying that, or facilities, or anybody that has some vested interest in the audit.

People seem to think the audit is some sort of smoking gun that warrants a recall. It isn't. The audit has recommended many things to improve accountability. 1). School Board improve oversight of management. 2) Board and District improve understanding of the laws. 3) Better day to day operational procedures.

If the auditors felt the school board should be taken out and shot (or recalled)... well, they could have put that in the recommendations. They didn't.

What was the horrible findings?
1) Didn't take minutes. (yawn)
2) Lost assests. $7,412. (yawn)
3)Capital Funds. $1.8 million. Now, that's a big deal. But what really was the problem? The district didn't provide a written link between the small business development training and the capital projects. OK bad, next time will quantify that relationship.
4) Payroll computer problem. $187K. Don't we all know there's lots of district computer problems?
5) Policy problem. Problems couting teacher experience, student hours, open meetings, personal service contracts. Mostly a rehash of previous findings above. A few credit cards, or early payment to contractors. Sure a problem. But how much of a problem? It doesn't look that bad to me.

Surely these audit finding pale when compared to the perfectly "audit-worth" endeavors.... like opening a bunch of elementary schools, costing 10's of millions... for 200 kids. Which, includes hiring multiple principals, and their staffs, duplicating services, etc, etc. What's the big deal about losing the receipt on your district gas card after that?
reader said…
Shahila, who is so wonderful that will do a creditable job after you've recalled everyone? Should McGinn just overtake the board? Should the governor just appoint a new, wonderful board? Should we just hire Ms. Rhee to run the board? ... or somebody like her? Maybe just draw names out of a bag. The only superintendent that everyone liked, was the one that died... after not too long in office. No doubt, the disdain for him would been large had he lived longer. Potshots are easy.
Sahila said…
Reader... you fail to get the point that we've complained about the opening of schools at a cost of millions for an enrolment of 200 and all the other "big' things on the list... we complained, testified, wrote emails, attended coffee mornings blah,blah, blah... none of that input had any effect...

We havent forgotten them - most of these issues are listed in the appeal re the renewal of the super's contract and form the basis of the recall...

BUT... none of those complaints hold enough weight in a court of law as things currently stand because there is too much wiggle room...

These (small? - I would argue with you that these are not small issues) failures to follow the law noted in an Auditor's Report do, especially since they are failures that have been noted previously and not corrected...

When you cant get them on the big issues, you use what you can and get them on the small ones - death by a thousand cuts....
kprugman said…
You could always wait for the district to enter binding conditions and threaten a state takeover - God forbid - but the board resigned and the Superintendent remained behind. She ran the meetings that selected the new board members. They have some miserable classrooms to put students in - did anyone think there was something wrong with this picture? I doubt it now.

I wished sometimes these people would just fill their seats and fall asleep, because the district would probably save money, instead of spending it on stupid things, like aquatic farmland.

They are doomed for failure, its just a matter of when everyone gets sick of bailing them out of trouble.
dan dempsey said…
Here is another major or minor issue depending on your view.

From the financial audit:

"Our audit identified significant deficiencies in controls that adversely affect the District's ability to produce reliable financial statements." pg.27

Looks like the District reports to the public can NOT be taken seriously. Perhaps we can have Meg Diaz issue statements instead. She has been a lot more reliable over the last year than the SPS.

These audits are a big problem.

Here is Brian Sonntag in the Times
kprugman said…
Sonntag is right on the money - whatever the government busy bodies are doing with their weirdness it can't be sustained - and he should hear what some officials have to say about his audits! They naively blame the economy and they they are not responsible or accountable for what they do (e.g. not properly disclose or prioritize public spending for capital projects.) If the district wants to face the public wrath than so be it. I doubt they believe it exists.

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