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Posted at 3:53 PM ET, 11/ 1/2010

The peculiar ‘ovation’ for D.C. teachers

By Valerie Strauss

It’s hard to settle on the strangest part of Monday night’s grand event at the Kennedy Center called “A Standing Ovation for D.C. Teachers.

My colleague Bill Turque wrote on his D.C. Schools Insider blog about the event, which is meant to honor 663 D.C. public school system teachers who were rated “highly effective” by the IMPACT teacher evaluation system.

According to Turque, members of the host committee include some of the bigger names in Washington edu-philanthropy: Katherine and David Bradley, Jean-Marie and Raul Fernandez, and Trish and George Vradenberg, to list a few. Proceeds from the evening will go to the D.C. Public Education Fund, the nonprofit fundraising arm of the public schools.

So what’s so strange about the event?

It could be that the honoree teachers were selected through the IMPACT teacher evaluation system, a process created by the administration of Michelle Rhee that is incredibly flawed in its ability to sort out which teachers are great and which are awful.

Or it could be that, as Turque wrote, some of the honorees are upset about the terms and conditions that are attached to the bonuses of up to $25,000 that they get.

It turns out that teachers who accept the money are supposed to waive their rights to certain considerations if they are "excessed" because of enrollment or program changes at their schools. Other teachers in good standing who are excessed can take a $25,000 buyout, opt for early retirement with 20 years service, or take a full year with pay and benefits while they look for another position in the system.

There’s something wrong with telling the teachers you say are your most valuable, “By the way, the protections accorded to less effective teachers don’t apply to you."

I also can’t figure out why some of the people associated with the event are associated with it.

Members of something called the Committee for Excellence in DC Schools are on the invitation and will presumably be there: Warren Buffett, James Carville, Laurence Fishburne, Renée Fleming, Davis Guggenheim, James Earl Jones, Vernon E. Jordan Jr., Yo-Yo Ma, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Mark O’Connor, Jane Pauley, Alma and Colin Powell, and Alfre Woodard.

Quite the interesting group.

I’m still trying to figure out why the list includes Guggenheim, director of “Waiting for 'Superman' ,” an education film that hasn’t a single nice thing to say about the traditional public schools in which the honored teachers work.

I can’t help wondering if the teachers wouldn’t have rather been honored with, say, a fair evaluation system rather than a fancy evening at the Kennedy Center.

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By Valerie Strauss  | November 1, 2010; 3:53 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. Schools, Teacher assessment, Teachers  
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