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Posted at 2:02 PM ET, 10/15/2010

Superintendent Ackerman withdraws name from 'manifesto'

By Valerie Strauss

It turns out that Philadelphia Schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman doesn’t really agree with the “reform manifesto” that appeared this week in The Washington Post and signed by16, scratch that, now 15, big-city school district chiefs.

The manifesto was written by New York City Superintendent Joel Klein and then signed by D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and 14 others. It blames teachers unions for the troubles of urban education, views charter schools as some sort of big answer to the same problem, and generally supports market-driven measures to “fix” what is the country’s most precious civic institution.

But today we learn that Ackerman never approved the manifesto, according to David Wiener, associate superintendent of academics in the Philadelphia school system. Different versions had been circulated among school chiefs, and Ackerman did not see or approve the one that appeared in The Post last Sunday, he said.

Here’s what Weiner said in an e-mail:

"I discovered last night that the Washington Post printed an Op-Ed that Philadelphia Superintendent Arlene Ackerman did not support. The Superintendent read and approved a previous version of the letter, circulated by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Superintendent Peter Gorman and the Council of Great City Schools Executive Director Michael Casserly. However, Superintendent Ackerman did not see nor approve the final version submitted to the Post.

I received the final version of the letter and skimmed through it, but I did not recognize the significant changes. I, incorrectly, gave approval to NYC Chancellor Joel Klein for Superintendent Ackerman’s name to be included as a supporter to the final version, even though she did not see or review it.”

Weiner then apologized for the error and said that Ackerman would submit her own response to the manifesto.

Earlier today I published a post about two superintendents who had originally declined to sign the Klein manifesto. Jonathan P. Raymond, superintendent of the Sacramento City Public School District ( who issued an open letter advancing a smarter view of reform) and Buffalo Public Schools Supt. James A. Williams both said the manifesto was simplistic and wouldn’t do anything to improve schools.

Now Ackerman is distancing herself from the Klein nonsense. Good for her.

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By Valerie Strauss  | October 15, 2010; 2:02 PM ET
Categories:  School turnarounds/reform  | Tags:  arlene ackerman, buffalo public schools, james raymond, joel klein, jonathan raymond, klein manifesto, manifesto, philadelphia schools, reform manifesto, sacramento schools, school manifesto, school reform  
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Okay Valerie Strauss, Rhee is out. What is the next step to improve our dismal education system? Or do you think there is nothing to fix?

Posted by: aoshi73 | October 15, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

quick reaction-I accidentally stumbled onto this site "The Answer Sheet" and have two preliminary observations

The site has a title and picture of the author(?) but no name associated with the picture until you get to the end-silly

The article states that Ackerman has distanced herself from Klein's
position without a single word of analysis about the issue-other than a reference to a possible source of other data- hardly an illuminating article indeed-sort of suggests that the majority of the readers of this article are all likely to be of the view of the answer person

Posted by: 27anon72 | October 15, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Okay Valerie Strauss, Rhee is out. What is the next step to improve our dismal education system?

How about this for a start.. Have an honest discussion about why the situation is the way it is, determine what factors that are winth in control can be changed, and work on a plan to make those changes. In the meantime hold off on advancing personal agendas or ideologies.

Posted by: mamoore1 | October 15, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse


I agree with you. They should have an honest discussion.

To bad Rhee and the other ideological educrats who signed on to the "manifesto" didn't follow your own advice.

Posted by: DHume1 | October 15, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

I sent the following email to Dr. William Hite, superintendent of PGCPS, and co-signer to the manifesto.

From: Phillip Marlowe
Subject: Manifesto in PGCPS
Date: Sunday, October 10, 2010, 5:20 PM

Dear Dr. Hite,
I have some questions and a correction from your manifesto in today's Post:

But those reforms are still outpaced and outsized by the crisis in public education.
What is this crisis?

we first shed some of the entrenched practices that have held back our education system, practices that have long favored adults, not children. These practices are wrong, and they have to end now.

When did these “practices” become wrong?
They weren’t wrong 40 years ago. Where's this in PGCPS.

It's time for all of the adults -- superintendents, educators, elected officials, labor unions and parents alike -- to start acting like we are responsible for the future of our children.
Where in PGCPS are the teachers in acting irresponsibly?

As President Obama has emphasized, the single most important factor determining whether students succeed in school is not the color of their skin or their ZIP code or even their parents' income -- it is the quality of their teacher.
On this point, President Obama is misquoted. He said:
We know that from the moment students enter a school, the most important factor in their success is not the color of their skin or the income of their parents—it is the teacher standing at the front of the classroom.

The widespread policy of "last in, first out" (the teacher with the least seniority is the first to go when cuts have to be made) makes it harder to hold on to new, enthusiastic educators
How does it make it harder?
Over at Benjamin Stoddart MS in Hillcrest Heights, the school was reorganized over a decade ago and despite all the “new, enthusiastic educators” brought in, nothing got better.

The glacial process for removing an incompetent teacher -- and our discomfort as a society with criticizing anyone who chooses this noble and difficult profession -- has left our school districts impotent and, worse, has robbed millions of children of a real future.

Where is this happening in PGCPS? Is this your explanation for the failure of the middle schools to make AYP?

There isn't a business in America that would survive if it couldn't make personnel decisions based on performance.
And despite that , businesses fail everyday. Apple Computer was on its deathbed 13 years ago. It wasn’t performance of the workers that led it down that road.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | October 15, 2010 7:43 PM | Report abuse


That is why everything we use in assessing teachers must be linked to their effectiveness in the classroom and focused on increasing student achievement.
So, you are suggesting that PGCPS implement yearly standardized tests in all subjects?
That I can expect my yet-to be conceived grandchild to be tested on reading, math, social studies, science, language arts, health, PE, music, art, library and counseling to determine the effectiveness of his/her teachers when he or she starts kindergarten every year. If that is so, Catholic school sounds like a better option.

When teachers are highly effective ... we should be able to pay them more.
Merit pay in schools has never worked. DeMatha Catholic High School does a better job than Northwestern High School without higher pay or merit pay.

We must equip educators with the best technology available to make instruction more effective and efficient.
Does this mean whiteboards in every classroom, not just the Title 1 schools or new schools in PGCPS?
or does it mean this:
By better using technology to collect data on student learning and shape individualized instruction,

We also must make charter schools a truly viable option. ... But our children need great schools now -- whether district-run public schools or public charter schools serving all students -- and we shouldn't limit the numbers of one form at the expense of the other.
Where is this the case in PGCPS? Middle schools?
Have the changes you and John Deasy made failed such that some schools need to be replaced by charters? Will you allow only proven charters like KIPP and not Imagine?

United States will fall further behind the rest of the industrialized world in education,
Are you referring to actual performance , or rankings on a test?
You know as well as I, when the US was on top, the minorities and the poor were not being tested. Now they are.
We will not beat Finland, but that doesn’t mean our kids can't get an education.

A PG taxpayer for 40 years.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | October 15, 2010 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Strauss, why did the Post publish the "manifesto." Perhaps, you can give a shout out to help them be more careful next time. I believe that you said that your children are in private schools...great, but how about the Post find some people in Wards 7 and 8 to ask questions and inform readers about the needs of their schools...I bet that Vince Gray knows some people..some of his people can check with the PTA people in Ward 7/8..try something new...Citizen Teachers/reporters.... Let us hear from the "small" (BP) people who are really involved in their neighborhood schools. We are all here to learn...that includes all Posties!

Posted by: judithclaire1939 | October 15, 2010 7:48 PM | Report abuse

PGCPS Employee E-News
Keeping Employees Informed and Involved

October 1, 2010, Volume 1, Number 8

Message from the Superintendent
Today, the new documentary “Waiting for Superman” opens in this area. By all accounts, it is a compelling story of education and the importance of it in the lives of children and families. Certainly, one cannot argue with such a premise.
However, the nationwide debate swirling around the cause of the challenges we have in public education threatens to divide us as adults. It is easy to assign blame for who is responsible for the issues we face, but harder to DO.
I hope such a divide does not happen here in our school district, as we all have a role to play in guaranteeing a great education for every student, no matter the circumstances from which they come to us. More than ever, we have to come together and address the challenges we face.
Every school district has its issues. But in every school district, including the Prince George’s County Public Schools, great things are already happening. In every school I visit, I see evidence of this, and I know it is happening every day.
Let’s not let this national debate divide us. Great teachers are the reason these great things are happening. We must also address issues with teachers who are struggling, and we will do that with an eye first towards helping them to aim for growth and success, for themselves and for our students.
I have said this before, and I will continue to say it: I value what our employees do every day. Let’s join together in the work still to be done.
As always, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for all the work you do for the students of PGCPS.
William R. Hite, Jr., Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | October 15, 2010 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Everyone keeps talking about holding teacher's accountable for student test scores--doesn't anyone out there besides me notice the elephant in the room??? Why not hold students accountable for their test scores? My, what a novel idea. Next, we'll be holding professors accountable for their college student's test scores. Give me a break!

Posted by: chicogal | October 16, 2010 12:10 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Marlowe does not sound as if he spends a great deal of time in P.G. County's schools.

Teachers were hit with a furlough this year and a freeze in raise for the second straight year, I am told. Thus, all teachers have received a pay cut this year. The drop in pay is even more egregious for special education teachers, who might have signed on with PGCPS last year and agreed to a contract granting them a $1800 differential, only to have the differential taken away--without advance notice--a fact they learned when they received their first paycheck of the new school year.

I teach two HSA classes for students with special needs. I asked for two or three computers to be set up in my classroom, so that my students could be exposed to past examinations to become acquainted with the format of the test. Also, I want my students to be able to conduct research, particularly in the LSN class. The first request was made on 8/27 through the Department chairperson. I made a second request on 9/27. There was some movement on 9/27, when the IT person appeared with parts of two computers. However, none have been installed and sit idle on a table since 9/27.

PGCPS is supposed to provide me with a laptop. It has not worked since school began. The IT person has had it for over a week now and I still do not know whether it will be replaced. (I did bring my personal laptop to school to show my students a You tube video of a short story we are reading as part of the English curriculum, but I certainly do not want to make that a habit, especially since I learned that the section of my school was hit with robberies of and vandalism to equipment last school year.)

If any of my administrators attempt to evaluate me and pretend that the negative circumstances under which I work have no discernible impact on my student's performance, we would have to sit down with the Union and address some serious failings of the administration.

That's why teachers need unions. There are bad administrators too. Teachers might affect their respective classrooms, but bad administrators affect the entire student body.

Posted by: vscribe | October 16, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand what you mean.
45 hours a week in PGCPS is not a lot of time?
You left out that PGCPS has decided not to pay the Nationally Board Certified Teachers their bonus either. I believe it was $7,000 - $3500 from the county and a matching amount from the state. I heard that Dr. Hite and his underling, Dr. Coleman-Porter have decided the NBCT don't have an extra impact upon their students, so why bother paying them that contracted amount. (Miss Rhee also decided national board certification is meaningless.)

I can't tell if you teach in PGCPS. You start out in the 3rd person then switch to 1st.
If you do teach, please indicate as such and I'll ask you to contact me.
I'll then put you in touch with someone who knows something about technology and will help you get things in order.

I would Dr Hite to explain how this manifesto applies to PGCPS.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | October 16, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

my apologies vscribe.
I missed the line where you wrote that PGCPS is supposed to supply a laptop.

My offer still stands: contact me and I'll get you help.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | October 16, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse

@Phillipmarlowe: The state has cut its share of the NBCT bonus to $1000 last year. We (in Montgomery Co.) used to get $2000 but last year we received $1000. The explanation was that only those who were in schools identified as needy would receive the $2000. I teach in a Title I school, but apparently that isn't needy enough. MCPS did not reduce our NBCT bonus at least.

Posted by: musiclady | October 17, 2010 1:20 AM | Report abuse

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