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D.C. Teacher Layoffs--Muddying the Path to Better Schools

The Washington Teachers Union seems to me justified in suing over the massive layoff of D.C. teachers. It is sad that so many educators removed by the firings appear to have been adding value to the school system. At the same time, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee was right to give principals the power to decide who had to go, even if the ensuing mess is likely to make it more difficult for her to establish a system of principal control over hirings and firings that is essential to improving D.C. schools.

Whether or not the size of the layoffs and their timing make sense is beyond my competence to decide. I see worthy arguments on both sides of that issue. My colleague Bill Turque, on top of this from day one, will eventually sort it out.

But we have to keep in mind that the most effective urban schools today have principals that have been very carefully selected, given the power to make most if not all personnel decisions and know that they themselves can be removed if they do not establish a team spirit that produces happy schools where student achievement increases significantly.

Rhee gave her principals the power to decide whom to remove in these latest layoffs. It is clear that in some cases they did not have enough time or information to make wise decisions about who should go, and you can tell from my colleague Michael Birnbaum's story today about recently hired teachers Eve McCarey at Anacostia High School and Brian Mokoro at Spingarn High School. No principal wants to make decisions based on just six weeks of work. I suspect they went largely on what specialties they needed to fill the necessary slots, not which teachers were best.

The union's lawsuit is a way to get at the facts in this litigious age. It will do little to help D.C. kids, but may let us all argue over this based on real information rather than our various biases.

Whatever happens with the suit, we must keep in mind that if we want our schools to work, our first priority must be recruiting and training the best principals we can find, and letting them make the big decisions---with the threat of their own removal if they don't show good results.

By Jay Mathews  | October 8, 2009; 8:42 AM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  
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Comments

I hope your colleague follows up on what actually occured versus what Rhee is saying occured. In particular I found it very disturbing that one student reported her French 3 teacher was let go, and she, the student, ended up in a Spanish 1 class. You know colleges look for 3 years of one language, not 2 of one and 1 of another. Ms. Rhee stated on WTOP (I think that was the station) that she is "following up on that, but that student is a McKinley student and McKinley didn't fire any French teachers."

This is not true, McKinley did indeed let go of the French teacher and there are no other French teachers available.

In addition, the principals, unlike what Rhee is reporting, did not have a role in deciding who was let go (my sources are former DC staff who are in contact with current staff).

It would also be interesting to see how that 10 point scale supposedly used to determine who was let go compares to the evaluations, and whether or not any of the teachers were ever informed about the 10 point scale.

Posted by: researcher2 | October 8, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

for researcher2---who does yr source say DID decide who would be let go?

Posted by: Jay Mathews | October 8, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

I thought teachers were the key to student success... that's what Rhee has been saying since she took over. Now it's principals? Mr. Matthews, you are obviously not an educator if you think principals should be given absolute power to fire their teachers. Many of the best teachers are outspoken and critical of bad ideas (which principals sometimes have). If teahcers were at will employees, those who challenged bad ideas would be the first to go. If you don't believe this, you are naive.

Posted by: sfteacher | October 8, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Jay, They say it came from Rhee's office...

Posted by: researcher2 | October 8, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

One additional piece of information. Principals were given a script and a list of teachers. They were told to read the script to the pre-selected teachers during their planning periods.

Posted by: researcher2 | October 8, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Sorry for writing a few posts instead of just one. But, I had another thought. Ms. Rhee is clearly kind of a "control freak" as evidenced by the many articles on her, and I say this to kind of prove that my sources are right. Can you really envision her saying Friday morning to her principals, "please pick this number of teachers to be let go from your building, and fire them today" No,number one she would fear they wouldn't have time that morning to get the job done, since deciding who to let go would take time. So,instead she said, "this is the number you are losing, these are the names, and this is the script."

Posted by: researcher2 | October 8, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

The thing that greatly troubles me is Rhee's dishonesty in blaming the DC Council for the budget cut that caused her to make poorly timed budget adjustments. Her own FAQ issued on Oct 7, 2009 shows that $20.5M (2nd bullet) and $3M (3rd bullet) of the budget cut are completely within her control. In addition, the DC Council has committed to try and find an additional $9.1M of funds to pay for summer school in June 2010. This is a large portion of the $20.5M cut by the Council in July 2009. So, Rhee goes on news channels and leads with the DC-Council-made-me-do-it when that is simply not true, even using only her own documentation. The fact of an overrun is mismanagement. The timing of her response 6 weeks into the instructional year is gross mismanagement.

Excerpt below:

http://dcps.dc.gov/portal/site/DCPS/menuitem.06de50edb2b17a932c69621014f62010/?vgnextoid=de6dda8cfbb24210VgnVCM1000007e6f0201RCRD&vgnextchannel=737ae2b1f0d32210VgnVCM100000416f0201RCRD

2. What is DCPS’ total budget shortfall?
Going into FY 2010, our expenses were $820.5 million, against available funding of $779.5 million. Our budget shortfall for FY 2010 was $43.9 million. The shortfall was caused by:

summer reductions (in June and August) made by Council--$20.5 million

additional school-level resources that, in previous years, had been carried on the central office budget—$20.5 million

costs associated with leave and severance for separated employees—approximately $3 million


Posted by: ShepherdParentof2redheads | October 8, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

The firings only indicate the problems of Ms. Rhee as top administrator of the DC school system.

900 Teachers are hired in August of 2009 and then over 200 teachers are fired in late September 2009.

This is sheer administrative incompetence and totally ignores the problem for many children who find that the teachers that have they have just been introduced to as their new teachers have been fired.

This is not a question of Ms. Rhee allowing principals to have discretion in who would be fired. Rather it is about an incompetent head of the school system who allows 5 percent of the teaching staff to be fired three weeks after the start of the school years. If teachers had to be dismissed, it should have been done before school started.

The other day the Washington Post indicated that a DC deputy school administrator saw no problem in the fact that he could not provide the school location of 79 Special Education children that had been transferred back into the DC system.

It is surprising that Ms. Rhee is the head of the DC public school district.

Ms. Rhee has only three years of actual teaching experience.

Ms. Rhee used this 3 years of experience to start and act as head of the "New Teacher Project" that was mainly concerned with advising on the hiring of teachers.

Ms. Rhee has absolutely no school administrative experience and without this experience she would not be qualified for the position of Principal in the DC district.

The background of Ms. Rhee would be suitable for a deputy school administrator responsible for teacher hiring.

There has been a great deal of fanfare about the actions of Ms. Rhee but very little mention that a head of very large public school system, now administers that system without any prior school administrative experience.

Ms. Rhee may fervently believe in young and energetic teachers but her position is to administer a large public school system that during her tenure has had significant occurrences of mismanagement.

Simply on experience, Ms. Rhee is not qualified to be head public school administrator of a large public school system.

The firing of 5 percent of teachers 3 weeks into the start of the new school years indicates that Ms. Rhee should never been selected to be the top administrator of the DC school system.

Resume from:
http://www.dcpswatch.com/mayor/070312b.htm

Posted by: bsallamack | October 8, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Whatever happens with the suit, we must keep in mind that if we want our schools to work, our first priority must be recruiting and training the best principals we can find, and letting them make the big decisions---with the threat of their own removal if they don't show good results.
########################
Schools do not work when teachers are fired supposedly upon the basis of financial problems three weeks into the start of the school year.

This is sheer incompetence.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 8, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

I thought teachers were the key to student success... that's what Rhee has been saying since she took over. Now it's principals? Mr. Matthews, you are obviously not an educator if you think principals should be given absolute power to fire their teachers. Many of the best teachers are outspoken and critical of bad ideas (which principals sometimes have). If teahcers were at will employees, those who challenged bad ideas would be the first to go. If you don't believe this, you are naive.

Posted by: sfteacher

######################
In all companies and government responsibility begins at the top.

This is true except in public education where according to Ms. Rhee originally all responsibility is at the bottom with the teachers.

Now Ms. Rhee has changed her opinion and all responsibility is with Principals.

At one point Ms. Rhee will probably tells us that all responsibility is with her administrative staff.

It appears that Ms. Rhee has no other function except to indicate that responsibility rests with other in the school system.

For Washington this is the new interpretation of the buck stops here.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 8, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Schools do not work when teachers are fired supposedly upon the basis of financial problems three weeks into the start of the school year.

This is sheer incompetence.
#################
I have checked and for some strange reason Washington DC started the school year on August 24 and not after labor day.

The public school teachers had 6 weeks to know their teachers before they were fired.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 8, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

No principal wants to make decisions based on just six weeks of work.
########################

The Washington Post continuously avoids the incompetence of school administrators who because of budget mismanagement are forced to fire 5 percent of teachers at the start of the school year after hiring 900 new teachers.

This is either sheer incompetence on the part of Ms. Rhee and her staff, or Ms. Rhee purposely intends to replace, no matter the consequence to children, older teachers by firings.

Please no more pretended sitting on the fence by the Washington Post and columnist Jay Mathews.

Come out with some dignity and admit your opinion and stop with this dribble of supposedly impartiality.

If Jay Mathews and the Washington Post believe it is right for Ms. Rhee to use whatever method to fire and get rid of older teachers they should come out of the closet and admit it in public.

Have some decency.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 8, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

To all interested parties. There is something called a "school leadership exam" administered by ETS in New Jersey. Please find out if Rhee and/or any of her administative staff (including assistant superintendents) took and passed the exam. Once you find that out I think you'll quickly discover the reasons behind the problems DCPS is experiencing. No one is really qualified to be in a school leadership position!

Posted by: sesjr1 | October 8, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

"[Principals] know that they themselves can be removed if they do not establish a team spirit that produces happy schools where student achievement increases significantly"

Establishing team spirit becomes a challenge when you have to fire part of your staff 6 weeks into the school year.

Doubling class size doesn't help student achievement either.

Principals know this, but it doesn't seem like Michelle Rhee does.

Posted by: efavorite | October 8, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

If Bill Turque's source is accurate, seniority and past performance ratings counted for only 5 percent in the 10 point scoring system principals used to select folks to fire. 5 percent! On the other hand, a vaguely defined "school needs" constituted 75 percent of the scoring system. In my opinion, this system was intentionally fashioned to allow the system to fire any teacher, regardless of their past performance ratings or their seniority.

Good luck in attracting experienced teachers to the DC system.

Posted by: jacobson98 | October 8, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

researcher 2 - You may need a new source. Several of your comments are inaccurate. Principals were given the number of POSITIONS they had to cut. Not the names of any staff members. Just as there are ineffective teachers, there are ineffective principals who may not have adhered to the process and didn't make good decisions about who to let go.

Posted by: juve11 | October 8, 2009 5:40 PM | Report abuse

"[Principals] know that they themselves can be removed if they do not establish a team spirit that produces happy schools where student achievement increases significantly"

What a laugh? Happy schools.

Principals know that they can be fired if they displease Ms. Rhea, the head of the school system.

Ms. Rhea is opposed to the teacher union and veteran teachers. Does anyone really doubt that this did not enter into the firing consideration of principals?

Give the principals the number to fire, give them a criteria list that can be easily used to explain any firing, and let them go to work.

The numbers per school may even have been rigged in advance.

Purge anyone?

It is strange that on Sunday the Washington Post ran an editorial that the firings were because of incompetence. At one point the Washington Post has to get the story straight.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 8, 2009 6:14 PM | Report abuse

researcher 2 - You may need a new source. Several of your comments are inaccurate. Principals were given the number of POSITIONS they had to cut. Not the names of any staff members. Just as there are ineffective teachers, there are ineffective principals who may not have adhered to the process and didn't make good decisions about who to let go.

Posted by: juve11
*********************

juvell tells us that researcher 2 is wrong. No evidence to support this statement just the word of juvell.

In any case there are two explanation for the fact that a large public school system was disrupted by the sudden firing of 5 percent of the teaching staff.

Ms. Rhee is either at fault for being such an incompetent administrator that she can not handle the school budget, or that she used the budget problem as an opportunity to continue her program of replacing veteran teachers with new teachers without consideration of the disruption for students.

Hopefully juvell will let us know which version is correct.

Of course there may be an unknown Mr. X who rigged the budget data and lied to Ms. Rhee and her staff and Ms. Rhee only became aware of the truth after the start of school.

Mr. X may even be a new hire from Wall Street.

juvell may be happier with this possibility and hopefully juvell will inform us of his/her preference.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 8, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Ms.Rhee should definitely fire some of her staff and possibly resign.

If you are over budgeted by say $10 million dollars you can not know how many teachers have to be fired to make up this budget shortfall.

Each teacher is receiving a different amount of pay so there is no one number that indicates how many teachers have to be fired in order to make up the S10 million budget shortage.

If you do use a specific number n, you may find that after firing the n number of teachers you are still over budget or under budget.

Instead of being given a number of teachers to fire, the principals should have been given a dollar amount to reduce in staff pay by firings.

If the firing of teachers was solely on the needs of the budget, Ms. Rhee and her staff have displayed a great deal of incompetence.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 8, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse

Good luck in attracting experienced teachers to the DC system.

Posted by: jacobson98
**************************
The aim of Ms. Rhee is to only hire young and inexperienced teachers to replace veteran teachers.

Others schools require experience and knowledge but Ms. Rhee is not concerned with experience.

This is understandable since she had absolutely no experience in school administration before becoming head of the DC public school system.

Experience and knowledge are not part of Ms. Rhee's ideas regarding education.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 8, 2009 8:45 PM | Report abuse

researcher 2 - You may need a new source. Several of your comments are inaccurate. Principals were given the number of POSITIONS they had to cut. Not the names of any staff members. Just as there are ineffective teachers, there are ineffective principals who may not have adhered to the process and didn't make good decisions about who to let go.

Posted by: juve11

juve11, how do you know that they were simply told the number of positions?

In addition, Rhee claims she told the principals only the number of positions that should be fired. How can she look at a school and determine that 3, or 5 or 12 teachers can be fired without knowing which specific teachers will be let go? She claims they looked at a matrix that included school needs, which clearly implies she knows if they "need" certain positions to meet students' needs. Not just what number of teachers that are needed in a building, but which teachers meet student needs. Schools are staffed in a complicated fashion. It isn't simply a 1:20 ratio. You need to look, particularly at the middle and high school level, at how many students need certain courses. So, you can't simply say for example that McKinley can fire 12 teachers..you need to know which classes are over or underenrolled; clearly Rhee knew which positions she wanted to target, meaning she knew which teachers she wanted fired. The reason I am so focused on what I perceive to be her lies are her claims about the student who was in French 3. On the air, in an interview, when confronted about that issue she claimed McKinley didn't even offer French. You can see that they do indeed offer French on their website... How could she make such an easily disproved claim? Perhaps she is so used to manipulating and covering her tracks that she wasn't even aware how easily she could be proved wrong.

To me it is very apparent that she did indeed give the principals a script, and the names of those to be fired.

She claimed teachers weren't escorted out, and were allowed in to get their belongings, yet the Post also reported that , when they were supposed to get the belongings, they were locked out and still unable to retrieve their materials.

Posted by: researcher2 | October 8, 2009 8:57 PM | Report abuse

I would usually be among the last to support - no less suggest - a lawsuit, wherein the ultimate loser may well be the public, if large money damages are imposed, as a way to uncover the truth of a situation. Even a situation as clearly disturbing, probably unscrupulous, and possibly unlawful as this one. But I have been watching this DCPS debacle with increasiing dismay and disgust. In companion pieces in this week's Post, we read not only of skilled and devoted DCPS teachers and counselors who have lost their jobs, but of youngsters who find themselves without a grade-level instructor and must be merged in with other grades, and college-bound teens who no longer have a foreign language instructor, and special needs children who have been deprived of their special education teacher/mentor/guide/advocate/friend. So, in addition to the DCPS professionals who have lost their employment and livelihoods, it appears that the very children that Ms. Rhee and the DCPS hierarchy profess to serve are being seriously harmed by this action. Perhaps it is time for [at least some of] the affected students and families to file suits, claiming deprivation of their right to a free and appropriate public education, in addition to the wrongful termination and employment discrimination suits that have already been filed. Maybe that is the only way to get to the bottom of this mess... or to get the attention of the elected officials - or enough of the electorate - who could fix it.

Posted by: nan_lynn | October 8, 2009 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Well, there's no reason that Mrs. Rhee can't release her orders to the principals, unless they name specific people. I'm surprised that Bill Turque hasn't gotten any yet.
Maybe Jay can ask Mr. Betts over at Shaw Middle School for a copy.

Secondly, how many of these teachers let go were of the "hey, let's watch a movie cause I'm hungover" type so well described by Mrs. Armao in the Post editorial last Saturday.

Thirdly, do you think Mrs. Rhee could 100% guarantee that, let's say, the Spanish teacher let go at one high school was not better than the Spanish teacher kept at another school

This reminds me that over twenty years ago, there was a principal in a local county who like to nitpick his new teachers. he had a high turnover. The Journal published a cartoon showing a bus arriving at the school letting the kids out, while the teachers boarded to leave. (2nd hand knowledge)
Over 20 years ago, another principal plopped a porno picture in front a teacher while she taught, and murmured to her, my doesn't that look good. (3rd hand knowledge)

Posted by: edlharris | October 9, 2009 12:51 AM | Report abuse

I see that the reduction in force guideline memo is avaiable here:

http://www.dcpswatch.com/dcps/090918.htm

Posted by: edlharris | October 9, 2009 6:29 AM | Report abuse

Thank you edharris for the link on the RIF process. I am going to have to follow up with my sources, as this doesn't really jive with some of their previous allegations.

Posted by: researcher2 | October 9, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

excellent comments, which nearly all underline the fact that we don't really know what we are talking about. This will take a in-depth analysis of the actual choices in front of the council, the mayor and Rhee on the budget, and more reporting on what the instructions to principals said and who was fired. All I am sure of is that Rhee is NOT some kind of evil witch, licking her lips as she fires teachers and discomforts principals. She has spent the last decade becoming one of the most knowledgeable people in the country on the best ways to train new teachers and pick principals who will support those teachers to raise student achievement. Few if any first time superintendents ever have had a chance to spend as much time as she has studying this process before they got one of these jobs. She is using methods based on research and the experience of many successful teachers and principals. The layoffs prove that this experience offers little guidance as to what to do when resources disappear shortly before school starts, but I have never seen any other superintendents come up with a magic solution to this either. Running a school district aint miniature golf. Rhee is going to have to take her lumps on this like any school leader would, and then get back to the work she was hired for---producing school staffs that work as teams to help kids get better.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | October 9, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

I just received this from my alma mater, DeMatha:
Listed below are those current faculty/staff members with 20 or more years of experience at DeMatha:

John Moylan (54 years of service to DeMatha)
Morgan Wootten 54
Dr. Charles "Buck" Offutt (~51)
Joe Carroll 40
John Mitchell 40
Doug Tschiffely 40
Bill McGregor 38
Father Damian Anuszewski 36
Tom Burke 33
Richard Macheski 33
Dick Messier 31
Zetha Ballinger 31
Mary Yarrish 29
Pat Guerrin 28
Ed King 28
Jim Roper 28
Kevin Caughlin 27
Sandra Duffy 27
William Clark 26
Daniel McMahon 26
Neal Murphy 25
Peggy Stawinski 23
Tom Ponton 22

Posted by: edlharris | October 9, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Brave new world, indeed! Most interesting thing is how the decision to lay off a particular teacher is supposed to be based only 5% on seniority and past performance, while 75% on a sense of "school needs,” including a “commitment to student achievement and using test data to make decisions about instruction.”

It’s like the cultural revolution, all over again. Perhaps they need civil service rules back in place to avoid the sort of arbitrary and political decision-making this appears to be, based on a Maoist-like thought police.

Posted by: leonie1 | October 9, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Matthews:

Ms. Rhee may not be an evil witch; she may indeed have experience training new teachers and picking principals to work with them; however, her job is running an entire school system, includiing working with veteran, certified, qualified teachers with years of experience actually teaching children. Ms. Rhee has three years teaching and has made dubious claims about her success in the classroom. Her experience may qualify her for a think tank but she clearly has neither the skills nor the integrity to manage a large urban school district.

Posted by: sfteacher | October 9, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Standardized test question for Ms. Rhee.

The disarray of the DC public school system caused by firing 5 percent of the teachers 6 weeks after the start of the school year was caused by

A. gross incompetence of the school administration staff.

B. a method to replace expensive experienced teachers with less expensive new inexperienced teachers.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 9, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

excellent comments, which nearly all underline the fact that we don't really know what we are talking about.
Posted by: Jay Mathews
++++++++++++++
Jay Mathews should send this to the Washington Post editorial staff that on Sunday stated that the 5 percent of teachers that were fired were incompetent.

+++++++++++++++
Running a school district aint miniature golf.
Posted by: Jay Mathews
+++++++++++++++
Jay Mathews in the past has no hesitancy in criticizing other school districts and administrators but when it comes to Ms. Rhee and a case of disruption in the school system caused by either gross administrative incompetence of her staff or union busting, Mr. Mathews remains silent.

Come out of the closet Mr. Mathews.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 9, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Jay, You said "and then get back to the work she was hired for---producing school staffs that work as teams to help kids get better."

Rhee doesn't have the people skills to produce school staffs that work as teams.

Posted by: jlp19 | October 9, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

excellent comments, which nearly all underline the fact that we don't really know what we are talking about.
Posted by: Jay Mathews

Well, we may not know everything going on, but we know a rat when we smell one and we know that the phrase "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark" is a quote from Hamlet about a kingdom in dissary due to internal corruption and we know that it applies to Ms. Rhee's office.

Posted by: sfteacher | October 9, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Rhee has enough qualifications to run DC Schools. DC schools in the past have had people with multiple degrees, decades of experience, and membership in various organzations. One had military experience, and I don't recall him having any teaching experience but DC voters via the School Board voted for him as well. They all stayed roughly 2-3 years and left - sometimes in tears and sometimes in disgust.

I read Rhee's organizations' reports about hiring and firing in schools and the impedance caused by teachers unions. I read about some reasons why some schools seem to function better than others. Then after years of working in East of the Park schools I began working in West of the Park schools and I saw the difference. Her research was on the money. She has enough experience to run a school system.

I don't agree with this recent RIF but she has done other things I do agree with. I think Rhee-haters should open their minds and try to find some common ground with Rhee instead of hating everything about her. Then, and only then, have a dialogue and speak your points.

There are some people who have never been open to working with her from the first day because they didn't like how Janey was fired and because (I heard a colleague say this), "What does a Korean lady know about teaching Black kids in the inner city?"

Posted by: dcpsinsider | October 9, 2009 9:26 PM | Report abuse

To Dcps insider - As I responded to your identical comment on another article:

I was once a strong Rhee supporter. I don’t hate everything about her. I think she’s very intelligent, very hard working and is an excellent public speaker. I was impressed by those traits and had high hopes for her until I saw how she poorly she treated her employees, DC citizens and the City council, as if having their support was not needed to help with her reforms. She was disdainful to community groups, she ruthlessly maligned DC teachers across the country, she grossly exaggerated her own teaching success, fired beloved principals and asst. principals at the drop of a hat without giving reasons, withheld and manipulated data. I could go on.

Please don’t assume that people who oppose Rhee are “Rhee haters” whose minds are closed. Some people may have petty reasons for disliking her, but many other people have solid reasons to think Rhee is bad for the schools.

Posted by: efavorite | October 10, 2009 8:24 AM | Report abuse

To Dcps insider

The resume of Ms. Rhee indicates very little experience.

For 10 years she obtained work from school administrators since she told these school administrators what they wanted to hear.
This was:
"The problem of public school education is because of teachers and the union. The school administrators are not responsible for the problems."

Ms. Rhee is Johnnie One Note with the simplistic idea that the problem will be handled by new teachers. New teachers will be brought in and there will still be a problem. All of the problems of poverty in education can not be simply overcome by new teachers.
This is at best naive.

Ms. Rhee has had no real experience and her reliance on a simplistic solution will not work. Some of the new teachers that were hired have already left. Send new hires into the problem classes and if they do not leave, they will simply grin and bear their two year contract.

There have been significant indications of the under reporting of violence in schools. Send new teachers to these school and these new teachers will leave in flocks.

As far as common ground with Ms. Rhee, there is none. Her actions show that her only idea is to hire all new teachers. Ms. Rhee sees experienced teachers and the union as an impediment to the hiring new teachers.

For supporters of Ms. Rhee to speak of common ground is totally illogical.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 10, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Jay,

I worked at a charter school where principals had the power to hire and fire at will. The school was like a revolving door. Teachers came and went during the school year. They hired many mediocre teachers. They could not retain good teachers, many of whom left to teach in DCPS. We went through three principals in one year. Imagine what this type of instability does to the educational program. Would you want your children in this type of school?

Ms. Rhee herself seems to have difficulty recruiting excellent principals, because several DCPS schools in the past two years have had new principals come in that were replaced during the school year.

Bottom line: Rhee doesn't know what she's doing. Maybe her intentions are good. But good intentions coupled with lack of experience and incompetence does not benefit students.

Posted by: Nemessis | October 11, 2009 8:36 AM | Report abuse

To Nemessis---Did student achievement rise at the school? I suspect not. If two years pass without improvement, the charter schools I watch would remove the principal and find someone with better judgement. That, sadly, is what does NOT happen in most urban public schools, a system that Rhee is trying to change. As I said before, Rhee is making mistakes, like any administrator, but she has a plan that we can judge. I don't see any of her critics coming up with an alternate plan rooted in reality and research.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | October 12, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

I don't see the value in challenging people to come up with a plan, then making a blanket statement that none of Rhee's critic's have "an alternate plan rooted in reality and research."

Who are you talking about – people who stop by your site to comment on educational matters? We don't have plans for lots of things we know are in a mess. What's your plan for health care reform and why should I trust it? You're not a health care expert. You might actually have a lot of good ideas that health care experts would consider, but I doubt they’d demand that you devise a plan and then castigate you for not having a good one, or just grab the Mathews plan and run with it.

Posted by: efavorite | October 13, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

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