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Rhee is right--summer learning is vital

I don't have a transcript of yesterday's raucous D.C. Council hearing over the disputed layoffs of 266 teachers early this month, but the TV clip I saw had Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray asking D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee if she thought she was smarter than everybody else in deciding not to cut $9 million for the 2010 summer school, as the council told her to do. Anyone who has looked at the data on summer learning loss would have to say Rhee was right, and the council was wrong. That won't solve the communication problem the city government is struggling with, but if you are concerned with raising the achievement of D.C. kids, it is important to emphasize that point.

Take a look at the studies compiled by the National Summer Learning Association and see for yourself. At the very least, there is a one month loss of learning because of the traditional summer vacation. Several studies, including some from Johns Hopkins University, have noted the startling difference in the loss of learning between impoverished urban children---like the majority of kids in the D.C. schools---and affluent suburban kids. Suburban parents manage to inject more learning into their children's summers than low-income urban parents do.

And yet many public schools have reduced that loss for urban kids by creating summer school opportunities, as Rhee has been trying to do despite the council's view that this is a good place to save money. Malcolm Gladwell's book "The Outliers" shows how important a three week required summer school session has been for the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), which has managed in four middle school years to raise the reading scores of low-income urban and rural children from the 32nd to the 60th percentile in reading and from the 40th to the 82nd percentile in math.

That is, in essence, moving those students from a typical urban level of achievement to a typical suburban level of achievement. Doesn't Chairman Gray want the same for our kids in D.C.?

I wish all of the officials involved worked harder to talk to each other. I wish Rhee had deluged the council with data on summer learning loss and demanded an explanation for why they thought summer school was the best place to cut. I wish Gray had made himself more available---Rhee said that one day she set up two conference calls to discuss budget issues but he did not appear for either one.

That would have allowed Rhee and her experts, many of them experienced teachers, to explain why D.C. principals have tended to lay off more experienced teachers in favor of less experienced ones. It is no fault of the teachers themselves, but there are many indications that the drag of dysfunctional inner-city school culture on educators who stay in it a long time is devastating. They get into the habit of assuming their kids can't learn very much because their systems operate on that belief. Some manage to fight this and keep their standards high, but they appear to be a minority.

I have interviewed about two dozen leaders of KIPP public charter schools around the country. They have told me that the more experienced teachers they hire out of urban systems have difficulty raising their expectation for children to the high level that KIPP demands. That is one reason why they, and Rhee's principals, are so apt to hire smart and energetic, but less experienced, teachers who don't need an attitude adjustment.

The lawyers have this issue now. Perhaps under the law Rhee's administration is guilty of age discrimination. We shall see. But I fear that argument will have little to do with kids, and the more time and money that is devoted to it, the less time and money we will have to help children learn.

(Editor's note: Read Valerie Strauss in the Answer Sheet for another take on the Rhee-Council dispute. She's fed up with the feud.)


By Jay Mathews  | October 30, 2009; 9:50 AM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  
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Comments

Mr. Mathews is correct; research clearly demonstrates the importance of summer learning opportunities, particularly summer school, and particularly for less advantaged students such as those Ms. Rhee is most trying to help. I have yet to read anything that suggests Ms. Rhee is trying to do anything but help students by reforming a system that desperately needs it. And in the case of summer school, the research is on her side.

Posted by: ezr1 | October 30, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Wow, Jay Matthews hyping the KIPP approach? That is a stunner! It's almost like he wrote the book on those guys!

Oh, wait ...

Conflict of interest much, Washington Post?

Posted by: bermanator34 | October 30, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

I didn't mention the book, you notice. No free ad. I just shared what I knew about KIPP, which is very relevant to this issue. One of the reasons the Post allows reporters to write books is that we learn a great deal in the process that makes our stories, and now our blog posts, more informative for readers. That is the opposite of a conflict of interest. It is a complementary interest, designed to serve readers like you. Would you prefer that those who write books, like Dan Balz or David Broder or Bob Woodward, henceforth pledge not to put anything they learned in their book research in the Post? As a devote Post reader, I would strongly object to such a policy.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | October 30, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Just any summer school program?
Or one that's like an extended year, teaching new content and skills?
Or one that reinforces the skills the kids did not learn/master the previous year?

And I wish Jay would answer Michelle's question:
What do I have to do to regain the trust of the teachers

(PS Jay, did you notice Mrs. Rhee play games with the NAEP scores, much like the Shaw scores. It was at 3:45 yesterday)

Posted by: edlharris | October 30, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

(Oh, bermanator, so you know, the 2 KIPP schools in Indiana are scoring below the state average.)
http://mustang.doe.state.in.us/SEARCH/search.cfm
search for KIPP

Posted by: edlharris | October 30, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

"Would you prefer that those who write books, like Dan Balz or David Broder or Bob Woodward, henceforth pledge not to put anything they learned in their book research in the Post? As a devote Post reader, I would strongly object to such a policy."

===================

I would prefer that the Post take a good look at columnists who write advocacy books, because they can easily create bias. You have a greater stake in KIPP being recorded as a success because of your book on the issue, which becomes irrelevant if the approach doesn't do what its proponents claim.

Are we, as readers, expected to ignore that stake that you have in the game and pretend that you are viewing KIPP with clear and unbiased eyes?

Posted by: bermanator34 | October 30, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Mr. Mathews, for injecting some research and thoughtfulness into this debate.

In the District of Columbia, only 9 percent of ninth graders will graduate from college within five years after entering. Among the city’s eighth graders, 8 percent are reading at grade level. Less than half will graduate from high school.

With stats like these, why aren't District residents hopping mad that Chairman Gray would even think to suggest cutting summer school? They should be picketing the Council offices.

Instead, the anger is directed at Michelle Rhee. Go figure.

Posted by: trace1 | October 30, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

If the summer school was teaching new material or reinforcing other things that were learned during the year then I would absolutely agree. However, DCPS Summer school is all about passing kids who didn't learn material during the summer through the system. Absenteeism is rampant (both students AND teachers), homework is not allowed. Is that really what we want to spend money on?

Posted by: Wyrm1 | October 30, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

For bermanator 34--if you read the book, and my other writings on KIPP, and saw how much space I gave to critics of KIPP, and independent assessors like Jeff Henig at Columbia, then yes, I would expect you to agree I honor the same journalistic values I have been honoring for 40 years. It is a pet peeve of mine that if a journalist spends many years investigating something (8 years in the case of KIPP, 27 years in the case of AP), and finds it is adding value to the world, and says so, he is accused of being a special pleader and a partisan. Whereas if he spends a few months investigating something and decides it is a snare and a delusion, and says so in the paper, he is greeted as a defender of the truth. Good journalism doesn't always have to be negative.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | October 30, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Dear Mr. Matthews:

Resign from your job as a journalist and hire yourself out to Rhee and the charters - obviously you are working for them already. Your knowledge of education is skewed, full of half-truths and statistics that reinforce Mark Twain's fammous quote: "Lies, damn lies and statistics."

Posted by: sfteacher | October 30, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

I echo edlharris' comments - all summer schools are not the same. It’s not logical to automatically presume that DCPS summer school is good because the general concept of summer school is good. Having two parents is good too, but not if one of them beats you.

Jay, you mention that you didn't witness the hearing yesterday. I did see the part where Rhee and Gray were arguing. Here’s my recollection (we can make a determination once the video is out): He was complaining that she blamed the council for the shortfall and asked why, despite his many questions to her about it, it wasn’t until the hearing that it finally came out (initially via her CFO, who is not nearly as slick as she is) that an internal decision had been made to move funds to cover summer school. Rhee then changed the subject, as far as I’m concerned, in a very childish way, saying that Gray had sometimes not been available when they had planned to talk.
It was an attempt to deflect and redirect the argument. It seemed like something a kid would do when cornered by a parent. Instead of admitting responsibility, the kid says something like “You’re just an old meanie!” or “You like him better than me!”

Of course, Rhee is more sophisticated than a kid, so she said (according to Turque’s article)
"There have been multiple occasions in the last few months where I have tried to get on the phone to talk to you about these issues." This makes it sound like she’d been rebuffed in her ongoing attempts to provide the desired information, when exactly the opposite is true.

Your reporting of the incident is also misleading: “Rhee said that one day she set up two conference calls to discuss BUDGET ISSUES [caps added]….” I don’t recall that from the hearing and it’s not what Turque reported (See above). He said “these issues,” which of course could be budget issues, but could also be anything, including (my guess) a device for Rhee to be vague, thus inviting people like you to fill in the desired blank.

I hope more people will have a chance to see the video of Rhee’s responses yesterday. I suspect any parent or anyone who’s ever been a kid with recognize her childish devious behavior for just what it is.

Posted by: efavorite | October 30, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Summer school is not important if it means that 6 weeks after the start of the new school year you have to disrupt the education of thousands of student because of the school budget.

If Ms. Rhee had handled the budget properly there could have been perhaps a limited summer session and no chaos 6 weeks after the start of the new school year.

Please no more nonsense and claims that if Ms. Rhee states children should brush their teeth, Ms. Rhee is right.

We all know that children should brush their teeth and that heads of school systems like Ms. Rhee should handle the budget so that the education of thousands of students is not disrupted.

Posted by: bsallamack | October 30, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

I don't have a transcript of yesterday's raucous D.C. Council hearing over the disputed layoffs of 266 teachers early this month, but the TV clip I saw had Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray
##################################
I have no supporting evidence but I saw a tv clip of the martians landing in Washington to congratulate Ms. Rhee and award her a medal...

Posted by: bsallamack | October 30, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack - I can verify that the TV clip you saw of the award ceremony is accurate. I was there, standing just to the left of Rhee.

I'm the one with the eyes on top of my head, wearing a green kilt.

Posted by: efavorite | October 30, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

"It is a pet peeve of mine that if a journalist spends many years investigating something (8 years in the case of KIPP, 27 years in the case of AP), and finds it is adding value to the world, and says so, he is accused of being a special pleader and a partisan."
==============================

Is that inaccurate? You're the biggest salesperson out there for the AP courses, ridiculing those who disagree as to their value. You really wouldn't consider yourself a special pleader and a partisan? How would you describe yourself?

If not, I would expect you (or the Post) to try something a little more rigorous and methodologically sound to rate the school systems instead of the AP-exam-as-a-single-metric theory.

Posted by: bermanator34 | October 30, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

BTW, that's not to say that either of those terms are pejorative. But I'd guess that about 95% of the people who read you would consider you to be a strong advocate for AP coursework, and I bet most would also agree that you are a partisan for that cause.

Do you not consider that to be the case?

Posted by: bermanator34 | October 30, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

The fatal flaw in Rhee's and KIPP's logic is that the hiring of less experienced teachers who are smart and energetic to teach students who arent performing on the same level as their suburban counterparts is the disequilibrium between the teachers academic career and the students' expectations of their own academic career. As was so aptly pointed out in an op-ed in the Post by former Teach For America teacher Sarah Fine, she was burnt out in four years because she couldnt come to terms with her students' lack of academic wonder and preparation that she had at a similar time in her academic career.

The hiring of the smart, young, and energetic teacher seems to suggest that hard work can overcome any obstacle. In a world where equal input equals concurrent output, more importantly a logical world, that may be true. Urban students like those in DC and those being served by KIPP exist in one that lacks equilibrium because it lacks the logic that others in suburbia enjoy. A world where students are killed by stray bullets, where no one in his or her family has any academic expectations; a world where flash and easy money are considered success and study and academic rigor are at best considered passe' and at worst disrespectful to a students' immediate peer group is a world that lacks equilibrium let alone logic. It is also a world where academic rigor is seen either as an inconvenience or as only a means to an end and not a world view. This would seem to explain KIPP's lack of proficiency in attaining a higher level of reading and math scores after four middle school years of extended days and extended school year. After all the military can make wondorous gains physically and academically over 6 months. The reason that they can do these things is the subjects that they are treating, young adults, want to excel and succeed immediately.Neither KIPP, energetic young teachers nor Michelle Rhee can make students want or desire an education enough so that they are sufficient and proficient across the board and until they have that same level of devotion they wont.

Posted by: mike12166 | October 30, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Ways to handle the lack-of-space issue:

>Just include a short "full-disclosure" statement in the article. Such a statement simply provides important information to the reader and does not serve as a free advertisement.

> There seems to be plenty of space in the comments section. You could write the first comment to your own article, stating your relationship to KIPP schools. I think this would be better than having a reader accuse you of conflict of interest, which you then take a lot of space to defend yourself against.

Posted by: efavorite | October 30, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

I appreciate these comments, even the alien ones. It is part of being American not to take ourselves too seriously. As bermanator34 says, I consider myself a strong advocate for AP. When journalists work as columnists and authors, advocacy is considered fine. In those roles we are supposed to draw conclusions from our reporting. What I resent is the notion that I don't present both sides, and have shed my responsibility as a journalist to tell readers all that I, as a general reader, would want and need to know about a subject with which I am not familiar. Anyone who has read my KIPP book knows that I give plenty of space to the critics of KIPP, and describe in detail many unprofessional and in some cases illegal things the KIPP founders did in building their program. If somebody knows of something important to that story I did not reveal, please tell me. I know the commenters here are busy people with no time to read my complete works, but I would have thought that my regular columnizing on reports that raise doubts about KIPP, like the work of Richard Rothstein and Jeff Henig, would quash the notion that I only looked at one side. Same with AP. I have had many columns which quote at length AP critics, I listed all 20 of the objections in full to AP published recently by the leading anti-AP group of private schools. I publicly confess when I change my mind about AP or other subjects in which my views have been persistent, like my creating the Catching Up list of AP schools when I realized some were giving lots of tests but having very low passing rates, and raising questions about using AP in inner city schools. I can't be a good columnist if I am not honest. But starting columns with disclaimers would not only be distracting but deceiving. Should Gene Robinson start every column saying he is in favor of civil rights? Does that really help the reader know what he thinks? Should Charles Krauthammer do the same, starting every column saying he doesnt like President Obama much? Such quick hit labeling doesn't help, which is why i don't like labeling organizations, like "the conservative Heritage foundation" or "the liberal Brookings Institution," two that I have seen. When I am reporting facts, like the KIPP data, I am responsible for making sure they are accurate and relevant, but sticking labels on all columnists--we all have our favorite positions on stuff---would just frustrate readers who are intelligent enough to judge the column on what it says, rather than what agenda somebody thinks the writer has.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | October 30, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

From the original: "That would have allowed Rhee and her experts, many of them experienced teachers, to explain why D.C. principals have tended to lay off more experienced teachers in favor of less experienced ones."

Actually, a public explanation of why some teachers were laid off and others not cannot occur in an open forum because principals and the Chancellor are acting on the private information in teachers' personnel files. What would make this more transparent is for the union and legal representatives for the teachers to open the personnel records of the teachers in question. The union suit was dismissed immediately once the judge reviewed those files.

Posted by: arceedee | October 30, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

When I read Ed Harris' comment, I though "dang, he just stole my comment" when he wrote:

"Just any summer school program?
Or one that's like an extended year, teaching new content and skills?
Or one that reinforces the skills the kids did not learn/master the previous year ..."

The another commenter wrote:

"If the summer school was teaching new material or reinforcing other things that were learned during the year then I would absolutely agree. However, DCPS Summer school is all about passing kids who didn't learn material during the summer through the system. Absenteeism is rampant ..."

Of course, that is the norm in most districts, summer school is just Cover Your Ass. The benefits of summer school only come from engaging summer activities with field trips etc.

Then efavorite wrote:

"I echo edlharris' comments - all summer schools are not the same. It’s not logical to automatically presume that DCPS summer school is good because the general concept of summer school is good ..."

Which raises the question of whether you looked into the evidence of D.C.'s summer school before supporting Rhee again.

And even if D.C's was good, you have to compare the loss of it with the effect of disruptions six weeks into school, as was also noted. Virtually any experienced educator would predict the cost benefit analysis would weigh against Rhee's choice.

I wish other commenters hadn't hit so hard on KIPP, so you wouldn't have had to respond to your personal situation but could have thoughtfully responded to the substance.

That being said, it was your specific citation that might have riled commenters. I'm supportive of KIPP and TFA, and almost any charter advocate who doesn't wilfully misrepresent the evidence regarding neighborhood schools. But when I hear the implication that higher "expectations" can trump the value of experience, it drives me up the wall. It tells me that your sources may have been born on 3rd base or 2nd, and concluded that they earned the extra base hit. If they (or you) believe the challenges facing KIPP are comparable to those we face in neighborhood schools, youall are drinking the koolaid.

But I wish you'd get back to the fundamental issues. Did Rhee respect the law? Don't focus on anecdotes, like visiting a couple of schools and praising them for not abusing their power. Look systemically. How can Rhee produce sustainable progress when she's always cutting it so fine with the law, and the truth, and she only seems to listen to her croneys?

Posted by: johnt4853 | October 30, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Jay,

Does KIPP take all students? Or do they turn some away? If they can pick and choose their students, the teachers will be able to demand more out of the students because the parents will be more involved.

Posted by: jlp19 | October 30, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Jay, First you state something that no one here suggested: "But starting columns with disclaimers would not only be distracting but deceiving."

Then you build a whole straw man argument around it: "Should Gene Robinson start every column saying he is in favor of civil rights? Does that really help the reader know what he thinks? Should Charles Krauthammer do the same,..."

I wish you hadn't done that. It's very distracting and makes it difficult to appreciate your excellent writing abilities.

Posted by: efavorite | October 30, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Third time, Jay
What should Rhee do to regain the trust of the teachers?

(PS Thanks for the compliments. I try to always try to ask why or how...)

Posted by: edlharris | October 30, 2009 6:59 PM | Report abuse

I am posting this for Caroline Grannan, one of those KIPP critics I often quote. If anyone else has a problem getting their comment posted, just email me at mathewsj@washpost.com and I will get up it. We can't let the machines squelch us.

Hi Jay -- For some reason the Washington Post blog won't post my comments -- some glitch. It says I'm signed in until I click "post," and then says I'm not signed in.

So I thought I'd just send you this one for the heck of it. Gladwell TOTALLY didn't get what he was revealing, IMHO...

Hi Jay and commenters. actually, Malcolm Gladwell got right to the heart of the issue about KIPP in his chapter on it in "Outliers," but didn't appear to realize it, or at least didn't mention that in the chapter if he did realize it.

Gladwell quotes a KIPP student as saying her friends from outside KIPP don't want to go there because they don't want to have to work so hard. Well, BINGO! He thought he was portraying KIPP favorably, but actually that quote bore out those of us who point out that KIPP self-selects for higher-functioning, more-motivated, compliant students from higher-functioning, more-motivated, education-focused families.

There's nothing wrong with that in and of itself -- but KIPP and its supporters need to be honest about it, and they aren't. How would the traditional public school down the street do if it only enrolled the students who are already willing and predisposed to cooperate, strive -- and work hard and be nice -- and all the more-challenging, oppositional, less-cooperative students from families without the will or wherewithal to focus on their kids' education went elsewhere? 
We don't know if that public school would do as well as KIPP, but it would be instructive to find out, and it would certainly change the public school's landscape. (Where would those more-troubled kids go? That would be someone else's worry.)

Posted by: Jay Mathews | October 30, 2009 7:17 PM | Report abuse

For Caroline---One child's memory of another child's comment is way too thin a reed on which to build a useful theory. Who is the kid who said it was too much work? Did the child's parents agree? Was the child ever brought into a KIPP school to see how much interesting stuff was going on? Did anyone talk to her about the better teaching, and thus less boredom, she might find in a KIPP school? Kids that age don't decide where they are going to school, usually. Caroline is a good reporter. She should ask more questions. Or call up Malcolm and tell him to do so. He might be intrigued by the assignment, and the point she raises, still a good one even if not well supported.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | October 30, 2009 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Jay,


Do you know what students need even MORE than summer school? They need TEACHERS and COUNSELORS, but Rhee has fired them!

Posted by: thebandit | October 30, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Did one of DC Wire's fifteen questions get answered, namely the hiring stats for DCPS over the past several years?

Posted by: edlharris | October 30, 2009 9:20 PM | Report abuse

“One child's memory of another child's comment is way too thin a reed on which to build a useful theory.”

Pot/Kettle! You built a whole column around your determination that “Rhee is right” to protect DCs summer schools, without ever commenting on the actual state of DC’s summer school – and I suspect you are at least aware of its bad reputation. Talk about making unsupported statements.

I think Caroline’s theory is just fine and so are your questions. If she plans to test her theory, your questions will be extremely helpful. Her theory, which could also be called a valuable insight, is quite commonsensical. We know it’s commonplace to avoid things that we perceive as being too much work, just as it’s commonplace to take on things for the challenge of it. Teachers know from their experience that kids will do one or the other, depending on their motivation.

I’d say the child’s memory sparked an insight in Caroline that was well worth sharing with you. Unlike Chancellor Rhee’s memories of undocumented teaching greatness in the Baltimore public schools, which you’ve never questioned, Caroline’s insight rings true.

Posted by: efavorite | October 30, 2009 9:55 PM | Report abuse

Here are some comments about DC summer school that I pulled off a teachers’ blog http://deedoesdc.blogspot.com/
---
please DO NOT use summer school as an example of how effective and efficient Rhee and her admin is about reform etc. I taught summer school.. We could not give grades of F even to those students who only attended two days. They were given W .. but I guess that is the quality of the reform that everyone wants. Students are not required to learn or attend classes etc.
----
Rhee broke the law - plain, simple, obvious and inexcusable. Summer school as the reason for breaking the law... well, those of us who have taught summer school do feel like vomiting on that one.
----
Let's be very, very, clear. Summer School is not, I repeat, is not all that it's cracked up to be. Summer School is nothing more than an ALL DAY BABYSITTERS NIGHTMARE!!!! The children come to eat, and have fun in the after hours, which again, boils down to babysitting. I've taught summer school for a number of summers and the students that attend are those same trouble makers that give the teacher a fit in regular school, and whose parents don't want them around during the day. They don't do homework...etc... This summer there were more uncertified teachers working. Can they give a grade and it be credible? Come on. Real summer school involves both remediation and enrichment, in addition to preparing students for the next grade level. I'm not about politics; I'm about children.

Posted by: efavorite | October 30, 2009 11:24 PM | Report abuse

You guys might be onto something: Mr. Matthews responses deal only with defending his work on KIPP--not one response to any other comment made about the article.

I'm utterly SHOCKED at how one-sided, unbalanced and uninformed this piece is. I was also turned off in the beginning to read that much of his editorial would be based on his interpretations from a TV SNIPPET.

Ms. Rhee concocted the story of reallocating funding to save summer school for the children. Then, when called on how underhanded and ILLEGAL her actions were, she once again blamed the council FOR HER SHADY BEHAVIOR by accusing the member of not picking up the phone.

That's like robbing a bank then telling the police, "Well, I called to apply for a loan but the loan officer didn't take or return my call. My kids needed to eat, so oh well. I did what I had to do--for the children you know."

She tried to blame them for the layoffs. Now she's trying to blame the council for her disregard for the law. She wants teachers and principals to be accountable for their actions but refuses to take responsibility for her own.

Posted by: NewVaGal | October 31, 2009 12:35 AM | Report abuse

And DCPS summer schools that benefits a FEW children--over allowing ALL students the stability of a rocky, disrupted school year? LAUGHABLE!

Did it ever occur to you, Mr. Matthews, that perhaps the council knows how ineffective the summer school program actually is? In my opinion, it is summer employment for teachers and childcare for children at best. Retained students do not learn in the six weeks of a virtually unstructured hot summer surrounded by other low-performing students what they did not during an entire school year.

You write about DCPS summer school as if it's an academic boot camp. Should be, but the reality is that it's not. The council knows it. So do the parents, students, and Ms. Rhee.

Once again, she was looking for a reason to justify reallocating funds that would have elimated the tumultuous layoffs.

Why hire 900 new teachers when you knew the money wasn't there to sustain such an influx? After all, the money had gone to sustain a useless summer school program. Her plan was to take an ax to the teaching force all along. After all, they are the enemy.

JAY, stop being fooled by this woman.

Most see right through her lies and manipulations.

It's about time you do the same.

Posted by: NewVaGal | October 31, 2009 12:46 AM | Report abuse

Summer school is a smoke screen. The question Rhee hasn't answered is why she hired 900 some teachers during a budget squeeze?

Posted by: Nemessis | October 31, 2009 6:32 AM | Report abuse

NewVaGal - excellent analogy about the bank robbery - I'm going to use it, crediting you, on the comments section of today's outrageous, but totally expected editorial supporting Rhee's behavior at the hearings.

As for Jay - I don't think he's fooled by Rhee. But why he or any intelligent, informed education writer supports her, I haven't figured out. Perhaps time will tell.

Posted by: efavorite | October 31, 2009 7:33 AM | Report abuse

It is TRUE that KIPP and many other character schools tend to pick and choose what students to accept. My brother told me about a situation when his child was not accepted into KIPP because they would not be able to provide her the level of support her IEP requires (which is 20 hours of specialized instruction). Yet a students was removed from the school for behavior concerns right before testing last year. This student had to attend it neighborhood school, where he took the test. We always compare KIPP to other traditional schools, but never look at the how the rules or practices are different. Traditional neighborhood schools have to accept any student who live in the neighborhood. We can not turn people away.

Posted by: mike99541 | October 31, 2009 8:27 AM | Report abuse

"Suburban parents manage to inject more learning into their children's summers than low-income urban parents do."

As a teacher of suburban students I find this comment from the study as very telling. Suburban parents are not injecting learning into their children's summers by summer school. Why should DC do the same? Why should urban students and staff be held hostage for longer hours during a school day and into the summer when that is not what helps suburban students achieve at a higher level? Funding for summer and extended day programs needs to be placed into non-classroom settings like athletics, camps, museums, or any other context building activity that many studies show build greater learning and understanding. KIPP’s small slice of the educational pie aside, any statistician would be happy to highlight the law of diminishing returns as the reason to avoid keeping students in classrooms for longer periods of time. Chancellor Rhee, Secretary of Education Duncan, and President Obama would all be wise to consider this before blindly calling for more classroom time in summers and after regular school hours.

Posted by: Mostel26 | October 31, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

My apologies for not responding sooner to the many good questions. I had to finish the Monday column yesterday. As for summer school, I know it has been bad in the past, but I was told that the plan was to do better in 2010. As you say, summer school only reduces summer learning loss if it is well run and supports what has been learned during the regular school. If it turns out to be a zoo, then you are right, I'm an idiot.
As for KIPP having a selective admission system, it is one of the many myths about that organization. Several studies have shown KIPP students to be similar in backgrounds to students at their local regular public schools. Mathematica is doing a big randomized study to look at this more deeply. Like all charter schools, KIPP may NOT pick some kids and not others. It must accept all students, with IEPs or otherwise, as long as it has room, and when it has less room than applicants it must have a randomized lottery to decide who gets in. I would love to have the email address of Mike99541's brother so I can learn more about the situation he describes. It is important to run this stuff down. If somebody is breaking the law, which is what he is describing, I will write about it. Just email me at mathewsj@washpost.com. And as for efavorite saying she was not asking for a disclaimer, perhaps that is not the right word. You were asking for writers to tell the reader before every piece what relevant books they may have written on the subject, right? Or whatever else they might have done to cast doubt on their objectivity? If I am misunderstanding you, let me know. But that was the impression I had, and that was what i was reacting to.
For edharris, the way for Rhee to regain the trust of teachers is to make sure she has very good principals in every school, and let them make the big decisions, by consulting with their teachers and creating a team spirit. That is the way it works in every well-run urban school I have ever seen.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | October 31, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

"For edharris, the way for Rhee to regain the trust of teachers is to make sure she has very good principals in every school, and let them make the big decisions, by consulting with their teachers and creating a team spirit. That is the way it works in every well-run urban school I have ever seen."
=========================

OK, but that strikes me as being too hands-off to be the Michelle Rhee way.

Which I think is the problem.

Jay, if you got a new editor who came in and talked publicly about how the Post had too many senior writers who were coasting on their laurels, not keeping up to date with the latest teaching methods, and not serving their readers well, and that editor also indicated pretty strongly that she would clean house if given the chance but couldn't do it because of those pesky unions, how long would it take you to trust that editor with your career?

The problem Rhee has is that she makes no secret of what her plan is, but doesn't have the power to carry it out. That's a tough spot to be in, but she's done herself no favors by being so confrontational. She needs to get the trust of her teachers to effect the changes she needs, but what has she done to inspire that trust?

So far, she's used every trick at her disposal (even those of questionable legality) to push her agenda through. That may make her look great to the national press, but it makes me skeptical that she really wants to make nice with the teachers. If you're a teacher, and you see what looks like the Chancellor hiring more teachers even though she's aware that budget cuts will need to be made, allowing her to then fire more experienced teachers, why on earth would you trust her?

It strikes me that what you are describing is a long-term fix that could really work, but I don't think Michelle Rhee is as interested in long-term fixes if it comes at the expense of flashy, short-term goals.

Posted by: bermanator34 | October 31, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

The KIPP program, founded by two teachers who might themselves be considered incompetent and failures in a large urban school district, is well endowed financially, has small classes and self selects highly motivated students whose parent(s) is/ are also highly motivated and involved.

The KIPP program also has a drop out rate that loses as much as 60% of its students and does not demonstrate the same educational gains after middle school. Right or wrong, Mr. Matthews?

I am suspicious. I'm suspicious of KIPP because you, Mr.Matthews are not unbiased when it comes to KIPP. I am suspicious also because new educational programs frequently blow through the public schools. New reading programs, math programs, science programs, social studies programs, all of them the greatest program yet and guaranteed to raise test scores. And all they do is make a few people very rich. Prove to us that KIPP is not just another one of these fads that we won't even remember in five years.

Secondly, I am concerned writers like yourself and say, George Will, have not thought through sufficiently the effects of your arguments. What will happen to the public schools once you have destroyed them? Will charter schools fill that void? If they do, how will that system be any better than the one we have now?

Thirdly, Mr. Matthews, what is your real agenda? I think if you were honest about that, you might be able to get a productive discussion about public education started. After all, politicians have been promising to fix education for at least the last four decades.

Lastly, I am suspicious of any writer, administrator, teacher or parent who thinks the ills of today's public educational system can be solved by firing senior teachers. That is simplistic, unscientific and unjust.


Posted by: flamingliberal | October 31, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

LOL@For edharris, the way for Rhee to regain the trust of teachers is to make sure she has very good principals in every school, and let them make the big decisions, by consulting with their teachers and creating a team spirit. That is the way it works in every well-run urban school I have ever seen.
-------------------------------------------

I agree 100% that this is how strong, successful leaders accomplish great things. However, "consulting" and "creating a team spirit" is exactly what Rhee is NOT doing--never has--but has somehow elicited your unwavering and uninformed support.

For the record, no one is against helping the children, improving schools, or even ridding the system of deadweight. It's the unethical, dishonest, illegal way she does it that concerns me.

Teachers are NOT the enemy. Many of them would have jumped on board with Rhee to rid their profession of the apathetic, check-collecting, incompetent colleagues in their building. The good teachers know who they are (YES, there ARE good teachers in DC's schools) and want them out as badly as anyone else.

Had Rhee been more respectful, professional, and collaborative, she could have accomplished her goals with teachers as allies. Instead, she disparaged and mistreated them.

Then to see how she behaves unethically and LIES at every turn...

How could any thinking person who wants to be taken seriously blindly support this woman.

Posted by: NewVaGal | October 31, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

As for Jay - I don't think he's fooled by Rhee. But why he or any intelligent, informed education writer supports her, I haven't figured out. Perhaps time will tell.

___________________________________________

I'm with you. Jay is either deliberately being controversial for the sake of the argument it will generate.

OR, he's doing the bidding of someone else.

I don't want to believe he's that imperceptive that he can't see through Rhee's lies.

Posted by: NewVaGal | October 31, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Jay,
Don't you realize that neighborhood schools tend to be caught between the anvil of summer school and the memo. It differs everywhere but its the "rational expections" of how system works that lowers "Expectations." It doesn't take kids long, especially in middle school, to realize that they can fool around all year and make it up by a few weeks of attending (or not attending)summer school, and then for reasons they don't know they will still be passed on. It doesn't take teachers long to realize that they will get the memo if they fail too many. We find out the unofficial quota for whatever school we are at, and conform to it. If you doubt this, check it out. I've read about it in the comments sections in papers in NYC, Philly, Baltimore etc., and the stories I read are identical to what my fellow teachers have experienced.

How could Mathmatica factor that in?

The parents and children who voluntarily forego the game that is imposed on regular schools may not look different demographically. KIPP may or may not cream according to externals, but it does cream according to internals. Not all children with the same skin color or economics are the same. Some traumatized kids need more personalized treatment and your sources who are always prejudging based on ideology are helping to deny treatment to the most troubled kids in the most troubled schools. You need to do some more investigating before giving them a pass, just like you need to check out more of the facts of D.C. summer schools before giving Rhee a pass based on what she says hers plans are.

And don't you see that you are making our point? If it only takes a relatively small amount of creaming, of not taking a full share of the most troubled students, then that freedom could also be afforded to neighborhood schools. Provide high-quality affordable slots and allow neighborhood schools to establish standards for behavior and academics, and then see if we rise to the occassion.

Posted by: johnt4853 | October 31, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Jay, no need to rely on your impression of what I said. Just re-read my comment of 4:15 yesterday. It’s all right there.

As for KIPP – Is it true that while anyone who wins the lottery can apply and there is no academic hurdle to attending, that the parents must commit to some level of involvement with the school for the student to be admitted? Then, once in, the student can be asked to leave if the parents don’t follow through, or the student is a behavior or attendance problem. Is that right?

Posted by: efavorite | October 31, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Great questions about KIPP. I think almost all of them are answered in my book. Should I mention the title? Bermanator34 has me in a bind. If I don't mention the book, he suggests I am covering up. If I do mention it, others will accuse me of using this blog to sell copies.
I think that all of these concerns about KIPP are well-meant, but based on reading comments from other people like yourselves who APPEAR (please tell me if I am wrong) not to have visited KIPP schools, or read many, if any, first-hand accounts of what happens in those schools. You don't need to read my book. Just google my name and KIPP and much material will pop up, including the findings of independent critics of KIPP who have been inside the schools and interviewed KIPP people. Or stop by one of the schools. They have an open-door policy, and are in 19 states. I think you will find the experience interesting, and you will become the rare contributor to online discussions of KIPP who has actually seen them in action.
For flamingliberal, in short, wrong, right, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg, the KIPP founders, were terrible teachers the first three months they taught, as many Teach For America recruits are, but learned a great deal from veteran teacher Harriett Ball and by the end of that first year were doing very well. By the second year they were among the best teachers in their schools, and given much responsibility by their principals. In year three they created the first KIPP class, and so impressed influential educators in Houston and NYC that they were given a chance to start growing the idea.
Compared to most charter schools, KIPP has good financial backing, but they don't have gold-plated classrooms. The extra money is needed to pay teachers more for the longer day and fund the extra features like the end of the year one-week field lessons.
The classes are NOT small. I have visited 40 of the 82 KIPP schools so far, and class sizes have generally fallen in the 28 to 32 kids per class range. They have concluded, based on a lot of research, that they do better having a longer school day and better teachers, than smaller class sizes, so it is on school day length and teachers that they spend their money and their time. If you visit KIPP schools and talk to the teachers, you will hear the enthuse about how much time they have to learn from each other.
There is no significant statistical evidence that KIPP students and their parents are more involved and motivated than students and parents in their neighborhoods who go to regular schools. KIPP teachers who have taught at regular schools say they see little difference. My interviews in both regular and KIPP schools suggest that there are plenty of involved and motivated parents in regular schools, and it is somewhat insulting to them to suggest that if they stay in the regular schools they must be losers. Many of them have told me they stay to fight for the neighborhood school. Many KIPP parents are distinctly unmotivated, and appear to be drawn to KIPP because it requires LESS, not more, involvement than the regular schools. If your kid in in KIPP, you are getting free child care from 3-5 pm at least 4 weekdays a week, free Saturday childcare on many Saturdays from 9 to 1 and free summer school for three weeks a year. You do NOT have to help your kid with the homework, a great burden for regular school parents. Instead the kid is instructed to call their teachers with any questions. Your only real responsibilities are to sign the homework when it is done, and get the kid to and from school. The mathematica study is following kids who got into KIPP and kids from presumably similarly motivated families who applied to KIPP but lost in the lottery. If the motivated non-KIPP kids do as well as the KIPP kids, then that will show that those who think KIPP is getting the benefits of well-motivated families are right, and I will report those results, like I have reported all major study results on KIPP, and give them just as much prominence--more actually, because it will be surprising news---as I would if the results were favorable to KIPP.
The KIPP school dropout rate (meaning the percentage of kids who do not return each year) is not 60 percent, but between 10 and 15 percent, as far as I can tell from data compiled by KIPP and some independent organizations. That appears to be better than neighborhood schools in their areas---families move relatively often in low-income neighborhoods--but the data is not too good. That 60 percent rumor came out of data for some Bay Area KIPP schools several years ago that had start up problems, as many KIPP schools, like most new schools, do. The advantage KIPP has, in most cases, is the freedom to make changes quickly when what they are doing isn't working, and a team spirit that helps them get through bumpy times. That appears to me what Rhee is trying to create in DC schools. Whether her own trouble in winning teacher trust is interfering with the healthy development of those principal-teacher relationships is a good question. Those who say that have a good point. The KIPP people don't have to deal with district superintendents, so that distraction doesn't affect them.
We don't have much data on KIPP student educational gains after middle school except in those few cities where there are KIPP high schools, and most of them are very new, usually with only ninth graders at the moment. The oldest KIPP high school, KIPP Houston, is showing good results, however. Its AP participation rates put it in the top 100 of the Newsweek list, which means it is in the top one third of one percent of all high schools, and the percentage of students passing those exams is much higher than for most inner city schools. Most KIPP students have scattered to a variety of high schools after they finish a KIPP middle school. We know that about 84 percent of them old enough to start college have done so, which is four times the rates for non-KIPP students from those neighborhoods.
I don't think you should trust me, but I think you should trust the facts I put in my columns and books, since I show everything I write to all sources in advance to make sure everything is accurate. I don't think I am biased, and I don't think you can accurately use that word for me until you have read a substantial amount of what I have written about KIPP, see what facts I present, see my efforts to show all sides. If after that you think I am biased, I will respect your view. But I have worked very hard the last 8 years to gather every relevant fact about KIPP, both good and bad, and it pains me to be judged by commenters before they have read much first-hand reporting on KIPP, or visited any schools. If you are reading something about KIPP, and there is no indication the writer has ever visited a school--no KIPP teachers quoted by name, no specific KIPP schools identified and described, then beware. There is a lot of bad information out there at the moment.
I know you are all very busy and may not have time for such stuff. I know the Internet doesn't require that we all do our homework. I myself have spouted off on subjects about which I did not know very much (while trying to make that clear in my posts.) But on the subject of KIPP I know much more than any other journalist, and think of myself as a resource, not a shill. If you have facts that contradict mine, I would love to hear them and have a chance to check them. If you turn out to be right, I will change my view. Contact KIPP critics like Caroline Grannan who have dealt with me for a long time, and find out if they think I can be trusted to play it straight.
(PS--Bermanator34's thoughtful comments about journalist authors have stuck with me. I am about to post a new blog item on that, and encourage more comment. I am still confused by what efavorite wrote. Is this her formula for all Post writers who have written extensively on the subject at hand? This may give many people a chance to weigh in on this. There are a lot of Post authors. We could use the feedback.)

Posted by: Jay Mathews | October 31, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

I posted a comment this morning and it is not there. Do you censor comments?

Posted by: silverstarent2003 | October 31, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

KIPP has an advantage in that it does not have to follow the same rules as the neighborhood public school. When we asked if we could host a MANATORY after school class for students to do their homework, we were told, "we can't do that."

The mantra in the neighborhood public school system seems to be that everyone can come, everyone stays (excepting most severely disturbed, and they only leave for a portion of a year) and there is essentially nothing we can require. Charter schools can have parents sign contracts and they can expel those who don't abide, thereby working by a different set of rules.

Finally, with the number of hours in the school year increased by perhaps 40%, I would expect higher, much higher, performance by students on standardized tests.

Smaller, neighborhood-based schools that are open to everyone might be what is needed. This move would also, in my view, allow local schools the leeway to select their own curriculum and would preclude the movement toward national standards. If small and more independent is better because it creates communities of educators who have buy-in and flexibility, then I fear some of the trends, such as national standards, are actually taking us in the wrong direction. Large school systems may be the dinosaurs.

Posted by: silverstarent2003 | October 31, 2009 5:11 PM | Report abuse

to silverstarent2003---no censorship that i know of. commenters on this blog are very polite and never use bad words. Please post again, and if you still have trouble, send it to me at mathewsj@washpost.com and i will post it for you with yr signon.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | October 31, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

I once had the"privilege" of teaching a 4th grade class of 36 (a long time ago).
Things went well, pretty much because they were all on the same page.
Things changed a few months later, when the other 2 4th grade teachers, who had class size under 30, thought it would be good to "relieve" me of the "burden" of having so many kids.
After some comparing and school politics, my load dropped to 30 but I picked up a couple of the high maintenance kids.
Things were not quite the same.

A co-worker currently has 31 students, the highest in the school and 5 more than the other grade level teacher, but her class is functioning well because the kids are on the same page.

As for Jay's answer to my pesky reiteration of Mrs. Rhee's question, I'd agree to that.
But as was pointed out, the principals are beholden to Mrs. Rhee.
She needs to do what Dan Snyder needs to, stop meddling.
There are criticisms of IMPACT, namely that Fairfax tried it 22 years ago and it failed.
Maybe a group of teachers and principals should come up with the evaluation system, leaving Mrs. Rhee and WTU out of it.

Posted by: edlharris | October 31, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

You are exactly right that KIPP has the advantage of being able to make sensible changes that the neighborhood school cannot. But why CAN'T the neighborhood school do that? Rhee and the people around her, if i am hearing them correctly, want to give the neighborhood schools that power to innovate. That view is at the heart of almost every smart move i have seen districts make. My time at Shaw Middle, and now Dunbar High, suggest to me that we are moving in that direction, but clearly there are countervailing forces to contend with.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | October 31, 2009 5:48 PM | Report abuse

I just now noticed something about the title - it says "Rhee is right--summer learning is vital." Not summer SCHOOL, which is what Rhee took the budget money for. And then the article goes on to discuss summer learning loss - which few people would disagree with on common sense/experience grounds. Even a careful reader like me missed that at first. Assuming that the subject was Rhee's attitude about summer school, I missed the nuance.

Jay could say he didn't intend to mislead his readers and we couldn't prove that he did. I don't like it though.
----

Jay - Regarding my comment of 4:15 yesterday, it was intended for you, not any other post authors. It was you who brought them up, not I. I just offered suggestions for how you could solve the problem you mentioned of acknowledging your relationship to an issue you’re writing about without taking up too much space in your column.

Posted by: efavorite | October 31, 2009 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Jay Matthews wrote:

"As for summer school, I know it has been bad in the past, but I was told that the plan was to do better in 2010..."

Did you ever see the concrete details of any such plans? If so, did you evaluate them for the likely effectiveness or share them with others for their views? Did the plan present any analysis of the cost-effectiveness of investing in improved summer programs versus other options? Wouldn't these be the kinds of things you would expect to be readily available to the public if the school system were actually run in a thoughtful and deliberate manner?

Posted by: dz159 | October 31, 2009 10:18 PM | Report abuse

Jay, your link above to the National Summer Learning Association is broken. However, I would expect an organization specifically devoted to summer learning would post studies that support summer learning. This doesn't mean they're wrong, just that it would be nice to see reports from researchers who aren't advocates of summer learning.

John Hattie in "Visible Learning" (p.77) reports on 3 meta-analyses covering 105 studies: "Does going to summer school make a difference? In general, not much, but it is difficult to ignore even those small gains if they are critical to students who may be already marginal...".

The effect size reported is 0.23, which is too low to justify diverting resources to. In Hattie's reports, 0.4 is the "hinge" point at which effects are better than average, 0.15 is the effect size of natural development without any intervention. An effect size of 0.23 would be well worth pursuing if it required no additional resources, but does not justify diversion of resources from other things that would have much greater effects.

Is it worth losing the trust of teachers and principals over something that has such a marginal effect? Not in my opinion.

Posted by: Trev1 | November 1, 2009 1:01 AM | Report abuse

who do you think you are kidding, mr matthews.


first of all you set up this very serious issue as a mere communication problem.
It is not.


and let me say out loud what it is: it is nothing less than the 21st century version of white racism incorporated into the business side of school systems.

The charter school movement is a scam. The kipp movement is a scam. Rhee and teach for america is a scam.

If everyone missed the statement that was important was that suburban parents are able to inject more into their children's summer and don't lose ground during the summer.

well let me see. why not copy cat what the suburban parents do. it won't cost anything and produce great results.

it defies common sense to live in a city with the resources of DC ( all free incidentailly) and have any dc child lose ground. Impossible.

I want studies done on how people who live in farmland america, where farm animals and corn are the entire landscape and the town ( library ) is 15 miles away does better than a kid growing up in DC

The DC school system is about letting the system fail and then rescue it with pritaization. hmmm

forget summer school and copy cat what winners do.

Posted by: JohnAdams1 | November 1, 2009 2:51 AM | Report abuse

"Suburban parents manage to inject more learning into their children's summers than low-income urban parents do."

Leaving aside all the politics about KIPP and Rhee and TFA, I shall merely point out AGAIN, Jay, that you are jumping to conclusions.

Given ten weeks without school, poor kids disproportionately lose the knowledge they acquired in school. Middle class and higher kids disproportionately keep the knowledge they acquired in school.

That's all you know. You don't know why one group lost it and one group kept it. You can't assert that it's due to suburban field trips or museum trips or enrichment opportunities.

Maybe summer school is necessary for poor students because they are, on average, less able to maintain their knowledge without constant reminders. Or maybe middle class kids only buy video games by the bushel basket but don't actually spend hours on end playing them over the summer, but toss them in the closet and go to museums. Without further data, you can't assert reasons for this difference.

If low income kids actually lose their knowledge without constant reminders, then summer school is necessary--but if they are losing their knowledge that frequently, then perhaps we should be making other changes to their education as well.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | November 1, 2009 5:13 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Matthews, you need to recuse yourself from writing about education in DCPS. It is clear that you know nothing about the inner workings of the schools and the conditions under which teachers have to teach. You denigrate them based on hearsay and anecdotes from the likes of those who run KIPP (whose philosophy was co-opted from a middle age African American woman, by the way) who believe that they have all the answers on how to teach African American children.

I find your glorification of Michelle Rhee, not only offensive, but journalistically irresponsible. Please stop insulting the intelligence of the newspaper's readers. Acquire some ethics and conduct independent research on what is going on in DCPS.

Having a summer school designed as a baby-sitting program, for the sake of saying you have a summer school is ludicrous, and does little for graduation when the diploma granted is worthless.

Please stop spreading your propaganda. You are hurting the children of the District of Columbia more than you think.

Posted by: vscribe | November 1, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Good point on injecting learning, Cal. I was speculating beyond the facts at hand, but it is what all of the experts I have consulted say. And one more for flamingliberal, a thought experiment that I think buttresses the notion that KIPP student success is not the result of having unusually motivated parents. They had those same parents when they were in k through 4th grade, testing in the 30s and 40s percentile. They go to KIPP and eventually are in the 60s, 70s and 80s. What changed? Not the parents, but the school.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | November 1, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Of course Rhee is RIGHT. And, of course those who want votes - taxpayer, or union - are against summer learning in favor of paying for something else.

Back Rhee 100% and watch the schools improve.

Those who complain have been ruining the system for 60 years running now...

Posted by: onestring | November 1, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse

After reading Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, I did some follow-up research on this and yes, indeed, the data seems to point to summer learning seeming to be the difference in the education of the poor vs rich in this country and accounts for much of the gap between our students and those in other countries.

It's simple and obvious, if poor students aren't in school and are not learning because they don't have the resources outside of school to read, learn, study, etc. then they fall behind. If we want these students to catch uo and surpass students in other school districts and give the kids a better chance at a fulfilling and happy life, we need to provide for summer school.

Summer school is important. Mr. Matthews is right, as is his habit and Michelle Rhee should defend it even if that means letting go of some teachers.

Posted by: jaygatsby27 | November 1, 2009 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Wow, do you all ever sleep? It's fascinating reading your comments, and to see how quickly Jay is responding. And even when you disagree, I'm thrilled to see the passion that your readers have about DC school issues.

Posted by: shpickell | November 1, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse

I'm not surprised by the low quality of the comments on here, but I find the accusations of bias against Mr. Mathews to be unsupported. Honestly, it is more likely for the commenters here to be biased than the reporter, but rather than deliver ad hominem attacks, why not discuss the simple facts?

Rhee didn't manage the budget perfectly. There are shortfalls all around the region as property tax revenues have dropped. She can't let that happen again.

She's led many improvements in facilities and educator quality. She closed many schools to make more efficient use of limited resources. If we could just get the students, teachers, administrators and parents to work as hard as she does...summer school would be an obvious choice when you start with the premise of children first.

Posted by: staticvars | November 1, 2009 7:48 PM | Report abuse

They get into the habit of assuming their kids can't learn very much because their systems operate on that belief.

I guess I am "They", even if I don't feel this way. Looks more like Jay is resorting to bad "Straw Man" arguements. I wish he was a bit more professional.

Posted by: mamoore1 | November 1, 2009 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Putting children first means ensuring that good teachers are in the classroom to teach them. Good teachers were fired from DCPS, and Ms. Rhee needs to explain why. If a student attends summer school but loses his/her teacher during the regular school year, what good does that do?

Posted by: philosopher3 | November 1, 2009 10:32 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Matthews, please show your readers the data that proves summer school is more important for student learning than retaining good teachers. Those were, after all, the twin results of Ms. Rhee's actions.

While you are at it, please show the data that proves Ms. Rhee made an educationally sound decision in hiring 900 new teachers just before school began and then firing hundreds of others without any serious attempt to justify the firing based on teacher competence.

You are all about quantification. The list of best schools you generate is all about taking multiple variables, quantifying them in a simplistic way, and then packaging it all in a quick and dirty comparison of schools. Would your "challenge list" be the same if the numbers you based it on were doctored? Why have you refused to criticize Ms. Rhee for the cheating on standardized tests that has taken place on her watch and the out and out lying about test scores that is the meat and potatoes of her administration?

It appears to me...and I taught in urban schools for more than 30 years, including 10 years in the South Bronx and Harlem...that you have selectively chosen to write about only the defensible aspects of what Chancellor Rhee has done, while ignoring her long litany of incompetence and prevarication.

I'll await your response.

Posted by: kronberg | November 2, 2009 6:47 AM | Report abuse

Disruption in the classroom and school due to staff changes occurs more frequently than one might expect. Of course, that doesn't make it the correct course of action. For example, several suburban Maryland school systems "balance" their teaching staff 5-6 weeks after the beginning of each year. Underenrolled schools lose teachers, overenrolled schools gain teachers. The one difference compared to DCPS, I don't believe teachers are let go but rather they are moved from one school to another (usually on the basis of seniority - I believe, i.e., those with the least tenure in a school building are the first to go unless a tenured teacher volunteers to go). This necessitates shuffling of students to consolidate or break-up classrooms. Obviously this is not the best for children, but I have found the best administrators see this coming and plan for it from day one. And, what I believe is perhaps most important is the students I am familiar with are very resilient to these changes. It is often the adults that complain the most and loudest. The children, however, tend to just pick up and move forward. Perhaps students in inner city schools would be more affected by such change than those in suburban schools? I really don't know. I'm sure there are individual differences in how staff changes impact students in any school system. Just saying, the staffing changes part of the issue one to two months into the school year isn't uniquely a DCPS issue.

Posted by: mgribben | November 2, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Rhee created a 'budget emergency' so she could bypass the rules on teacher layoffs.

Hiring 900 new teachers and also social service support staff cost money that wasn't in the budget and was obviously going to need to be clawed back somehow.

Rhee knew this or should have known it. She did not follow the Council's admonition to reprogram summer school funds and she claimed inability to inform the council.

It is pretty obvious to the teachers that she is lying. It is pretty obvious to the principals that she is lying (but they are in an even more precarious position that the teachers).

Jay is pointedly taking Rhee at her word and changing the subject to 'Summer learning is good'.

Commenters are bringing up KIPP and AP, which should be off-topic, and changing the focus from "how can Rhee rebuild trust"/ "can you trust a liar?" to whether KIPP creams students.

The killer to the Rhee-teacher trust issue (beyond the layoffs) is the IMPACT assessment rubric which is designed to assess teachers as barely effective and "ineffective" and which will lay the groundwork for additional reductions of teachers.

Is it possible for most assessors to even track the scoring items across the multitude of behaviors with accurate counts of demonstrated behaviors in 30 minutes?

What is the background of the "master educators"? How many have fewer than five years of classroom experience?

The assessment format is designed to identify all DCPS teachers as barely effective. It appears to be a 'data driven' exercise, but diving into the assessment, it's clear that the assessment hasn't been normed, there are no adjustments for student differences beyond the minimal DCPS demographic info (free/reduced lunch, race..) the exact nature of the demonstrated behaviors ignore the other characteristics of good teaching.

Scores can be easily affected by slight changes in assessor behavior, so it is possible that Rhee will be able to show data that teacher effectiveness was considerably improved by the IMPACT assessment. Initial, horrifically bad teacher assessments at the beginning of the school year can show improvement by slight change in assessor behavior in later assessments. Voila, teacher effectiveness data shows considerable improvement under this new assessment strategy. This will be trumpeted as a success.

Posted by: grooft | November 3, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

I'm so glad I don't have children.

First and foremost, parents are the biggest failure in all this. I see how my friends with kids don't check homework, think it takes to much time away from sports or other family activities or they flat out don't care.

You don't care, your kids don't care. That's the parents fault.

Second, most teachers are barely getting through school. And they want me to pay them top dollar, when they barely graduated college themselves? Especially, PK-4 grade teachers! I know this for a fact....most teachers who teach at the most important grade level out of our entire education career are barely C students.

They take the job for the short hours and the summers off.

They won't be bothered to put in any extra time without pay. Not realizing the investment would be returned.

I have 1 sister-n-law and 3 former friends who flat out told me they switched from nursing or some other career to elementary school teacher because the homework was easy!

No kidding, my SnL actually said this, "when I saw that my sorority sisters were just having to make posters for their classes and very little homework, I knew that was the career for me." So we let lazy, C student people teach our children at the most critical time in their lives and they wonder why I don't believe they should earn more pay?

Show me some results and then we can talk about pay.

Rhee is doing the best she can with C students. I say give the woman all the room she needs to get this straight. If you parents cared so much before she showed up, why is the high school graduation rate in DC so pathetic?

Posted by: ag1976 | November 3, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse

I'm so glad I don't have children.

First and foremost, parents are the biggest failure in all this. I see how my friends with kids don't check homework, think it takes to much time away from sports or other family activities or they flat out don't care.

You don't care, your kids don't care. That's the parents fault.

Second, most teachers are barely getting through school. And they want me to pay them top dollar, when they barely graduated college themselves? Especially, PK-4 grade teachers! I know this for a fact....most teachers who teach at the most important grade level out of our entire education career are barely C students.

They take the job for the short hours and the summers off.

They won't be bothered to put in any extra time without pay. Not realizing the investment would be returned.

I have 1 sister-n-law and 3 former friends who flat out told me they switched from nursing or some other career to elementary school teacher because the homework was easy!

No kidding, my SnL actually said this, "when I saw that my sorority sisters were just having to make posters for their classes and very little homework, I knew that was the career for me." So we let lazy, C student people teach our children at the most critical time in their lives and they wonder why I don't believe they should earn more pay?

Show me some results and then we can talk about pay.

Rhee is doing the best she can with C students. I say give the woman all the room she needs to get this straight. If you parents cared so much before she showed up, why is the high school graduation rate in DC so pathetic?

Posted by: ag1976 | November 3, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Everyone says that they want to improve the DC School System. Yet we constantly fight any changes that would move our school system out of the current state of failure.

We get caught up in the importance of our teachers jobs, than the importance of our students recieving a good education. Don't get me wrong, I value the need for effective teachers in our schools, but this is only a 5% reduction of the workforce.

The purpose of Jay's original article was the importance of summer education. I believe that our students are SO far behind the rest of the nation... they need all the extra time in the classroom as they can get.

Jay, I have no issue using KIPP as an example of summer education in your article. Everytime that the Secretary of Education, Arnie Duncan, mentions that there are some benefits to the KIPP education model, I would hope that he too would have the same level of criticism as you have had here.

We say we want change, yet we refuse to do anything about it.

Posted by: jgalager | November 5, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

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