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Teacher/blogger critiques highly ranked school

I have followed the career of Maria Tukeva for a long time. I have attended classes at the school she founded, Bell Multicultural High, a D.C. public school. When it became the first school in the Washington area, and probably in the country, to require all students to take Advanced Placement English courses and tests, even though most were from immigrant families, I interviewed students and teachers and got a good impression of the daring experiment.

The school's name has been changed to the Columbia Heights Education Campus High School, sometimes known as CHEC. It continues to impress me. This year, because of its unusual level of student participation in AP, it ranked 39th on the list of top high schools I prepare each year for Newsweek.com.

But a teacher who recently worked at the school, James Boutin, sent me a detailed critique of Columbia Heights. He said it did not deserve its high rank or my praise. I invited him to state his case here, and promised to get the school's response.

Boutin, who writes the “An Urban Teacher's Education” blog, said:

When I was hired at CHEC in June of 2009, I was told that I would be teaching world history. That sounded good to me since I had experience with the course in both of the prior schools I’d worked at. However, when I arrived to begin work at CHEC in the third week of August, I was told a few days before school started that I would also be teaching AP US History. This came as a shock to me because I had never taught US History, much less AP US History. I had never worked at a school where teachers were allowed to teach an AP course without first having taught the non-AP version. I’d also never worked at a school where AP teachers weren’t required to attend the AP conference for the course. AP courses are especially rigorous enterprises, not only for students, but also for teachers, especially first-year AP teachers. You don’t exactly have time to plan a quality AP course in a few days.”

Maria Tukeva said the school indeed told him he would be teaching world history, but by the time he arrived, as happens at many high schools, enrollment patterns had changed and they needed instead someone to teach AP government and American history. Tukeva said she had success assigning teachers with Boutin's excellent background in English and history to teach all kinds of social science. Tukeva said he raised no objections to the assignment. Budget cuts had killed the money for AP training, but she promised new teachers that she would get them into training at the end of the school year, and she did.

Boutin said, “I asked my social studies administrator, Darry Strickland, for help in developing the curriculum. I was told that the school apparently had no curriculum in place for either AP US History, AP US Government, or the sections of World History II I was supposed to be teaching. … On top of that, Mr Strickland was not able to find more than two students to take the AP US courses for the first five weeks of the semester. Five weeks in, seven more students were literally pushed into my AP US classroom while complaining they didn’t belong there. I wasn’t sure how to handle that. Was I supposed to start over from scratch with all the material I’d attempted to cover in the previous five weeks? The students that had been added were clearly not in a position to be reading the AP textbooks I’d been assigned. Many of them struggled with English, and I certainly had no clue how to teach English language learners how to pass two AP tests that I had never taken and passed myself. Again, I contacted the administration for help. Each time I received an email back telling me they would meet with me to discuss the challenge. Those meetings never occurred. I would go to meet Mr Strickland and he wouldn’t be where he said he would be. He would tell me he’d come to my room to work on curriculum and then never show up. Nobody ever observed my AP US courses, and I never received feedback on how to improve them.”

Strickland did not return a call asking for comment, but Tukeva said she was speaking on his behalf.

Tukeva said most of what Boutin said here was incorrect. The school has curricular documents for all of those courses, she said. She said Boutin was paid during two weeks in the summer to be trained in the school's curriculum design approach and to develop teaching units in his courses. Tukeva said Boutin's allegation that some of his students “were clearly not in a position to be reading the AP textbooks” seemed to suggest they could not read them, but he gives no sign of ever having given them a reading diagnostic to confirm that. (He later told me he did check their reading skills.) The school, Tukeva said, has several ways to support poor readers so they can still learn in the AP courses. She said Strickland met with Boutin often.

Boutin said, “I think one of the big reasons relationships were so strained and observations were so meaningless is because few of the administrators had real experience in the classroom. They were all very well-versed in contemporary educational jargon and talking points, but they were all hard-pressed to go beyond them. Ms Aguilar, my grade-level administrator, did two years in Teach for America at the elementary level. My content-area administrator for social studies, Mr Strickland, did Teach for America at the elementary level plus a few more years. … And I’m not sure if Ms Tukeva was ever a teacher.”

Peggy O'Brien, chief of the office of family and public engagement for the D.C. schools, refuted this allegation. She said “Ms. Aguilar has 9 years classroom experience and Mr. Strickland has 8 years experience in the classroom. Principal Tukeva was both a teacher and the director for the first 5 years of Bell Multicultural High School’s existence. … Since then, Tukeva has taught an additional 8 years at CHEC- including teaching Latin, Spanish, Capstone (a college preparatory school) and English – for a total of 13 years.”

Boutin quit last January after five months at CHEC. O'Brien acknowledged that CHEC, like most D.C. schools with large numbers of disadvantaged students, has struggled to retain teachers who can often find less-stressful jobs elsewhere. “The retention of effective teachers at CHEC is a priority,” she said. “CHEC’s attrition rate last year (2009-10) was 36 percent, in 2008-2009 it was 37 percent, in 2007-2008, it was 20 percent, and in 2006-2007 it was 40 percent. The data shows that the reasons for leaving are many -- including termination due to lack of certification and/or ineffective performance, non-reappointment, voluntary transfer, moving out of the area/country, completion of Teach For America or DC Teacher Fellows commitment, continuing on to graduate school, health reasons, retirement, and career change. Some of the voluntary departures this year were rated as effective educators, and some were not.”

“This year CHEC has instituted an intensive new teacher induction program and a professional learning community survey process. Both will involve staff in addressing issues relating to teacher retention in real time; the goal is to decrease the attrition rate in this school year,” she said. I have gotten complaints about CHEC administrators from two other former teachers there, and gotten rave reviews about the school, and about Tukeva, from two teachers and a counselor who are still working at the school.

I am more interested in the school's numbers, particularly its Advanced Placement progress. Almost all of the CHEC teachers and students I have spoken to see the advantages of setting an AP standard for all students, even if most of them do not pass the AP tests which are written and graded by outside experts. They say they learn more being in an AP class than they would being in a regular class, even if they don't reach the very high AP standard. Talk to CHEC students, visit regular classes in some other D.C. high schools and you will see what I mean.

But there is no question that CHEC had a tough time last year keeping AP achievement on an upward path. The school had a significant drop in the number of students doing well on the AP exams. The 2009 AP results were the best in the school's history. It gave 443 AP exams. Sixty of those had passing scores of 3, 4, or 5. That was 14 percent of the total, which qualified the school to appear on the Newsweek Best High Schools list. In 2008 it had not been on that list, but had been mentioned instead on the “Catching Up Schools” because it had only 8 percent of tests with passing scores. To get on the main list, a school has to have at least a 10 percent passing rate, the point had which a disadvantaged school having all students take AP produces about as many passing marks on AP exams as an average school that restricts access to AP.

It does not appear that Columbia Heights in going to reach that mark for the next list, based on data Tukeva gave me. The school administered 569 AP exams in 2010, the most ever, but had only 47 with passing scores, or 7.5 percent, close to their percentage two years ago. The number of 2s was down slightly, from 71 in 2009 to 69 in 2010.

The number of passing scores at CHEC in 2010 was still higher than any other D.C. public high school except three -- Wilson, Banneker and the School Without Walls -- whose percentage of low-income students were 39 percent, 46 percent and 22 percent respectively. Eighty four percent of CHEC students last year were low-income.

Boutin is now teaching in New York City, where he says he is having a better time. Looking at what can be measured at CHEC, the school slipped this year in maintaining the high standards it set for itself, but it is still making more progress with AP than any of the other mostly low-income high schools in the city.

Read Jay's blog every day, and follow all of The Post's Education coverage on Twitter, Facebook and our Education Web page.

By Jay Mathews  | September 29, 2010; 5:30 AM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags:  Criticism of highly ranked Columbia Heights Education Campus High School, DCPS responds with detailed exposure of factual errors, he blogs on the school, teacher James Boutin sends long critique  
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Comments

Sounds to me like this is much ado about nothing from from a disgruntled former employee. Someone please tell me what is the story here? The school appears to be run quite well and is highly ranked. Tell me again what is the story here?

Posted by: Chrome1 | September 29, 2010 6:09 AM | Report abuse

Chrome,

Highly ranked according to what? The challenge index is simply the number of AP exams taken divided by the number of students in the senior class (or graduates, I don't remember). CHEC just makes their kids take the AP without regard to their desire, need, or skill level.

Previously (I don't know if this is still happening), they were forcing ALL 11th graders to take AP English, even though only 32% of them are reading at grade level according to the DCCAS. Putting a student reading below grade level into an AP English class is a joke and borderline educational malpractice.

There is no rule that says you can't offer a rigorous class that actually meets the needs of the students. If you put students who are reading at an 7-9th grade level into a rigorous (non-AP) class then they should learn a lot in that time. However, that doesn't get you praise or a spot on the Challenge index.

83% of the kids taking AP Exams at CHEC are getting 1, which can be achieved by putting your name on the test. Obviously the College Board benefits from the test fees, but I fail to see how the kids benefit.

I am not in a position to know the truth about most of the allegations in here, but I have heard the same sorts of things (about the lack of support, poor administrators, etc...) from several other CHEC teachers. I notice that the response said nothing about the fact that multiple students who were not prepared for the class were put into a highly intensive class 5 weeks into the year.

CHEC is just another symptom of the "business" model of education. The kids don't matter, just as long as the numbers look good. I think it stinks, but I'm just a teacher, and no one really cares what teachers think anymore. After all, what could we possibly know about education?

(By the way, to save you the trouble of saying I'm a lazy union loving teacher, I think our union sucks, and I was rated highly effective by DCPS, so I probably know a LITTLE bit about teaching)

Posted by: Wyrm1 | September 29, 2010 7:04 AM | Report abuse


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Posted by: brayden29 | September 29, 2010 7:09 AM | Report abuse

Chrome,

Feel free to email me. I'd love to tell you more about CHEC. If you're actually willing to listen, I think you'll understand how CHEC could be a much better school.

thereflectiveeducator@gmail.com

Posted by: TheReflectiveEducator | September 29, 2010 8:00 AM | Report abuse

Wyrm1:

I know you are wrong about this particular school. Had you done your homework before posting your rant, you would have found out the following:

- First Lady Michelle Obama cited CHEC as a model school of excellence on June 23, '10. (whitehouse.gov)

- It has a superb graduation rate (DPCS)

- It has the longest serving Principal in DCPS, which is no small feat in DC i hear (Washington Post)

- This school had the chutzpah and creativity to attract private donors to help the District build their new school. (Washington Post)

And as for your comment about forcing kids to challenge themselves academically for their own good, are you really serious? More importantly, are you really an educator?

Posted by: Chrome1 | September 29, 2010 8:16 AM | Report abuse

What kind of journalism is this? It seems that Jay should have interviewed more teachers and staff that are still at the school to either refute or corroborate the former teacher's complaints. Or maybe a few other teachers from the same co-hort to deepen the perspective.

What are we supposed to get from this article Jay? Your story gives free air time to the former teacher but all his claims are thoroughly discredited by the responses from the school and the one DCPS official.

The only claim that remains is a bunch of meetings that either did or did not take place. Where is the beef? Why the story? I am stumped!

By the way, the school comes out looking rather mature and competent.

Posted by: Chrome1 | September 29, 2010 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Reflective educator - I suspect that Chrome1 already knows a lot about CHEC from the inside. It's something about the way he/she discredits any criticism and cites some pretty specific but unrelated feel-good info to refute the criticism.

I doubt Chrome1 is interested in learning anything from you or engaging with you privately. This seems more like damage control, which has to be done publicly to be effective.

Posted by: efavorite | September 29, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Chrome1 does sound like a CHEC insider.
Maybe he/she is the admin who carrying on and carrying for another admin.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | September 29, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Wow, simply amazing. So now it seems that any analytical thinker who dares to actually do some research above and beyond the typical boneheaded commentary automatically becomes labelled as an insider?

I have not lived in DC for the past two years and have never worked for a school system.

Honey, I have not lived in DC for over four years

Posted by: Chrome1 | September 29, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Ooops! I just noticed my double speak! I meant to say that I have not visited DC in the last two years and not lived there in over four years.

Posted by: Chrome1 | September 29, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Is assigning a talented teacher to develop and teach a class that a total of two students are enrolled in the best use of resources?

Posted by: RedBird27 | September 29, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

There is a story here. It is not that CHEC is an awful school. Nor is it that Boudin is just a disgruntled former employee. It is that the relentless pressure to get kids into AP courses is causing this "scheduling glitch" and someone is being asked to do the impossible.

This man was highly qualified in one subject and told to teach another subject, without adequate preparation time. He is a professional and he wanted to do an excellent job. People who aren't teachers don't get it that you have to be prepared to teach, especially AP courses.

The principal is undoubtedly a good one and cannot help that these kinds of things happen. She is doing an admirable thing by getting kids to take AP courses. Although, I don't like her defense, "He agreed to teach the course." What was he supposed to do, start arguing with his principal on day one and be labeled "uncooperative" ?

The principal has to make difficult decisions, she is apparently under pressure to get as many kids as possible to take AP courses. Maybe she feels that even if some don't make it, they are better off for trying. She possibly just has to do this for some budget reason.

Boudin wants to be an EXCELLENT teacher and can't stand it that students are thrown in his class unprepared. He could just say, "Catch up." But he is a true teacher and HAS to help them. So he is constantly torn between going through the motions for this one screwed up class (not that he or the kids are screwed up, but it is an impossible situation). But this eats at him everyday because his reputation and his self-worth as a teacher is on the line. He wanted to make a difference and now he is stuck in some goofy situation where he is unprepared himself and is teaching material he hardly knows to kids who need "extra" help. He is starting to wonder, what if I am observed during this class? He knows this is not representative of his teaching. Beyond that, he doesn't feel that the situation is fair to the kids and he feels he is becoming like one of the teachers on the Superman show.

Someone with more experience might have had a heart to heart with the principal, and would have required her to offer him some special considerations, like being excluded from IMPACT for that class or something. An experienced teacher with tenure could have refused to take the class, but, this guy didn't have that option, he was new.

He tried for 5 months and then left because the situation was hopeless.

I think this is news, not because the school is doing anything wrong, but because this is typical. This is what teachers mean when they say morale is low or "look at how many teachers leave the system."


Message to Mr. Boudin,
You did the right thing. You would have done no one any good to stay in that situation. I've read your blog and I can relate.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 29, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

The principal is doing a good job. Most students at that school are being challenged and are benefiting from the difficult courses and hopefully they are learning how to study.

Most of them will be able to rise to the occasion and will enjoy the challenge.

Some won't try, but many will surprise everyone and do well. Of course, the teachers need adequate preparation time.

This happens in many schools, it is not always related to AP courses.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 29, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Chrome1 - the info you presented about CHEC is all stuff I read in the paper, so I know you don't have to have inside info to be aware of it. However, the info you have does not refute the other claims made here. It just puffs CHEC up - something a CHEC cheerleader would do.

What I also noticed was that you seemed defensive and were trying to discredit others here to prevent them from further criticizing CHEC and to discourage readers from believing what was presented. This suggested to me that you were familiar with CHEC "from the inside," which does not necessarily mean you yourself are on the inside.

Perhaps I'm wrong. It's just speculation on my part and I thought the reflective educator could benefit from hearing it before communicating privately with you.

Posted by: efavorite | September 29, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

How does a five-month teacher with a bad personal experience have a perspective that proposes to question a 30 year success story in education – during which thousands of students graduated from high school and many have gone on to college. The notion of raising the bar in education, to challenge the students, in my view, provides them with a beneficially expansive education that is in no way harmful. From Mr. Matthews text it looks like CHEC is not overreaching in this regard.

Posted by: cendrars | September 29, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Chrome1 -- I appreciate the research you did. I often do research myself to back up my points and am aware that most of what you said has been reported before. (Didn't know about the first lady's citation, though).

However, calling what typically goes on here "bone-headed commentary" does not make me very open to your own disparaging commentary about the other people here.

Posted by: efavorite | September 29, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I think that to disparage this teacher is being defensive.
He is bringing up 2 very real problems in education today that occur even at good schools.
1. teachers teaching courses they are not qualified to teach
2. keeping good teachers in the profession

Not to mention the debate about whether AP is good for everyone, I think it is, but some people have objections based on cases like this.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 29, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

I agree CHEC looks good generally.

However, even a 30 year program should be questioned once in awhile.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 29, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

As a parent I love curriculum that challenges my child. I do not appreciate when assumptions are made about his capabilities. Children should always be challenged to go above and beyond their current capabilities.

As a former student I've had teachers who could have cared less and who didn't challenge me at all.

There is a large number of immigrants in the Washington DC area, many of whom are struggling to learn the English language and culture. Nevermind the low income families who have parents working two or more jobs. Taking a job in a DC high school is going to be a challenging occupation. Especially if that high school, like CHEC has high expectations of it's teachers and students.

I've had the opportunity to watch CHEC grow from the inside as an outsider for the past five years or so. This teacher worked there for what...five months.

I have had and do have friends and family who work as both administrators and teachers at CHEC. I often hear that the pressure put on teachers for student achievement is challenging. As a parent I find this exciting, teachers should be challenged in order to provide challenging expectations for the students. Rarely is it about numbers as much as it is about students success, graduation and college expecations.

Ive heard both sides of the story administrators who want more for the children, who spend long hours in the evenings, on weekends, and working summers and holidays to provide curriculum and training for teachers. Teachers who are challenged and faced with first time experiences like that of teaching a Spanish language learner.

All too often I see teachers getting into this profession for the hours and the summer vacations, who are in when the bell rings and out with the kids at 4:00pm. If these teachers want to pick up and leave after five months then so be it. I don't want teachers like that teaching my child.

In the end I believe that CHEC is one of the few good schools we have out there with some of the most amazing staff and administration I've had the chance to see and know. I've been present at many of CHEC's school graduations and to see the happiness on the childrens faces and tears on the administration and staff's faces is more than moving. I believe CHEC has the best interest of the children at hand and are eager to find teachers who do as well.

Posted by: aguilarazalea | September 29, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

As a parent I love curriculum that challenges my child. I do not appreciate when assumptions are made about his capabilities. Children should always be challenged to go above and beyond their current capabilities.

As a former student I've had teachers who could have cared less and who didn't challenge me at all.

There is a large number of immigrants in the Washington DC area, many of whom are struggling to learn the English language and culture. Nevermind the low income families who have parents working two or more jobs. Taking a job in a DC high school is going to be a challenging occupation. Especially if that high school, like CHEC has high expectations of it's teachers and students.

I've had the opportunity to watch CHEC grow from the inside as an outsider for the past five years or so. This teacher worked there for what...five months.

I have had and do have friends and family who work as both administrators and teachers at CHEC. I often hear that the pressure put on teachers for student achievement is challenging. As a parent I find this exciting, teachers should be challenged in order to provide challenging expectations for the students. Rarely is it about numbers as much as it is about students success, graduation and college expecations.

Ive heard both sides of the story administrators who want more for the children, who spend long hours in the evenings, on weekends, and working summers and holidays to provide curriculum and training for teachers. Teachers who are challenged and faced with first time experiences like that of teaching a Spanish language learner.

All too often I see teachers getting into this profession for the hours and the summer vacations, who are in when the bell rings and out with the kids at 4:00pm. If these teachers want to pick up and leave after five months then so be it. I don't want teachers like that teaching my child.

In the end I believe that CHEC is one of the few good schools we have out there with some of the most amazing staff and administration I've had the chance to see and know. I've been present at many of CHEC's school graduations and to see the happiness on the childrens faces and tears on the administration and staff's faces is more than moving. I believe CHEC has the best interest of the children at hand and are eager to find teachers who do as well.

Posted by: aguilarazalea | September 29, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

These administrators all deserve to be fired. I worked at CHEC for two years and currently work in Montgomery County. They simply are not effective at their jobs. They are predatory toward teachers rather than supportive, and are completely out of touch with their students. Tukeva was never ONCE in my classroom in the two years I worked there, but her cronies were. Neither of them had ever taught English at the high school level, and it showed in their ludicrous decision-making about curriculum and instruction. The needs of ESL students and the issue of diversity were addressed in a broad and generic fashion while the real issues that teachers were having every day were completely ignored. What DC needs is a watch dog for these administrators.

The reason test scores have taken a swan dive is that the phenomenal teachers that used to hold the school together have all left to seek an environment where their expertise won't be bowled over by the inexperienced admins who have been completely corrupted by their unlimited power. I have seen three National Board certified teachers with 5+ years of experience leave my department and several more highly qualified and dedicated professionals. As soon as they were gone, the administration promptly and arrogantly discarded everything they had worked so hard to build. THAT is why the school is not living up to its potential. Make no mistake, it is the administration's fault.

I personally outlined every injustice that teachers were facing to Michelle Rhee in a phone interview she requested. Her response? You can't argue with results. Well I think the results are speaking.

AP for all has its merits, but in the wrong hands, it becomes the reason that many struggling readers and ELLs don't graduate at all. Those who could have passed 12th grade English don't pass AP and are left without the high school diploma they sorely need to move on to college and a career. Double-check that graduation rate. Last time I checked the number of graduating seniors was less than a third of the number of students who entered that class as freshmen. Sorry but that is not a success story.

As I've watched from the inside and out, it has become clear to me that no one is willing to believe the teachers. What will it take for someone to investigate this properly so that good teachers stop getting ostracized for speaking out against the wrongs that are happening at this school?

Posted by: DCteacher0809 | September 29, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

This teacher quit because he was asked to teach a course outside of his certification, an AP course no less, with minimal assistance or time to plan for the course.

It was stated that the training for the AP course wasn't funded. But even if it had been funded, how is a person going to train for the course and teach it at the same time? That doesn't work for a content heavy course, unless you already know the content.

Getting the training at the end of year is good for next year's classes, but doesn't help during the year.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 29, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

I would like to second DCTeacher's comments above. I also taught at CHEC for 3 years and I left the campus to seek a positive working environment elsewhere.

However, I never received a phone call or email from Mr. Matthews asking me why I left. Instead I see here he simply cites "the data" on reasons for the incredibly and criminally high staff turnover. Where did this "data" come from?

This isn't a "story" unless the interviewing and research is done. It is simply a press release.

Posted by: HeartTeach | September 29, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Thanks to the former CHEC teachers posting here. Jay, I hope you will speak to them and write a follow-up article.

This comment particularly struck me: “I personally outlined every injustice that teachers were facing to Michelle Rhee in a phone interview she requested. Her response? You can't argue with results.”

Typical of Rhee – if the data are good, who cares what it took to get there and especially who cares if teachers were abused along the way.

Then, when the data no longer looks so good, she either lies, as she did in the case of Shaw,* or falls quiet, like it never happened.

* http://voices.washingtonpost.com/class-struggle/2009/10/one_of_the_struggles_most.html

Posted by: efavorite | September 29, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

For more comments about Tukeva’s leadership, please go to:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/02/AR2010040202551_Comments.html#

Some of the same posters are there, including me, celestun, the reflective educator and Chrome1, who hasn’t had another recorded comment in the Post since then – April of 2010. There are also comments from other CHEC teachers, who disagree with the flattering tone of the article.

Posted by: efavorite | September 29, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Following up on the link supplied by efavorite, you see that Chrome1 has only commented on the CHEC story from a few months ago.

So, chrome1 isn't being fully honest here.
HE/she has some connection to the school and the leadership such that he/she needs to defend Ms. Tukeva.

Me- I'm a reader of the Post for 40 years. I do not live work or teach in DC, nor have my children or any relatives attend or work in DCPS.
I have friends who attended DCPS , but that was 70 years ago.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | September 29, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Good comments from people who know things. I am not going to comment further on CHEC here because that would require me submitting the comment first to our lawyers. This took many weeks to write and post because it got into that lawyerly place, where I do not want to go again any time soon.

For Wrym1---You raise an excellent point in this comment:

"There is no rule that says you can't offer a rigorous class that actually meets the needs of the students. If you put students who are reading at an 7-9th grade level into a rigorous (non-AP) class then they should learn a lot in that time."

You are right. There is no rule against it. But there is something about the US school system that makes it VERY hard to do. All of the schools like CHEC that now give low-performing students AP rather than a non-AP course tell me they have tried the non-AP route, and it doesn't work. The course always turns out to be slow and boring and with very low standards, so the students are not challenged, even at their level, and don't learn much. That is why they have switched to AP. There is something about AP having an independently written and graded exam that keeps its standards up, whereas courses with teacher written and graded exams cannot resist being dumbed down for reason that seem humane--these kids just can do that stuff, etc--but produce a course that adds little value. I know of no somewhat less challenging equivalent of AP that has an independent assessment that would keep its standard up.
I have been in search for exceptions to this rule. If anyone can tell me of a non-AP alternative course that has produced significant increases in the level of achievement for low-income students in high school, I would love to hear about it.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | September 29, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

This story explains something we encountered in visiting colleges this summer. Admissions counselors told us not to expect that AP courses and exam scores would result in advanced placement at their campuses. As the number of students enrolled in AP expands beyond those who may be fully prepared for the courses, the colleges on the receiving end are increasingly discounting them. Several told us that an exam score of 5 will be accepted now where 3 or better had been the case in years prior. Interesting.

Our kids' high school offers AP and Honors courses in most subject areas. The Honors courses cover the same material and offer the same bump on GPA, but move a slightly slower pace and aim to be more comprehensive and offer more support for students. Rigorous still, but designed for *learning* as opposed to getting the school the AP badge to get them on ranking lists.

For underrepresented and struggling students the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) teaches kids "how to do school" and supports them with an extra class for tutoring, mentoring and navigating the college prep track. Kids start in AVID in middle school and are guided and supported into honors and AP classes in high school.

It feels like some schools are requiring AP classes to make the *school* look good and are less focused on producing competent lifelong learners. I think we can have high expectations and rigor without setting students up to fail.

The pass rates on those exams at CHEC suggest that the students are not appropriately placed.

Posted by: zurcatnas | September 29, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Well let's look at some other data...

Proficiency on DCCAS fell by 8 and 12% percentage points in Math and English. That isn't good according to the gospel that DCCAS is the end all and be all of knowledge.

Since at least 65% of students are being put into classes that are SUPPOSED to be taught at a level AT LEAST 4 grades higher then a student scoring basic on DCCAS is, it seems to me that one of two things is happening.

1) The course is dumbed down to the point where the AP label is meaningless. Evidence to support this would be the low passing rate of students. Perhaps more students would benefit from a truly more rigorous course. Also supporting this theory is that 85% of CHEC's scores are 1s, indicating pretty clearly that the kids aren't learning the material.

OR

2) The kids are grossly unprepared for the classes, and struggle in them, get frustrated, and fail out.

Many of them cannot even graduate because there is NO GRADE LEVEL OPTION. That's right, a student at CHEC has no grade level option for English (unless things have changed), so to pass (at least in theory) the student must master a college level class in high school.

Realistically, that isn't happening for every kid (we can't all be above average, and 65% of CHEC is below basic going into their 11th grade year) and so as I said, I suspect #1 is what is happening.

As for the Chrome... you asked if I was really an educator, and wrote some random question that made no sense.

Yeah, I'm an educator. I see kids every day who need to be challenged and I challenge them the best I can. I see kids who have been thrown into classes that they don't understand a thing, and they fail, despite all of the support that I and my school try to provide.

I see a school system that praises the concept of "credit recovery" and "summer school" that in most cases is nothing but babysitting (and I hate the teachers and administrators in the system that make it that way) and uses it to falsely imply that all students with a DCPS diploma have actually taken and passed the classes they claim to have.

I have kids in my math classes who have literally never passed a math class during the school year. They go to credit recovery and are given a grade and a credit.

We set these kids up to fail every day by NOT being honest with them, not meeting them where they are and working rigorously from there. You CANNOT put a kid reading at a 4th grade level into an AP class and expect them to "rise" to the occasion.

Jay is right that there are a lack of rigorous options other then AP, but I stand by my comments of earlier. Putting a kid in a class that they are at least 4-5 (and maybe more) years behind is educational malpractice. Period.

Posted by: Wyrm1 | September 29, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

For Wyrm1---yours is not the majority view among the AP teachers at CHEC I have encountered. Even Boutin saw worth in the AP option, if done right. The number of kids passing the APs, even the English APs, is MUCH higher than in other DC schools with similar demographics. This is not a story of kids failing out, but of teachers taking kids at the level that they find them and giving them the time and encouragement to go to a higher level than they have been urged to do in any other courses. A significant number who dont pass still get 2s, which the research shows also produces better college results. It is not useful to compare CHEC to our dream of what a perfect high school system would be for them, since creating that seems so far to be too much of stretch. What is useful is comparing CHEC, as I did, to what is happening in other high schools with similar kids, and CHEC looks very good in that comparison.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | September 29, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

for zurcatnas--- You said:

"Admissions counselors told us not to expect that AP courses and exam scores would result in advanced placement at their campuses. As the number of students enrolled in AP expands beyond those who may be fully prepared for the courses, the colleges on the receiving end are increasingly discounting them. Several told us that an exam score of 5 will be accepted now where 3 or better had been the case in years prior. Interesting."

This is basically a promotional scam put out by upper echelon liberal arts colleges that want to make sure they dont have too many kids test out of their intro courses and mess up their instructor rotation. They have never given credit for 3s, and have bumped up the requirement for credit to 4s or 5s, or in some cases dont accept AP credit, without having any data (I have asked several of them for it) that shows that students with 4s or 5s would not do just as well in their second tier courses as kids who took their intro courses.
Once you get beyond this little slice of the top 10 percent of colleges in selectivity, the rest have NOT changed their AP credit rules, and lust for more AP and IB kids. They know the worth of AP and how it compares to their intro courses because often some of their professors have helped write the AP exams.
It is true, however, that the intro courses in that top 10 percent are better than an AP course. They are usually taught directly by professors, with no TAs, and since the students are at such a high caliber, go much deeper. I wish they would say that rather than spread this myth that AP has been dumbed down. It is simply not true. The AP exams are written by college professors and the grading checked against grades in college intro courses by giving college students AP exams after they have taken a college intro course and compare the professors grade to the AP grade.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | September 29, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

The teacher turnover at CHEC is huge. I have friends there and they hate it. Tukeva runs the place like her own private fiefdom.

Posted by: marylight | September 29, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for posting the link efavorite it opened my eyes to what is really going on here.

You have a number of disgruntled current or former CHEC employees who are aggrieved whenever someone says something positive about CHEC.

We already know this but it still bears mentioning, not every well-intentioned employee will have a great work experience in any given job. I can only imagine the stresses that come from working in an urban school that operates with a sense of urgency. That being said, it is also perfectly normal – and even healthy sometimes - to head for the exit if one is unhappy.

Does that make a place a total nightmare for everybody or just a bad experience for the person leaving?

The attrition numbers cited by Jay Mathews are actually similar to what happens in urban city schools nationwide.
Phillipmarlowe, my only crime here is being a supporter of a great public school.

For the record, the story of CHEC really does intrigue me and it is clear that the Principal is a strong leader and that students are benefitting from a strong instructional program. If this were not so, I am sure that the students and their parents would be on this blog disabusing all of us of the notion that CHEC is a working school.

Posted by: Chrome1 | September 29, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

So a question for reformers becomes, should school principals be granted so much authority? Does it have an impact on staff morale or is it, and students or is it just part of getting teachers who share the same vision?

Posted by: celestun100 | September 29, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Don't act surprised, Chrome1 - you had read those comments back in April just as I had.

If you want to defend Tukeva, that's your right. You were there to defend her then and you came back after 6 months to defend her again.

As for the disgruntled employees line, I don't think anyone is buying it - including Rhee, who according to a former teacher here, essentially admitted she didn't care how staff felt as long as the student data was good.

Posted by: efavorite | September 29, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

You say we should look at the numbers, and all of the numbers are decreasing. DCCAS scores are down this year, and way down from 2 years ago when CHEC was Bell (although in fairness I don't know if Bell=CHEC with regards to demographics, but they are testing a LOT more students). AP pass rates are down quite a bit, and 35-40% of the teachers leave each year, many of them with horror stories of verbal abuse or lack of support. (Most of this stuff is he said/she said, you just prefer to believe Ms. Tukova, which is your right to do)

I will acknowledge that an English teacher would be more familiar with the value of placing a student in an English class that is 4-7 years above their reading level. I am a mathematics teacher, and would never even dream of putting a student who had not mastered Algebra I into a Calculus class (4 grade levels of math). I currently have several students in Algebra II who still count with their fingers and are very shaky on how to multiply, and so are really 4 to 5 years behind where they should be at mathematically. These students have very little chance of passing the class without extensive remediation (which I am happy to provide, but they are reluctant to accept).

I concede (although it seems unlikely to me) the possibility that English is somehow different, and being significantly below grade level is not an impediment to actually learning the AP curriculum. It seems to me that students there would be in the same situation, but I will defer to English teachers on that subject.

I guess maybe I don't see why the love for CHEC is so great. Dunbar, Coolidge, Ballou all had significant growth in their DCCAS scores last year and are at now at about the same level of performance as CHEC (Coolidge significantly higher), while CHEC declined significantly. The only difference that I can see from the data is CHEC makes their kids take AP classes whether or not they are ready for them, which makes them look good on your Challenge Index, but doesn't really tell us much else.

Posted by: Wyrm1 | September 29, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Tukeva is a Rhee supporter and just like Rhee uses her position to promote herself when she is not out playing tennis with Rhee.

This women is vile, her administrators are lap dogs from TFA whose role is to intimidate teachers.

Hell anyone can add AP courses to their curriculum to impress folks like Jay but are the children being used to make good press.

Posted by: guylady201001 | September 29, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Once again, a clearly troubled school, based on teacher retention and questionable practices (Mr. Boutin only scratches the surface), is given a free ride because its student population is deemed deficient. On the one hand we urge all schools to lift the standard; on the other hand we excuse those who do not because their challenges are insurmountable at schools no self-respecting white man would send his children. To read my take on the "education nation" situation, please visit my blog at teachermandc.com.

Posted by: dcproud1 | September 29, 2010 7:30 PM | Report abuse

Jay,

Your AP by the numbers logic says that CHEC has the most number of kids passing the exam which is great. How does it rank with the number of students that don't pass the AP exams or fail the class? What happens to those students?

Having worked at CHEC for over 4 years, I admire the work that Tukeva has done for the school, the community, and the students. However, the PR machine and example that the school has become is an out of control monster that I believe is not looking out for the best interests of the students any longer which is one of the main reasons I left.

AP for all is a farce and is not doing justice to kids that are so many grades below their reading level and need to learn how to read and write. Those kids need a challenging and level-appropriate class to push them but not overwhelm them to a point where they completely give up and stop showing up (this happens A LOT at CHEC).

The pressures of AP ranking pushes CHEC to create as many AP courses as possible and throw kids into them for the numbers. I know many students who could not sign up for classes they wanted to be in because counselors put them in AP courses to fill up a class. Why not listen to the students and what is best for their interests rather than think that the adults (who have motives) know better. I could go on and on...

It's really sad that the school can't retain it's highly recruited teachers. You have NO IDEA how many GREAT teachers have left the school in the last couple of years. Those of us who have been on the inside know that it doesn't take long to see through the facade. Year after year, the administration chooses to ignore reality. Imagine the amount of progress a school could make if they didn't have to retrain 20-40% of their staff each year (veteran teachers have to boringly sit through nearly the same PD each year). Nothing like seeing the same Powerpoint Presentation over and over again each year!

I wish that everything written about CHEC in the WaPo was true, but it's not. Most of it is simply stretching the truth and pushing the propaganda for the PR machine.

If CHEC wants to make real progress:
- Be transparent and communicate honestly with the students and staff
- Disrespectful bullying needs to stop
- Administrators needs to be supportive and realistic of both students and teachers
- Implement an effective and consistent discipline policy
- Meetings need to be meaningful and not a contract checklist waste of time... provide time for realistic and purposeful collaboration amongst teaching teams, departments, etc...

There are many others to add to this list, but these are some of the ones that effected me directly to leave what could be such a great school.


Posted by: istheresocialjustice | September 29, 2010 7:40 PM | Report abuse

As the educator referenced in this post, I'd like to take the time to respond to some of the more misinformed comments.

Chrome - surely you must recognize the numbers are numbers, subject to tampering, especially when politics is involved. You see a high graduation rate and a high rate of students taking the AP exam, so you think the school is great. That's exactly why I'm speaking out. If we all just believe the numbers, we're all going to be completely in the dark when it comes to what's really going on. Teachers at CHEC are overwhelmed with work, and you're right, it's that way in a lot of urban schools, but I've worked at four different urban schools, all with similar populations, and CHEC is by far the leader in making staff do meaningless work so that the can conform to the contemporary fads in education. Teachers at the building are provided with a two-week training, as Ms Tukeva told Jay, but with little actionable feedback or support while they're in the classroom. The culture is that of corporate America: low teacher costs and high test scores is the best way to run a school. My content-area administrator told me that were I to be hit by a bus, it wouldn't matter because they could bring in anyone to fill my place. My grade-level administrator once told me we should leverage what we know about students emotional needs to raise their test scores. Surely you're smart enough to understand that in a highly political district like DCPS, the numbers should only provide but a small piece of the evidence you use in determining a school's quality - or maybe your not - whatever...

aguilarazalea - I would most politely characterize your comments as uninformed. I most certainly did not get into teaching so I could have the summers off. I spend most of my summers volunteering, going to professional conferences, and improving my curriculum. Yes - Tukeva has made the building look nice; she has all the right talking points; and she's incredibly dedicated. Her flaw is her belief that a top heavy administration overseeing an inexperienced teaching staff so that teaching is not longer a profession, but rather more like assembly-line work, is the key to improving education. I suspect she does this because she believes this is the best way to raise test scores - by standardizing everything and firing people when they get out of line. She gets to run her school how she wants, but people should know it's not the paradise she wants the media to believe it is.

Finally, if you want to know more about CHEC, please see my blog and my reaction to this post on my blog. Also, feel free to email me if you actually want to have a real discussion about this.

www.anurbanteacherseducation.com

thereflectiveeducator@gmail.com

Posted by: TheReflectiveEducator | September 29, 2010 8:57 PM | Report abuse

A little history for all you social studies teachers. . . "There were certain schools that were reserved for Anglo Saxon or white children alone and others reserved for Latino children. Consequently, the latter group could not gain access to the recreational educational and health facilities found in the former schools. These were rules and regulations that the school district allowed and adhered to despite the fact that some children of Mexican origin were well qualified to attend those specific schools. The complainants asserted that their case was not based on racism as such; they were mostly concerned about the issue of segregation. The defendants added that the Anglo Saxon schools' main goals were to instill quality education. This meant that all the children admitted into the school had to have certain qualifications. The defendants asserted that Mexican children were not qualified to be admitted into those schools and that they were incapable of fitting into that kind of quality education. They also added that Mexican children had poor language skills, were morally inferior, had potentially contagious diseases and their personal hygiene was quite poor." Mendez vs. Westminster

The arguments against CHEC in this blog aren't far from the cries of many naysayers in the quest for providing students equity in education throughout history in the US. -- Plyer v.s Doe, Mendez vs. Westminster, Brown vs. the Bd of Education. . .

Be critical. History repeats. No one at CHEC lives for PR or pressure to do something they don't believe in. For centuries young people have been denied opportunity. CHEC stands for reversing a pattern of discrimination against the poor and against English Language learners that says AP is too much or it will hurt them or they'll somehow break under the expectations that white kids thrive under. All are kids are not "there"--true. The question is whether teachers stand on the side of justice for kids who deserve a chance to get "there" or whether you stand on the side of the status quo and accept that they cannot within their k-12 experience get there. This is what people don't get.
Teachers are amazing people and there are proven ways to make their jobs --not easier-- but more effective.
Admittedly most teachers do not exit traditional or alternative education programs prepared for the rigor of teaching in ways that represent high expectation and high support to help close the achievement gap. CHEC does what it can, but the entire community must assume greater responsibility for preparing teachers to understand the basics, assume a critical pedagogy, be self reflective, learn how to learn more about effective teaching, and stay constantly abreast of content and technology in your field. It's no small order but we welcome anyone who welcomes the challenge.

interesting rule- insider who speaks against CHEC = good; insiders who speaks for CHEC =bad. Be critical.

Posted by: Hannah13 | September 29, 2010 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Hannah13 - aside from your general lack of coherence and writing ability, I'd also criticize your assertion that I'm arguing in favor of racism.

Hold all kids to high standards - yes! Yes, please! But holding kids who are at a 3rd grade reading level to AP standards means being an amazing teacher. And amazing teachers are generally not inexperienced - and they're generally well-supported by administrators who have real classroom experience - not edudrones from TFA.

If Darry Strickland, my assigned mentor, had met with me EVEN ONCE in his role as a mentor, perhaps I could have had more success. If you want to claim to be an amzaing school with amazing success with very challenged students, then you better not treat your teachers so poorly that your staff is a revolving door and nobody gains experience- and you better provide them with support from people who know what they're talking about. CHEC has a long way to go with both of those.

Posted by: TheReflectiveEducator | September 29, 2010 9:40 PM | Report abuse

And yet Hannah, I never taught a single child at CHEC who identified as white... If anything, CHEC is proof that segregation is still alive, kicking, and hurting our kids. AP for all does not solve that. If anything, it is a disturbing example of the same attempts at "separate but equal" that were made in the fifties. It's designed to look good from the outside, but inside the kids are not only failing, they are made to feel that it is their fault. Perhaps the most heartbreaking thing about my time at CHEC was how many of the kids felt that the school was good, but that they were not good enough to succeed in it. Imagine seeing your school win awards, watching your administrators pass out buttons celebrating their latest accolades, knowing full well that students in your school are measurably behind even the DC average on the SAT, that you and most of your classmates are failing, and on every practice test you've taken, the results show that the course you have been working so hard in all year has yielded the same score you would have received had you never taken the course at all. Then imagine that you are still young and impressionable enough to believe that this is all your fault, that it was in fact possible, just not for you. Maybe for the one kid in thirty who passes every AP test and was specially selected to talk to the press, but not for you. After you've imagined all that, remember that the statistical mode for CHEC AP scores is 1.
I didn't just leave CHEC because of the way I was being treated, although that's big. I left because I felt I was taking part in something unethical that was hurting the kids, and at CHEC, I did not have the power to change it. Michelle Rhee is right about one thing: DC schools are fixable. These kids are as capable as anyone else of success. Forcing them into a college-level course when they are reading at an elementary to middle school level, then telling them they can succeed? It only makes it seem that they are the ones at fault. I sat in a meeting where my administrator urged me to help a student and his parent understand how wonderful it was that his scores had gone from a twenty-five to a thirty-five percent. While I am glad to have helped this student grow, I have too much respect for him to tell him with a straight face to celebrate his failing grade and tell him how lucky he is to have taken an AP course. Still, I had no choice but to do as my administrator suggested. The parent announced that he was taking his son back to El Salvador.

Doesn't the law entitle all students to a Free APPROPRIATE Public Education? The kids take a diagnostic at the beginning of every year that clearly reveals they are not prepared to succeed in the course, but the administrators force them to take it, then pat themselves on the back for believing all students can succeed, and shrug and smirk when someone asks them why scores are so low for every exam except AP Spanish. It's criminal.

Posted by: DCteacher0809 | September 29, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Chrome1:
"Phillipmarlowe, my only crime here is being a supporter of a great public school."

crime, curious word choice.

You are still being disingenous.
You have another reason for commenting here and attacking the teacher.
As The Reflective educator notes, please go read his posts on CHEC and comment there or come back here.

And own up.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | September 29, 2010 10:45 PM | Report abuse

Tell us, as you never have, the fraction of students who scored even a 2 on the test, which is indicative of high school level master of the content.
You consistently deflect questions of how you distinguish a "1" meaning the student displayed that he just showed up for the exam, a requirement to pass the course, from a "1" which indicated he benefited substantially, as would, but with error, have earned him a "2." You never demonstrate to us how students in a regular high school class on the same material, tested and earning a "2" on the AP exam are WORSE off than students earning a "1" following the AP course.

We are looking for some evidence that you are helping these students by putting them on the team and claiming that watching scrimmages and games is more valuable than other activities they could be actively participating in. You are the one harming them, by denying them those opportunities, the while claiming that AP is a superior one.

And you wonder why cheating by students is endemic? Because hey find evasions from reason and logical inference by respected adults no more virtuous.

-------
Some of us with intact memories remember that that JM was the ed writer who in the past researched and reported the efforts of good teachers and principals to improve AP teaching and learning. When "1" is good enough, why bother? The confused and bewildered are equally challenged by good as by bad teaching.

-------
It is quite lame of you, too, when you have editorial voice, to not note that CHEC finding a few administrators with background when when James Boutin says only a few of them have it supports his case rather than disproving it.

Posted by: incredulous | September 29, 2010 11:08 PM | Report abuse

I do find it curious that the 3 defenders of CHEC on here, besides Jay of course, are most likely 2 of the administrators (yes we do recognize your various log-ins on other blogs) and an administrator's mother.

Tukeva and O'Brein are both lying through their teeth when they give the various reasons for teacher turnover. How would I know this? Because I know they never ask. When a teacher leaves, they all of a sudden pretend they don't exist, have never existed, and never mention it again. They don't ask them why the leave. They do no exit interviews. I mean, they don't even bother to ask for the keys back sometimes. This allows them to say whatever they like about why people leave, because there is no document trail in their files to refute it.

I can tell you why the majority have left the last 3 years, the a fore mentioned Darry Strickland. And until someone wants to start talking about that, all of this conversation is a waste. Rhee's office let Tukeva sweep all his allegations of verbal and physical assaults of faculty, staff, and students under the proverbial rug. This was the moment she lost the respect of a lot of her veteran teachers and watched them walk out the door to other schools in the area.

Posted by: scinerd1 | September 29, 2010 11:08 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully, this school does not fit the following pattern:

Some teachers are in the "in" crowd. They get the kids who can really pass the tests, because for them AP is just challenging enough.

Other teachers,

Then teachers are evaluated using the students test scores. Guess who ends up looking effective?


Posted by: celestun100 | September 29, 2010 11:33 PM | Report abuse

Oops... I meant to delete that and ended up posting it by mistake. Please ignore that last comment, it makes no sense.

My real thought was a question:
Do lower AP scores effect the teacher's IMPACT scores?

Posted by: celestun100 | September 29, 2010 11:36 PM | Report abuse

My real thought was a question:
Do lower AP scores effect the teacher's IMPACT scores?

-------------------------------------------
No. For high school teachers, the only test measures are the 5% they receive for the "value-added" that their school provided kids on the DCCAS.

There is no part of the rubric that addresses AP scores for AP teachers.

Posted by: Wyrm1 | September 30, 2010 7:30 AM | Report abuse

From College Board's summary on Bell HS for SY 07-08 I find that 291 of the 393 AP tests were in English language and literature. That's 74% of all tests. From those two tests , there were just 5 tests with scores of 3+. Less than 2%. So where did the passing tests scores come from?

AP tests were taken in Chinese, French and Spanish Language (NOT literature) by 9, 5, and 21 students, respectively. All of the scores of "5", outstanding performance, at Bell / CHEC, 14 of them were earned by students taking those language exams. Sixty percent of the remaining passing scores earned in the school were earned by students taking those language exams. (And do we not reasonably believe that the outstanding scores in foreign languages were earned by students in their home language? And, what if the majority of the five passing scores in English Language and English Literature were earned by the SAME students .who did do well on the tests in foreign languages? Not much evidence, then of learning by ALL the remaining tested students)

We've all learned from the exchanges above that, as with Michelle Rhee, there is no accountability for the educational leadership at this school, just the faith of funders and an education columnist. We'll pass on what Jaime Escalante would have thought of these pass rates and a principal who professes helplessness to have classes be interesting by any other means.

I wonder whether absent the points she gets on Jay's index for forcing she wouldn't try harder. As economists are fond of saying, where are the incentives. She could, adopt the methods of NELB- background schools in Arlington, VA.

Finally, the commotion of staff turnover and 'the measures taken" --with apologies to Brecht -- to join the Top 100 schools on Jay's Challenge Index are sufficient to entirely deflect attention from other metrics of achievement. When I look at Sophomore-to-Junior changes in PSAT scores, and SAT scores at Bell /CHEC, I find no evidence that students are gaining in readiness from other course work in a manner that results in higher test scores.

I commend the entirety of James Boutin's blog entries to all educators who have gotten this far. I read it last year. He is obviously an extremely well-educated and committed, 'reflective educator," and I cannot see that and how the school or DCPS is LIKELY to be better off with the turnover of such teachers. But, then, I haven't Jay's experience in finding the exception which he, with talent as a writer, will say "proves the rule." (That expression makes more sense in Spanish than in English.)

Posted by: incredulous | September 30, 2010 8:07 PM | Report abuse

Can somebody explain to me why a teacher in the DC public schools can't just go to a computer and download a suitable curriculum and suggested lesson plans for every course? Even if a down-loadable version isn't available why would a teacher think they had to develop their own curriculum? There should be a curriculum available FROM THE DISTRICT FOR EVERY COURSE, and every teacher should know about it. There was a similar bizarre problem at Albany High School in NY. The school was put on the list of persistently lowest achieving schools and when they brought in an outside consultant to study the school one of the main points he made was that most of the administrators and teachers at the school didn't really even seem to understand what a curriculum was and that there should be one on file(he didn't specify that it should be computerized,although it probably should be)for EVERY COURSE, and that each one be updated by master teachers and a curriculum specialist every year. If Michelle Rhee was so great for the DC school district why didn't she realize that and do something about it? And personally I can't see any logical reason why the overwhelming majority of teaching in schools isn't being done by computers anyhow. This is 2010 not 1910 for god's sake. Kids love computers and can learn amazing things almost on their own. Check out the following
http://edreformer.com/2010/09/sugata-mitra-the-child-driven-education-video/
Also check out the following to get another example of what kids can do on their own
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2010/06/22/new-nicaraguan-sign-language-shows-how-language-affects-thought/
I saw first hand the amazing things kids could create and learn at the internet cafe I use to own in Albany, NY. I also got to experience first hand the incredible arrogance, lack of curiosity, rudeness, and believe it or not difficulty in learning new things, of many of the Albany educators who came in to use my facilities. What a contrast to the kids!!
The educational establishment in this country, including I hate to say it some of the education journalists, better wake up fast and get their heads out of their, uh, hats, because there are lots of non educators who are starting to wake up to the mind boggling mess professional educators have made of things, and they're not going to just sit back and continue to let it continue to happen. And we're not going to just go after the schools where our children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews attend. We're going to be going after every school, district, administrator, and teacher who screws up then tries to blame it on children and parents. We're going after any one that comes in our field of vision. We'll probably let the journalists have a pass for awhile.

Posted by: david_r_fry | October 1, 2010 12:41 AM | Report abuse

While Haskell Indian Nations University’s President, Dr. Linda Sue Warner remains on a detail, 91 percent of Haskell students aren’t graduating.

Last week, Haskell Indian Nations University, in Lawrence, Kansas, announced yet another acting president, Clyde Peacock, who will serve until October 18, 2010. Who will be next is anyone’s guess. Lack of leadership is one reason The Higher Learning Commission sited in its findings against Haskell sister’s college Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, when it lost its accreditation. Senators Pat Roberts, Sam Brownback and Congressman Dennis Moore and Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, also sited it as a problem.

For the American Indian students who come to Haskell seeking a degree, it’s a tragedy.

One can only assume that while Haskell’s President, Dr. Linda Sue Warner ( who has spent her life‘s career seeking to make education obtainable for American Indians and who tried to make Haskell an actual university ), who has all but, been, tossed aside to make room for people far less qualified than she ( A women who was accepted into Harvard and Penn State, holds a Ph.D., served as Penn State’s American Indian Leadership Program (AILP) director for several years. She also served as a program director at the National Science Foundation and appointed by President George W. Bush to the National Advisory Council on Indian Education. She was named winner of the 2001 Indian Educator of the year Award by the National Indian Education Association for her lifelong dedication to Indian Education) to temporary run Haskell is appalling at best. With all the problems Haskell is having right now, Dr. Warner’s detail needs to end, she needs to be brought back, then supported in whatever, she needs to do to get Haskell running as a real university.

At some point it will be too late and Haskell will be no longer, when it cannot graduate 91 percent of its student body ( For every 10 freshmen who enroll at Haskell Indian Nations University seeking a bachelor’s degree, fewer than one ends up leaving campus with a diploma) the Bureau of Indian Education has a lot to answer for and the bottom line has become, can keeping Haskell open be justified any longer? Or should Haskell close and the students be sent elsewhere ?

In the meantime Haskell is waiting for its superman and that superman / superwoman is someone it already has: Dr. Linda Sue Warner.

Link: www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/haskellnews/2010/oct/4/while-haskell-indian-nati

Posted by: haskellnewscommentary | October 4, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Leadership limbo
The best thing federal officials can do for Haskell Indian Nations University is resolve the school’s lingering leadership question.
Additional federal funds are one way to improve programs at Haskell Indian Nations University, but they don’t address the school’s No. 1 need: a permanent president who can set a strong course for Haskell’s future.
This week, the U.S. Department of Education announced a $1.6 million federal grant to improve academic quality, institutional management and fiscal stability at Haskell. It’s a significant amount of money for the school, whose annual allocation from the federal government is only $14.2 million. According to a representative of the Haskell president’s office, the money will be used to improve advising and student retention services, which is a good goal.
However, despite repeated assurances from the Bureau of Indian Affairs that a decision on the Haskell presidency is forthcoming, the school’s leadership remains in limbo. Linda Warner, who still is the school’s official president, has been fulfilling BIA assignments in other states for more than a year. In the meantime, Haskell has had three acting presidents, but no decision about a permanent president.
The $1.4 million grant is nice, but if federal officials really want to help Haskell, they should quit delaying and return Warner to Lawrence and allow her to oversee and initiate new policies and academic opportunities — or bring in another experienced, courageous, visionary academic leader.
Link: www2.ljworld.com/news/2010/sep/30/leadership-limbo/

Posted by: haskellnewscommentary | October 4, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

I am totally flabbergasted that this is taking so long... for Haskell Indian Nations University's situation to be rectified. With all the negative information being put out about Haskell. What the heck is so difficult in bringing Dr. Linda Sue Warner back? I am starting to think that the ineptness of Haskell's leadership is just a reflection of the ineptness of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington D.C. Seriously, as much negative publicity that has been generated by this, and the the inquiry by Senator Pat Roberts,Senator Sam Brownback, Congressman Dennis Moore and Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins and all the negative comments from students, and the terrible graduation rate ( 9%), this seems like the easiest decision a government official can make, bring back Dr. Linda Sue Warner or close Haskell.

Posted by: haskellnewscommentary | October 4, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Jay, please listen to James Boutin and the commentators. AP is not for everyone. It is either (a) a rigorous college-level course for which well-prepared students can, through hard work, score well enough to receive college credit, or it is (b) merely a name with no meaning. No one in an AP class should fail the exam. They might make a "3," but they shouldn't fail. The pathetic passing rates you site do not commend the classes nor the school; they merely highlight the problems with making AP for everybody. And, of course, appropriately, the response at the college level has been to recalculate GPAs and sometimes not give credit for AP courses.

What you should be demanding is that regular classes teach seriously. So often regular classes use trite teaching methodologies or teach to the test and nothing is actually learned. That has nothing to do with their being regular classes. It has everything to do with political machinations that have worked to dumb down curriculum for so long in this country that most teachers, administrators, and parents don't even know what's appropriately challenging anymore. It's frightening!

The reformers are killing our system by crying "Fire!" in a crowded classroom.

Posted by: Jennifer88 | October 4, 2010 10:04 PM | Report abuse

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