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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 12/ 7/2010

Bad old D.C. school politics threaten progress

By Jay Mathews

The first test of soon-to-be mayor Vincent Gray’s effort to maintain the momentum of D.C. school improvement went well. He said all the right things after being elected and put on his education transition committee people closely associated with the city’s most successful public schools.

The second test, his handling of accusations of lax security at Dunbar High School, is less impressive so far. Instead of supporting the talented and proven administrators from New York who had made great strides on that troubled campus, Gray has let disgruntled parents and educators make political points for their side that threaten the academic progress at Dunbar, and has tossed in an unhelpful negative statement of his own.

I sympathize with interim D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, who has to deal with this mess. In an email to me yesterday, she seemed to deny any intention of criticizing the Friends of Bedford group, which runs both Dunbar and Coolidge high schools. Henderson knows that last year the portion of students testing proficient or advanced in reading went from 18.2 percent to 31.9 percent at Dunbar and from 38 percent to 53.6 percent at Coolidge. No other high schools in the city came close to making such gains in a subject where improvement has been rare.

As I have said many times, it is not a good idea to put too much emphasis on just one year's test score gains. But it is also not rational to try to fire the managers of the schools who have accomplished that feat, at least until you see how they do next year. Yet that is what may happen at Dunbar. Some disgruntled teachers, former staffers and parents are trying to persuade Henderson, and Dunbar alumnus Gray, that despite their success, the Bedford group should go.

The latest triumph in the campaign to send the New York educators home was the announcement that, as my colleague Bill Turque summarized it, "Dunbar Senior High School will get new administrators and extra security this week to quell violence and disorder, two years after the school was placed under a private management team by former chancellor Michelle A. Rhee."

Bedford group leader George Leonard says there is no data to suggest that the security situation at Dunbar, a problem for several decades, has gotten worse in the last few months. Two weeks ago, six students were arrested and charged with raping a 15-year-old girl in an unoccupied area of the school in Northwest, but those charges have been dropped.

There is no question that the school has a security problems. I have spent some time there in the last two years, watching the Bedford group try to bring it under control. It is one of the worst designed school buildings I have ever seen. It goes up several stories via narrow stairways. An assortment of nooks and crannies make order difficult to maintain. The Bedford group leaders say they have been asking for more security for some time, so Henderson's order to send in "more security and youth engagement resources," as she puts it, is in one way an answer to their prayers.

But it also conveys the message that people who don't like Leonard's team can more easily resist the higher academic standards he is trying to instill at the school since his administration is under a cloud. Teachers are complaining about their recent classroom evaluations. D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr.--who says he has no opinion on the Bedford group--is enumerating reported incidents of disruption.

The Bedford contract with the city is up at the end of the school year. Its chances for renewal look bleak---another triumph of the old D.C. personal school politics over the effort to give students the challenging and engaging educations they deserve.

Having seen the progress at Dunbar, I was stunned to get an uncertain answer from Gray when I asked him in October about his old school. "There are people who were very enthusiastic in the beginning," he said. "[The Bedford executives] have a good track record for what they've done in New York [establishing a relatively high-achieving public school in Brooklyn]. Now, more and more, I'm hearing people raising questions about it. . . . You hear from a lot of people about the disruption, the disorder, kids wandering around the building."

All of those complaints are true, but still deceiving without comparing the situation now to that before the Bedford group took over. Disruption and wandering have become part of the D.C. high school culture. Rooting it out takes time. I asked Thomas, who is talking about Dunbar disruption reports, if he had any comparative figures from the past, and he said no.

Gary spokeswoman Doxie McCoy said the mayor-elect “is counting on Interim Chancellor Henderson to work together with Dunbar school administrators, teachers and parents to ensure that what is best for the students, first and foremost, is taking place at the school, and that Dunbar moves forward in keeping with his plans to continue aggressive school reform in all District of Columbia public schools.”

Henderson, whom all sides in the dispute seem to have high regard for, has refrained from reaching conclusions without facts, although her statements have been far from a ringing endorsement of what the Bedford group has done. "I have said nothing of changing the administration at this point," she told me yesterday. "All I have said so far is that the safety and security issues at Dunbar require an intervention. I haven't yet said anything about Friends of Bedford."

Nobody in their right mind would mess with the increased support of Dunbar teachers and aggressive after-school tutoring that raised the portion of students testing proficient in reading. But just raising doubts about Bedford's management is enough to make the job harder. If Henderson voids the contract, we are back to the beginning, trying again to find someone to run Dunbar, and probably getting few takers with the talent and experience to do it, given what happened to Bedford.

Leonard appointed himself principal at Dunbar this year to develop more personal relationships with the students and refine security measures. His team leaders made progress their first year in getting the private security company officers assigned to them trained in flushing students from hiding places and getting them into class. Then that company went out of business and they had to start over.

Henderson and her staff investigated the situation at Bedford’s other school, Coolidge, and had no complaints, Leonard said. That underlined the likelihood that what is happening at Dunbar has more to do with the local political situation (and the much better design of Coolidge's building) than any deficiency in what Bedford has been trying to do.

I suspect this is just a brief stumble. Gray and Henderson are first-rate people who know what our schools need -- leaders who understand good teaching and can create school climates to make that happen. The future of the Bedford group will be a useful indicator of whether the new mayor and his chancellor can continue to follow their best instincts, or go back to the old ways of running D.C. schools.

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  | December 7, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags:  Coolidge High School, Dunbar High School, Friends of Bedford group, George Leonard, Kaya Henderson, Vincent Gray, local community opponents of Bedford ignore academic progress, rape charged at Dunbar, situation called chaotic  
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Next: Dunbar leaders bounced, what next?

Comments

Here are previous stories on Dunbar by Jay.
Note well the first one from 3 months ago.
This problem predates Gray.

“When D.C. officials asked the group what it expected in terms of student suspensions during its first months, the Bedford partners saw shocked looks when they said suspensions would go up if order was to be restored.”
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/19/AR2010091903679.html

“D.C. presumptive Mayor Gray should keep Bedford team at Dunbar, Coolidge highs.”


***************
Mathews wrote another positive article about Dunbar in March of 2010.
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/class-struggle/2010/03/high_school_students_avoid_tes.html

It was titled “High school students avoid test preparation” and it starts like this:
“Five months after my first visit to Dunbar High School, its new administrators appear to have made progress, but they say they have a long way to go. The security guards are more active in urging straggling students to get to class. Those who are frequently late have to listen for an hour to an adult telling them why that has to stop.”

********************
Mathews also wrote a hopeful article about the new management team in October of 2009
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/class-struggle/2009/10/_after_days_of_frantic.html

Posted by: edlharris | December 7, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Credit to efavorite for the urls.

Posted by: edlharris | December 7, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

My thanks also to efavorite. I did link to the most recent one that I wrote, but am of the view that there is a limit to what readers can take in terms of links to previous pieces by me. The most recent Turque piece, which I also linked to, is more helpful in understanding today's situation than pieces by me from 2009 and early 2010 when I was regularly covering Dunbar.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | December 7, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Jay,
I am glad for the links from efavorite, because it does assist in explaining today's situation too.

You were happy a private team was coming in, and the issues predate Gray..that information is also helpful to know in terms of understanding your views of the situation.

Posted by: researcher2 | December 7, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

What's your point? That Jay believes the leadership of Dunbar is on the right track? Nothing in his piece above contradicts that. Nor do any of the facts of the current situation seem to contradict that assessment.

Posted by: horacemann | December 7, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I have heard less than laudatory things about Friends of Bedford. The situation at the school is anything but safe. These "incidents" the author refers to include the group sexual assault of a student on school property and gang activity including harassment and intimidation at the school. Where is the balance? I attribute higher test scores to teachers managing to survive in this hostile climate.

Posted by: emily_mo | December 7, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

for emily_mo---At the moment, there doesn't appear to be credible evidence of the group sexual assault. The charges were dropped. Lots of people have heard bad things about the Bedford group, which is my point. It would be nice for school decisions to be made by more than rumor. If the cause of the higher scores was teachers managing to survive in a hostile climate, then why havent the other high schools shown similar gains? Teachers need support to succeed. That was what they were getting at Dunbar. A teacher at Spingarn tried to get his classroom door lock fixed. It took months and required the chancellor's intervention. The same thing happened at Dunbar and it took a day to get fixed.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | December 7, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

So the school has seen increased test scores... thats not the point. What happened there is a tragedy. The latent function of the school must change. We cannot overlook something as serious as a gangrape just because the current administration has ushered in an improvement in test scores. The fact of the matter is, the culture of the school has allowed for violent and destructive activity to go on for too long. Parents, students, and faculty are right to demand a change in administration. It is the job of the administration to look after both the academic environment and the social environment in their institution. It seems that they have forgetten about the latter. No child should feel unsafe in their own school. The fact of the matter is, as long as a student has to worry about violence and sexual assault, that student will not be able to put forward their maximum effort in school. Test scores are just one way to measure the effectiveness of an administration. School safety should be right up there as well, as students need a safe environment to learn and grow into young adults.

Posted by: Jamaal7 | December 7, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

horacemann, my point was that he has appeared to be a supporter of the Bedford group from day one. He is a supporter of a private group like this taking over. In criticizing Gray for possibly not keeping them, it seems it is important to know that the reporter has for a while believed the private group was a great idea.

Oh, and the fact that the gang rape charges were dismissed doesn't mean it didn't happen. It could be her word against 6 isn't working out from a prosecutor's viewpoint, she could have dropped the charges because she doesn't want to endure a trial or has been threatened..or it all could have been somehow consensual...which should still be investigated in terms of kids having time/places to do that within a school.

Posted by: researcher2 | December 7, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

The building is terribly designed, and has had a disruptive atmosphere for years. The Bedford group has been asking for more security and not getting it. Now they are getting it. Why not wait and see if they can improve the situation? Anyone they put in in their place is going to be not as well equipped to handle the situation, and we will once again follow the old DC habit, keep the kids down by making sure schools never have any consistent leadership.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | December 7, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

for researcher2---you are a commenter of great judgement and reasonableness. What would be yr view if the rape didn't happen?

Posted by: Jay Mathews | December 7, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Jay,
There is a lot to think about. Safety, regardless of the rape, is a concern and should be addressed. What security company is in charge now? So DC hired Bedford, and Bedford hired security companies (their second now?)

I guess my main concern is your assumption that if Bedford leaves, it is going back to "to the old way of running DC's schools" I think if it isn't working, and they change the administration/private group running Dunbar, that that is far from the old way. The old way was "complacent" about issues, right? If Bedford proves to be subpar in security or any aspect of running the school, and Gray gets them out, I see that as progress.

Oh, were the disruptive/non-attending students in class when the tests were given? Could the scores have been raised because some students were suspended at the time of testing? (one of your earlier articles addressed the need for suspension).

I have never been in favor of a private group taking over a public school, whether it is Bedford at Dunbar or Edison in PA. I think the desire to jump on these groups as saviors has proved to be disappointing in the majority of situations.

Posted by: researcher2 | December 7, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Please be specific, Jay. Who on the Education transition committee is “closely associated with the city’s most successful public schools” and what exactly is their association? The only people I've seen officially listed are the chairs, Katherine Bradley, head of a family foundation, and Michael Lomax, head of the United Negro college fund. No clear connection there to successful schools.

Thanks, all, for the credit for the links, but a link is a link - not deep analysis. Please copy and post freely, without attribution.

If after 3 or 4 years of high school, kids can finally achieve a 10th grade reading level, that’s great, but it’s hardly a miracle of FOB:

“The DC-CAS is designed to be given to sophomores. It is the only measure of a D.C. high school’s achievement rate under the federal No Child Left Behind law. But with so many students lagging behind the usual high school pace, officials have to be precise about what defines a sophomore for purposes of taking the exam. Students must have completed, or be close to completing, geometry and sophomore English. Some of those who fit that profile have been enrolled in high school for three or four years.”
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/class-struggle/2010/03/high_school_students_avoid_tes.html

Posted by: efavorite | December 7, 2010 11:02 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure how reliable the statistics are but the most recent figures I can find on Dunbar were for 2007-2008 and they claim that in that school year the police were called to the school 55 times for reports of aggravated and simple assault. If these figures are accurate and were anything close to that for 2009-2010 this school should have just been shut down - I don’t care how improved the test scores were. If this high school was a large night club in New York State it would have had its liquor license removed and been closed down about ½ way through the first year. They should make all educators, even the so-called reformers, take and pass a course in common sense before they are allowed practice their profession. What kind of fool would subject children to this level of danger and stress? We don’t subject adults to that in a bar where they go of there own free will knowing that there will be a lot of people getting drunk and crazy, so why do educators thinks its ok to subject children to that in a place that’s suppose to be safe where the children are required by law to go? It makes me sick to my stomach.

Posted by: david_r_fry | December 7, 2010 11:24 PM | Report abuse

David-fry -- interesting points, but I wonder what you mean by "educators" - teachers? principals? - they can only do so much if central office refuses to provide adequate security, making it clear instead that order is part of classroom management that is the responsibility of "effective" teachers.

I've heard of schools in DCPS where teachers are discouraged and penalized for reporting classroom disruptions.

Posted by: efavorite | December 7, 2010 11:43 PM | Report abuse

"The security guards are more active in urging straggling students to get to class. Those who are frequently late have to listen for an hour to an adult telling them why that has to stop.”

So Jay, what would Henry Gradillas do? What does that say about the Friends judgement? Sounds like more status quo to me. You recently seemed impressed with the idea that your "Reformer" friends have it backwards. First you must create a school climate that supports instruction.

Just talking at kids, like coninued test prep just takes a bad situation and makes it worse.

Sounds like the school drank the koolaid, and now they are in a reality-based world.

FYI, my old school had 181 arrests in a 173 day school year, and still the top dogs said that "Expectations!" are the key.

Posted by: johnt4853 | December 8, 2010 8:31 AM | Report abuse

"my old school had 181 arrests in a 173 day school year, and still the top dogs said that "Expectations!" are the key."

In other words, if the kids are acting up it's all the teachers' fault. Reformers will do nothing except to keep firing and hiring teachers until they find ones who can stop the violence and raise scores at the same time.

This will do nothing valuable for students, but it will keep teacher recruiting and training firms very busy.

Many teachers will flame out in the process, but who cares about them - Children First!

Posted by: efavorite | December 8, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

@efavorite,
When I use the term "educators" I mean anybody who is involved in "teaching" or direct support and supervision of teachers, including teachers, teaching assistants, tutors, principals, superintendents, related "central office" personnel, teacher trainers, etc, etc including teachers at the college level. I started using this term several years ago when I owned and operated an internet cafe for 6 years in Albany, NY. I had an incredibly diverse clientele that included a lot of k-12 students, primarily 6-12 with some college. I also had a lot of "educators" come in, particularly k-12 teachers during holidays and summers and for some reason a lot of esl teachers/tutors that generally worked on 3 month-2 year contracts overseas and used Albany as a home base. Although I certainly couldn't say for certain that I had a representative sample of "educators" the ones that did come in really shocked me. They were uniformly arrogant with a sense of entitlement, rude, inappropriately formal(when there were 2 of them in the cafe at the same time they would call each other Mr. and Mrs instead of by their first names like normal people would), demanding, lacking in curiosity, and techno-phobic. A lot of them were in the cafe to use my scanners, printers, high speed internet, and the software to use these devices. Most of these "educators" I had to sit and walk through step by step how to use the scanner and word processing software. Some of them wouldn't be able to remember what I had showed them and I'd have to show them over and over. One "educator" was so bad I finally asked him to take notes on what I had showed him so I didn't have to keep coming back. He got very flustered and angry and said, "I don't have the time to take notes, I'm a teacher. Do your job". I threw him out.
I agree with your implication that it's the school district's responsibility to make sure everything gets done that needs to be done so that the children end up learning what they need to learn - ALL THE CHILDREN. About 6 years ago I actually had a non-teaching employee from the Albany City School District raise her voice to me and say "We expect all our students to show up ready to learn, and if they're not ready that's not our problem". That attitude was pervasive, but thank god since then has changed. They shut down the one "persistently violent" middle schools, and replaced the other 2 middle school principals and have replaced the High School principal twice, the district superintendent once, and about 10 other mid-to-senior district administrators. The high school is in the process of restructuring and from what I understand has almost completely eliminated the discipline problem without just guaranteeing or expelling behavior problems. This isn't rocket science and when people use common sense and commit themselves to getting the job done, whatever it takes, you'd be amazed at what can get done.

Posted by: david_r_fry | December 8, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

I have gotten some calls from Dunbar parents who think I have this wrong. I would love emails from anyone, particularly teachers and parents, who have personal experience at Dunbar, both immediately before and any of the years after the Bedford group took over, who could share with me their experiences and impressions. I plan to make this the subject of next Monday's column in the paper.

For david_r_fry. Those incident statistics for 2007-2008 would be for the year just before the Bedford group contract began. They spent their first year, 2008-2009, NOT being in control of the schools, Dunbar and Coolidge, but moving around, getting a sense of both places, talking to people and figuring out what they wanted to do.

For researcher2--the Bedford group does not hire the security company. DCPS does. They sign a contract with one company for the entire school system, or at least for the high schools. So when the company that Bedford had been working with, getting the Dunbar guards to see the benefits of being particularly attentive to chaotic situations, went out of business in mid 2009, all of the high schools were inconvenienced, but Dunbar in particular because the Bedford people had devoted so much time to giving the people assigned to their school special training. They tell me the new company has not been so cooperative with their desire to have a team of guards assigned just to Dunbar.

for johnt4853---they are behaving remarkably like Gradillas did, and getting the same kind of negative reaction from people at school headquarters. Like Gradillas, they did not try to get rid of the teachers they found there, but tried to train them to take kids to a higher standard. Changing the school climate was number one on their list. They persuaded Rhee to clean up what was a dark and filthy building and arrange for walls to be erected so that they could have real classrooms, with doors that could be locked, rather than the open classroom scheme on which the school was built, that welcomed chaos and noise and distractions for kids trying to learn. I have watched them and their staff struggle to change the focus of learning and create a system where students return to class after lunch right away, rather than stalling and hiding in the many hard to see spots created by the narrow stairways that wind up several floors. The reading scores indicate they were making progress, but I don't see anyone at DCPS mentioning that. As you know the folks at LAUSD HQ were always gunning for Gradillas, and finally managed to do what they wanted by assigning him to asbestos inspection managment duty, even after his big success at Garfield.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | December 8, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

"But just raising doubts about Bedford's management is enough to make the job harder." -- More sit down and shut up from our betters at the Post.

Posted by: duncanjo | December 8, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Dear Mr. Mathews,

Exactly one week ago, I resigned from teaching at Dunbar Senior High School because of the management practices of the Friends of Bedford. Unfortunately, their perspective is dominating the public conversation and I appreciate your latest comment saying that you would shed light on the perspective of other Dunbar community members. I would appreciate if the Washington Post began a thorough, balanced investigation of the urgent situation at Dunbar Senior High School, including interviews with teachers, community members, alumni, other administrators, and students. If I want to send you part of my own story, how should I contact you?

Posted by: jalilly | December 8, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

jalilly his email address is mathewsj@washpost.com

Posted by: researcher2 | December 8, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Jay,

Dunbar had 743 students last year, according to the school profile on the DCPS website.

In the spring of 2010 138 students took the DC-CAS. Those students experienced a jump in test scores as compared to the 174 students who took the DC-CAS in 2009. Huzzah.

Now we know only sophomores take the test. If sophomores comprise 1/4 of Dunbar's student body, it would be reasonable to assume that approximately 186 10th graders should have been tested in 2010.

While the 174 headcount in 2009 seems close enough for government work. However the fact that 36 FEWER students were tested in 2010 is a big red flag.

Any chance you might, I don't know, investigate this? Where in the world are Dunbar's sophomores? Their mothers must be worried to death.

Posted by: Title1SoccerMom | December 8, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

David Fry:

I'm glad you gave us some information regarding your background because it helps explain your negative attitude toward teachers. Most people with these attitudes have had very bad experiences in schools and/or with teachers. That's unfortunate for everyone concerned.

Let me just explain the formality you noticed in the teachers who used your Internet cafe:

Teachers often refer to one another as "Mr." or "Mrs." in a school setting because that's how they are addressed by the children. After a while a teacher gets used to calling a colleague "Mr.Smith" and so that becomes his name. My best friend of 25 years still calls me "Mrs. _____" although it's partly a joke because when she's serious about something, I become "Linda." I made the transition to "Virginia" once we retired but my husband still calls her "Mrs."

As for the quality of K-12 teachers, that is a complex matter. Basically there aren't too many people who want to teach seventh grade in the "inner-city." The most talented people often leave during the first few years of employment. The reasons for this are many, but you can help improve the situation by showing more gratitude toward the men and women who elect to do this difficult job. A lack of status and respect are among the main reasons people do not seek jobs as teachers. The attitude you express will only exacerbate an already difficult situation. Help us find ways of encouraging more talented people to enter the profession or, better yet, become a teacher yourself. (If you just said "No Way" to yourself, you've got a good idea of the problem.)

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | December 8, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

A former co-worker was assigned to Dunbar last school year, and was literally terriorized by some of the students there.

She was knocked down by a student running in the halls and did serious damage to her arm. Students would stand in the hall outside the "walls" and toss textbooks into her "class". It is a wonder that no one was seriously hurt. She was excessed out of Dunbar last June.

Posted by: dccounselor72 | December 8, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

For TitleOneSoccer mom.---You have the right data. I did investigate it. It is a transient community, like lots of DC high schools, and it is difficult to get everyone to show up for the exam. Sometimes you get more than at other times. The Bedford administrators said their concern was that not enough would show up to reach the required minimum, AND DCPS has to certify that all of those sitting for the test are sophomores---this can get complicated because it requires an assessment of what courses they have passed. I have looked at this issue at several schools, and it is a can of worms. It is nearly impossible to get enough information to reach a reasonable explanation for the number of students tested each year, particularly at a time when some families decamp to the charters, and there is so much movement between schools.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | December 8, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Thanks to researcher2 for posting my email address. I went off to get my coloncophy, or how ever you spell it, and realized as they injected the joy juice I had forgotten to include the address in that long post. As you kindly said, it is mathewsj@washpost.com.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | December 8, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and i also forgot to answer efavorites good question. Bradley and Lomax are both very active in KIPP. Lomax was on the national KiPP board, and Bradley on the local, and maybe now the national KIPP board. They know those schools very well. That fits with Gray's pro-charter views.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | December 8, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, TitleOneSoccerMom. I have a pile of data like that on my own school's score "turnaround", and it launched me on this long mission. I can tell you what happened: They put my girls out onto the street, in tears, with less than a tenth grade education, before the spring MCAS tests, to inflate their "success". As with Dunbar, the official numbers told the story. Cheats and liars couldn't hide the numbers, but they were accountable only to cheats and liars themselves. They made powerless children disappear from the rosters anyway. I downloaded the stats, confronted administrators, called the Boston Globe. LOL. Cowards in the press looked the other way, because they, too had a share in the profits, as it turns out.

No, Jay, you haven't investigated it yet. "Transient community...The Bedford officials said that...the required minimum...this can get complicated ...can of worms...nearly impossible to get enough information to reach a reasonable explanation," does not constitute an investigation. Nearly impossible to get enough information from your data-driven reformers? Shame on you.

I'm not calling back the benediction I was moved to lay on your weaving, bobbling head in response to Lisa's disgusting comment, but her question might be a good one for reflection: Why DOES WaPo pay you, do you think? Could it be that they think they can rely on you to blindly support the private contractors they need to further their corrupt venture expansions?

I've been wrong before, but I'm betting they can't. Keep going on this. Investigate.

Posted by: mport84 | December 8, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Looks like Bedford has been ousted. Here is Turque's breaking news blurb

"Posted at 5:06 PM ET, 12/ 8/2010
Breaking: Bedford out at Dunbar
By Bill Turque

Interim Chancellor Kaya Henderson has ousted Friends of Bedford as operators of Dunbar Senior High, after a series of complaints about their management of the school More to come."

Posted by: researcher2 | December 8, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

It looks like they are out.

Posted at 5:06 PM ET, 12/ 8/2010
Breaking: Bedford out at Dunbar
By Bill Turque

Interim Chancellor Kaya Henderson has ousted Friends of Bedford as operators of Dunbar Senior High, after a series of complaints about their management of the school More to come.

Posted by: researcher2 | December 8, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

sorry for the double post, it didn't show up initially.

Posted by: researcher2 | December 8, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

sorry about the double post. didn't show initially

Posted by: researcher2 | December 8, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

for mport84---Sometimes I too wonder why they pay me, but it can't be for what I write about private contractors, since I almost never do so. 99 percent of what I write is about public school educators who get paid the old fashioned way. The Bedford group is the first private company running a regular public school I can ever remember writing about, except for a few pieces I did about Edison in the last 1990s. We are still looking into the Bedford situation, as I said, but the messiness of the DCCAS is a much bigger issue affecting all DC schools. You should, if you have not already, emailed Bill Turque at turqueb@washpost.com expressing yr interest in that.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | December 8, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Here's a link to another WP article on these schools http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/01/AR2009080100861.html
At a minimum I think everybody posting comments here should go take a look at the picture of the inside of one of the classrooms. Good God, no wonder the kids are violent. I want to strangle somebody just looking at that picture. I wonder what the kids think when they watch reruns of "saved by the Bell" or one of the Nickelodeon channel shows set in a school.
Here's a quote from the article
"Experts say one of the lessons learned is that starting a school from scratch is usually easier than taking control of an existing one, where political feuds, bureaucratic inertia and scar tissue from past reform attempts can make change difficult. 'You have to work against a prevailing culture that is a failed culture,' said Thomas Toch, executive director of the Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington and an expert on school takeovers. 'That’s very hard to do if you can’t bring your own people in and hit the refresh button.'" I would add my own comment: at times certain institutions can become ill, just like a person, and frequently beyond saving. It looks to me like this school should be put out of its misery.

@Linda/RetiredTeacher
Here's the result of a Harris Poll conducted in 2004
------------------------------
Occupations with the most prestige
Scientist 52%
Doctor 52%
Firefighter 48%
Teacher 48%
Military officer 47%
Nurse 44%
Police officer 40%
Priest/minister/clergy 32%
Member of Congress 31%
Engineer 29%
Athlete 21%
Architect 20%
Business executive 19%
Lawyer 17%
Entertainer 16%
Union leader 16%
Actor 16%
Banker 15%
Journalist 14%
Accountant 10%
Stockbroker 10%
Real estate broker/agent 5%
Source: Harris Poll of 1,012 adults conducted Aug. 10-15, 2004.
-----------------------------------------
Only a teacher could complain that their profession doesn't get enough respect when in fact it's near the top. Your comments sort of epitomize one of the big problems I have with k-12 teachers in general. At times you seem more concerned about your own comfort and welfare, including concern about what people are saying about you, than you are in the children you're suppose to be helping. You don't hear Jay complaining about being a member of a profession ranked near the bottom do you? Teachers as a group, probably through their unions, should be spending their efforts in trying to get bad teachers retrained and getting administrators to improve conditions rather than fighting charter schools and trying to prevent teacher evaluations that include student testing as a component. Teachers are in a position right now to be a part of something that could have as exiting and dramatic an impact on life in this country as anything in my lifetime with the possible exception of the civil rights movement, but instead of jumping on board and being a big part of the solution they're dragging their feet.

Posted by: david_r_fry | December 8, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

let's do that poll now - six years later and see what effect the school reform movement has had on teacher prestige.

Meanwhile - I don't doubt that a lot of people respect teachers -- sort of the way they respect martyrs. they wouldn't want to be one, but they honor people who are willing to make the sacrifice - scientists spending long hours in the lab to help humankind; fire fighters risking their lives, and teachers.

Note that the big money making fields are among the least respected. People like martyrs.

Posted by: efavorite | December 8, 2010 7:39 PM | Report abuse

You may have seen Bill Turque's bulletin that Kaya Henderson has removed the Friends of Bedford from supervising Dunbar (they remain at Coolidge) and put Stephen Jackson, the Dunbar principal they fired last year, back in charge. I welcome any comment, or even better, quotable emails to me at mathewsj@washpost.com on this. I will have a little post on this up soon, but will be saving most of what I have for Monday's Metro section column.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | December 8, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Jay, I have an easy way to find out how many sophomores there are at Dunbar.

First, you need 200 $10 dollar bills.

Have the principal announce that at 3:15, you will be distributing $10 bills to each child who can prove that they were born between January 1, 1995 and December 31st, 1996. Then we'll count in the spring how many of those students actually take the DC-CAS.

Seriously, this is so worth funding. For $2000 you could solve the problem of Dunbar's missing sophomores.

You owe to the kids. You owe it to their mothers. You owe it to your readers.

Game on.

Posted by: Title1SoccerMom | December 8, 2010 8:17 PM | Report abuse

I looked up the Dunbar 2008-2009 School Report Card for Dunbar High School and I have serious doubts about the school assessment process in Washington DC if this is what they're publishing for a report card. There are no raw numbers and they have the graduation rate listed as 82%. Graduation Rate is what the DC school district chose as their 3rd performance criteria for NCLB. If their real graduation rate is 82% I'll eat my keyboard. Unless I'm mistaken for purposes of NCLB the graduation rate is suppose to be the number of continuously enrolled students who graduate in a given year divided by the corresponding 9th grade cohort. A lot of districts are fudging this statistic by dividing the number of students who graduate divided by the number of students entering 12th grade that year. That means by this way of calculating graduation rate if a freshman class has 100 kids and 99 drop out by the start of the senior year and if the 1 student left graduates the graduation rate is 100%. Hopefully DOE will get off its butt and start doing some audits of these report cards. Plus here are the enrollment numbers I found on school-tree.org web site for this years enrollment
9th Grade 10th Grade 11th Grade 12th Grade
122 324 276 209
Why is 9th grade so low? Am I missing something here? In most poorly performing urban high schools there is a 20-30% drop off from 9th grade to 10th grade and another 20-30% drop-off between 10th and 11th, and another 10-15% between 11th and 12%. That means by the time these freshman get to 12th grade there will only be about 50 left. What a mess. They should just close this school down and move the students someplace else. It's violent, the students are performing poorly, physically the school is a wreck, and it appears to have hemorrhaged students anyhow. I'm willing to bet they're not going to close it because of pressure from the teachers union because they are afraid of teachers getting laid off.

Posted by: david_r_fry | December 9, 2010 1:31 AM | Report abuse

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