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Capital Gains Takes a Loss a Hart Middle School

Among the many things that appear to have gone wrong at Hart Middle School this fall is DCPS's "Capital Gains" program, designed to pay 6th, 7th, and 8th-graders up to $100 every two weeks for good grades, attendance and behavior.

Hart is one of 15 District schools in the demonstration project jointly run by D.C. and Harvard University. But violence and disorder reached such a level last week that Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee dispatched a team of administrators and additional security to stabilize the Southeast school.

On Monday, she fired principal Kisha Webster.

It now turns out that, rather than encouraging students to get serious about school, the program might actually have deepened the dysfunction at Hart.

Webster and two Hart teachers say that on the program's first payday (Oct. 17) some misbehaving students got checks while others who played by the rules were shut out. The problem, they said, was confusion over how to fill out the "classroom capture sheet" used to document attendance and behavior in each class. Some staff thought that to show a student in compliance, the spaces were to be left blank.

"A lot of teachers were not understanding the process," Webster said.

"It was a mass miscommunication," said a Hart teacher, who asked that her name not be used to avoid getting crossways with administrators.

Central office staffers came back to Hart after the first pay period to straighten out the misunderstanding, Webster said, and took steps to pay kids what they earned. No word on whether the District will get refunds from students mistakenly compensated.

Rhee's spokeswoman, Dena Iverson, said: "The new leadership at Hart will be working closely with the Capital Gains team and the faculty to ensure that the Capital Gains program runs smoothly and is administered properly."

The program will have its third payday on Friday, but DCPS said this week it will not be releasing any information or student or school earnings. Iverson said that Harvard's Education Innovation Laboratory, which crunches the numbers, "does not release individual school data during the projects in order to maintain the integrity of the numbers and the research."

Bill Turque

By Marcia Davis  |  November 13, 2008; 2:41 PM ET
Categories:  Education  
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"The problem...was confusion over how to fill out the 'classroom capture sheet' used to document attendance and behavior in each class.

"A lot of teachers were not understanding the process," Webster said.
Yeah, filling out attendance and behavior forms is really rocket science...and big surprise, it proved too much for the dimwits teaching in DC public schools to figure out. Bwaaahaaa.

Posted by: checkered1 | November 13, 2008 4:18 PM | Report abuse

The teachers couldn't understand the directions? (Sigh) Is there any hope for these kids?

Posted by: forgetthis | November 13, 2008 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Shame on Rhee and her staff for spending more time pimping this program to the Washington Post than they did training teachers on how to deploy it. Sexy initiatives poorly executed—Fast becoming the standard MO for the Fenty administration. One day they’ll begin to realize that it takes time to develop the processes that will make their great ideas possible. Until then, count on several more embarrassing failures, followed by hasty firings.

Posted by: omnoir1 | November 13, 2008 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Why are students being paid to attend school, and get good grades? Isn't this something that students should want to do in the first place to exceed and excel in life. It just shows what an abyss the DC Public schools and US society as a whole have sunk into. A "Pay me" mentality. There is something called personal responsibility that each student should posess,(and their parents)should instill in them in order to do well in school - not get paid to get a grade!

Now the "Pay for Grades" program is in a mess. And rightfully so. Money is the root of all evil!

Posted by: rkayblock1 | November 13, 2008 6:30 PM | Report abuse

What a crock!! I'd like to see the instructions and the Capture Sheet. (Check this box ...)

Posted by: PGirl | November 13, 2008 7:08 PM | Report abuse

More incompetent teachers, who need to get fired, pushing the blame on someone else, anyone else, to divert attention from themselves. If they had any self respect they should resign.

Posted by: bbcrock | November 13, 2008 9:34 PM | Report abuse

This is the most ridiculous logic I have ever heard. The fact that students can't be controlled because they didn't get their money. Most probably wouldn't have gotten money based on their actions. And I bet you the teachers were not filling out the forms for a reason. I hear some teachers want to get paid to fill out the forms.

Posted by: tlpatt70701 | November 13, 2008 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Shame on the administration for not making sure everyone understood, and shame on those teachers who "didnt understand the process" but didnt seek out any answers.

Posted by: Tmoney02 | November 13, 2008 11:59 PM | Report abuse

This is a ridiculous program and is a microcosm of many of the ill-conceived social engineering programs developed since the 1960's.

Posted by: LukasWP | November 14, 2008 7:21 AM | Report abuse

No one should be surprised! Sounds like the "summer" youth program is now open for "all" seasons.

Posted by: candycane1 | November 14, 2008 12:08 PM | Report abuse

In the rest of society we pay for work. Why not pay these kids?

These start up problems happen. It doesn't mean it's a bad program.

I bet the teachers figure out the rating system now.

Posted by: jy151310 | November 15, 2008 11:56 AM | Report abuse

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