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Weingarten Caucuses With WTU

American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten met last night with the executive board of the Washington Teachers Union to discuss the next move in WTU's stalled talks with the District on a new contract. No one is talking for the record, but the meeting, first reported on The Washington Teacher blog, dealt in part with a counterproposal that AFT and its D.C. affiliate are preparing to present to Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee.

Bill Turque

By Marcia Davis  |  December 5, 2008; 4:27 PM ET
Categories:  Education  
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Next: It's Fenty's Party, But Not All Fun and Games


Where is the Deputy Mayor for Education, Vincent Reinoso? I know one thing, he is taking home a fat check every two weeks for seemingly doing absolutely NOTHING!!!

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | December 5, 2008 7:29 PM | Report abuse

Welcome back, Bill -- you haven't been in these parts for a while. I was worried about you.

Hope you're coming up with a really big investigative piece soon.

ConcernedaboutDC - at least Reinoso is doing no harm, unlike Rhee, who is collecting an even fatter paycheck and wrecking the place.

Posted by: efavorite | December 5, 2008 9:10 PM | Report abuse

That's rich. Rhee is "wrecking the place" that's been wrecked for years. Maybe we should, instead of holding teachers accountable and taking care of one of the greatest civil rights and socio-economic issues of our time by listening to Linda Darling-Hammond's idea of waiting for the government to fix all of society's ills so then teachers, coming from ineffective ed schools, can then have an easier time teaching.

Posted by: reformED | December 6, 2008 4:08 PM | Report abuse

ReformED - yes it is amazing, isn't it, that someone could make education in DC even worse than it is? Maybe the reason Rhee has been given so much leeway is because people were desperate and willing to give a chance to someone who sounded serious and tough and was willing to put in long hours. Now people are starting to see that it's not working - that you don't build up communities by tearing them down.

It’s disappointing that she isn’t working out, but it’s also more and more obvious that she isn’t working out

Posted by: efavorite | December 6, 2008 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately it takes time to undo the past 30 years that has turned DC into what the Atlantic calls, "the PERENNIALLY dysfunctional city of 580,000 people... the city of the Marion Barry machine... And, of course, the city of abysmal schools." It will take time to tell if she's right, but the best way to build up a neighborhood is to make sure every child has an equal education and make sure everyone is accountable; teacher's, parent's and students.

Posted by: reformED | December 6, 2008 7:03 PM | Report abuse

reformED - of course it would take time for anyone to fix the school system – no one expects miracles or overnight success. She seems to be the one in a hurry to make sweeping changes. What is shocking, is that she has managed to alienate so many people so quickly.

As for “teacher accountability,” she’s the one who is expecting miracles. In that same Atlantic article that you quoted, she says, “As a teacher in this system, you have to be willing to take personal responsibility for ensuring your children are successful despite obstacles…. You can’t say, ‘My students didn’t get any breakfast today,’ or ‘No one put them to bed last night,’ or ‘Their electricity got cut off in the house, so they couldn’t do their homework.’”

Posted by: efavorite | December 6, 2008 7:32 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand where the miracle is? During the school day obstacles can not get in the way of a child receiving a just and fair education. There can be no excuses for that. What I would ask you is what solutions you think should be put in place. As one who is a teacher in Harlem I admit to being an outsider and respect your opinion on the matter.

As for alienating, every leader is going to alienate someone. Fenty, Booker, Bloomberg, even Obama have alienated someone. All of them seem to be part of a new wave of common sense legislation and leadership instead of Republican/ Democrat.

Posted by: reformED | December 6, 2008 8:52 PM | Report abuse

The miracle is placing the entire burden on teachers, threatening them with being fired -- not accounting for home problems or problems in school that are beyond the teachers control – like disruptive kids who are not removed from class (no place to send them) or lack of teaching materials in some schools.

I don’t have a list of solutions. I do have a few common sense ideas: teachers should be supported rather than threatened, discipline should be enforced, all schools should receive adequate staffing, security, equipment and teaching materials.

Regarding alienation – Obama may have alienated a few people along the way, but it’s not his general style. Can you imagine him saying “cooperation, collaboration and consensus-building are way overrated,” as Rhee has? He’s a community organizer who understands the value of bringing people along with you. Rhee, as I like to say, is a community DISorganizer.

DC had high hopes for her. She’s smart, well spoken and tough. I think a lot of people hoped she could pull off a miracle just by force of personality.

Unfortunately the personality that has emerged is that of despot.

Posted by: efavorite | December 6, 2008 11:23 PM | Report abuse

reformED - of course it would take time for anyone to fix the school system – no one expects miracles or overnight success.

Except Michelle Rhee 2 years ago. After Michelle Rhee is out maybe we can stand back, look at larger systemic issues, stop scapegoating teachers and stop socializing children to accept a future life of overwork.

Rhee is Wrong ->

Posted by: knsummers | December 7, 2008 1:31 AM | Report abuse

I guess I have always worked in an atmosphere in which I took those burdens on myself. I have continuously looked for my own PD and have driven states to visit a school. Teachers can have an impact as far as what time a child goes to bed and the availability of breakfast. If we wait around for the edschool wonks idea of making the landscape better so teaching becomes easier then we fall in to the same cycle. One of the reasons why these problems exist in the first place is from a lack of education.

Schools need to stand up and fight for there values. You are right, discipline being enforced is a good first step. Making sure parents are on board and working with families constantly is another way. Hyde Leadership in the Bronx has a great Family Education program in which a parent facilitates with both parents and teachers in the same room discussing values such as humility. It is not a program in which teachers are telling parents how to parent or parents are telling teachers how to teach. They can discuss problems in their own lives and how to bring these values in to their homes.

Having the freedom to move out of a traditional public school showed me how much I could do. Plus the fact that in my old school there was a time in which I asked for a day off after a holiday and my principal told me, "I am not giving you permission to take the day off, I would prefer if you came in." The union boss at the school told me I should fight this and she would fight it with me. I did not want to burn a bridge with this principal that brought me in and was a good leader. This is when I started to see some of the evils of the Weingarten machine. Teachers had carte blanche to take days off any time they wanted. Teaching became uneven as I would cover a lot of classes to make more money. I also got to see teachers that went through traditional ed schools that did not prepare them to teach in an urban classroom. It's a sad industry that I am happy has been fought in New York and is starting to be fought in other cities through more innovative teacher education and accountability.

Posted by: reformED | December 7, 2008 10:50 AM | Report abuse

reformED - taking on burdens yourself is different from having the "burdens" enforced by the administration as things teachers (and only teachers) must do, regardless of the supports they receive -- with threat of dismissal if they don't succeed, based strictly on test scores, or even worse, based on the chancellor's whim if she gains the "at will" authority that she seeks.

There's nothing innovative about placing all the responsibility for learning on teachers. That's just as silly as placing it all on students or all on the parents -- and then punishing them if test scores don't improve.

It's also not innovative to call yourself a "benevolent dictator" as Rhee has, and expect to be successful in a complex system of parents, teachers, community activists, public officials, etc, which, by the way, operates in the context of a democratic government.

reformED – you sound like someone who is truly concerned about and engaged in education. You’re not looking for quick fixes and you’re open to learning about and analyzing new ideas.

If you want to know more about the DC media’s evolving perceptions on the Chancellor, I suggest you search “rhee” in the Washington Post search engine and read some articles. Then, to get more perspective from DC citizens, read some of the comments sections in those articles.

The comments on Rhee making Time’s cover are especially good, I think. You’ll find both positive and negative reactions there:

Posted by: efavorite | December 7, 2008 12:13 PM | Report abuse

The members of the WTU got an email this evening...the WTU and the AFT have decided to come up with a proposal themselves and present it to Rhee. Yep...that is the message the members got this evening. Who the heck didn't know that? It took the AFT 11 months to respond to the WTU's request for a meeting long do you think it will take them to come up with a proposal? This should be good...stay tuned..but not until next October... a good 11 months or so.

Posted by: edjook8tr | December 7, 2008 9:03 PM | Report abuse

efavorite I would be very interested in what you do as far as the education debate in DC. As an educator and administrator for the past seven years I have some amount of expertise, but have a lot to still learn.

Here is an interesting op-ed piece that was in the NY Times on Friday:

He also wrote a piece discussing the "old democrat" vs. the "new democrat" in the past year, which I think was most highlighted by the comments Jesse Jackson made on the live mic during his Fox interview. I am also interested who you believe should be our new Sec. of Ed.

Posted by: reformED | December 8, 2008 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Thanks - I saw the Brooks piece.

For SecEd, I'd like to see a good manager - maybe even a Colin Powell type - has "some" established background/interest in education, is even-handed and well respected (except for that WMD business, for which he'd like to redeem himself)

I just read this article, weighing seced choices and hinting at Arne Duncan of the Chicago schools.

Mainly, I have confidence that Obama won't choose a firebrand reformer, as Rhee has challenged him to do (the nerve!) but will use his usual good sense to select a good person.

ReformED - I hope you've seen Turque's new article today in the post on rhee. If not, run over there as fast as you can. The article and the comments are quite eyeopening.

My role is as concerned citizen - a former a strong Rhee supporter, as many in DC were at first, until we saw that she was simply a despot who had no hope of succeeding. Like many here (see comments)I now want to just minimize her damage and move on.

Posted by: efavorite | December 8, 2008 1:04 PM | Report abuse

It seems like not everyone knows that in schools across DC we still have significant numbers of vacant staff positions, classrooms without all the necessary textbooks, staff members who do not having access to basic resources to do their jobs and the list goes on. It is December folks!!! These are very straightforward issues that need to be addressed. Why haven’t they been resolved yet and it is the 5th month of school?

This is why you hear so much resentment about all of the props Rhee is receiving. If you work in many of the schools you know firsthand that there is a lot of rhetoric being spouted while basic problems are still being left unresolved. This is business as usual in DCPS.

Posted by: letsbereal2 | December 8, 2008 2:26 PM | Report abuse

letsbereal2 - the difference this year is that teachers are now being threatened with being fired if they can't raise test scores, despite obstacles to teaching and learning that only the administration can change.

Posted by: efavorite | December 8, 2008 3:49 PM | Report abuse

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