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Rhee: Union Proposal 'Did Not Propel Us Forward'

When we last checked in with Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee on the state of contract negotiations about a month ago, she offered her first hopeful words in some time about the prospects for an agreement with the Washington Teachers Union (WTU).
"I think where we are is in a good place," she said on Feb. 9 at Randle Highlands Elementary School. "We finally have some momentum after being stagnant for so long." The stated reason for her optimism was a newly-delivered proposed contract, jointly drafted by the WTU and its parent American Federation of Teachers. It included, by the union's account, measures to meet Rhee's requirements for new rules making easier to recognize and reward good teachers and fire bad ones. She said the union package had ideas "that warrant some hard thought."
At Wednesday's D.C. Council oversight hearing, Rhee was more pessimistic.
"There are some fundamental issues we can't come to agreement on," she told the council, adding that "both sides are drawing a line in the sand."
Of the union proposals, Rhee said the contract "quite frankly bore no resemblance to any of the conversations we'd had," and that the document "definitely did not propel us forward."
Bill Turque

By Kathryn Tolbert  |  March 12, 2009; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Education  
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Obama made his comments abundantly clear. The union is going to have to face facts that their position is wrong and out of step with other Democrats/liberals who want to see schools improve. At some point they must accept that more than one out of every four of the teachers currently in DCPS has no business being a teacher at all.

Posted by: bbcrock | March 12, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Why isn't the "teachers' union" an impediment to the seeming success of Montgomery County and Fairfax county?

Posted by: edlharris | March 12, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand the point of your question, but will answer it as I see it.

The DCPS Teacher's Union is populated by somewhere between 35-50% unqualified teachers hired as political cronies of Mayor Barry during the time he was mayor. None of these lowest performers would have EVER have been hired by Montgomery County or Fairfax County. I met teachers at my kid's first elementary school who:
1. Admitted to smoking PCP in high school
2. Came to work after the kids were already in the classroom once or twice a week, meaning the room was in complete disarray
3. Had limited or no college education and talked about degrees from schools I never heard of
4. Used terrible grammar including misusing the words "they" and "Their" in an email sent to parents
5. Refused to teach the kids the Pledge of Allegiance, National Anthem and related civics lessons DURING A PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

I could go on and on, but I've been in several MoCo elementary schools as a weekend coach and never seen anything like the sloppy bulletin boards, dirty classrooms and misspelled words I saw in that DCPS elementary school.

In one sentence, the unions in Fairfax and MoCo aren't as bad because those districts required their teachers to be educated before they got jobs- not merely to have been the nieces of Mayor Barry supporters.

Obama battled the Blagojeviches of Chicago like we battle(d) Barry. That's why he's on the same page as Rhee and Fenty.

Posted by: bbcrock | March 12, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Also, as far as I know from parents who stayed at that school, nine of the teachers were fired at the end of last year. I would be fascinated if there were any elementary schools in MoCo or Fairfax where 9 teachers were fired for cause. I hope that answers your question as to why it's a laughingstock to compare DC and MoCo. MoCo kept the political supporter's drug using nieces out of the system in the 1980s. DCPS did not.

Posted by: bbcrock | March 12, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Michelle Rhee has been more of an impediment to union negotions as she insisted on dealing through the press and then in Denver at the Democratic Convention blamed the press for her problems.

Michelle Rhee has never had to deal with a union negotiation before. She never managed more than about 100 people before she became Chancellor. This is now part of the problem.

Posted by: peterdc | March 12, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

I am still surprised that Rhee is in charge. She seems to be alienating everyone and doesn't seem to be a friend of teachers.

Posted by: rlj1 | March 12, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

What a shock - the union is playing hardball. Is anyone surprised?

I hope Rhee and Fenty have the stones to play back, because you knew positions would harden at some point, and this will be one heck of a battle I'm sure. Anyone who thinks the union is on the side of the angels (much less our children) on any of this is clueless at best. The paramount interest to be served is the education of our children, and NOT a union contract.

Posted by: jay4811 | March 12, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

So bbcrock, the admin in DC ghas been good/okay/great, but the Washington Teachers' Union has prevented them from firing incompetents.

Posted by: edlharris | March 12, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to see the quote in which Obama made it clear that he was anti-union and pro Fenty/Rhee.

I saw Rhee on TV last night and she did seem pessimistic, also disheartened - not her usual confident, arrogant self, with a "gotcha" plan B up her sleeve.

Odd, too, that, unlike Randi Weingarten, she had no immediate comments after Obama made his education speech.

Posted by: efavorite | March 12, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Additional errors in English grammar I've heard from DC teachers, which may be acceptable coming from a truck driver, include: I been knew that, he shouldn't a wrote that, she don't suppose to do that, the meeting will be on tomorrow.

Posted by: chelita | March 12, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

EdHarris, I do not have a clue what point you're trying to make. I wish you would write for clarity. Your response to me was nothing but "word salad."

Obama spoke out on education on Tuesday.
He is linking teacher pay to performance which is the Rhee plan. If you didn't read his comments then I would recommend reviewing them. I know you know me from these comments. I know you know that I've suggested this was Obama's education plan for the last several weeks because this was everything I've heard he was going to do. He and Duncan are lined up with Rhee not because of political favoritism, but because there is a generation of fake teachers who are not performing and everyone who works in education knows this. Bush's reaction was NCLB, Obama's reaction will be whatever plan he puts forth, but the fact that I'm speaking about cannot be wished away and it's NOT REALLY A UNION ISSUE so I wish people would let the union aspect of it go.

Posted by: bbcrock | March 12, 2009 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Chelita knows me too well. I should mention to her benefit that in working like heck to get my kid in a top flight Ward 3 elementary school (I don't want to go charter or private because I believe in public schools) I have not seen any of the major issues repeated. We have absentee issues (I counted the teacher missing about 7 school days so far), I've seen other teachers making serious mistakes like throwing tantrums, but overall these teachers know full well why they abandoned their old schools and got in here. Same group of parents, same group of kids- 40% of who are from other wards, same central administration, but when the first grade teacher gets 100% of the kids reading and listening then the second grade teacher can focus on science and math and the third grade teacher can keep 90% of the kids above grade level. It's called a "virtuous circle."

and back to efavorite, the NY Times "money quote" is:
"Saying he would “cultivate a new culture of accountability in America’s schools,” Mr. Obama said states and school districts should weed out bad teachers."

That is perfectly in alignment with my views on this issue.

Thank you and good night.

Posted by: bbcrock | March 12, 2009 10:11 PM | Report abuse

Chelita, when teachers make errors like that, they should be corrected, plain and simple.

Giving these teachers the benefit of the doubt, these mistakes are bad habits, not signs of stupidity. I've heard some very intelligent people say "irregardless" which is not a word. I used to mispronounce certain words because I had never heard them spoken - had only seen them in books.

This type of thing is easily corrected and should be - it sure beats complaining about how stupid they are, behind their backs.

“cultivate a new culture of accountability in America’s schools,” Mr. Obama said states and school districts should weed out bad teachers."

Couldn't agree more - and it says nothing about unions or backing Fenty/Rhee.

Obama's quite the communicator.

Posted by: efavorite | March 12, 2009 10:18 PM | Report abuse

Teachers saying I been knew that (which I think means I've known it for a while, but it's so far away from standard usage that i barely understand it) or using the irregular past tense verb form instead of the past participle in He should have wrote (he should have written) are not marks of intelligence or lack thereof. And if you read my post, you will know I didn't comment on intelligence, nor would I. Making these errors indicates a lack of exposure to standard English usage, be it through education or family life and upbringing. It embarrasses me that I have colleagues in DCPS who speak this way. We need to model standard English for our students and to do that, we have to know it.

Posted by: chelita | March 13, 2009 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Chelita, when teachers make errors like that, they should be corrected, plain and simple.

Efavorite, are you OUT OF YOUR MIND?

What kind of dynamic do you think exists between lifelong DC residents who started working in DCPS in 1990 and someone who they call a newcomer, yuppie, or "the man" because we moved into DC in 1994, have an advanced degree or, you know, are perceived as or are upper class.

Have you ever been inside a DCPS school to see the nasty looks or hear the nasty comments that a DCPS teacher makes about "Gentrifiers" or "the plan?" I had a teacher who was on the PTA and a friend of mine joke with me that she didn't believe in "the plan" "like other teachers!"

Do you honestly, truly think that any such teacher would listen to me without retaliation? I promise you that I was threatened with bodily harm by another parent for assisting with a charity project where we requested donations of old computers. Threatened to my face in the principal's office. Presumably because asking for a computer donation reminded them that so many parents at that school had spare computers they could donate and they couldn't.

I am dumbfounded by the suggestion that parents can feel free to correct a teacher's grammar without retaliation. Quite simply: this is not so.

Posted by: bbcrock | March 13, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

And besides, correct usage of grammar NEED NOT BE SUGGESTED TO A FREAKING ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER! PROPER USE OF GRAMMAR SHOULD BE A JOB REQUIREMENT! BECAUSE THAT'S THEIR JOB! You don't train someone to speak correctly in front of students, those are the people YOU NEVER HIRE FOR THE JOB IN THE FIRST PLACE!

I side with Obama on this one.

Posted by: bbcrock | March 13, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

BTW, new teachers to be hired by DCPS (and other jurisdictions)must pass the Praxis test. On Praxis I, there is a reading, writing and math part. On the reading part, there's a section on grammar & usage. Enough mistakes like "they wore they jackets" and an applicant fails and doesn't get hired. Many veteran teachers however were hired before Praxis was required.

Posted by: chelita | March 15, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

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