DCPS Consultant Models Meltdown for Kids
Michael Moody is not a name you're likely to recognize unless you are a DCPS teacher or administrator. But Moody is an important player in Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's attempt to upend and transform District schools. A consultant carried on the organizational chart as "Special Advisor, Academics," Moody is a taking a lead role in coaching principals to galvanize their staffs so that curriculum, teacher professional development, school environment and the use of test data are all working in sync toward the of goal raising student achievement.
Rhee has a big investment in Moody. His California firm, Insight Education Group, has collected $1.7 million in consulting fees from DCPS over the last year. Like Rhee, he is young and hard-charging.
He is also the subject of major buzz among principals for what two sources described as a "meltdown"--and another said was an overly "passionate" outburst--at a meeting last week.
The setting was Moody's monthly, day-long "principal's academy," this one at the Georgetown Holiday Inn last Wednesday. He brought in four students from Shaw at Garnet-Patterson, a Ward 1 middle school that Rhee has offered as an example of the dramatic improvement that is possible under the right leadership. She's lavished praise on principal Brian Betts for his success in shaping a positive, productive atmosphere at the school, and even showcased it for visiting Congressional leaders. Rhee proudly reports to audiences that the school has become so desirable that a group of eighth graders successfully petitioned her to allow them to remain there for ninth grade.
Shaw is also a beneficiary of Rhee's decision to cut a break to schools that received students from buildings shuttered in the 2008 round of closures and consolidations. Ordinarily, a school that doesn't meet enrollment projections has staff shipped off to other more populated buildings. But Shaw -- the product of a merger of two middle schools--was protected from cuts even though it drew only 257 of a projected 410 students. It resulted in relatively small class sizes-- an average of 15 students per teacher. That is in wrenching contrast to the overenrolled Hart Middle School in Ward 8, where class size runs about 25 students per room.
At one point, a principal asked the students whether they thought Shaw's class sizes helped the learning environment. According to all three accounts, this touched some sort of nerve with Moody, who pronounced the issue irrelevant.
"He went ballistic," said one attendee. "He said, 'That has nothing to do with it!'"
Moody said all principals were expected to produce Shaw-like results, regardless of their circumstances, the sources said.
"If you guys don't think you're up to the challenge, you need to get up and walk out of here right now!" Moody said according to one account.
Moody did not return phone or e-mail messages. Rhee spokeswoman Jennifer Calloway said the story isn't true.
"There was a discussion about class sizes but Michael did not lose his composure," Calloway said, adding that the DCPS principal's academy "has been a critical professional development tool for our hardworking administrators, and we would be happy to discuss our successes this year and our outlook for 2009-2010."
One principal said it was especially unfortunate that the Shaw kids had to witness the episode.
"They got a lesson in how principals are treated at DCPS," the administrator said.
May 19, 2009; 4:35 PM ET
Categories: Bill Turque , Education
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