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Rhee Pursues Master Plan

DCPS is seeking 36 "master educators" to serve as impartial, third-party evaluators of teachers under the new assessment system being developed by Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee. District teachers have long complained that the current evaluation scheme--which relies primarily on school principals who may lack expertise in certain subjects, or who may have personal issues with some instructors--is not fair.

Rhee concurs, and is prepared to spend upwards of $3.2 million--the jobs will pay $90,000 a year, not counting benefits--to address the problem. According to the posting in the human resources section of the DCPS website, candidates must have
at least five years experience in a low-income school and a track record of raising student achievement. In addition to evaluating teacher effectiveness through classroom observations, examination of student work and conferences with instructors, they'll provide "targeted support" to those who need help. They'll be busy. The posting says they can expect to do about 200 observations a year, or about two a day.

Rhee and her "human capital" czar, Jason Kamras, are still working out the particulars of the new evaluation program, which is supposed to be rolled out this fall. The Washington Teachers Union and its national parent, the American Federation of Teachers, want to see the whole evaluation issue brought to the bargaining table in the current contract talks. But Rhee is not legally obligated to negotiate it.

The AFT has long touted a peer-based evaluation systems, with fellow teachers taking a key role. It would not be surprising to see the union question just how impartial the master educators, hand picked and highly-paid by the District, are likely to be.

By Bill Turque  |  June 3, 2009; 2:52 PM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque , Education  
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And who's evaluating the "master educators?"

Can citizens be sure they meet the qualifications for the job and are not simply former teach for America types who spent 2 years teaching, thee years in an administrative post, maybe not even in a school and now are "master educators?" What evidence will they have to provide that they raised student achievement?

When teachers are evaluated poorly, are the master educators standing in line for their jobs?

I'm guessing we'll see a lot of people in their 20's evaluating veteran teachers. I'm guessing vets who qualify for these positions aren't going to give up their teaching jobs for this spurious opportunity. I'm guessing the master educators will be "at will" employees.

Can you clarify any of this, Mr. Turque?

Posted by: efavorite | June 3, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

What's the evidence or criteria to prove "at least five years experience in a low-income school and a track record of raising student achievement"?

Rhee could not prove her claims in this area for her 3-years of service. According to the stats, i don't think there are many school fitting the profile with stated success.

Posted by: oknow1 | June 3, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

To get the full DCPS write up and qualifications:

First go here:

and click on "Teachers" which takes you here:

click on "Master Educator" which takes you here:

The "Master Educatior" is a one-year, at will position.

Posted by: interested8 | June 3, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

In the past, a lot of DCPS teachers, especially ambitious and/or competent ones, would aspire to get out of the classroom. They could be curriculum specialists or any type of subject supervisor. But who in their right mind would want to be a Rhee at-will employee, like these advertised master teachers? Better off staying in the classroom, putting up with lunch duty and taking yearly field trips to the zoo with hot little people. At least you can be sure about paying your mortgage and not getting fired.

Posted by: chelita | June 3, 2009 7:46 PM | Report abuse

Under the standards she has developed Michelle Rhee wouldn't qualify as a "master educator". Unless there is an exception for fairy tales.

Once upon a time, there was a young Ivy League missionary with a couple years to kill before getting on with her life's work. Rather than backpacking through Europe or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro after a safari in Africa, our intrepid heroine plunged into the mean streets of Baltimore where children who live in poverty test poorly.

One day the Ivy League princess was struck down like St. Paul on the way to Damascus. Sit the poor children in a circle, the voice told her. And sit them in a circle she did.

They forevermore scored like rich children on tests. Just take my word on that. I swear its true. And they all lived happily ever after.

Posted by: natturner | June 3, 2009 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Interested8 – thanks for the link (Hey, Bill – sure would be nice if you posted your source)

Here are my favorite parts

“At Least 5 Years of Teaching Experience in a Low-Income School”

So, these are TFA stars who stayed after their 2 year commitment and now want to cash in and/or vet DC teachers looking for a new challenge that involves giving up tenure.

“A Track Record of Success Increasing Student Achievement in a Low-Income School: Because Master Educators will play both evaluative and developmental roles, it is critical that they have evidence of increasing student achievement themselves.”

Can they just claim it on their resumes, like Rhee did, or do they actually have to have stats in their hands?

“Perseverance: Master Educators must be individuals who are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that DCPS students are successful.”

In other words, work around the clock and if you don’t finger your quota of vet teachers for “needs improvement” evaluations, then you’re fired.

Posted by: efavorite | June 3, 2009 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Ah, Natturner – there’s more to the myth, in the scriptures that didn’t make it into the canon.

After Rhee left, her miracle children were put in the hands of crappy teachers who undid all of her great works. Alas, the poor children, ripped from her tutelage, forgot everything they learned, so that when you come upon them today, they are indistinguishable from children who did not have a miracle-working teacher in their midst.

Tragically (or conveniently, depending on your point of view), no trace remains of St. Michelle’s Baltimore miracle.

Thus saith the Lord.

Posted by: efavorite | June 3, 2009 8:18 PM | Report abuse

Some of you really kill me with your griping... I dare any one of you to come up with a better job description. Are you upset about the minimum number of required years of experience? Does 10 years make one a better teacher than 5 years? I'm so sick of these so-called "veteran teachers" pretending that their years doing the same lessons over and over again make them better at what they do than someone who has been at it for 5 years. Get outta here...

Posted by: GetOuttaHere | June 3, 2009 11:32 PM | Report abuse

Isn't this what we as DCPS teachers have asked for? An impartial observer who isn't from our school, doesn't know us as a possible union rabble rouser or whatever, to observe us and give us feedback. Bring it on. I'm confident in my work with children, in my so-called "practice" that I'm looking forward to this. I really hope that experienced long-time veteran teachers apply for these jobs, similar to the assistant superintendents Rhee has who are generally long-term former principals.

Posted by: chelita | June 4, 2009 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Okay...this is a job for all of those naysayers out there in retirement land to comeback and double dip. They said the salary does not include benefits...what about AARP affiliation...I can see it now a bunch of senior citizens (former teachers/administrators) in the school smelling of Red Door Perfume and Old Spice Cologne roaming the hallways and reminiscing instead of rectifying. I would have first not have the salary at such a level that it was the first lure to the job. My question and just hypothetical if a evaluator is deemed incompetent during their tenure does it affect the evaluatee's outcome...such as can someone evaluator was old and falling asleep doing my evaluation periods and therefore he/she did not grasp my full potential.

Stock will rise with the pharmaceutical companies that make No-doze.

Posted by: PowerandPride | June 4, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

When I mentioned experienced teachers applying, kind of like Rhee's assistant superintendents being former principals, I was countering the notion that these individuals be former TFA people as mentioned above. As an experienced teacher, I don't want some 20 something ex-TFA type being called a master teacher with their barely 5 years of work history. I would value the expertise of a truly master teacher, one with 20 some years of classroom success behind them to sit in and see what I can do better.

Posted by: chelita | June 4, 2009 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Peoples' opposition to this plan shows that they will never be in favor of any evaluation or effort to increase accountability.

Tell me who you want to evaluate you.

Principal - NO
Tests - NO
Independent Evaluators - NO


Posted by: makplan20002 | June 4, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse


I dont know what you are saying. The way I read it, the jobs pay 90k but that number doesn't include benefits that do exist.

Posted by: makplan20002 | June 4, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Chelita – “an impartial observer not from our school” – yes that would be fine – but it’s not at all clear that such observers would be impartial, or that they would not know about union activities.

They could easily be advised to look out for that known-to-be incompetent teacher as well as to look out for that excellent teacher who is a little too active in the union.

Power and pride – I doubt that qualified retired people who apply will be selected. We’ll see. They would certainly have an easily traced track record, but knowing how DCPS works may not be considered an asset – they could be perceived as not having the right “mindset.”

Not worrying about being fired at will might be considered a liability too – less likely to kowtow and not concerned about their next recommendation.

Posted by: efavorite | June 4, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

makplan got it right. I can say no more.

Posted by: chelita | June 4, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Is this a part of what she wanted the money from the Council for? Sounds like it because there certainly aren't 3,000 children coming back to DCPS.

Posted by: southyrndiva | June 4, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

The impartial evaluators' names will be picked out of a hat with the WTU present. Then the WTU and DCPS representatives will storm the evaluators' residences at 4:30 AM. They will have a hood placed over their heads. They will be brought to a school to observe teacher who will remain anonymous through the assignment a 12 digit alpha numeric ID and the presence of a pantyhose stretched over their head like a bank robber. Actually, better make that a full fledged ski mask. The face distortion caused by the panty hose does not offset the ID revealing characteristics of its opaqueness. The evaluator then has only 5 minutes to assign of rating of super, excellent, or great to the teacher so as not to have the identity of the teacher compromised.

That should work, right?

Maybe we can let the teacher and their best friend provide an evaluation as well and then average the three scores. I havent figured out how to average words though. I'll stew over it for a couple days and get back to you

Posted by: makplan20002 | June 4, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

How polarizing/offensive/controversial of a personality or teaching methods do you have to have to have such an irrational demand for impartiality?

Posted by: makplan20002 | June 4, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Rhee has not done anything to instill trust among teachers. She has not considered it important. She's made it clear repeatedly that she believes that teachers alone are responsible for student outcomes and that those who cannot raise scores despite other factors in kids' lives are not "great teachers" and should go.

She figured by now she would have busted the union and fired "a significant share" of teachers as she stated was her intention in her five year plan and as she touted across the country.

Consequently, plans she comes up with are distrusted and scrutinized carefully.

You reap what you sow.

Posted by: efavorite | June 4, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

In what other industry/field/career can someone refuse to be evaluated by his or her boss? Then, as if that's not heinous enough, be provided with alternatives, only to nix those too?

I'm appalled. And I'm a DCPS teacher.

Posted by: goldgirl96 | June 4, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

You really shouldnt be distrustful unless you are a bad teacher. Even if you are a bad teacher, you could choose the option (under Rhee's plan) that allows you to keep your tenure and still get a significant initial raise (though not as much as those teachers who forego tenure for a year) and then continue getting raises in a traditional manner.

This is the mind boggling part. Everybody can get what they want.

All you people afraid of being fired are being used like pawns by the AFT who is feeding you lies, because they dont want anyone to agree to give up tenure. Because once DC half heartedly does it, then another district somewhere else does it. They are not looking out for you. You are looking out for teachers everywhere, which is noble, but I'm not buying it as your rationale, because nobody has mentioned it. All I hear is impartial blah blah, test scores blah blah, distrust blah blah, poverty blah blah, parents blah blah.

Posted by: makplan20002 | June 4, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Further, do you people realize how much money you have already missed out on over the past 2 or 3 years while the union has dragged its feet. I would say conservatively about 4k per year on average. Sure would be nice to have an extra 8k (after taxes) in the bank now.

The WTU has been a miserable failure. They even blew past a date that would have allowed for a retroactive pay bonus. My details on that are fuzzy, but I know someone was upset last fall when the date passed without a contract and they missed out on $2500.

It's a joke, the contract expired what, 3 years ago? People have missed out on higher pay for 3 years. For what? To prevent some of your colleagues from risking their tenure in an effort to earn more money. I suppose they should thank you for looking out for them. Wouldn't want any body making their own decisions based on confidence in their abilities.

Posted by: makplan20002 | June 4, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Chelita you are right. To have an unexperienced person who doesn't have a clue as to what teaching and learning really looks evaluating teachers is silly. OKnow's example is perfect. You are also correct that teachers would be crazy to give up their tenure to take an "at will" position. There have been too many sacrificial lambs to illustrate that it would be a mistake.

Efavorite you are correct. There is no trust. Particulary if they cannot produce enough evidence to validate more teacher firings.

Power and Pride: You're wrong! Retired people won't be jumping on that even for 90K. They have been there and done that, seen it come and go and are enjoying life without all the undue stress.They don't have to take the crap! They have finished with children and have once again started enjoying the simple pleasures of life. Today's retirees don't wear stinky "ole spice or sinus infecting "red door". They are fly energetic and have a seflish agenda. They live each day "at will". That means getting up late, hanging out, traveling, working in their gardens,shopping and clubbing, AT WILL! They sometimes take part time jobs and they quit them too! All of it "AT WILL"! They know one more thing too! That some things change and most things don't and they know DCPS never pays on time so it's not worth the time to be on time.

Posted by: candycane1 | June 4, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Teachers already know of examples of principals being fired and good teachers let go, if they didn't have tenure yet, or excessed if they did, or getting put on the 90 day plan for bogus reasons.

These actions are supposed to scare the people left in place into submission and to remind everyone that YOU COULD BE NEXT no matter how good you are.

Posted by: efavorite | June 4, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Efavorite as you speak some principals have already been told they will not be reappointed and the timing suggests that they have not had their final evaluations either and teachers who were put on 90 day plans don't know their status.

Posted by: candycane1 | June 4, 2009 7:34 PM | Report abuse

candycane -- were they {{{bad}}} teachers and principals? Because if they were, some would say they don't deserve any better treatment than what you say they're getting.

Of course, without evaluations, it's hard to know how their fate was determined. This keeps people on their toes.

Posted by: efavorite | June 4, 2009 9:56 PM | Report abuse

Well a couple of them that I know of were her new hirees, "The New Army of Believers". But the ones I know personally are very hard working professionals. That's becoming such a strange word, "professionalism".

Posted by: candycane1 | June 4, 2009 10:12 PM | Report abuse

candycane -- I assume we'll be reading about them in the paper soon?

With school still in session, it could be embarrassing for the principal to get canned. could be bad for school morale too.

Posted by: efavorite | June 4, 2009 10:26 PM | Report abuse

As a retired DCPS Administator, I suggest you all take a break, "at will" of course, and watch this educational institution fall under the Rhee Regime. I think it will not be long before the system crashes. Already the summer jobs program is running foul. There are too many inexperienced "we know everything folks" taking charge of critical positions. Wait and Watch "at Will". People are focused on saving the country; however this city is crumbling under the diaper brigade. They whine and piss on people and demand too damn much. The current occupants at 825 are no different. Cherita, you are thinking like the old guard - play it safe. The children are no good to you unless you have a home to go to to prepare your lessons. efavorite, keep pondering the 825 magic show - here today, gone tomorrow. Candycane1, you are right about the "at will" statement. Absolutely fabulous. No Red Door for me. I will be smelling like beach and sand in a couple of days-after taking in the jazz festval. All "at will" of course. Any takers out there? You see, the diaper brigade will never learn to enjoy this at will stuff they came up with. They will be too old to see how to reach someone on their many blackberrys. Oops! N0 interpersonal skills.

Posted by: shank2sb | June 5, 2009 1:05 AM | Report abuse

825 is not concerned with humiliating our principals and teachers. Like I said, professionalism is a strange word in DCPS. E favorite we will hear more about it I'm sure.

Thanks:shank2sb.I like your comments about interpersonal skills. It speaks volumns regarding professionalism.

Posted by: candycane1 | June 5, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

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