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DCPS Report: Little Opening Day Drama

Compared to the fiascoes of year's past, most of D.C.'s 127 public schools had uncommonly quiet openings last month, according to a report released this evening by Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's office.

There were no major scheduling snafus and just a smattering of teacher vacancies when classes began on Aug. 24. Most of the schools that had undergone summer renovation and construction were good to go. All but two (Hart Middle and Miner Elementary) had their kitchens and cafeterias up and running.

"Our students and teachers were able to arrive at school and focus on learning from day one unlike previous years when drama often overshadowed the first day of school," said the ten-page study.

Still, there were enough kinks to leave plenty of room for improvement. Nearly half of the 22 schools that were supposed to offer Read 180, a self-paced computerized program for kids reading below grade level, weren't able to. Either they didn't have enough computers because they were ordered late, or there were classrooms with what the report called "limited Internet connectivity."

Twenty classrooms across thirteen schools were without air conditioning, including Anacostia, Ballou and Banneker high schools, Eliot-Hine Middle School and Ludlow-Taylor, Thomas and Tyler elementary schools. Anacostia was also short 92 geometry textbooks. Dunbar had textbook issues as well. And while there were only 28 teacher vacancies, ten of those were for special education instructors. Kelly-Miller Middle School and Hyde Elementary began the year without special education coordinators.

The report also noted that it does not oversee bus service for special education students, which has been plagued by problems. The bus operation, which is supposed to take about 4,000 special needs kids to schools throughout the region, has left scores of them late or sitting at home because of bugs in the new routing software it installed this summer.

DCPS said that while the buses are under the jurisdiction of court-appointed administrator David Gilmore, it will "continue to pursue available options that enable DCPS students to arrive on time each day to school."

You can read the report here

Bill Turque

By Bill Turque  |  September 14, 2009; 7:40 PM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque , Education  
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The report originated from where? OK if you say so. Ask others like teachers, parents and students.

Posted by: candycane1 | September 14, 2009 10:30 PM | Report abuse

Good idea, Candycane, to have an official report from the community.

I don't think Burroughs elementary school parents would agree with Rhee's assessment. They held a press conference about unfinished renovations when schools started. It was reported here and on the Washington Teachers blog,* where some great pics of the disarray were published.


Posted by: efavorite | September 14, 2009 11:17 PM | Report abuse

Fantastic. Does this mean the results of parent survey administered last year and referenced in the GAO report will released soon?

Posted by: Title1SoccerMom | September 15, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Same thing with Orr elementary. Wet tar on the grounds made a big mess with a lot of shoes and uniforms on the first day. Exactly how many special needs kids were home and for how many days. BTW did you see the latest on a candidate for mayor? His name is Leo Alexander.

Posted by: candycane1 | September 15, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Is this like being a little bit pregnant? Compared to the Janey, Vance and Ackerman era...Rhee's era is almost a vacation. As we usually do...we look at others dysfunctional predictaments such as PG and say thank you!!! It is somewhat of an accomplishment not being called from others in varioius cities...saying what in the h-e-double hockey sticks is going on in DC? Let's be real...the only thing that has irritated people thus far...was having Rhee on a major publication with a broom in her hand. Considering how she was pictured and what we are enduring...the cleaning up scenario has been pretty much been on point.

Basically she was brought here to DCPS to clean-up and not to disinfect. If, so she would have adorned an HAZMAT suit in her photo-op.

Posted by: PowerandPride | September 15, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

I just checked out Alexander on Fox*

First impression is positive - at least he comes across as a lot more sane than Fenty, which I know isn't saying much.

Soccermom - keep hounding them about the teacher-parent survey.


Posted by: efavorite | September 15, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

@PowerandPride: what are you smoking? Or maybe you need new glasses to read more than the DCPS self-reports. What exactly has Rhee cleaned up? She can point to test scores that are suspicious because of erasure rates that are 5 times the norm and weren't investigated, and let's see, maybe she predicted the number of students enrolling in DCPS somewhat accurately (although that remains to be seen.) I have listened to the teachers and administrators who are demoralized and scared into silence and obedience by Rhee's scorched earth policies. She's Fenty's PR point person for the schools and nothing more.

Dr. Janey was not given enough time as a superintendent, nor has he been given proper credit for his work. At least with Dr. Janey, I heard a superintendent talk about curriculum and ideas (like Saturday school---which Rhee adopted and tries to claim as hers) and the impact on students. Rhee is all about union busting and privatization of the schools.

Logistics and school building modernizations should not be in the scope of a "chancellor's" achievements, so any work that Allen Lew does should be credited to him and not to Rhee.

Posted by: dccitizen1 | September 15, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

dccitizen1 - you are on point!

The only difference between this year than years past is PG had the schedule calamity that took the media focus. Hearing the parents at Burroughs, it was no way that school was ready for kids. In prior administrations, the idea of teachers not getting into schools to prepare their classes would have been cause for heads to roll. Construction/renovations or not. The Rhee administration is getting such a pass it is really sickening. the fact this come out 2 weeks after school started is quite telling in itself.

Posted by: oknow1 | September 15, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

dccitizen1...did we not get Rhee after those who were in la-la land with Janey thinking that education was on the upswing...were still bombarding their public elected officials with complaints of "management" porpotion of DCPS. I am not here to defend Rhee but for those who remember her confirmation hearing...the Q&A portion of testimony was all about the management success of her career history. I do believe she's given credit to Janey's plan and has publicly stated that she was not hired to reinvent the wheel. Therefore, the wheels are adorning the new car but in reality when the wheels are worned they can and usually are replaced. Unfortunately, some will purchase retreads.

I hope you get my analogy...a let's roll on.

Have we've met, because how do you know I needed new glasses?

Posted by: PowerandPride | September 15, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

PowerandPride: Rhee herself has stated that it takes at least two years for improvements to the system show up in results. By that reasoning, any upswing now is the result of Dr. Janey's plans. I don't think anyone is arguing that DCPS wasn't/isn't in bad shape. So I'm not sure who was in "la-la land", as you put it. My kids were in public schools for 15 years, but they had advantages that many of our city's kids don't---and that makes a huge difference---but everyone has been painfully aware of the discrepancies in the various schools and across the neighborhoods of DC. It was Fenty, who AFTER he was elected, said HE should run the school system. I certainly don't remember him running on that platform, but maybe I just don't remember. Anyway, I don't have a problem with him taking over the modernization/maintainence part, but the education part is beyond his skill. And he has installed a TOTALLY worthless person in his cabinet, Victor Reinoso, to be the DM for Education. Can anyone name anything that DM Reinoso has done except to plagiarize (sp?) a report?

I think your analogy is a bit of a stretch. Dr. Janey was no where near being "worn out". IMHO, Mayor Fenty wanted someone who could produce "results" fast---i.e. test scores that might have been cooked and bust the union"---and Dr. Janey was more interested in true education reform adn probably wouldn't have "gotten with the program". Yes, I remember Rhee talking about her "successes", which, unfortunately, were undocumented (Baltimore school experience). I've read enough about her "career history" in Sacramento to convince me she is all about PR and making a name for herself and does not have a deep understanding of her profession or how to truly listen to people , or, well, my list would go on way too long for this forum.

I would love to see true reform in the city. There are so many factors involved, and I do believe that Rhee is right in saying that we need teachers who can BELIEVE in students. But that is so simplistic as to be laughable, and there are many more factors, including support for teachers (not just saying--oh, no more suspensions, and then leaving teachers to fend for themselves in a disruptive classroom and then punishing them when students are violent, for example).

We all need new glasses from time to time.

Posted by: dccitizen1 | September 15, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

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