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Some D.C. teachers go back to work

In the next few days, District lawyers are expected to respond to the Washington Teachers' Union lawsuit, explaining why DCPS was within its rights to lay off 266 teachers and staff. At the same time, the school system has quietly reinstated 25 teachers terminated last summer under the so-called "90-day plan."

The plan--actually 90 school days spread across about five months--was supposed to be a regimen of remedial action for teachers who received "unsatisfactory" ratings in at least six of 17 performance categories from an administrator who observed a classroom lesson. Those still judged unsatisfactory in at least three categories at the end of the period could be fired.

The provision has been in the District's personnel regulations for years but was seldom invoked because principals had trouble finding time to meet its cumbersome, labor-intensive series of conferences and deadlines. Educators on the plan were also supposed to be teamed with "helping teachers" to work through problems, but that didn't always happen. Any procedural misstep could send a teacher's case back to square one.

But last fall Rhee, frustrated with the lack of progress in contract talks that she'd hoped would give her more latitude to fire poor-performing teachers, put the 90-day plan back in play. It was part of what she called "Plan B." Principals identified roughly 150 teachers for the program, and about 80 were ultimately fired.

Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson said the 25 dismissals were walked back because of "ambiguity" in the existing labor contract and language in the school system's old personnel evaluation plan, known as PPEP (Professional Performance Evaluation Process). PPEP, and the 90-day plan, have since been supplanted by a new, more streamlined system called IMPACT.

Without disappearing completely into the human resources weeds, it seems that a teacher could be deemed a 90-day-plan washout, but still receive a larger overall evaluation that said something more benign, such as "needs improvement." Under the contract, a teacher can be fired only after two consecutive years with the "needs improvement" tag.

"The union maintains one position, we maintain another," Henderson said in an e-mail Wednesday. "Rather than go to court over a clearly ambiguous issue, we decided to settle. Knowing that this type of discrepancy cannot occur through the IMPACT process, we are not concerned about this issue moving forward."

Bill Turque

By Bill Turque  |  October 21, 2009; 5:03 PM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque , Education  
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I like that Turque, "quietly re-instated" LOL. Question: After firing 229 where will the quietly re-instated be assigned if the budget can't support them? Question 2 Where are the 80 probationary teachers that were illegally fired in 08 and the courts re-instated them?

BTW Mr. Turque, you are doing a superb job!

Posted by: candycane1 | October 21, 2009 8:31 PM | Report abuse

Did DC Wire ever get 15 answers to 15 Questions?

Posted by: edlharris | October 21, 2009 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm – I always thought Plan B was a federal takeover. I got that impression from your reporting, Mr. Turque:

“The proposals [restoring the District's power to create nonunionized charter schools and seeking federal legislation declaring the school system in a "state of emergency] first appeared in a statement drafted for a Sept. 22 news conference where Rhee and Fenty were scheduled to present a series of steps they could take under existing regulations to rid the system of teachers deemed ineffective. The steps, dubbed Plan B, would allow Rhee to bypass contract negotiations with the union.”


I figured the 90 day plan didn't become Plan B until the takeover became defunct, after you filed the FOIA request that exposed it.

There was something about the exuberant look on Rhee’s face when she said “Plan B” that indicated it was something really big, way beyond some weary dredging up of a longstanding contract rule. Zzzzzz.

She was going to make a big splash and you ruined it, so she cut you off.

She had to wait almost a year before making her next big splash - the RIF.

Posted by: efavorite | October 21, 2009 10:54 PM | Report abuse

I wonder how many of those "quietly reinstated" are Rhee hires? I'm willing to bet that most, if not all, are part of her bright-eyed, energetic (few or no skills) reform brigade. I hope the Council and other investigative parties delve into this issue before the hearing on the 29th.

Also, if those let go were reinstated based on their "ambiguous" needs improvement rating, seems to me that teachers who were recently terminated with "Exceeds Expectations" (or even "Meets Expectations") ratings are a shoo-in for reinstatement, as well!

Posted by: schooletal | October 21, 2009 10:58 PM | Report abuse

It was probably his reporting on Plan B that resulted in Mrs. Rhee throwing a tantrum and refusing to speak to Mr. Turque for nearly a year.

Posted by: edlharris | October 22, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

"Knowing that this type of discrepancy cannot occur through the IMPACT process, we are not concerned about this issue moving forward."

In other words, "We'll fire 'em again next year - this time, for good."

Posted by: efavorite | October 22, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Efavorite: That's exactly what it means.

Efavorite and Ed:

In your research have you run across any school district that uses two evaluative tools for teachers? One for teachers whose students take the test and anopthe rfor those who don't.

Posted by: candycane1 | October 22, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, I haven't done that much research, but as a specialist, I've often wondered how specialists fit into the test score based evaluations.
Probably don't, but as someone like Rhee would say, if you wantperformance/merit pay, you'll have to teach a tested subject.

Posted by: edlharris | October 22, 2009 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Candycane - are you saying teachers who teach DC-CAS tested grades aren't evaluated via IMPACT? If so, I didn't realize that and it doesn't make sense, since the DC-CAS only measures achievement and the IMPACT evaluation measures so much more, like how many teaching styles are used in 30 minutes and how many kids nod off.

Posted by: efavorite | October 22, 2009 9:22 PM | Report abuse

efavorite - IMPACT is different for teachers who teach a DC-CAS tested grade and subject and those who don't. There are two different sets of criteria and weighting of the evaluations categories. At this point in time, only about 19% of the teachers are going to be subject to having DC-CAS scores included in their evaluations. But the DCPS goal is to increase the testing into more grades and content areas so that this percentage increases.

Posted by: scinerd1 | October 22, 2009 11:08 PM | Report abuse

EFAVORITE: That's what I'm saying. Teachers who do not teach students in the testing grades are being evaluated using the learning frameworks.

Posted by: candycane1 | October 23, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Somewhere in one of her interviews and it may have been that bogus interactive one with WAPO where it was stated.

Posted by: candycane1 | October 23, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

If anybody caught loose lips, Americans for Tax Reform is pushing for supporters to show up at the hearings for Rhee on the 29th.

Posted by: candycane1 | October 23, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

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