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D.C. ed reform forum to feature Clifford Janey

Wednesday night's community forum on education reform in the District is loaded with participants who would like to buy Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee a one-way ticket to Sacramento: Washington Teachers' Union general vice president and presidential candidate Nathan Saunders, school budget expert Mary Levy, and Council members Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) and Michael A. Brown (I-At Large). Activists Robert Vinson Brannum and Cherita Whiting are also both vehement critics of Rhee. (The keynote speaker, deputy assistant education secretary Katherine Tobin, has no strong feelings about Rhee one way or the other, so far as we know)

What makes this event (7 to 8:30 pm in the Wilson Building, Rm. 412, preceeded by 6:30 reception) unusual is a scheduled appearance by former D.C. superintendent Clifford B. Janey as a panel member. Ousted by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who replaced him with Rhee just hours after he took over DCPS in 2007, Janey is now superintendent of schools in Newark, N.J. He has risen to folk hero status among many anti-Rhee partisans, who correctly point out that he laid the foundation for some of the recent student progress on Rhee's watch. It was Janey who imported the MCAS, the Massachusetts standardized test for use in the District, both for its rigor and alignment to the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) exam. District students have made steady advances in NAEP since 2003.

In a December interview, he said: "The Janey footprint is there and it needs no excavation to be seen." It will be interesting to see if he has decided that more excavation is in order. Part of his financial settlement with D.C. , which included a $275,000 payment and pension benefits, says: "Dr. Janey will not disparage the District or its officials."

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By Bill Turque  |  March 30, 2010; 12:10 PM ET
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Next: Is election a referendum on Rhee?


A little buyers remorse... Ever notice how after you've DUMPED your ex, when you see them again they're more attractive than before?!

Posted by: isupreme | March 30, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

isupreme...what is even better for the ex is when they catch you looking. I can guarantee you that they will be plenty of the current DCPS regime in attendance eyeing the former competition at this forum.

What goes around comes around...was it not Rhee who had ill-feelings about Janey's management style while her NTP was under his reign? Here we are having an education reform forum to feature Janey that will no-doubt discuss Rhee's management style.

Posted by: PowerandPride | March 30, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Cliff's a great guy, and did a few things that endured, but many things declined, too in his short stint, e.g., quality of the teacher corps. I look forward to greeting him at the reception on Wednesday. However, if Gray wins the mayoralty, he won't dump Rhee, and Cliff will stay in Newark. It is a lot easier job than what Rhee has, and Cliff does not move fast enough as a reformer.

Posted by: axolotl | March 30, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

HA! - GREAT analogy isupreme!!!

Posted by: missboo | March 30, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Axolotl, what do you mean if Gray wins, he won't dump Rhee? A whole heck of a lot of people who will be voting for Gray will be doing so for that very reason, to get rid of Rhee.

Posted by: chelita | March 30, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

isupreme, this is SO TRUE. All the union teachers who whined and complained about Janey and all his bad policies suddenly act like he was better than Rhee. sorry teachers, you just aren't believable anymore.

isupreme, you caught the WTU red-handed on that one, Cheers!

Posted by: bbcrock | March 30, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Chelita, very few people will vote for Gray no matter what. He's too ethics-challenged over that fence and he has no money to buy ads. All the green Fenty signs I see on the lawns every day? Where are they going to go, you know?

Posted by: bbcrock | March 30, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Axolotl i don't get the argument that janey was slow. I want you to study an existing school system and develop a new curriculum, educational master plan, Facilities master plan and more in 2 years and change. Much of what many people think is reform by Rhee is a circus show full of smoke and mirrors. Janey had his faults, but for about the same time in office at least he had a tangible blueprint of what was to be done. Oh yeah, Reinoso copied their plan off the web verbatim.

Posted by: oknow1 | March 30, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

oknow1--depends what the def. of "many people" is. Cliff is a good guy and a pro, but just too slow---as a reformer. If
Gray runs on a dump-Rhee platform, Ms. Chelita, it will backfire. Note to Gray: Cliff won't come back here anyway. Dump Rhee, and we return to a continuation of a steep decline in just about everything at DCPS.

Posted by: axolotl | March 30, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Janey's background was in curriculum. That was his strength. Bringing Mass. standards to DC was clearly a move in the right direction.

However, as a DCPS parent at that time, I can tell you that he was not regarded as a manager. It was felt that he did not have a sense of urgency. Buildings were crumbling, small schools needed to be closed, and his plan to do so was spread out over a decade. The problem with all of the under-enrolled schools was that they completely drained the budget.(No matter the number of kids, each school needs a principal, heat, security, electricity, etc.) Because of the money these small schools siphoned, an over-enrolled school with 500 kids had only two people in the front office, no assistant principal, no math specialists, no reading specialists, no foreign language teachers. The under-enrolled schools had to be closed asap so that the other schools could function even on a basic level. The entire system was substandard.

Also, Janey was very slow to respond to many other problems, such as lead in the water, an illegal school calendar (too short) that he agreed to, as pressed by the union, etc. Many of us felt that adopting a curriculum -- in theory -- did not translate to teachers actually teaching it in the classroom, and there was no repercussion for not doing so. We would look at the curriculum and say, "oh, is that what they're supposed to be learning?"

Posted by: trace1 | March 30, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Janey got a 6 point increase in 4th grade NAEP reading scores and Rhee only got a 5 point increase. that's 16.6% less than Janey.

I don't give either one of them sole credit. There are so many factors to consider in student achievement. But still, if you just look at numbers, which Rhee likes to do, then Janey is ahead of Rhee by 16%. And he did it without mayoral control and without bashing teachers.

Posted by: efavorite | March 30, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

I believe if Gray would win...Janey would be on his short list as well as Meria Carstarphen...why heck...Robert Bobb would be on the list if we could financially afford him.

But, I hafta agree I think Gray will not go on the limb and say that Rhee will be rhee-placed because she has enough power to rhee-mind him as a candidate that she has enough rhee-sources to make him or break him rhee-spectfully.

If body-actions speaks volumes...then that hand-shake between Gray and Rhee at the recent hearing...spoke loud and clear. If not then to use Gray's words...he was so very disingenious.

Was it a hand-shake or a hand-dance?

Posted by: PowerandPride | March 30, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

That 16 percent is not statistically reliable and would be swamped by the many sources of errors. And let's look at all those things Janey did not do, like nothing to keep the budget from being drained by the excess buildings. He could not even get a bathroom or roof repaired on time. What is the sound of one hand clapping? Cliff, curriculum expert tho he is, won't be coming back. That is a win-win. And Gray, at his peril, can cause at least a couple of years of ultra chaos and retrograde movement if he canned Rhee. But Gray won't be in that position anyway. He will be in his Council chair, tending to Marion.

Posted by: axolotl | March 30, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

sounds like some people are starting to think that Fenty might get dumped and Janey might be back.

Posted by: efavorite | March 30, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

Hey, PowerandPride: I like your Rhee-isms, even tho u hate Rhee. Very amusing.

And Gray, when greeting Rhee, showed the sound of one hand shaking. She scares him.

Posted by: axolotl | March 30, 2010 6:36 PM | Report abuse

I doubt seriously that Janey would travel back to DC. Newark is under a state takeover and he was hired by the governor. Carstarphan is the Supt. in Austin Texas. Neither has a reason to look back and I hope that Rhee finds reason to look "west".

Posted by: candycane1 | March 30, 2010 10:30 PM | Report abuse

Janey was slow? Are any of you aware of the proposals he submitted to the mayor and council? Are any of you aware of the process janey had to go through with the School Board before he could even go to the Council and mayor? Do you all know how many times he got rebuffed and delayed because the school board members were pissed he or his staff briefed members of the council or mayor before them! Are any of you aware just how dysfunctional the DC School Board was?

Janey had a bureaucratic nightmare unlike Rhee. Do you all remember one of the caveats of mayoral takeover was abolishing the school board and the direct report to the mayor. I've said this before, if Rhee knew what the heck she was doing educationally the new structure would be quite effective. Being that education is not Rhee's true agenda, we have seen little educational change. but, you have seen contracting out and privatization of normal DCPS services grow. You can play word games. but the environment and situation was totally different.

I do say the man had faults. Janey did not have a good sense of the need to communicate the good the bad or the direction for DCPS. Chief Ramsey was a perfect example. love him or hate him, you saw Ramsey or heard him on radio or TV enough to know the man was out there talking to/tap dancing/sugar coating issues. Janey should have been open to that approach to sell his work at DCPS. That's why Fenty is "Fenty on Fox"/"Fenty on 4" once a week. it's a good vehicle for him to sale himself as effective and in-touch.

If Janey were Michelle Rhee or Fenty he would have cried about the state or non-existent state of DCPS for the 1st 3 years. But he implemented a new curriculum within 2. I would love to see the Fenty administration show that type of ability in any facet. oh yeah, Reinoso can copy and paste in 2 minutes.

Posted by: oknow1 | March 30, 2010 11:35 PM | Report abuse


If you had kids in the seats in the classrooms when Janey was Superintendent, you would know that your statement that Janey "implemented a new curriculum" is wrong. What the teachers were "teaching" my kids bore very little relation to what they were supposed to be learning according to the standards.

That was the problem with Janey. Good ideas, good plans, little follow-through. With no accountability among the teachers, and a dysfunctional teacher training program, it was impossible to actually ensure that the standards were being taught.

Posted by: trace1 | March 31, 2010 7:28 AM | Report abuse

Just a prime example that King, um, Mayor Fenty doesn't know a damn thing about education. Clifford Janey DID lay the foundation for the current gains for DC students, but Fenty wanted to take credit for it quickly. DC needs a new mayor.

Posted by: linroy62 | March 31, 2010 8:14 AM | Report abuse

Re, Janey's stint in Rochester pre-DCPS:

"But he left that job in 2002 under a cloud after a $45 million budget deficit threatened to throw the system into turmoil. His supporters on the Rochester school board crafted a generous buyout of his three-year contract in a deal that was attacked by critics on the board and by the city's mayor. Since last year, he has worked for an educational publisher."

Don't forget, Janey was only picked after leading candidates pulled out because of the dysfunctional management/political structure in the District at that time. (The guy is good at buyouts, though.)

Posted by: trace1 | March 31, 2010 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Trace1 - yes, Janey was the 3rd choice and essentialy got the job by default. The 1st 2 candidates pulled out. one openly talked about how dysfunctional DC was.

As for the disconnect between the classroom and 825, I contend that is what Janey was trying to fix. Was the fix immediate no. it was a work in progress. The 1st step is the plan and standards, the second step is the implementation. As typical with DCPS, many principles thought they knew better and wanted to do their own thing like the power that be had allowed previously. In other cases teachers had no clue and did not invest time to the purpose. I also recall the year he was dismissed was supposed to be a big year for comprehensive training for the teachers. if there is one area anyone can knock the WTU, it was their lack of accommodating training outside the school year or normal business hours without additional compensation. It really showed how dysfunctional DCPS was as a whole.

Posted by: oknow1 | March 31, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

oknow1 -
Then you and I are on the same page. Janey proposed - but did not implement - a new curriculum.

But to be fair, I don't know how any CEO could institute system-wide change without designated training time, as well as hire/fire/promotion authority. That's the basic problem with DCPS.

Posted by: trace1 | March 31, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

axoloti...I like Rhee and I think she's doing a great job at the helm for what she was hired to do. Quite frankly, it was not until March 10th when I said to myself the honeymoon is over. But I am not seeking a divorce or a legal separation...I am just wondering if some sort of counseling is in order.

Also I am just having heartburn with her expertise and what her experts are both trying to convey to the public. I don't ever want her to rhee-gret any decision that she's made on behalf of DCPS...but I do believe a rhee-thinking or rhee-tracking on certain issues would not damage her rhee-imaging.

As for Janey...if he was given the governance structure as under Rhee...then all of what was implied as being too-slow would not be an issue, matter of factly he would be viewed as obeying the speed-limit. Let's be real...Janey wanted to speed things up...but it was a radar of sorts i.e., school board, council, FCC, and stakeholders who were constantly back seat driving.

Again, I am just wondering if Gray wins, he talks to the young but he listens to the old. Which is just the slight opposite of Fenty who listen to the young and doesnt' talk to the old.

Posted by: PowerandPride | March 31, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse


What part of town do you live in? From my Ward 4 porch, I do not see a wave of green and white. Most of my neighbors are waiting for the Gray signs.

You and other Rhee fans cannot spin this one.

To axoloti

Did you have a bad experience with a DCPS teacher while in school? Or do you hate all teachers? Your distain for DCPS teachers is telling. And, please do not give me the old spin about the incompetent ones at your child’s school.

Considering the way you have buried your head as far as Rhee is concerned, I question whether or not you can judge incompetency.

Posted by: fmurray20011 | March 31, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

fmurry2001: I respect teachers; they have my thanks. But the ones who are not competent or energetic or who have given up on the challenges of DC youth need to move on, now. Not measuring teacher performance makes evaluation of those things pretty tough, right? Do you think that has anything to do with teacher resistance to Impact? Strong teachers have little to fear. You sound like Geo. Parker, Randi Weingarten, and legions of soft commenters on these blogues, who believe teachers have nothing to do with the steep decline of DC education quality over decades. No responsibility at all. Lifetime jobs for all. Where have you been? That's not the way to help our children, and yo should know better. Try thinking like a parent, not a stalwart union member. And don't tell me there is a plot; we citizens are in control. No one in DCPS managed the teacher corps, demanded improvements, closed schools, started evaluating teachers in a meaningful way until very recently. Gray, if he is not careful should he get lucky and become mayor, can give up all the gains. Then who will you point a finger at or beg for help?

Posted by: axolotl | March 31, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse


Why, yes, I had a bad experience with many teachers when my kids attended DCPS. The problems? Low expectations. Everything got an A or check-plus. No corrections on the papers, no drafts required, no real work coming back from the teacher. No books assigned, just an instruction to "read at home." Papers assigned, but no research or outlining skills taught. Vocabulary words to blindly memorize, but no instruction in classical roots.

If you think this is "spin," you have blinders on. It is the truth.

To be sure, there are some great teachers in DCPS. Most of them are just as eager as the parents to get rid of the dead wood.

Posted by: trace1 | March 31, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

trace1 - please understand the process. to develop the curriculum in the timeframe he did was a whirlwind effort. This is a meat and potatoes issue. This is not a simple press release and hype in other media outlets. This is real work. I trust if Janey were not fired DCPS would be in a better place with it's educational instruction.

Posted by: oknow1 | March 31, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

oknow1--you are almost certainly right, if you mean the curriculum development he spearheaded would be further advanced. But, if he were here, we would also have no progress in closing schools that are bleeding us dry, no school repairs worth a darn, textbooks locked up in warehouses, rooms full of fatties in the CO, no teacher evaluations. And ineffective teachers would still be comfortably in place, confident they could keep their jobs while doing little or nothing for the kids. Curriculum development is not an urgent or primary need in DCPS, compared to all the other meat and potatoes shortfalls. Janey had no stomach for reform. He is a nice, intellectual guy, but he can't get things done that we need done. That is why he is gone. I look forward to hugging him tonight at the forum.

Posted by: axolotl | March 31, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

"To develop the curriculum in the timeframe he did was a whirlwind effort."

Huh? Janey didn't "develop" anything. He simply evaluated standards from California and Massachusetts, and then adopted those from the latter state.

Axolotl, you are exactly right. Janey had no stomach for the gut-wrenching reform that was desperately needed in DC after decades of the schools being used as jobs and patronage delivery devices.

Posted by: trace1 | March 31, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Am I supposed to be shocked at all that the Rhee-formers are taking an opportunity to devalue a black educated man's efforts; I wish I could say that I am shocked but alas, I am NOT!!!

Posted by: lacairaine | March 31, 2010 11:45 PM | Report abuse


Are you really axolotl? Did you slip and give yourself away with your 12:38 pm post?

For the record, I am not a union member or a teacher.

Posted by: fmurray20011 | April 1, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Nope, I'm not anyone but trace1. I don't think Axolotl has kids in DCPS. In fact, I may be the only poster who has ever had kids in the schools. But I guess in your mind, that's not relevant and you'd rather listen to posters who have never been involved directly with the schools.

Are you related to any union members of teachers? A DC resident? Just curious about your interest in DCPS. Mine is as a resident and former parent of enrolled students.

Posted by: trace1 | April 1, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Trace1, there are plenty of us who are current parents in DCPS, who are less than enamored of Rhee these days.

I realize it isn't a popular stance, give how much the press adores the Chancellor, but the fact is, she has made a mess of things. I'll be the first to admit the system was in desperate need of reform, but I thought Janney's measured, thoughtful pace was actually bringing about improvement.

Rhee has brought lots and lots of drama, but no real improvement to my child's school.

Yes, you used DCPS for a quick minute before you fled to the suburbs, but there are many of us who are watching how Rhee's ineptitude hurts our child each and every day. It's not fun and I resent being accused of a supporting an inferior and dysfunctional past when I dare breathe a challenge to the Chancellor.

Posted by: Title1SoccerMom | April 1, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse


I wouldn't call 10 years a "quick minute," I still live in DC, and I have been quite critical of Michelle Rhee. But I do not believe that Clifford Janey would have brought about real reform. I had kids in DCPS through 4 different Superintendents.

And I wouldn't say the "press adores the Chancellor." I'd say the Editorial page has been quite fawning. Let's not go too broad here. Bill Turque is not a fan.

I can't speak to where things are now. But I can say without a doubt that when Janey was Superintendent, my kids' school in upper NW was larded with incompetent teachers and a curriculum that was a joke - despite what was adopted by Janey on paper. We did a heavy amount of supplementing outside of school, particularly on writing, grammar, and history.

Posted by: trace1 | April 1, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Keep speaking out, soccermom, I notice the Rhee supporters are attacking harder these days, but I think it's because they are getting very worried.

I don't know if they need to be - after all Fenty has way more $$ than Gray and Rhee is still a media darling.

Posted by: efavorite | April 1, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Come on trace1, by the time by oldest was in third grade my family was on it's 4th superintendent. Let's face it, we change leaders in DCPS more often than plenty of people change out their socks... You are no longer a DCPS parent and you have no idea what's going on in schools. Unlike you, I didn't have the good sense, or more accurately the cold cash, to buy a house in upper NW.

I'm truly sorry the schools weren't good enough for your kids. Given the NAEP scores for white children in DC, I guess those upper NW schools are doing something right? White children in DC have the highest NAEP scores in the Nation. I guess your at home supplementing paid off, huh?

My child is in a school that gets school wide Title I funds. We have great teachers and I'm very pleased with the content and quality of the teaching. (I'm not going to go into specifics since it would be easy to identify my child's school and since our principal isn't a Rhee flunkie, I don't want to get this great educator canned...)

Trace1, you and bbcrock dominate these discussions and quite frankly, it's tiresome. Your anecdotal experience is simply that, anecdotal.

Truly, I do not know where the 2 of you find the time to post nonstop. I find myself so busy, what with kids, work and actually volunteering in my child's low income school. Perhaps if you and bbcrock spent less time on graffiti on the Post pages and more time, I don't know, actually in a DCPS doing SOMETHING, the schools would be better off.

And efavorite, as much as I would like to see Rhee go, I think she would have to slaughter Pre-K students in front of the Washington Post building to actually have somebody other than Turque or Strauss breathe a word against her.

Thank goodness for Diane Ravitch.

Posted by: Title1SoccerMom | April 1, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

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