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Janey: "It's not a coup"

The gathering at the Wilson Building Wednesday night was billed as a community forum and panel discussion on education reform. But it didn't take long to morph into an emotionally-charged rally for what the 150 or so in attendance clearly saw as their dream ticket for 2010: Gray-Janey-Saunders.

D.C. Council Chairman and newly-minted mayoral candidate Vincent C. Gray didn't disappoint the audience, put together by a coalition of community groups deeply unhappy with Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's approach to education reform. ("It's a new day! We're going to start with Gray!" exulted co-sponsor Cherita Whiting, chair of the Ward 4 Education Council).

He came with red meat for the anti-Rheeites, trashing her decision to reassign Hardy Middle School principal Patrick Pope and accusing her of not engaging with parents or articulating a coherent vision of education the District from early childhood through college.

With Washington Teachers' Union president George Parker looking on, Whiting lionized WTU general vice president Nathan Saunders, his opponent in next month's union elections, as a "standup guy" who "speaks for the teachers when they can't speak for themselves." Saunders called the union contest "a precursor to the mayor's race" and said his victory would create momentum for ousting Fenty and, by extension, Rhee.
Former D.C. schools superintendent Clifford B. Janey, shunted aside in 2007 by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in favor of Rhee, got a big hug and testimonial from Gray. "What a first-class professional. What a first-class human being."

Now superintendent in Newark, Janey never directly mentioned Rhee or Fenty. But he rejected one of Rhee's core contentions about school reform, which is that nothing is more important than the quality of the classroom teacher. Janey said such an approach, with its laser focus on test scores and achievement gaps, writes off the crucial links between school, home and community, and the potential contributions of parents.

Citing what he called "unassailable" research -- although he couldn't recall the exact source when I asked him later; he said he would send it to me -- Janey said just 13 percent of a child's academic progress is attributable to what goes on in the classroom and seven percent is driven by school leadership. The other 80 percent, he said, "is a function of what happens within the family and community."

"It stuns me that people just don't get it," he said. "And it doesn't mean teachers don't have an effect and can't have a greater effect than what is reflected in the research." But Janey said the achievement gap and other metrics are "just the tip of the iceberg."

"Much like attendance and truancy, looking at the achievement gap should only begin to raise other more fundamental issues about the lack of connection between schools, families and communities," he said.

Janey clearly enjoyed the hugs and hero treatment. But he said he and Gray are not plotting a restoration of the pre-Rhee DCPS. "It's not a coup."

Of Gray he said: "I do wish him well. We need some healing in this city."

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By Bill Turque  |  April 1, 2010; 4:51 PM ET
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I feel something powerful brewing in Washington, DC. Finally, a group of smart people are working on change!

Posted by: rasheeedj | April 1, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Research tells us that the teacher is the most important variable in a child's SCHOOLING, but this research has been misunderstood by many people, including journalists, who incorrectly write that "the most important factor in a child's EDUCATION is the teacher." Just two weeks ago, the Los Angeles Times repeated this error but did not bother with a correction when I brought it to their attention.

The above might seem trivial, but a person's education and schooling are not synonymous. An individual can have a marvelous education but very few years of schooling (Lincoln) or he could have many years of schooling but a poor education (a lot of people).

Of course, Mr. Janey is right, the most important factor in a child's education is the FAMILY, especially in regard to the education of the mother. There is a mountain of research supporting this, starting with the James Coleman report of the 60's. These results have been consistently replicated throughout the years. Does this surprise anyone?

A good education requires a partnership of parents, student, teachers and community. There are no shortcuts and it isn't cheap.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | April 1, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Linda, for confirming the Janey-Gray way has no shortcuts and is not cheap. Looks like we can wait at least another couple of DC children's generations for any change if Gray gets in. And the teachers get a raise, right? And, let's open up the closed schools, rehire ineffective teachers, and lock the books up in the warehouse. And, by all means, protect teachers from any evaluation. Well done.

Posted by: axolotl | April 1, 2010 9:46 PM | Report abuse

By going Anti-Rhee Gray has just sealed his fate. That's his Sarah Palin routine ala McCain. It will get some press in a floundering campaign but it will piss off more DC voters than it will inspire. What, he had, 4 days in the sun?

Posted by: bbcrock | April 1, 2010 10:12 PM | Report abuse

I thought you were in Bermuda or somewhere away from here in DC. (On break from private school?)
Can't give it up can you?
And it seems you can dish it but you can't take it.
Take your advice to Marlowe and chill, baby.

Posted by: edlharris | April 1, 2010 10:28 PM | Report abuse

Wow, axioloti, chill out. You must be really frightened.

And BB.Crock, comparing Gray to McCain/Palin is ludicrous. You also must be scared.

I don't see this election as a one-dimensional referendum on Rhee, much as the media would like to spin it that way. Fenty has done some pretty sleazy things with his cronies, and I think Gray would be much more ethical in running the city. I don't see Gray as someone with frat buddies lining up to eat at the public trough.

Posted by: dccitizen1 | April 1, 2010 10:44 PM | Report abuse

axoloti - you picked a good time to get out of town. The weather here took a turn for the worse. It's been cold and rainy, then a big wind came up and blew all the cherry blossoms off the trees!

Down at the tidal basin, a Japanese tourist wearing a silk kimono was blown off her feet into the water and was saved by a huge white guy who pulled her from the drink and wrapped her in his big leather jacket.

Then Mayor Fenty and Michelle Rhee jogged by, oblivious to the whole scene. Luckily, Bill Turque was there too and will verify the whole story in an article, as long as he can file it while it's still April First.

Posted by: efavorite | April 1, 2010 11:22 PM | Report abuse

Here are three referenced quotes (no fooling) about the influence of teachers. Unfortunatly, they are often misquoted, removing the very important words, “in-school factor.”

“An increasing preponderance of educational research has reached the conclusion that teacher effectiveness is the most important in-school factor influencing student achievement” ..

“Educational research continues to give us clear and convincing proof that the single most powerful in-school factor for student achievement gains is the quality of the teacher.”

“Teacher quality matters. In fact, it is the most important school-related factor influencing student achievement”

Posted by: efavorite | April 1, 2010 11:30 PM | Report abuse

OK, It's April 2nd and the foolery is over. Apparently Turque was at the meeting with Janey, and the scene he describes sounds much different from the desperation that Axoloti described.

Besides, why would the people there be desperate? Doesn’t make sense. They’re at the beginning of a campaign with a candidate who is already running ahead in the polls.

Posted by: efavorite | April 2, 2010 8:22 AM | Report abuse

This is ridiculous...Ward 4 education council brought back or are backing Gray-Saunders-Janey. Well, let the Ward 7 education committee...dig-up Vance-Bullock or Ackerman-Bullock for that matter...why not go back and get Reed and Lett-Simmons.

I know Hollywood has a retirment home for former actors/actresses...but what is the address for former superintendents/WTU union reps...I have a wheel-chair accessible van...and I will volunteer with transportation.

At this point...trying to break back the 3 orignal members of the 5 heartbeats is not the answer...even if you are going to remix it with a Chuck Brown (Cherita) go-go beat. Also Brannum...don't I hear revelrie playing somewhere in the background?

Posted by: PowerandPride | April 2, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Woah, friends. I stay in touch. Efav.: "forum" was Gray pep rally where VG showed ingrained sexism, partisanship, indecisiveness. Thanks for quotes--uhighlight exactly the DCPS management variable that DCPS can do something about, and Rhee has. City govt/DCPS can do next to nothing about parental role and community involvement that will have any measurable effect on schools for decades, if then. So, let's hope the mayor (and Gray seems like a gaffing geezer, though a nice, courtly man, with little chance of winning) does not give up the ability to shape and renew the teacher corps. As for ethics and wise use of tax dollars, please consult the organization-wide state of DC Human Services Dept. during Mr. Gray's tenure on its leadership team. Also, consult investigation of his recent home repairs.

Posted by: axolotl | April 2, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

axoloti wrote: "Gray seems like a gaffing geezer". Careful, your "agism" is showing. What was the "ingrained sexism" you accuse Gray of? The fact that Vincent Gray wondered whether or not Rhee would like a commuter "marriage" of 3,000 miles? Seems like a pretty practical consideration to me, and not sexist. But, you will spin it the way you want, and you'll try to demonize Gray because you're scared that Fenty has a good challenger and that Rhee might go away.

It's true that Fenty has amassed big war chest (lots of developer money in there) and will be hard to beat in terms of finances. It will be interesting to see how this race plays out.

Posted by: dccitizen1 | April 2, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

When Janey says 80% of a child's success is a function of what happens in their family and community, then maybe he needs to go work on that other 80% vs. the 20% he can affect as an educator.
No matter how much those other factors influence a child's academic success, a teacher can only affect what happens IN THE CLASSROOM. When educators espouse about 'the community' or 'the home' I question their focus on educating that child in the classroom. While my personal jury is still out on Rhee, her obligation is to focus on teachers in the classroom. Are schools responsible for teaching parents how to parent? Are schools responsible for bringing job opportunities into the neighborhood, or brokering gang peace?
As has always been the case with DC Public schools, too many folk want to use children as a stepping stone for their own pursuits. Maybe Rhee's 'laser focus' on teaching and teachers is something the DCPS old guard neither recognize, understand, or appreciate.

Posted by: pdfordiii | April 2, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

EXACTLY. Rhee's job is ONLY to affect the teachers she manages.

Can you imagine what would happen the first time a kid is forcibly removed from his parents' house because he fails to learn how to read? Think about it- that's what would happen if the WTU had their way.

Rhee is only responsible for the teachers and still the teachers want to point fingers at everyone else, taking no personal responsibility.

Posted by: bbcrock | April 2, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

dccit1--thanx for flagging my inadvertent agism; u r right. I should know better! efav.: read ur 920am Wash. Teacher comment. Insightful!

Posted by: axolotl | April 2, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse


Thanks for following up with Janey on the research. When he sends it to you, I'd love it if you could post it. Everyone in educational politics is citing "research" every other sentence with very little discussion concerning what research it was, how it was done, or whether it really applies within the context in which they speak. Thanks.

Posted by: TheReflectiveEducator | April 2, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

A huge part of that other 80 percent? Family income (e.g. free/reduced lunch status). That really cannot be changed by the public education system as it is for a child. However, by having effective teachers, it can change that child's future outcomes such that his/her children are not at such a statistical disadvantage.

Posted by: ami00000 | April 2, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Any school system is limited in what it can do for children unless it offers services outside of school for those who need them.

Meanwhile, demanding that teachers provide what only parents can is ridiculous. Firing teachers who can't raise scores because of poverty issues just means hiring more teachers who will face the same impossible situation - and get fired for the same reason. There is no point to this unless the goal is not to educate children, but to cause constant teacher turnover. Who does this favor? Why teacher recruitment organizations – like the one Rhee founded and could go back to when she leaves DC. If she cared about educating low-performing kids, she’d be focusing on childhood poverty, not firing teachers

Posted by: efavorite | April 2, 2010 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Bef. giving teachers a complete out--no firing, or, worse, keeping ineff., low-expectations ones in class bec. they teach impoverished kids (and well, ya know, they can't be measured), let's agree on what can be measured and write it down and get commitments from teachers. You know better than I that for decades ineff. teachers were generally tolerated. Firing was extremely rare, and only for most egreg. reasons. Thus the lifetime-job mindset set in, as well as, in some teachers, very low expectations for progress. Let's hold teachers only to what they can do w their precious time in class --that's all the kids, parents, citizen-taxpayers, and government can demand; and it is a demand. Sure, let's make adjustments for poverty and any other exog. variable you want. But let's have something empirical to measure performance. Let's do it NOW. Taking more than a couple of mos. to do this just defeats education and, yes, becomes a "plot" to deprive kids of education. That is what WTU and the anti-reformers have been doing. Easy to see why WTU opposed RttT: fear of being measured and having concrete expectations, with consequences for falling short. It is cheapest of cheap, illogical shots to maneuver for no-change for teachers because the situation is "impossible." That posture condemns yet additional generations of DC kids to crappy education.

Posted by: axolotl | April 3, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Power & Pride please know what you are talking about before you put your foot in your mouth and speak! There is no Gray, Janey Suanders to back first of all. Dr. Janey was on the panel long before Vincent Gray announced he was running for mayor as was Nathan Saunders. Saunders election is in May Gray's is in Sept. Dr. Janey is not running for anything.
The forum has been planned for months as were those who would be on the panel...the only last minute addition was the Hardy parent with all those parents are going through. Department of Ed as well had been working with us for months as well, and for the record my dad doesn't do again know of what your speaking about...before you speak!

Posted by: | April 3, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

No one disputes that bad employees of any kind need to be remediated, moved to a job they can do adequately, or be fired.

What is disputed is that teachers abilities are completely defined by the abilities of their students. this does not make any more sense than firing doctors and nurse who care for patients who are not cured of their illness or who die during treatment. This would have meant, for instance, a regular turn over of medical professionals who treat AIDS patients. Instead of being credited for caring for AIDS patients, they'd be punished for not curing them.

Posted by: efavorite | April 3, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

efav.: pro-reform commenters in WaPo blogues don't dispute extent of teacher influence, so pls relax. Ur analogy, tho, is disturbing: compares dead people to kids badly educated. Go further & have WTU buy teachers malpractice insurance? Increasingly, medical professionals are canned or disciplined for "medical errors." Strong thrust in healthcare reform is to hold them & healthcare admins responsible and accountable for performance. Anyone who treats patients in a responsible institution has rigorous evals. WTU, and many teachers, especially in DC, resist that. Strong sch. systems have had rigorous evals for many yrs. And let's not dither 1-5 years making any necess. mods to Impact. That just extends, day for day, maleducation risk to our children. Time is education.

Posted by: axolotl | April 3, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

medical malpractice is about actively harming patients. It's rarely accused, must be proven and is not related to the type of patient and illness, but rather to psecific acts.

A doctor who treats cancer patients who usually die is just as respected (if not more so) as a family doctor who mainly treats sore throats and flu.

Doctors are not blamed for their patients' lack of compliance, but only if they fail to offer the proper treatment.

Posted by: efavorite | April 3, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

efav.: Ur assertion, "Doctors are not blamed for their patients' lack of compliance, but only if they fail to offer the proper treatment" is revealing. Infer u want take teachers off hook. Wha happened to their undisputed influence within classroom? Do they just "offer" the curriculum, or do they actually teach and educate? Med. analogy, fm any angle, makes things look deeply grim and hopeless in the public schools. Malpr., btw, is presumably not intentional, and it is due to incompetence and negligence. Often not "proven" but rather "settled" w/o a trial. U betcha all parents (regardless of race, ward, wealth)/elected officials/taxpayers do want "turnover" of educators who can't cut it. DCPS has been safe haven for decades; strong districts anywhere are not like that. Working hard to debunk or block measuring perf is telling. How would u make evals more acceptable (in our lifetime, now)?

Posted by: axolotl | April 4, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

axototl must find Bermuda boring such that she would spend her vacation there defending Miss Rhee.
I'll still give $5 in her name to the retired religious fund.
Do you have a nun or priest you would like acknowledged in the gift?

(and you probably have taken your advice and chilled down there. Take advantage of the beach salepeople with their wares:
water, snacks, lotion, ganja...)

Posted by: edlharris | April 5, 2010 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Am back, eddy, with a wonderful, restful Easter holiday behind me. Hope yours was swell, too, but but you still sound taut. And you've not responded to the q of whether you were a priest. I get that funny feeling about you, but maybe you are a parochial school teacher; either way, honorable, important callings for our community. Btw, are you extremely embarrassed or mad about Il Pappa's defense of the abusers?

Posted by: axolotl | April 5, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Dr. Janey referenced a meta-analysis from McREL in 2003. The link is below.

Posted by: danielgohl | April 5, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

I wont doubt that parents are hugely responsible for a child's education, but will somebody please tell me a realistic plan to reform all the messed up parents? There isnt one. The only thing the city can control is the teachers, even if they are only 20% responsible.

Posted by: makplan20002 | April 5, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

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