Rhee shakes up six schools
As expected, Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee brought the "reconstitution" hammer down on six low-performing schools Monday: Ballou High School, Garfield, Stanton and Davis elementary, Hamilton Center and Luke C. Moore Academy. It means that the approximately 150 teachers at those schools must reapply for their jobs if they want to remain.
One of the six, Stanton, will be operated beginning this summer by a Philadelphia-based charter school organization, Scholar Academies.
No Child Left Behind gives Rhee options to address problems at schools that have consistently failed to make what the law describes as "adequate yearly progress" on standardized test scores. Overall, about 90 of DC.'s 123 schools are under some form of federal notice to improve.
The six schools cited Monday, with a combined enrollment of about 2,200, have undergone multiple waves of federally mandated improvement and restructuring. Four of them--Ballou, Stanton, Hamilton and Garfield--have not met annual progress benchmarks for at least seven years.
Last year Rhee reconstituted six schools, Dunbar and Anacostia high, the H.D. Woodson ninth-grade academy at Ron Brown Middle School, Hart and MacFarland middle schools and Ferebee-Hope Elementary School. In 2008, 17 schools underwent some form of reconstitution. Ten received new administrators, seven got faculty overhauls.
Teachers who do not reapply or are not rehired at the schools facing overhaul join an "excess staff pool." Under the current contract with the Washington Teachers Union, all "excessed" teachers are guaranteed reassignment somewhere in the school system. But under a new labor agreement approved by the union and expected to receive D.C. Council approval on June 29, principals have expanded power to pick and choose the teachers they want. Those who have received good evaluations and do not find jobs will receive a year's grace period with full salary to continue to looking for a position. Or, they could opt for a buyout or early retirement if eligible.
In the case of Stanton, Rhee has exercised her option under the law to hire an outside organization to take over a failing school. Scholar Academies operates Young Scholars, a charter middle school that serves about 200 low-income African-American children in Philadelphia. According to its web site, it uses an extended school day and school year to improve academic rigor and emphasizes a "relentless pursuit of school culture" symbolized by the acronym PATH (Professional, Attentive, Thoughtful, Hardworking).
Rhee said in the statement that the organization was selected after a "rigorous" application process that included a detailed proposal from Scholar Academies, a panel presentation and a DCPS visit to the school.
Three high schools were placed under outside leadership by Rhee in 2008. Dunbar and Coolidge were taken over by Friends of Bedford, a New York group. Friendship Public Charter Schools assumed control of Anacostia. Rhee has said that while major academic progress has yet to be made, all three have "significantly improved their school culture," including growth in areas such as attendance and school safety.
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