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Behind shout-out to Ballou, limbo for its teachers

Under ordinary circumstances, a 30 percent proficiency rating in reading and 26 percent in math for high school sophomores on the 2010 D.C. CAS would hardly be cause for celebration. But there are no ordinary circumstances at Ballou in Southeast Washington, where three years ago, test scores were in the single digits.

Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, who appeared with Mayor Adrian Fenty (D) and Principal Rahman Branch at a Tuesday news conference in front of the school, said that Ballou, once "a symbol of what was going wrong in public education in Washington, D.C.," now stands for what is going right.

"It's no secret the challenges that our students face just to get from their front door to our front door," said an impassioned Branch. "Which in my opinion makes it the most resilient, the toughest, the hardest-working group that you'll see throughout the city." He "guaranteed" that in five years Ballou would be city's best high school.

Rhee also congratulated the students and "particularly the faculty and administration here ... we should be incredibly proud of them."

Fenty joined in praise for the school's teachers. "A big round of applause for our teachers at Ballou, doing a fantastic job."

What none of them said was that all 80 of Ballou's educators will have to reapply for their jobs. Ballou is one of six low-performing schools where Rhee has ordered a staff "reconstitution," an option she has under federal law.

Rhee said Wednesday that there was no disconnect between celebrating the school's achievements and scrambling its staff, indicating that Branch sought the shake up.

"We have a lot of faith in the administration there," she said. "The best thing we can do is give the administration the support they need and are asking for. The reconstitution is part of that."

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By Bill Turque  |  July 15, 2010; 11:47 AM ET
 
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Comments

Question to Rhee and Fenty..Why would you reconstitute an entire score if the test scores went up? DAH. That is the problem now, when things are going right, they come in and shift everything around. There is no continuity for the students.

Posted by: teacherjohn94 | July 15, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Question to Rhee and Fenty..Why would you reconstitute an entire score if the test scores went up?

Answer: because they can.

Also, because as I've said many times, the chancellor likes hiring and firing people.

Also, new teachers are generally cheaper teachers.

But remember: it's all done in the best interests of the children.

Posted by: efavorite | July 15, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Actually it makes perfect sense for it ensures control through fear and intimidation which is an effective way to sustain a true autocracy.

Posted by: highquality4kids | July 15, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

So, with a little research, I can find that Ballou's Math and Reading proficiency levels are....

Reading (2007-2010)- 7% ,22%, 24%, 30%

Math (2007-2010)- 6% , 18%, 22%, 26%

While 30 and 26% proficiency isn't great, it is a vast improvment over 3 years ago. It seems to me that this school is going in the right direction, so why would you want to make all teachers reapply for their jobs?

As an aside, is the administration being made to reapply as well? I suspect not but admit I have no way of knowing.

I'm very curious to see the school by school breakdown of these to see how the reconstituted schools did.

Posted by: Wyrm1 | July 15, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Fenty joined in praise for the school's teachers. "A big round of applause for our teachers at Ballou, doing a fantastic job."

Fenty continued, "Now pick up your pink slips and get to the back of the line, behind the DC teaching fellows, to reapply for your job. Good luck on getting back in, suckers!"

Posted by: schooletal | July 15, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Where are the 2010 school specific scores for the other schools? The link provided leads me to a press release that only has system wide scores. . . . . really curious

Posted by: parentof2redheads | July 15, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

I am really surprised people missed this. I know all love to think its just her and a lot of things are, but this was a request. Look into these things a little harder people...

"Rhee has ordered a staff "reconstitution,
"....indicating that Branch sought the shake up." The Principal asked for this and my big question is why?

Posted by: trying2bbetter | July 15, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

If anyone wants to question why test scores are going down and general moral of DCPS teachers is low than they need look no further than Ballou. What Rhee has been telling all of us in DCPS is that it doesn't matter how hard you work or what gains you make, she will move you out to move in those she says she wants. After all, with so many ads on craigslist and elsewhere for DC Teaching Fellows and TFA she has to put these new recruits somewhere. What a shame.

Posted by: adcteacher1 | July 15, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

I thought teachers were supposed to be rewarded for increasing test scores.

Posted by: aby1 | July 15, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

trying2bbetter - just because Rhee indicated that the principal wanted it doesn't mean he really did.

adcteacher - right --but it looks like the teachers she's been moving in haven't helping much, according to the DC CAS results.

Posted by: efavorite | July 15, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

It doesn't make any sense to restructure 80% of a faculty that is making big test score gains. Remember SHAW at Garnet Patterson, Principal Betts purged his veteran staff because they were "jaded" and his test scores went down in his first year. If there is reconstitution and a great deal of the staff doesn't come back then it is a personal vendetta Michael Corleone style. Good luck to Ballou's faculty; you were purged specially hard during the fake RIF and now you better pretend you are drinking the Kool-aid, RB flavor.

Posted by: marylight | July 15, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Parentof2redheads,

School specific scores don't come out until the schools are allowed to look at them and contest them (students who weren't there, were mislabelled, etc...).

Ballou was announced because it was good news, and over the next couple of weeks you will hear rumors that leak out of other schools. Generally speaking, the principals of all schools have their scores by now and are looking them over. Some principals release them pretty quickly to their staff, others do not.

Posted by: Wyrm1 | July 15, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Under NCLB, OSSE must report out the status of schools in meeting Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) standards. With overall % proficient at best level or worse, there must be an increase in the number of schools subject to sanctions, because part of AYP is the requirement that proficiency INCREASE. Recall what happens to the electoral college vote as the popular vote diverges from fifty - fifty. Big swings in the number of States going Red or Blue. Same phenomenon, statistically, with school averages. There must have been a lot of losers and schools under the gun this year under NCLB rules.

Posted by: incredulous | July 15, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Michelle Rhee will be on WTOP/ Mark Plotkin's Politics Program (103.5 FM and Live On-Line) at 10AM.

"The Politics Program with Mark Plotkin

The Politics Program airs Fridays at 10 a.m. on WTOP. To call the show: 1-877-336-1035."

Call away.

Posted by: edlharris | July 15, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

What Rhee needs to do is have a lot more faith and respect for her teachers NOT administration. All this lady needs is a red nose to make her a full clown. She's the biggest joke (and phony) to hit public education.

If she's that great and is doing such wonderful things, then why don't we hear from the superintendents in Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax County, Loudon County, Montgomery County, Prince George's County and Howard County about how much they respect and admire her and how they wish the could "accomplish" the same things in their districts? Silence speaks volumes!

Do us all a favor: move to Sacramento when you get married and wreak havoc on that school system for a while.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | July 15, 2010 9:14 PM | Report abuse

f she's that great and is doing such wonderful things, then why don't we hear from the superintendents in Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax County, Loudon County, Montgomery County, Prince George's County and Howard County about how much they respect and admire her and how they wish the could "accomplish" the same things in their districts? Silence speaks volumes!

A superintendent from one of the Counties you mentioned said the following, "she's a bomb thrower." "She's making a name for herself so she'll be hired someplace and make a lot of money." No kidding! Not even Alonzo want to identify with her.

Posted by: lacy4 | July 15, 2010 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Just think, Obama once considered hiring Rhee for US Secretary of Education but he hired her clone instead. How much do you want to bet DC receives one of the Race to the Top Grants? So much for stakeholder collaboration.

Read the book, LEARNING ON OTHER PEOPLE'S KIDS...Becoming a TEACH FOR AMERICA TEACHER by Barbara Torre Veltrini. We are sending these upqualified people ( what happened to the NCLB requirement of a highly qualified teacher in every classroom?) to teach our most vulnerable children! And, she expects test scores to rise?

It's time to stop making excuses and fire Michelle Rhee and Arne Duncan.

Posted by: lacy4 | July 15, 2010 10:10 PM | Report abuse

@teacherjohn94, why would they search for a new principal of Eastern, when the current principal has resurrected it from the ashes? Here the current principal of Eastern has been re-appointed every year while under Rhee's tenure. Yet, the new Eastern will open in a matter of days and DCPS is still looking Mr. or Ms. Right to re-launch Eastern.

I will say this, why they are doing this reconstitution at Ballou, it is because the current principal through a "temper-tantrum" in December and threatened to quit. Remember, Rhee has not had any high-profiled prinicipals quit under her watch...all of her chosen-ones have either been promoted or she's fired them contractually.

Just a word for the wise who is the Ballou's principal; DCPS gave the current principal at Eastern a rites of passage. Which allowed the current Eastern principal to phase out the school over a 3-year period. Hence, he has did the dirty work but will not reap the benefits of the new school. So, I see Ballou's principal reconstituting the teaching force but there's no promise that he will lead the new pack of educators at Ballou. Think about it!

Also there's a difference in cleaning-up and straightening-up. See, Rhee's first year was to straighten-up Ballou and now she's in the mode of cleaning-up Ballou. We all know to accurately clean-up...you must rid the area of items or people.

Lord, knows if her wedding plans is any indication of how she operates... I think that her bridal party is probably at their wits-end. Can anyone say Chancello-rilla?

Posted by: PowerandPride | July 16, 2010 8:14 AM | Report abuse

Other folks making comments, please don't just resort to ad hominem attacks. Lets get real instead. The scores at Ballou are still terrible. Remember, the DC-CAS is still pretty new. The scores at the school have certainly improved since 2007, but a lot of that, as is true at most schools, is due to a focus on getting kids to take the test seriously. Under NCLB, something needed to be done at Ballou. Agreed, better steps could be taken, but, under the law as it is, this is what we have available. There has been tremendous turnover at Ballou with or without mandated restructuring. Moving the school from being a failing one to one that truly helps its students will take a lot more retention and building up than tearing apart. Still, you can't blame Fenty and Rhee for this. They are simply trying to make the best out of what they've inherited, which is a failing school in a failing system. Lets try not to nitpick every little thing that's done and instead focus on building a community that demands excellence from our leaders, administration, teachers, students, and families.

Posted by: vito1 | July 17, 2010 12:38 AM | Report abuse

@powerandpride
Remember, Rhee has not had any high-profiled prinicipals quit under her watch...all of her chosen-ones have either been promoted or she's fired them contractually.

Mr. Branch is principal of Ballou because Michelle Rhee's handpicked principal, Karen Smith, quit for unknown reasons just before the start of the 2008-09 school year, after serving for just one year. Mr. Branch was an assistant principal at the time and he was quickly shuffled in to take her place.

Posted by: berniehorn | July 18, 2010 8:51 PM | Report abuse

berniehorn...Janey picked Karen Smith if I am not mistakened. True, Ms. Smith quit after a professional disagreement with Ms. Rhee. So, I am sure the statement holds true that none of Rhee's hand picked principals have quit...those she absorbed from previous Superintendents don't actually equate to this scenario.

I would like to add that...just "maybe" the principal of Dunbar might be in the contention of being hand-picked and also a principal who quit this year. It's somewhat hard to determine if the "management" team was a catalyst in the hiring or firing of this principal. Although it has been discussed that the principal actually resigned. Who knows?

Posted by: PowerandPride | July 19, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Last year when the Dunbar and Coolidge were reconstituted, the teachers who did not return were excessed and sent to other schools. By the time new assignments were made, staffing at most schools were complete. So the reassigned teachers became the unwanted gifts and many were caught up in the RIF. Remember she testified that schools will not have the buying power they once had so...... bye bye to more teachers. They may have ratified that contract but they didn't read the fine print that George failed to tell them about.

Question and feedback requested, If a teacher is excessed and under the new contract of receiving salary for a year, do they receive the step increases or raise if they are not assigned to a school?

Posted by: candycane1 | July 19, 2010 8:22 PM | Report abuse

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