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'Standing Ovation' hooted by some teachers

It seems like a nice enough idea, honoring the 663 "highly effective" DCPS teachers, as judged by the new IMPACT evaluation system, at the Kennedy Center on Nov. 1.

A Standing Ovation for D.C. Teachers" is hosted by the D.C. Public Education Fund, the non-profit fundraising arm of the public schools. Sponsors include some of the bigger names in Washington edu-philanthropy: Katherine and David Bradley, Jean-Marie and Raul Fernandez, and Trish and George Vradenberg, to list a few. Proceeds from the evening will go to the education fund.

Underlying the gala event, however, is continued unhappiness about the terms and conditions attached to bonuses of up to $25,000 that are awarded to the honored educators.Teachers who accept the money waive their rights to certain considerations if they are "excessed" -- lose their jobs -- because of enrollment or program changes at their schools. Other teachers in good standing who are excessed can take a $25,000 buyout, opt for early retirement with 20 years service, or take a full year with pay and benefits while they look for another position in the system.

DCPS says the choices are part of the performance pay plan set up in the contract that the union approved in June. The contract says that the plan shall be implemented this fall, which the teachers' union says it understands to mean implementation going forward. They say DCPS is unfairly applying the provision retroactively to the 2009-10 school year.

Teachers have until 5 p.m. Friday to decide whether they will accept their bonus money. Hearst Elementary teacher Bill Rope says plenty are going to pass.

"Every 'Highly Effective' teacher I know is dumbfounded at the attachment, ex post facto, of conditions to the bonuses we were promised as compensation for earning our 'Highly Effective' ratings," Rope said in an Oct. 19 e-mail to DCPS evaluation czar Jason Kamras. "Moreover, and sadly, many teachers and counselors whom I know are choosing to decline the bonuses rather than give up, in perpetuity, their rights under the three excessing options contained in our new collective bargaining agreement."

In a message two days earlier, he told Kamras: "It is deeply disappointing that the leadership of DCPS, which is making such a public show of rewarding its 'great teachers' (I quote from my invitation to 'A Standing Ovation') would in actuality treat those teachers so shabbily. I hope you will recognize the unfairness of your position and pay us our bonuses as originally promised without strings attached."

Rope says he's accepting his $5,000 bonus but not renouncing his excessing rights under the contract.

In an e-mail Thursday evening, Kamras said: "The contract says that the performance-based compensation system will be implemented in the fall of 2010. It is now the fall of 2010. So we are implementing the system, including the bonuses and the conditions attached to those bonuses."

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By Bill Turque  | October 22, 2010; 7:45 AM ET
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Those are unusual conditions for the outstanding teachers. Maybe someone noticed that "outstanding" includes many "experienced" teachers who are therefore "expensive". So this a buy out.

Or maybe it is to try and keep the district out of financial trouble.

I was going to say I wouldn't take the money. But thinking it over, I would, and I would hope to be laid off with a year's pay. Then I would look for a job in a district that respects teachers.

Posted by: celestun100 | October 22, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, you got it wrong, Celestun - "highly effective" teachers who accept the bonus would not have the option of a year with pay if they were excessed. They'd be out on their ear.

Still, it might be worth taking the bonus money if you were a younger teacher who didn't qualify for early retirement option and had plans to get out of teaching the next year anyhow.

This whole thing is a method of discouraging teachers - even good ones - from thinking of teaching as a career.

Posted by: efavorite | October 22, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Buying teachers' complacency seems like a sure-fire way to destroy quality education.

The teacher contract and that similar, stupid "Capital Gains" program are deeply insulting to students, teachers, families and citizens.

Posted by: dcparent | October 22, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

It is harder and harder to find words that adequately describe the dark treatments of educators - no matter how disguised - being promoted in this country now, largely a showing of no-respect.

As the majority of K-12 professionals are women, the obvious analogy has to be some kind of deep felt misogyny.

Is it a coincidence that a nasty little video is now making the rounds of a female wrestler being harshly degraded? - I just got this in my email today:

"...the husband of Republican US Senate candidate Linda McMahon on television degrading a woman wrestler – ordering her to GET ON HER KNEES, BARK LIKE A DOG, AND TAKE OFF HER CLOTHES to prove that she is 'sorry.' ....."

It feels like teachers that the so-called reformers don't like (AKA 'ineffective') are being put in the same position as the female wrestler above - it's no wonder that the teachers supposedly being praised
are uncomfortable with their recognition when they see their other colleagues being degraded, most undeservedly so.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | October 22, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

@efavorite- Finally, we agree on something! :) Bonuses for highly effective teachers should never be tied to giving up their rights if they are excessed. This policy is unacceptable and very disappointing. i would not take this bonus...

Posted by: teacher6402 | October 22, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

This "highly effective" educator declined the bonus and I have no intention of attending this charade of appreciation at the Kennedy Center.

The "details" were NOT in the proposed contract. That is exactly why I voted "No" for this bogus contract. This is an excellent example of why the Baltimore teachers were correct in voting down their contract recently. There were too many uncertainties in it.

Jason Kamras is a joke. This guy was a math teacher at Sousa Middle School. Yes, he was an excellent teacher--winning National Teacher of the Year several years ago. But he, to my knowledge, has no training, education or experience in Human Resource Management or the design and implementation of performance appraisal systems. Yet he is in charge of "Human Capital" for DCPS.

There are way too many people in DCPS imposing their inept policies and flawed philosophies on the employees of DCPS.

It's time teachers started talking about a strike. Yes, I know our contract forbids us but it seems like the only way to get people to listen and get the public's attention is to shut the system down by striking.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | October 22, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

UD - I think you will find that Vince Gray and his new supt. will give teachers a good opportunity to contribute to the steady improvement of the eval system.

If you strike, it is unlikely that Gray would take that without resorting to a quick, successful court solution, with suitable penalties for all teachers concerned.

The citizens and taxpayers of the District who elected him would expect nothing less. A strike would be the best evidence yet of how selfish some teachers are and how little they regard their profession and The Children.

Posted by: axolotl | October 22, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse


I agree with you about striking. I think it's long overdue.

Why teachers would vote 'yes' to a contract negotiated with Michelle Rhee wreaked with uncertainties and unanswered questions is beyond me. I guess they bought into the media hype that she was someone to take seriously. As usual, most DC teachers were blinded by the money. Now that we all can see clearly, it's apparent that Rhee always intended to pull the wool over teachers' eyes. I am not in the least bit surprised by her is vintage Rhee.

As for the WTU, if I were still at DCPS, I am convinced that I would have elected to stop paying dues by now. They allowed Rhee to cheat hundreds of retired teachers and those who willingly left the system out of retroactive pay to which they were entitled. Now, we have the "highly effective" scandle -- and believe me, it is just that. This development is sad. Thank goodness, DCPS teachers get another chance to craft a contract in two years. Let's hope that this time they could negotiate a decent one. (I personally saw very little wrong with the old one, but that's my humble opinion).

Posted by: vscribe | October 22, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

UD - As a start, How about getting some other HE teachers to protest at the event.

Also, Kamras was not an excellent teacher, at least according to the holy grail of DC-CAS scores - they went down on his watch.

Posted by: efavorite | October 22, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

ax: If standing up and demanding the we be treated with dignity and respect and evaluated fairly is "selfish" then call me selfish.

What's fair for teachers and what's good for students aren't mutually exclusive.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | October 22, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

efav: Thanks for that info on Kamras. I did not know that. However, I know DC CAS scores don't paint Rhee in a favorable light either but the masses continue to think she did a wonderful job!

Posted by: UrbanDweller | October 22, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse

I like the strike talk - I am retired, but would be happy to join in any marches, presentations, etc. Career teachers deserve to get their profession back and give it the respect it deserves.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | October 22, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

efavorite- Thanks for the correction although it is worse than I thought. Geez.

Teachers: About striking... I think you should wait until you get all your retroactive pay, bonuses etc. It is pretty clear that they will just use that as an excuse to fire everybody. (I mean, apparently they don't want teachers in that district anyway. LOL)

It is very sad that everything we hear about DCPS indicates very low morale. I would say "Hang in there", but I think you are stuck in a dysfunctional system and think you would be better off looking for a better place to work.

What I can't tell is how DCPS compares to Montgomery County as a place to work. I mean IMPACT doesn't sound much different that the evaluation system that MoCo uses. Of course in MoCo the teachers were trained first. I know career teachers are considered "ineffective" in MoCo. Quite the opposite I would say. Also, a lot of teachers in MoCo have PHDs and most have Master's Degrees. Most teachers have the respect of parents and peers. The administration is top down though. But most of the stuff they do is based on research, not just "get the test scores up" although there is a lot of that. But the test score hype is due to NCLB and is everywhere, although some regions still hold out for "real" education, as do private schools apparently.

Posted by: celestun100 | October 23, 2010 2:52 AM | Report abuse

Oops! I meant to say that career teachers are NOT considered to be ineffective in MoCo. I think they have quite a few expert, experienced teachers.

Posted by: celestun100 | October 23, 2010 2:54 AM | Report abuse

@celestun100: While Montgomery County has a top down administration, they still rely a great deal on school based decision making wherever possible. Schools have leadership teams comprised of administration and content area or grade level team leaders who represent the teachers at the school. Some things are set by the school system but the day to day operation of the school is set by the leadership team. Another vast difference between MCPS and DCPS is that our superintendent treats the teaching staff with respect. High expectations are set and if they are not met, then interventions are put in place so that they can be met. If students aren't showing progress in certain areas, then staff development is put in place to help teachers be able to improve student achievement in those areas. Whenever there is any kind of accolade given to MCPS, we don't hear Jerry Weast taking the credit. Rather --we all get an email from Dr. Weast thanking us for our hard work and acknowledging that such progress would not have been made without the hard work of the classroom based professionals. Whether those emails are sincere or not doesn't matter as far as I'm concerned. Working harder than ever only to read the discouraging remarks in the WaPo and other news venues takes a toll so having the head honcho thank you for a job well done goes a long way. This is a huge difference from what I'm seeing occur in DC where if you don't make the grade, you are fired. What kills me about that approach is that it is the opposite of the way we are expected to treat kids. Teachers sometimes need help to be the best they can be. Shouldn't that help be provided? It is in MCPS and that is a huge part of our evaluation system.

The bottom line, however, is how one is treated by their school based administrator. In MCPS those experiences are all over the map. I've been fortunate to have principals that treat their staff with respect but I continue to hear horror stories about principals who treat their staff like 2 year olds. There are those who harass experienced teachers as well. This is where the teachers' association comes in handy.

Posted by: musiclady | October 23, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

"As the majority of K-12 professionals are women, the obvious analogy has to be some kind of deep felt misogyny."


Would THE EDUCATION POWER BROKERS go after a profession that was primarily comprised of men. NO WAY!

Posted by: jlp19 | October 23, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

vscribe - Can you tell us more about this statement "They allowed Rhee to cheat hundreds of retired teachers and those who willingly left the system out of retroactive pay to which they were entitled."

Posted by: jlp19 | October 23, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Does anyone know what percentage of "highly effective" teachers were Group 1 teachers?

I had a highly effective rating until the IVA portion of my pie chart was calculated, which caused my overall rating to fall to the middle of effective.

BTW, Urban Dweller, under DC law, teachers have no right to strike.

Posted by: Nemessis | October 24, 2010 7:53 AM | Report abuse

nemessis: I'm aware of DC law.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | October 24, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

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