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Teacher tribute a graceful transition

By Bill Turque

Monday night's "Standing Ovation" for top D.C. teachers was an uncommonly hopeful and graceful event for a school district where politics and uncertainty about the future have dominated the news.

"I feel like I'm at the Academy Awards, this is so exciting," said Kaya Henderson, interim chancellor for one more night, so stoked as she stood behind the podium at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall that she sounded as though she was about to thank her agent. Music from Chrisette Michele and the Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl lifted the event to another level.

But it was Henderson who embodied the celebratory spirit of the evening, singling out embattled Washington Teachers' Union President George Parker for praise even as they scuffle over the terms and conditions of the performance bonuses awarded to the 662 "highly effective" teachers honored Monday. She also thanked Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee for the opportunity to serve as her deputy, then added:

"I thank you for the new opportunity, I think."

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and presumptive mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray (D) came on stage together, arms raised in unity. Gray reiterated his promise that there would be "no deviation from school reform in the District of Columbia."

The program was built around award presentations to seven teachers singled out for especially distinguished work: Angela Benjamin ( Wilson H.S.), Roaenetta Mayes Browne (Sharpe Health School), Sylvia Ewing ( Kelly Miller), Charles Feeser (Banneker), Deborah Flanagan (Barnard), Iver Ricks (Burrville) and Maria Samenga (Tubman). Each was the subject of a short video produced by Robin Smith of Video/Action, showing them in their classrooms. Especially moving were scenes of Browne, who works every day with profoundly disabled children at Sharpe.

The evening represented an inspiring spotlight on teaching in a city where the winnowing out of instructors deemed ineffective has often dominated the narrative. D.C. State School Board member Sekou Biddle said a turn of the page was long overdue.

"No one wants to come work for a school system that's always talking about its bad teachers," he said.

But if the evening signaled a transition in tone and leadership, it also underscored the growing influence of private money in public education -- led by many funders who support changes in teacher pay and evaluation that are still subject to considerable debate.

The event was organized as a fundraiser by the D.C. Public Education Fund -- the nonprofit fundraising arm of the school system -- and sponsored by a group of corporations and nonprofits that are frequent contributors to local education causes, including CityBridge, McKinsey & Co., Mark David Ein, Verizon, Marriott and Alice and David Rubenstein, the latter being the co-founder and managing director of the Carlisle Group, the giant private equity firm.

The D.C. Public Education Fund, which says it plans to raised $100 million by September 2012, wants to make the tribute an annual event. It will be interesting to see the lay of the land in D.C. education when it comes time for the 2011 "Standing Ovation."

Follow D.C. Schools Insider every day at washingtonpost.com/dc- schools. And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our new Higher Education page at washingtonpost.com/higher-ed. Bookmark it!

By Bill Turque  | November 2, 2010; 1:34 PM ET
 
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Comments

AMEN!

Posted by: teacher6402 | November 2, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Interesting how no one questions the IMPACT system's ability to identify great teachers, but it is apparently so flawed when it comes to calling out ineffective ones.

Posted by: horacemann | November 2, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

for horace:
from Hyde-Addison:
Name and position
Dhelal Al-Wazir,PreK/K SPED
Charlotte Brown, Kindergarten
Karen Cowden, Librarian
Lee Jones, SPED 1&2
Elisabeth Kraemer, STEM
Penelope Miller (not there this year)
Katie Roth, 4/5
Kathleen Sheehy, Instructional Coach
Leah Stein, and SPED 3/4/5
Emily Young 1st


It would seem that Ms. Roth was the only one who students took the DC-CAS, thus she was the only one whose IMPACT included test scores.

Posted by: edlharris | November 2, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

And, your point is?

Posted by: horacemann | November 2, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

And, your point is?

Posted by: horaceman
*************************
At Hyde and Addison, only one teacher who teaches reading and math that is tested on DC-CAS is Highly Effective.
For parents who children go to Hyde-Addison, unless your child's teacher is Ms. Roth, that teacher is not Highly Effective.

Posted by: edlharris | November 2, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

So?

Posted by: horacemann | November 2, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Well, seems like horcemann has no answers.

Posted by: guylady201001 | November 2, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Horaceman, it was you who made this comment:

"Interesting how no one questions the IMPACT system's ability to identify great teachers, but it is apparently so flawed when it comes to calling out ineffective ones."

Ed Harris is answering the point you appeared to be making. If he isn't on target, you need to clarify YOUR point, not his.

Did you say that that these "awards", and the lack of opposition to these few teachers and coaches being given this dubious honor, somehow weakens arguments against using the IMPACT system to attack teachers?

No statistician is defending IMPACT as valid, because the score variation is dominated by random variation in class composition. The scores represent literally the short straw drawn by a soldier in a Roman legion sentenced to be decimated.

These selections actually make the case that the for-profit reformers rigged the IMPACT to attack teachers of standards-driven content areas, undermine teaching and learning, and spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt throughout public education and the communities it serves.

Billionaires love it, because Gates' goal in taking over teacher evaluation was not to improve teaching, at all. It's the same old FUD he has always practiced in his business takover plans.

The Washington Post is a big supporter of the Impact system, because it is also an experienced practitioner of FUD. It has a financial stake in weakening the public system by destroying morale and public confidence. The aim of this poisonous random "evaluation" is to support for-profit frauds like Kaplan Higher Education and Kaplan K12 Learning. The Post is in business to cheat low-income children out of the pupil per-diem tax dollars allotted for their education in public elementary and secondary schools, not to improve education those schools.

If you aren't clear how FUD is practiced, here is a report on the Post's own training manual explicitly instructing its education sales force in FUD tactics:
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-11-01/kaplan-quest-for-profit-at-taxpayer-expense-ensnares-disabled-u-s-veteran.html

Posted by: mport84 | November 2, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

I did my student teaching with Angela Benjamin years ago at Wilson. She truly is an outstanding teacher and I am happy that she received this honor. And in case you guys were wondering, she is one of those "veteran" teachers that people like to bash who in fact has a lot of knowledge and skill to share. We need these teachers in our schools to help the next generation of professionals learn their craft. Kudos and thank you Angela.

Posted by: scinerd1 | November 2, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

While I remain skeptical about IMPACT as an evaluation tool, I do wish I could visit the classrooms of these teachers and learn a trick or two. Too often teachers toil alone in their classrooms as they reach out to their students. Sharing "best practices" is, of course, much different from using that distinction to clobber teachers who have not yet obtained it. For a peek inside my classroom, please visit my blog at teachermandc.com.

Posted by: dcproud1 | November 2, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

"'I feel like I'm at the Academy Awards, this is so exciting,'" said Kaya Henderson . . .".
-------------------------
Big difference: When an actor/actress receives an Academy Award it is because they are recognized and appreciated for quality work. The statue is given with no strings attached.

In DCPS, "cash awards" NOT "bonuses" are dangled in front of the most "highly effective" teachers and in exchange for accepting what we've earned, we're then asked to give up a few perks offered to us in the collective bargaining agreement.

DCPS is a sham and a pathetic place to work

Posted by: UrbanDweller | November 2, 2010 8:47 PM | Report abuse

Since test scores are so bad, why aren't these "highly effective" teachers moved to testing grades to boost student achievement and raise test scores?
Wouldn't this seem to make the most sense?


On another note...horacemann-would you like to be graded on a rubric for your performance at your place of employment? The rubric would grade you on many different facets of your position, and would be extremely subjective. You would also not be given any information on how to improve your practice, once graded on the rubric.
Why is this something that is only happening in education? Perhaps if this style of an evaluation tool was used in every work environment, people would begin to see what is actually not working with IMPACT.

Posted by: cosnowflake | November 3, 2010 6:51 AM | Report abuse

I am evaluated each year as most employees are. And, yes, that evaluation is often subjective as most evaluators are human. Please excuse the short responses regarding IMPACT, but I failed to grasp whether the argument being made was that the highly effective teacher was in fact not, or whether every other teacher should also be highly effective or whether the commenter was simply making a subjective statement that if he/she were to personally replace the IMPACt system, he/she would rate all those teacher highly effective. The focus of the blog posting above seemed to be on teaching as a jobs program and Rhee's failure to recognize it as such.

Posted by: horacemann | November 3, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

cosnowflake,
I asked Miss Rhee if she would move the HE teachers to replace the ineffective ones.
She said, "No."

Posted by: edlharris | November 3, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Claptrap. some teachers seem inclined to criticize everything about impact while others on this blogue live with it and learn from it. the latter are too busy to post as frequently. we need to face the fact that the weaker, teachers, backed by the unionistas, will attack and try to undermine any eval because they want guaranteed jobs, no matter how they perform. they want to be treated as "professionals," but fail to notice that in those other professions, the professionals take a lot of responsibility and are frequently held accountable for their mistakes -- by the market/customers, by regulators, by their peers. Nope, in DCPS until recently, you could be as great or as lousy a teacher as you were, with equal consequences.

As for the conspiracies UD tries to foist on us, he's after the comfort of being a victim. This helps explain things that are happening when one cannot face the obvious. A fundamental truth about our economy, especially the big companies, is that they desperately need strong public ed. to produce workers and customers. Placement fees, test sales, test prep -- that's not going to make anyone rich. Further, there is no evidence of a plot or conspiracy. If UD really believes in the conspiracy, he should consider leaving so he is not complicit in the plot to deny The Children the education we have paid handsomely for and that they deserve.

Posted by: axolotl | November 4, 2010 8:22 AM | Report abuse

obviously axolotl, you are not a teacher.

also, you have no idea what i do for a living either...it is sad that you seem to sound like you work for the post in your beliefs about teachers and how the system works.

again, someone trying to speak about something they clearly know nothing about.so sad that you are so misinformed and choose to speak so terribly of others you know nothing about.

there are a large amount of teachers in DC that are being treated terribly by this system and have seen their passion turn into fear as the evaluation system is not being used appropriately.

Posted by: cosnowflake | November 5, 2010 6:36 AM | Report abuse

cosnowflake -- I view teacher quality as a bell curve. However, in the DCPS case, as there were hardly any consequences for being ineffective until Rhee, we had too many at the lower end. How could this system have evaluated 95 percent of teachers as good-excellent when Rhee showed up? Look at their products? We need better for The Children, and you should be acting to do your part in that.

I have said often: we have many good teachers; they are being driven out by the weak ones.

On knowing something about education, get used to this: we are all experts in education if we went to public schools, sent kids there, dealt with the consequences of public education, pay taxes, see our home prices affected by the quality of public schools, read the papers, stay in touch with the schools. You certainly don't have to be a teacher or an administrator to understand the public schools. Don't you get it? The educators are public employees -- they work for the kids and all the other citizens and taxpayers. It is not the other way around. If you think it has not been time -- for decades--to cast a critical eye on what makes DCPS so weak compared to other school systems, you are not very observant. We need to act -- to fix the schools, including by attracting and growing the good teachera we have, sending others on their way after reasonable attempts to remediate.

Posted by: axolotl | November 5, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

cosnowflake -- I view teacher quality as a bell curve. However, in the DCPS case, as there were hardly any consequences for being ineffective until Rhee, we had too many at the lower end. How could this system have evaluated 95 percent of teachers as good-excellent when Rhee showed up? Look at their products? We need better for The Children, and you should be acting to do your part in that.

I have said often: we have many good teachers; they are being driven out by the weak ones.

On knowing something about education, get used to this: we are all experts in education if we went to public schools, sent kids there, dealt with the consequences of public education, pay taxes, see our home prices affected by the quality of public schools, read the papers, stay in touch with the schools. You certainly don't have to be a teacher or an administrator to understand the public schools. Don't you get it? The educators are public employees -- they work for the kids and all the other citizens and taxpayers. It is not the other way around. If you think it has not been time -- for decades--to cast a critical eye on what makes DCPS so weak compared to other school systems, you are not very observant. We need to act -- to fix the schools, including by attracting and growing the good teachera we have, sending others on their way after reasonable attempts to remediate.

Posted by: axolotl | November 5, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

i actually do agree with your last post axolotl.
esp. this part...

I have said often: we have many good teachers; they are being driven out by the weak ones.

very true...and it is still happening as we speak... or type.

Posted by: cosnowflake | November 5, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Axolotl:

Read over your posts because in them is the reason our educational system is less than stellar.

You obviously are not a teacher and would never be one because you hold great contempt for the profession. Your own children are probably not teachers either, nor will they even consider becoming one. If you are in close proximity with other young people, such as nieces or nephews, they will probably not wish to become teachers either because they will receive numerous warnings about the "unionista" from you. They will listen to your disrespectful remarks about those irresponsible teachers and read your contemptuous comments in the Washington Post.

That is not to say that you would eschew a job in education. You might consider a position as a grant writer, a district office administrator (not a principal), the manager of a charter school or any other job that pays well but does not involve actual teaching.

Well, guess what, you're not alone. There are many other citizens who feel exactly as you do, and that's the root of our problem in education.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | November 6, 2010 12:51 AM | Report abuse

amen Linda!!

Posted by: cosnowflake | November 6, 2010 8:21 AM | Report abuse

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