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Posted at 5:00 AM ET, 10/ 4/2010

The end of school reform in the District

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Terrance Lynch
Washington


While I appreciated the hopeful, “keep it moving forward” tone of the Sept. 19 Local Opinions pieces, “A chance to learn from Rhee’s mistakes” and “D.C. school reform marches on,” which claimed that school reform will continue despite the results of the D.C. Democratic mayoral primary, I must say to the writers: Please wake up and smell the coffee. Urgent public education reform is done for in the District.

The American Federation of Teachers didn’t pour money into a local race for nothing, not to mention the numerous foot soldiers who traveled here from far outside the city to do groundwork for the Gray campaign. Their target was clearly Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, via her patron, Mayor Adrian Fenty.

Despite his voiced commitment to school reform, D.C. Council Chairman and presumptive mayor Vincent Gray has over the past three years quite vigorously and loudly second-guessed Rhee’s almost every move, be it on budget, school closings, teacher evaluations or other matters, to the point of badgering her on issues as basic as personnel decisions at the level of middle school principal and high school teacher positions. Throughout the campaign, Gray wouldn’t say whether he would keep Rhee on should he win. D.C. voters well understood that this meant he has no intention of doing so.

I am now in my 13th year as a parent with children in the D.C. Public School system, with at least another four years to go. On the basis of that experience, I would estimate that at least 20 percent of teachers and administrators would be well served to find other careers. I have seen principals struggle to keep low-performing teachers from having direct or sole teaching duties to minimize their impact on students. Yet these staff members have been kept on the payroll despite their poor performance and a chorus of parental complaints.

The chances of the Gray administration removing administrators and teachers for poor performance are, frankly, quite low. Evaluation and performance tools developed under Rhee will probably be revamped, with effective, timely implementation delayed interminably with reviews, appeals and bureaucratic hurdles. The old games of transferring personnel, shuffling them between schools and classrooms will likely come back in style.

I hope I am wrong. We will very soon see.

The writer is executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | October 4, 2010; 5:00 AM ET
Categories:  D.C., D.C. politics, HotTopic, Mayor Fenty, Vincent Gray, education  
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Comments

As one who drinks coffee and has debated Mr. Lynch on several occasions regarding District public education, it is unfortunate he continues to misrepresent the views of others. Mr. Lynch’s unsavory analyses about District public education reform reflects an intellectual disconnect to facts. Despite clear evidence to dispute Mr. Lynch, his view is given uneven and irrational support by the editorial board of The Washington Post.

Mr. Lynch and The Washington Post stretch facts to claim Chairman Vincent C. Gray and community activists are opposed to District public education reform and do want high quality public education for District children. This racially insensitive story is a lie which Mr. Lynch and The Washington Post need to stop pushing. Mr. Lynch and the editorial board of The Washington Post with bold disregard for integrity believe African-Americans in the District want their children to live in ignorance. This too is a lie.

Mr. Lynch, the editorial board of The Washington Post, and DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee do not have a lock on how to improve District public education. It is dishonest and hypocritical for Mr. Lynch to float the concept African-Americans in the District are too far down on the brain food chain to evaluate Chancellor Rhee and hold her accountable for her failure as a leader.

What is lost in the comments of Mr. Lynch is the appreciation parents, teachers, and the broader District community gave Chancellor Rhee, a reportedly failed classroom teacher and according to a Washington Post video tape admits taping the mouths of students, strong community support early in her tenure. It is a distortion of truth for Mr. Lynch and The Washington Post to interpret the rejection of Chancellor Rhee as rejecting District public education reform.

While Mr. Lynch offers his hopes he is wrong about Chairman Gray, I offer to him my view he is wrong about Chairman Gray and African-Americans in the District of Columbia.

Robert Vinson Brannum
rbrannum@robertbrannum.com

Posted by: robert158 | October 4, 2010 7:45 AM | Report abuse

writer said: I hope I am wrong. We will very soon see.
_________________________________________

I know you are wrong. As soon as Rhee is gone and the District gets the qualified, experienced school chief that it deserves I trust you will give Gray the accolades that he deserves.

I won't hold my breath.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | October 4, 2010 8:46 AM | Report abuse

The end of "school reform" is the beginning of sustained improvement in public education. My preference is for the latter.

Posted by: imback | October 4, 2010 8:49 AM | Report abuse

" numerous foot soldiers who traveled here from far outside the city to do groundwork.... "

Talking about Fenty, right?

And he outspent Gray 4 to 1, right?

Sounds like the people wanted Gray to be mayor

Posted by: efavorite | October 4, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

RESEARCH Michelle Rhee's ongoing
CONFLICTS OF INTEREST machinations, financial
gaming the system, and legal violations ---
in Washington, DC and
also in Sacramento.
Did you know that every time she brings in
a new inexperienced, unqualified
"Teach for America" intern that she pays her
ex-husband's organization (he's the "TFA"
Communications Director) a fee of
several thousand dollars for each recruit --
which goes toward his salary and he then repays
back to her as child support ! --
that's self-dealing.
===
Investigate the rattling skeletons in both Michelle Rhee's and (supposed boyfriend) Kevin Johnson's closets, while they've been protected from consequences by their big-money financier
and corporate backers
[eg. deliberate prevarication, budgetary machinations & financial scandals (including misappropriation of over $400,000
in federal grants), sexual misconduct with
students (teen minors) and (teenage Americorps)
staff subordinates, cover-ups and 'hush money'
deals behind-the-scenes].
----------------
Must-read important
news article:
http://www.sacbee.com/2009/11/20/2338165/kevin-johnsons-accuser-says-he.html#ixzz10X7EgmSQ

Also, see website:
http://sacchartergate.blogspot.com/

=================

Posted by: honestpolicy | October 4, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Terry: This is just wrong, and ill-informed. This kind of fear-mongering needs to end.

School reform is on track, and will stay on track. Gray has consistently called Rhee on the carpet for implementation issues, lack of transparency, and a complete lack of regard for the checks and balances of our system. I challenge you to give specific examples that of Gray opposing specific reforms, as opposed to the process of carrying them out. Big difference.

Try to keep your disappointment in check, Terry.

Posted by: HomeTownDC | October 4, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

a concerned DCPS parent :

re: Michelle Rhee’s “mom friendly” comment, prepared specifically for the Oprah show, about moms not tolerating mediocre teachers being given time to grow and develop professionally. “Well. The unqualified, needing-to-grow-professionally, TFA principal that Rhee PUSHED on our school, despite protests from a panel of engaged, informed, truly progressive, professional educators and parents with advanced degrees in education . . . . . (this TFA principal) hired and protected even more inexperienced, unqualified teachers who will take YEARS to develop into true professionals. But the principal and those teachers all know how to say “yes” to their boss. Too bad they don’t know the basics of how children learn, or the nuances of curriculum and instruction. It is hard, hard work indeed to have to reprogram my kids every day after school, to get them to embrace and understand learning again.

Rhee’s influential, BAD decisions and practices, more than
ANY OTHER failure of the DC Public School system, has me
on the verge of pulling my kids out of school.

Rhee embarrassed herself mightily at the DC screening of this film (”Waiting for Wall Street Super-scammers”) -- with her comment insulting DC voters.

My kids, and the 350 others in their school,
will not be devastated at all
when she leaves.
We assume she will head to the business world for which
she may have more appropriate skills.”

———————————————————

Posted by: honestpolicy | October 4, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

a concerned DCPS parent :

re: Michelle Rhee’s “mom friendly” comment, prepared specifically for the Oprah show, about moms not tolerating mediocre teachers being given time to grow and develop professionally. “Well. The unqualified, needing-to-grow-professionally, TFA principal that Rhee PUSHED on our school, despite protests from a panel of engaged, informed, truly progressive, professional educators and parents with advanced degrees in education . . . . . (this TFA principal) hired and protected even more inexperienced, unqualified teachers who will take YEARS to develop into true professionals. But the principal and those teachers all know how to say “yes” to their boss. Too bad they don’t know the basics of how children learn, or the nuances of curriculum and instruction. It is hard, hard work indeed to have to reprogram my kids every day after school, to get them to embrace and understand learning again.

Rhee’s influential, BAD decisions and practices, more than
ANY OTHER failure of the DC Public School system, has me
on the verge of pulling my kids out of school.

Rhee embarrassed herself mightily at the DC screening of this film (”Waiting for Wall Street Super-scammers”) -- with her comment insulting DC voters.

My kids, and the 350 others in their school,
will not be devastated at all
when she leaves.
We assume she will head to the business world for which
she may have more appropriate skills.”

———————————————————

Posted by: honestpolicy | October 4, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

a concerned DCPS parent :

re: Michelle Rhee’s “mom friendly” comment, prepared specifically for the Oprah show, about moms not tolerating mediocre teachers being given time to grow and develop professionally. “Well. The unqualified, needing-to-grow-professionally, TFA principal that Rhee PUSHED on our school, despite protests from a panel of engaged, informed, truly progressive, professional educators and parents with advanced degrees in education . . . . . (this TFA principal) hired and protected even more inexperienced, unqualified teachers who will take YEARS to develop into true professionals. But the principal and those teachers all know how to say “yes” to their boss. Too bad they don’t know the basics of how children learn, or the nuances of curriculum and instruction. It is hard, hard work indeed to have to reprogram my kids every day after school, to get them to embrace and understand learning again.

Rhee’s influential, BAD decisions and practices, more than
ANY OTHER failure of the DC Public School system, has me
on the verge of pulling my kids out of school.

Rhee embarrassed herself mightily at the DC screening of this film (”Waiting for Wall Street Super-scammers”) -- with her comment insulting DC voters.

My kids, and the 350 others in their school,
will not be devastated at all
when she leaves.
We assume she will head to the business world for which
she may have more appropriate skills.”

———————————————————

Posted by: honestpolicy | October 4, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Lynch is back on the wrong train again. His history speaks for itself. Interestingly,in the New york Times yesterday, Rhee's Time magazine interview was discussed and the most important quote was from her: "I am not going to pretend to solicit your advice so you'll feel involved because that's just fake". Well, voters decided that they wanted to be involved in what happened in their schools. They did not want to be slapped around and told to suck it up. Democracy is a b...h

Posted by: topryder1 | October 4, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Did anyone else read the article in September's Ebony where Michelle Rhee proudly touts the fact that programs like TFA and her 'New Teacher Project'
are bringing in teachers from the 'elite' schools?
She had to backtrack when
Dr. Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College, challenged her.
And, Rhee didn't mention that these programs bring in teachers with no disciplinary skills (such as herself -- remember her fond anecdote about
"taping shut 2nd grade students' mouths
in Baltimore")
and these unqualified, untrained or minimally trained recruits are basically temp. workers not committed to the profession of teaching.

These programs are NOT designed to develop
a professional corps of teachers. No one becomes an expert in only 2 or 3 years. I don't understand why Rhee (or anyone else) spends their energy trying to build and repair schools with these types of temporary teachers. They are a band aid -- nothting more (band-aids are easily peeled off, fall off) --
a pseudo-reform sham providing cover
for a Wall Street-funded
edu-profiteering scam
that doesn't heal anything
and doesn't construct anything
worthwhile for the children.

-----------------------------------

Posted by: honestpolicy | October 4, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

@honestpolicy --- "I don't understand why Rhee
(or anyone else) spends their energy trying to
build and repair schools with these types of temporary teachers." (?)

re: TFA & New Teacher Project;
educrat 'fink' tanks (filled with inexperienced
never-teachers, non-teachers or teachers who quit because they couldn't successfully, sustainably teach,
but they have endless jabbering, tomes
& reams of 'advice';
and, of course, the media-hyped
corporate edu-profiteers & hedge scammers
grasping taxpayer-funded $ (ie. corporate welfare)
dollars in their claws............

(significant, insightful
message from
'efavorite') --- />

"Because there is money in it. There's Money for
the teacher recruitment firms that place them
(ie. the New Teachers Project, that Rhee used to run).
There's money for the consultants who vet the new grads who enter the program, then train them on
how to be a teacher in 5 weeks, and there's money for the new teachers themselves -- they get a portion
of their college loans forgiven and get a tuition break on their master's degree.

So it's a big win, for everyone,
but the kids."

-----------

note this financial
FACT: --- The New Teacher Project
actually charges fees of
several hundred thousand dollars ($ !)
per each school district to embed themselves
as on-site full-time consultant staff
(within the central offices) inside the H.R. depts.
of these particular school districts !!
Everybody do your homework
to research more about these
behind-the-scenes arrangements
with school districts.

-----------------

Posted by: honestpolicy | October 4, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Mr Lynch:

I truly believe that you are wrong. Please stop scapegoating teachers and realize that all DC/Federal workers deserve due diligence.

Why do you think Rhee should not be held accountable for her actions?

Chairman Gray or any 2010 elected official will be considered a fool to believe that "Educaiton Reform" is based on Michelle Rhee. It has been stated clearly in the media, Michelle Rhee is the puppeteer for DC Education Reformers who are millionaires and Arne Duncan, RTTT.

Real Reformers are Real Certified Educators!!

All DCPS stakeholders working effectively for the best interest of all kids will survive without Rhee. It would be devastating to DCPS students/parents to keep Michelle Rhee.

Kudos to DC Voters and remember to vote again on November 2, 2010 (General Election) for Vincent Gray!!!

Enough is Enough, Rhee MUST GO!!

Posted by: sheilahgill | October 4, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Lynch, you are wrong. There is nothing wrong with getting rid of bad teachers. I think all of us want that. However, the way by which Rhee did it was completely flawed. Current research says that using a value added model to link students' test scores to teacher evaluations is unwise because of statistical imprecision, the use of non-vertically scaled assessments, and validity and insufficiency of statistical controls among many other well documented factors. Yet Rhee bulldozed a value added model on the district without even having done a pilot test run.

So, no, Mr. Lynch. With Rhee's exit, there is an opportunity to get it right.

Posted by: linroy62 | October 4, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Terry Lynch is as wrong about school reform as he was about who would win theh Primary. In the Primary election, Terry supported Mayor Fenty and Clark Ray; both lost.

Posted by: ObjectiveReader1 | October 4, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Besides insulting district teachers, Rhee did the very thing that has plagued
urban schools for many years: she hired underqualified and inexperienced teachers for the most challenging schools.

Hopefully Mr. Gray will initiate real reform by hiring fully-qualified teachers with proven track records of success. If he gets the "talent" in the classrooms, instead of at district office, he'll be doing the very best thing possible for DC students.

Rhee's brand of "reform" was an outrageous con directed at the citizens of our nation's capital, but fortunately most were not fooled.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | October 4, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Michelle Rhee may or may not have been the best person to implement school reform, but at least she made real attempts.

And while we're at it, why is it that DCPS is always in need of reform? You'd think that by now everything would have been tried and yet here we still are: decades of consistently being worst or second worst in the nation.

Everyone says they want "change", especially Gray's voters, but when they themselves are asked to "change", well, that's another matter entirely. We can't have that. We've got patronage and spoils systems to protect. We've got a school system perceived more as a jobs creator than an education system for our youth.

And year after year, another class rolls out with more than half of the original students having dropped out, gone to prison, shot dead, or having babies: students ill prepared for today's job and education market. Students who would never even contemplate applying for Harvard, Yale, Stanford, or any other top notch school. I'm not stating that's the end all be all, but they should at least be competitive.

Seriously, why do we continue to accept failure with our most vulnerable citizens (and some non-citizens since you know we're a sanctuary city)? Why don't we ask more from teachers, administrators, council officials, parents, and yes, students.

Seems everyone talks a good game about school reform (and why not, they've been talking about it for decades now) but when the hard choices have to be made, its the typical response: throw more money at it, blame someone else, do another study. Blah, blah, blah.

People like Gray don't have the imagination or courage to try something totally new. Maybe Fenty didn't do it right either, but he was willing to NOT accept the status quo. He was willing to take on the vested interests.

At this point the least we can do is make sure there's enough prison space and food stamps for the kids coming out of DCPS. God help them.

Posted by: traderdad37 | October 4, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Question for Mr. Lynch: other than the likely change of command at D.C. Public Schools, which aspect of "urgent public education reform" needs an undertaker?

Charter schools, a major factor in the District's winning $75 million in federal Race to the Top funding, now educate 4 in 10 DC public-school students and lie outside mayoral control. No funeral there. Better hold the rites on teacher evaluations, too; they also are part of our Race to the Top plan--which the City Council chairman signed along with the mayor and chancellor. Meanwhile, new "Common Core" English and math standards will propel innovation and learning in every classroom, something DCPS has yet to see in three-plus years under mayoral control. As for facilities, they remain in a separate agency established by the city council before Mayor Fenty took office and renovations continue apace.

Which begs another question: If D.C. public schools were in such dire straits, how come Mr. Lynch's children, like mine, have managed to get a good education in them? Hmmm. Perhaps because they attended School Without Walls, Deal Middle School or other historically high-performing schools where academic excellence pre-dates mayoral control.

To suggest that the fate of education reform rides on one superhero keeping her job (after firing hundreds) not only dismiesses the importance of parterships, trust and family buy-in to sustaining these efforts. It ignores the primary's "teachable moment" in civics: democracy is a dreadful form of government, except in comparison to all the others that nation's have tried. Kool-Aid, anyone?

Posted by: BlackSwan1 | October 4, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

While Terry Lynch and I are friends and we often agree, on this issue he is dead wrong.

Instead of writing columns like this he should be working with those that do support education reform and also worked hard for the election of Vince Gray. Terry seems to forget that without Vince Gray education reform wouldn't have passed the Council. Why anyone would think Vince Gray will move backwards now is mystifying to me. Gray is a reformer. Reform as Arne Duncan proved in Chicago doesn't mean you have to fight the union. Why is it that Duncan could do it in Chicago and then become Education Secretary and Rhee couldn't do it here. Maybe it is something about Rhee and her lack of understanding or ability to work with people, not just the union, any people.

Terry Lynch walks the walk as he has children in the school system and I admire him for it. He is a stalwart in fighting for so many issues that benefit people. I hope he will join those now who want to work with Vince Gray and do as Gray has committed to doing and that is moving forward agressively with Education Reform. We can clearly do that just do it without Rhee.

Posted by: peterdc | October 4, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Terry Lynch has been living off DC taxpayers dollars long enough. It is time to reform the funds that he and his organization have received over the past 15 years. Let other organizations in the city receive them. He was an ardent Mayor Fenty supporter and cannot seem to recognize reality with Chairman Gray's reform views that were supported by over 72,000 democratic voters.

Posted by: bill121 | October 4, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

I suspect many readers find Mr. Lynch's analysis to be quite compelling. DC public schools have historically served DC residents very poorly -- Fenty implemented some reforms that seemed quite reasonable and even got national attention, including from Pres. Obama. Those reforms seem likely to be derailed under the new Gray administration, who, to satisfy his supporters, will presumably now have to take our city backwards to the discredited status quo. Its a tragedy that Fenty wasn't more personable, but the greater tragedy is DC's loss of a brighter education and future for our children.

Posted by: natandmark2 | October 5, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Lynch,
As a student at one of the "better" DCPS high schools (School Without Walls), I have to disagree with you on many points you have brought up. As a student I have heard about and seen teachers who are decent teachers pushed out of their jobs by Rhee's "budget" cuts, and teachers who are just plain not qualified stay due to them being new, have a extremely good degree. Not only this, the fact that Rhee is focussing on teachers who were willing to stay on even during a time when DCPS was known for Crack cocaine and awful quality education, and more-so that she wants these teachers fired, is absord. They may not be the best teachers, but they deserve some job security after all the years. To talk about the way Rhee decided to judge what qualified a good teacher, I have witnessed it, and it is a joke. It is weighted in such a way that the most importent parts are tiny things, such as whether a teacher writes an agenda on the board or not, which have little baring to the actual quality of teaching. Furthermore, Rhee neer showed any effort to conect with the school community, rather going on a power hogging method.

Posted by: davidofhumans | October 5, 2010 7:00 PM | Report abuse

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