Fixing the D.C. Schools?
(posted by guest blogger Valerie Strauss)
Imagine this: You earn a pay increase but somehow, your employer never manages to pay you the extra amount. You complain and are promised the money, but it never seems to come. After six years--yes, six years--your paycheck finally starts to include your increase. Getting the retroactive money is a separate issue, however.
It happened to one teacher I know in the D.C. school system, and thre are plenty of other teachers who can relate similar experiences.
Unless Mayor Adrian Fenty and his new schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee, can get these basic systems fixed, then it is an open question as to how effective anything else they do will be.
It seems to me the place to start is with the personnel operations, so that teachers can get paid on time and the proper amount. The system also needs the ability to automatically track people and tell you whether they are in the central office or in a school; now such information has to be done manually. And it needs an automated budget system that can actually track exactly where and how money is being spent. Today budgeters still do their work on Excel spread sheets.
Past superintendents have vowed to fix these systems, but somehow got sidetracked, not staying focused on the basics, or not staying long enough to see them through. And millions of dollars have been wasted on computer systems that didn't work.
To be sure, none of this sounds sexy. The term "school reform" may mean to some new teaching methods and curriculum design--and that certainly is part of it. Indeed, the last superintendent, Clifford B. Janey, oversaw a widely praised overhaul of the city's academic standards and changed the accountability measures to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind.
That's all to the good. But how can it improve student achievement if the work force charged with implementing the changes is demoralized and in constant flux? Without a stable, competent work force, you have nothing.
What would be at the top of your agenda if you were D.C. schools czar?
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Posted by: DCer | August 14, 2007 1:28 PM
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