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D.C. Teachers March Toward Showdown Over Merit Pay

How far apart are D.C. school teachers and Chancellor Michelle Rhee over her drive to dismantle the 20th century, seniority-based structure of employment in the public schools? Well, within 15 minutes of meeting two teachers on opposite sides of the current debate, I heard threats to shut the system down if Rhee's merit pay plan goes into effect and warnings that a failure to adopt the new pay scheme could spell the end of the public system as we know it.

Today on Raw Fisher Radio, I speak to two D.C. teachers representing sharply-divided factions within the school system. With school opening next week, time is getting short for Rhee to win approval from the teachers union for her plan to end tenure and the job security that seniority has traditionally guaranteed for teachers in Washington and most other big public systems.

As The Post's Bill Turque reported earlier this month, prospects for easy approval of Rhee's plan look bleak. I got a firsthand look at just how harsh the reaction to the merit pay plan has been from Jerome Brocks, a special education teacher who has been in the D.C. system for 34 years and who was formerly chairman of the political action committee for the Washington Teachers Union.

"We may have to end up sending a message to Michelle Rhee," Brocks tells me on the radio show, which streams at noon today on this here web site and will be available both here on washingtonpost.com for the next week and on iTunes as well. Brocks, a lifelong Washingtonian, pointed out several times quite acidly that Rhee "just got to town." "I'm not giving up my seniority no matter how much money they throw at me."

Brocks objects not only to the proposal to eliminate tenure and seniority protections for teachers but to Rhee's whole approach, which is founded on the idea that D.C. schools have been a too-comfortable refuge for too many teachers who long ago lost their zeal for their work and who lack the skills or energy to make a difference in the lives of children.

Brocks rejects not only Rhee's plan to reform the pay system but also her effort to give school principals far more of a say in who teaches in their building. "It is degrading and insulting for teachers to have to interview with a principal before accepting a position in that school," Brocks says. "Teachers are doing a terrific job."

He is far from alone in his opposition to Rhee's plan. A survey conducted for the teachers union by Peter Hart Research Associates found that 58 percent of union members look unfavorably on the pay proposal, with only 33 percent in favor.

But the survey also found that teachers generally agree with the public that the D.C. schools are doing a lousy job. Only 25 percent of the teachers said DCPS is doing an excellent or good job attending to students' needs, and 39 percent said the system's performance is poor or not good.

Some of those teachers are willing to give Rhee's plan a try. Susan Breipohl, my other guest on this week's show, is a pre-k and kindergarten teacher at the School Within School at the Capitol Hill Cluster elementary schools. A veteran of a D.C. charter school, Breipohl is among the many younger D.C. teachers who believe it would be wrong to spurn the largess of the foundations and other private sources that Rhee says are ready to pour money into the D.C. system in support of her merit pay structure.

"It would be reckless to turn away money that is poised to be given to us," says Breipohl, who is confident that reasonable ways can be found to measure teacher performance and determine which teachers deserve the bonus pay for boosting student achievement.

I'm very skeptical of relying on student test scores to determine which teachers are getting the job done. Test scores are a better reflection of the socioeconomic background of the kids than of the impact of any single teacher on a child's performance. But that said, most people in any given school building can pretty quickly and accurately tell you which teachers are effective, inspiring and energizing. Just as in any other workplace, the distinction between those who love their job and devote themselves to doing it brilliantly and those who are just riding through ought to be reflected in pay and other benefits.

The political barriers to change in the D.C. system are enormously powerful--that's why the job of running the system has been such a revolving door for so long. But Rhee has so far found ways to leverage her deep and impressive popular support around town to burst through some of those barriers. The teacher contract is one of the most daunting barriers remaining, and the union is talking tough. But this is a widely discredited and disgraced union, whose last generation of leaders now resides largely in penitentiaries.

The real decision will be made by rank and file teachers, who, as today's show illustrates, are very much divided, by attitude toward their work, by age, by race, by connections to and intimacy with this city, and by their reading of Rhee's intent and tactics. For all Rhee has done, this is the real test.

By Marc Fisher |  August 19, 2008; 8:47 AM ET
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Comments

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If parents have a say in the pay raises that will change teacher performance more than test scores. Teachers can cheat the tests but they can't fool the parents.

Posted by: Amy | August 19, 2008 9:52 AM

"'Teachers are doing a terrific job.'"

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Posted by: Franconia | August 19, 2008 9:59 AM

One can only hope that Mr. Brocks is on his way out of the DC school system to bigger and better things, since he obviously thinks he's too important to be held accountable for his work. His attitude that principals shouldn't be responsible for the quality of teachers in their schools is arrogant beyond belief - and a recipe for the continued chaos and incompetence that has condemned generations of DC students to a sub-standard education. If Mr. Brocks is not rapidly on his way to a job worthy of his superior skills, perhaps his principal or Chancellor Rhee could help him on his way with a kick in a place where it'll do so good.

Posted by: Former DC Resident | August 19, 2008 10:00 AM

How is it insulting for teacher to have to interview with the principal? Isn't that a standard practice? I know that was the case for my boyfriend who teaches at a local catholic school, and for a friend who teaches in Howard Co. I understand that doing away with tenure is complex and emotional, but objecting to principals having a say just seems silly.

Posted by: marylandgirl | August 19, 2008 10:05 AM

welcome to the real world. There is no other industry that guarantees job security after you do WHAT YOU ARE BEING PAID for for just 2-3 years. Its time for annual performance reviews and raises based on performance and not just showing up. This also means some people won't get a pay raise every year while others will get more than the average.

Most jurisdictions around here have close to 50% of their local taxes spent on education. Its about time we have some accountability.

Posted by: Its about time | August 19, 2008 10:15 AM

Mr. Brocks comments are based on his experiences and beliefs. I believe that we have wonderful teachers in DCPS. That does not negate the fact that children are a product of their environment and when we have "control" in one area and "chaos" in the other, it's a distraction. So it would be unfair to base a teacher's pay on circumstances that are beyond their control. Was Michelle Rhee's $275,000 salary based on the children's performance? I believe not. Her salary is over $32,000 more than Montgomery County's head of schools. And based on the numbers, more than half of our schools cannot even pass AYP. So I must ask, was her salary based on tenure or performance?

Posted by: understand | August 19, 2008 10:27 AM

As a former teacher I would be very wary of giving my career over to whether or not the children I teach can pass a particular test.

I was given the worst class in the school my first year as a teacher and I was told I did a great job because the children not only showed up they stayed in the classroom.

I think the pressure that Rhee is putting on Principals today will lead them to try to place the blame for a failing school on teachers whether that is right or wrong. Their is a thing as a school culture and that comes from the principal. If the culture is wrong or not conducive to teaching that will impact how a teacher does and how children do. Demand for parental involvement must come not only from a teacher but from a principal which also impacts on how children do.

As a teacher I would be very wary to put my career in the hands of a person-the principal- who may be changed by Rhee at anytime.

Posted by: peter DC | August 19, 2008 10:37 AM

Understand- Are you serious? Of course she is being paid on performance not tenure. Do you even know what the word 'tenure' means?

Posted by: you don't understand | August 19, 2008 10:39 AM

the 95% of us who aren't teachers are evaluated by bosses and can be fired at anytime. The boss can change at anytime, you can switch teams, the boss can get fired/promoted etc...

WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD

Posted by: to peter DC | August 19, 2008 10:40 AM

Excellent post you don't understand

Posted by: Anonymous | August 19, 2008 10:42 AM

Do what GM and other companies are doing these days ... buy workers out. What a number of vocal union members are saying is they are looking out for number 1. So, give them something to make them go away and move on with your plan Ms. Rhee. Those senior teachers who get the 'buyout' will, by some accounts, have earned it; they've been through numerous 'plans' with limited results. So, start anew. No-one, including many of the teachers apparently, is happy with the results of the DC public school system. Mr. Rhee's approach is the most comprehensive and comes with new players and supporters (ie, money). Let's give it a shot.

Posted by: Tslats | August 19, 2008 10:50 AM

Having read the comments previously submitted I guarantee that most were never teachers. When children come from fractured homes, violent streets and a society that places more importance on immediate gratification rather than long term goals, schools can only reflect what society has created. Administrators are paid because of their promises to reform what they cannot without the entire community taking part. However, that's not going to happen and it's easier to blame the teachers...... I've seen it again and again.

Posted by: Former NY Teacher | August 19, 2008 10:55 AM

Well, Rhee could always try the nuclear option if she insists on this merit pay system. She could clean the payroll almost entirely and leave only those who are not resistant to change. Otherwise, she might have to drop it. I think most agree that change is necessary. She could be creative and phase out seniority when they retire. She could hire more teachers and thus reduce the class size. Over time, the system will reflect her ideology. She can be flexible here. Otherwise, it's the nuclear option.

Posted by: dcp | August 19, 2008 11:01 AM

We need a nuclear option. DC public schools are a joke. If any company had the track record and performance that DC public schools the entire company from the CEO down to the janitor would be replaced.

Posted by: lets do it then | August 19, 2008 11:03 AM

The reason SOME tests are indicative of student socioeconomic backgrounds is ... there are too many lousy teachers in the system! Turn teachers into the real professionals they deserve to be. Pay the best ones $100,000 a year, and FIRE the lousy ones. Then test, and test, and test. Then use that data to adjust, learn, improve, and yes ... FIRE the worst teachers. The teachers are failing these kids. Test data will mean more when you make this change. The Rhee Doctrine is: No Excuses, not even "socioeconomic background."

Posted by: Craig Colgan | August 19, 2008 11:04 AM

God bless Michelle Rhee.

It makes no sense to reward teachers who have seniority, especially if they have a track record of crappy teaching! DC has some of the worst public schools in the nation and we're supposed to reward those teachers?

Free-market principles of a little competition never hurt anyone and can only increase the quality of the schools (which I hope is the real goal of teachers everywhere...and if it isn't then I suggest they find another job).

Posted by: benjo | August 19, 2008 11:06 AM

Wait, it's "degrading and insulting" to have to interview with your boss before you change workplaces? What planet has this man been on for the last 30-odd years? As if any supervisor is going to want new folks shoved on him or her without the chance to see if they'll work well in the environment? Get a clue!

Posted by: Moose | August 19, 2008 11:08 AM

As a born and raised DC native, I can say Mr. Brock represents exactly what is wrong with the DC schools and even throughout most of the District government.

Too many lazy and ineffective city employess have been riding the taxpayers for too long under the relative comfort and protection of the old Marion Barry style of government which still previals in the DC council.

It's time to cut some dead weight and make city employees responsible for their own performance.

Posted by: Jah | August 19, 2008 11:09 AM

DC Public Schools have failed to educate the children for generations and have contributed to the economic and crime problems in DC. The DC School System needs to top to bottom house cleaning just like any other disfunctional organization. If you are truely a skilled teacher you should have nothing to worry about. Rhee proposal allows teachers to keep seniority but their bonus are less then those who give it up. Whats the problem you have a choice.

Posted by: Anthony | August 19, 2008 11:12 AM

"submitted I guarantee that most were never teachers" -- no, but most of us were students at one point. You can tell who cared and who didn', who was competent and who wasn't (and it had nothing to do with how they graded).

And I'm sure quite a few of us have experience dealing with "lifers" in a bureaucracy.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | August 19, 2008 11:14 AM

The primary problem with Rhee accepting money from outside sources to incorporate this merit pay system is that it is removing control of the DCPS from parents and residents of this city and returning it to its colonialist heritage under the DC Commissioner system of the past. More money in itself does not translate into more effective schools systems and student achievement is dependent on many variables, many of which NO TEACHER WILL be able to control. What you may end up with is teachers engaging in whatever is necessary to insure that they get their merit pay, no matter what. Furthermore, every student is not going to test well (Rhee's only indicator of success)or will respond to traditional/ conventional educational methods which will be only methods utilized in the DCPS teaching system. As a product of DCPS education myself in an era when it was determined to be quite good, I have my own problems with it because several of my classmates never were successful in obtaining "grades", but have achieved phenomenal success in their chosen careers in spite of the lack of "great grades (or failing grades) in our conventional educational system." So what will be the indicators of success for all of these teachers -- TEST SCORES. I happen also not to be a great test taker because they make me very nervous, but I do have several graduate level degrees. So exactly how does one measure "SUCCESS" for all of these teachers --- I agree with the teachers it is VERY, VERY SCARY for me to base my salary/merit pay/promotion soley on students achievement as measured by test scores alone, especially when I know that I have worked extremely hard above and beyond the call of duty and for some strange, unknown and/or unpredictable reason the test scores do not unequivocally show it.

Posted by: hotezzy | August 19, 2008 11:21 AM

First we need to fix the school system from admin to school buildings (new books, materials, provide report cards in a timely manner, rehab the schools, admin/parent/teacher communication, get ready board member w/o education experience) and teachers will teach and students will learn. But the DCPS system needs to be fixed from top-down. This proposal is created to cause conflict w/i and end the Teachers Union. Where is all this $$$$ coming from to pay the teachers these bonuses and incentives, we did not have enough $$$ to fix the schools the last 3-4 years. Read between the lines (Union Buster Proposal).... Don't believe the Hype .... I haven't heard Rhee talk about school MATERIALS, Spend some of that $$$$ on school materials ... Old saying " You get out what you put in"

Posted by: 79 - DC PS Grad | August 19, 2008 11:22 AM

What the teachers union is missing is that parents are walking away in droves and will continue walking if we don't build better results. Closing 23 schools will just be the tip of the ice berg if parents cannot trust that teachers care more about the class room results than their job security. I personally do not think I will stay in the system if this labor agreement does not significantly change the pay for performance formula in favor of the Chancellors plan. I will not support teachers that only want to protect their jobs.

Posted by: Parent of a child in DC Schools | August 19, 2008 11:26 AM

Ten-ure
1: the act, right, manner, or term of holding something (as a landed property, a position, or an office); especially : a status granted after a trial period to a teacher that gives protection from summary dismissal.

Again, was Ms. Rhee compensated after a "trial period," or was it based on "performance." If so, she should be receiving an increase since students in DCPS achieved growth on the DC-CAS. Oh, we are not sure if Superintendent Janey or Ms. Rhee should get the credit. Yeah right!

Posted by: understand | August 19, 2008 11:29 AM

Thank God for Michelle Rhee. Let's hope she succeeds in kicking every single teacher like Brocks to the curb. The arrogance and entitlement he displays is shocking. What is truly "degrading and insulting" is to claim that "teachers are doing a terrific job" when clearly we have one of the worst performing school systems in the country -- surely teachers have something to do with that!

Posted by: DC parent | August 19, 2008 11:33 AM

I taught at a school with a 40% graduation rate in a class that had, on average, 45% of their students pass the end-of-course state mandated test. Having no teaching experience, I was put in a class with students ranging from 16 to 21 years old, many of which had never passed a single high school class and read at a low middle-school level. Last June, I received my test scores for the number of students who passed the end-of-course test: 84%, 88%, 100% (I taught 3 periods). I am 24 years old--never taken a single education class in my life and I outperformed every single teacher in the school (there are 55 of them). I should be rewarded financially--and those 30 year veterans who produced pathetic scores (17%, 32%, etc) should be removed promptly. Sure, the students come in your class below grade level, from broken families, and are involved in gang activity--but it's your job to overcome that. Use the 3 months you get off in the summer to think creatively and strategically--it's your job.

Posted by: NC teacher | August 19, 2008 11:35 AM

What bothers me about Rhee's proposal is that it really dichotomizes the teachers into those (apparently, mostly the younger ones still ineligible for tenure) who would rather have the money, and those for whom job security is more important.

It strikes me as potentially a "divide and conquer" move against the teachers' union. In that case, is it just an administrator-versus-employees strategy? I'd be more in favor of a single plan that would cover all teachers, then the union gets a straight up-or-down vote on it. Rhee's plan has the vibe of a clever stratagem to polarize the union and weaken it, which makes me wonder about her real intent.

Posted by: laboo | August 19, 2008 11:36 AM

Any teacher that's condones or sponsors a shut down of public schools should be fired. The statement alone clearly shows that the only real concern of these teachers is their pay. NOT THE CHILDREN. I assume this is exactly why Rhee is making the change. I agree with the change. No one should have a job for life. If you do a good job you won't have any problems. It's time they join the ranks of us and earn their keep.

Posted by: askgees | August 19, 2008 11:37 AM

Perhaps the people that think principals would not appoint their pals to teach the best students (and get the largest share of a bonus system), also think that hospital administrators should appoint their pals to operate on you. Principals are just as likely to pick a young woman they hope to have sex with as to pick good experienced teacher who will not feel grateful. You may think that seniority system is awful, but it was adopted to prevent other types of abuse that were worse. Like democracy, it stinks, but it is better than tyranny. In this nation as a whole, teacher's wages are very low. It is clear that we respect them about the same as used car salesmen. Until we respect teachers and pay rates that attract better teachers, we need to be careful about not driving off those willing to accept low pay and constant criticism. When parent express in advance their contempt for teaches, their children would be fools to learn from them. If parents want encourage their kids in school, they need feel that they would not object to their child being a teacher, which means seeing that teachers earn a wage that indicates that society needs and values their contribution. And this bit about young teachers wanting end the seniority system has to be a joke; young teachers don't have seniority, of course they want to end the system, until they are older and have their own children that need money to go to college. Then they want the seniority system. It is like asking a 15-year old if they are smarter than their parents. It is easy to guess what the answer is now, and what it will be when they have a 15-year old of their own.

Posted by: Harrison Picot | August 19, 2008 11:42 AM

Out of all of the political power-driven mess and arrogant posturing that is the D.C. Public Schools, the most impressive, timely and necessary announcement has been the reopening of the Phelps Vocational High School, now called Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering High School. After a five-year, $65 million renovation (That would mean this project started in the "Williams Administraiton" under the leadership of Superintendent Clifford Janey), Phelps High, D.C.'s vocational school, reopened Monday with a new name but an old mission. Take young people down a career path that would enable them to earn a living wage vs. teaching to a test which has failed too many of D.C.'s students.

For Raw Fisher and the WP to claim that they care about students and their success they have remained mostly silent on this big news.

Perhaps it is because it is not a Fenty-Rhee invention.

Nonetheless, it only demonstrates how politics continues to trumps legitimate concern for children in the District both from within the government and in the popular press. Very sad indeed.

Nonetheless, I hope that the young people in this new school take advantage of the tremendous opportunity that it brings them.

For more on this "important" news, see story at NewsChannel 8 "http://www.news8.net/news/stories/0808/545402.html"

Posted by: Ward6ForNow | August 19, 2008 11:45 AM

"What bothers me about Rhee's proposal is that it really dichotomizes the teachers into those (apparently, mostly the younger ones still ineligible for tenure) who would rather have the money, and those for whom job security is more important. "

Are you serious?!?!?!. You are actually defending people who only teach for the job security. Thats exactly whats WRONG withe the current system. Once you hit tenure there is NO INCENTIVE to do anything. NO INCENTIVE NO ACCOUNTABILITY = CRAPPY SCHOOLS.

WAKE UP PEOPLE

Posted by: that takes the cake | August 19, 2008 11:49 AM

The reaction is typical of DC schools--stuck in the past, more worried about maintaining the current comfort level than students, and resistant to anything even resembling progress.

Posted by: Joe | August 19, 2008 11:51 AM

Seniority and a cup of coffee honestly gives you what? Let me see the same senior teacher and junior teacher were in the same crappy school. Yet, the junior teacher is willing to make lemonade out of lemons, while the senior teacher is bragging about how the good ol-days were!!! The fight is not with Rhee it is with the Union Leadership...it can't be a proposal if it was not ever entertained by the both parties. It just amazes me that certain things are being brought to the forefront that is truly not necessary. As for Brock... Oh! please he is the poster-child for disgruntle employees within DCPS. For the life of me some of these relics in the teaching-hood have metamorphized into their own issues. Might as well do to the senior teachers as they do to senior students... Shake with the right and give'em a dismissal slip with the left.

Posted by: It is not all that serious | August 19, 2008 11:51 AM

Guess what this is the twentyfirst century. Without a college degree you are pretty much screwed. Another deadend idea that didn't work before and won't work now. Living Wage try 8 bucks an hour. Good luck living on that.

Posted by: to ward 6 | August 19, 2008 11:52 AM

My hat goes off to Rhee if she can find the teachers who can change the habits and values of those students in schools from impoverished areas. Money doesn't work. Apparently, best practices works according to books like "Setting Limits". But I've never worked in the roughest of DC schools. So the question is, is mr. brock's point well taken, that there is too much being put on teachers to change things? I really hope Ms. Rhee can succeed if she gets her proposal through.

Posted by: Hats off | August 19, 2008 11:55 AM

I don't understand two things:
First, how is interviewing with the principal insulting to a teacher? Who else should a teacher interview with? Shouldn't one's supervisor have some say in whom one is supervising? Don't private school teachers have to interview with the principal?

Second, why do these teachers fear a merit pay system so much? They're not going to lose any pay if they don't teach well. They can simply get more pay if they do really well.

Posted by: Ryan | August 19, 2008 11:55 AM

Remember the new McKinley Tech...it reflected the old Banneker High School format. So, the new Phelps is reflecting the old Vocational High School format. So, henceforth the new proposal for pay is reflecting merit pay. Again, I thought you knew, it ain't actually new.

Posted by: I thought you knew, it ain't new | August 19, 2008 11:55 AM

Looks like the Washington Times cares more too...

D.C. Dedicates Public School to Trade-
Job market diverts focus from college prep:


(http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/aug/19/dc-dedicates-public-school-to-trade/)

Posted by: Ward6ForNow | August 19, 2008 11:57 AM

"I'm very skeptical of relying on student test scores to determine which teachers are getting the job done. Test scores are a better reflection of the socioeconomic background of the kids than of the impact of any single teacher on a child's performance."

So basically, you're saying that teachers have little impact. Why attempt to pay them anything additional then if the return is not going to be realized in better students?

Posted by: Alan | August 19, 2008 12:01 PM

Guess what this is the twentyfirst century. Without a college degree you are pretty much screwed. Another deadend idea that didn't work before and won't work now. Living Wage try 8 bucks an hour. Good luck living on that.

Posted by: to ward 6 | August 19, 2008 11:52 AM
________________________________________

Get our of the stone age Fred Flinstone, electricians, plumbers, bricklayers, construction workers, are the foundation of American infrastructure and make ALOT more money than many "degree'd" positions.

School may be for you, but not for everyone. In stead of bending your probable fat keister over and dumping all over the project, how about encouraging the young people that may benefit from it.

I have gone through post-secondary and graduate school and I certainly know it is NOT for everyone.

Posted by: Ward6ForNow | August 19, 2008 12:02 PM

SHOWDOWN! I bet if Tim Russert were alive and was producing this on tv it would have that dramatic backdrop of music to boot. Drama. What would the media be without it?

Posted by: Fightertom34 | August 19, 2008 12:07 PM

hotezzy wrote:
"I agree with the teachers it is VERY, VERY SCARY for me to base my salary/merit pay/promotion soley on students achievement as measured by test scores alone, especially when I know that I have worked extremely hard above and beyond the call of duty and for some strange, unknown and/or unpredictable reason the test scores do not unequivocally show it."

Then is it not in the best interest of ALL teachers for a given a student to get together and figure out why a student is not doing well? Why are you afraid to even try? You're not setting a good role model for your students.

Posted by: Alan | August 19, 2008 12:08 PM

Looks like the "employers" in the region agree, there is a shortage of vocational professionals in the region. High demand-limited supply equals higher wage. Basic economics.

Pamela Murray Johnson, Turner Construction Co.'s project manager at Phelps, said construction companies nationwide are pushing for more schools like Phelps because workers with the right skills are hard to find.

Miss Johnson said the shortage has been caused in part by more students going to college for professional degrees and fewer following in the footsteps of their parents.

"It's not a glamorous industry, so kids have not been going into it," she said. "It used to be that if your father was a carpenter, you wanted to be carpenter, too. The kids haven't been overly eager to replace us."


Posted by: Ward6ForNow | August 19, 2008 12:10 PM

Well, teachers don't want to go to pay-for-performance because there are so many factors out of their control influencing the kids, they don't want to teach to the test so I think we should do like the private sector and let the principals hire, fire and reward. Like Marc said if you're in there you pretty much know who's good and who ain't.

Posted by: Stick | August 19, 2008 12:14 PM

Ward6ForNow wrote:
"...electricians, plumbers, bricklayers, construction workers, are the foundation of American infrastructure and make ALOT more money than many "degree'd" positions. "

Electricians and plumbers have to pass licensing requirements. If they can't do well in school, how can they do well in licensing exams (which include written protions). Bricklayers and construction workers have to compete with illegal immigrants for work. So tell me again how bricklayers and construction workers can compete with them? Heavy equipment operators do earn more money but you don't start out in construction as a heavy equipment operator. You have to learn and earn your way.

Posted by: Alan | August 19, 2008 12:17 PM

In my book, any teacher who doesn't want to be paid according to their performance should be fired. They have already decided that they can't be effective so why continue to employ them and have them pass on their lousy work ethic to their students?

Posted by: Alan | August 19, 2008 12:21 PM

Teachers always have taken the hit on poor performance in schools, and in many cases, they should. However, parents have the greatest culpability here. These are THEIR children. When parents don't/won't do their jobs of parenting, then the best teacher on the globe will begin with a severe handicap in making that child educationally viable. This is what Rhee must understand and the wherein lies the danger to her proposal.

I am sure the younger teachers in the school system think that they have time and youth on their side and that they can take this gamble, however, my concern for them is that they are going to take a big bite out of this forbidden apple that Rhee is proposing and will find that it is poisonous; and worse, gets them fired because they are probationary and unable to improve performance, not because of their efforts, but because the children present themselves with poor home training.

These young vibrant teachers of today, will be the same disallusioned older ones of tomorrow.

This plan could very well be their trojan horse. As long as they are aware of it going in, have at it. From what I have seen, this new proposal is "optional".

Posted by: Anonymous | August 19, 2008 12:21 PM

Nothing else has worked, Ms Rhee did a wonderful job with Teach for America. Sometimes what works well in one school district does not work in another. So many ideas have failed in the past and left the schools nowhere, if this plan works, awesome, if not, then move on and try something new. The current system is not working, but it should be no surprise that people who have worked in a system for 30 years like the system how it is. Compromise is a wonderful thing, but shutting down schools won't help the teachers or the students.

Posted by: Give it a try | August 19, 2008 12:23 PM

While they're at it, Ms. Rhee should take their summers off away from them; pay them more money and make 'em work year round. There ought to be enough students for summer school; that way they can have the magical class size they want.

Posted by: Stick | August 19, 2008 12:24 PM

Ward6ForNow wrote:
"...electricians, plumbers, bricklayers, construction workers, are the foundation of American infrastructure and make ALOT more money than many "degree'd" positions. "

Electricians and plumbers have to pass licensing requirements. If they can't do well in school, how can they do well in licensing exams (which include written protions). Bricklayers and construction workers have to compete with illegal immigrants for work. So tell me again how bricklayers and construction workers can compete with them? Heavy equipment operators do earn more money but you don't start out in construction as a heavy equipment operator. You have to learn and earn your way.

Posted by: Alan | August 19, 2008 12:17 PM
______________________________________________

Training to get a license while in a trade school is a totally different beast than taking colleg prep courses preparing you to succeed in college. That is what the whole concept of trade school is all about.

You don't need to go to college to be an auto mechanic, who we all know, make more per hour than we may think they should, yet, because they have the "skill" and we "don't" we must pay the going rate. Same thing with the hair dresser or barber, these are not glamorous positions, but provide an alternative to dropping out of school and becoming a societal burden.

Trade schools like college prep schools are not for everyone. It is an alternative that provides students and society a chance to utilize the skills of those slipping through the cracks.

Posted by: Ward6ForNow | August 19, 2008 12:28 PM

Is chancellor Rhee proposing that the sole measure of teacher performance, (ie. merit) become students' performance on standardized tests? If so, an agreement to such would dramatically change the bargaining power in what would have formerly been known as collective bagaining agreements. I am most interested in watching to see whether teachers will agree to this. If they do, I believe many will regret it. Good Luck!

Posted by: Felice | August 19, 2008 12:32 PM

When I was a child we often took assesment tests at the beginning of the year and evaluation tests at the end of the year to measure the amount of progress. Under this system a good teacher working with difficult children could earn larger bonuses than a mediocre teacher working with bright students. Teachers' compensation should reflect both the pprogress their students make over the year and the challanges the teacher faces in working with them. There is no reason a teacher who takes a child from reading four grade levels down to reading only level down should not make more than a teacher whose students read 2 levels up at both the beginning and end of the year. Test; but measure progress not just achievment.

Posted by: Woodbridge VA | August 19, 2008 12:33 PM

Mr. Brock "earns" his right to tenure? Not if tenure isn't there - teacher unions need to rethink what they are doing. If you want to teach - teach - your obligation is not to your union it is to your students and to your community - as they are paying you.

If Rhee can fix DC public schools and if this current plan is one way to begin that process - go for it. Those who think their loyalty is to the union need to go and find a factory job on an assembly line somewhere. Teaching is about students and preparing students to enter the community in a positive way - it is not about being loyal to a union.

Mr. Brock - every community has its issues and certainly DC has some unique ones - that does not lessen your obligation to your profession as a steward of community but it also does not mean that you are guarenteed a thank you - you get a pay check for that and you sign on for those duties when you step into education.

On the flip side Susan Breipohl sounds like a competent reasonable person who is someone I would like in a classroom. I hope her professional peers listened to this podcast and judge well who sounds more in touch with both teaching and the ways of the world.


Posted by: admin | August 19, 2008 12:36 PM

Go Michelle!

Posted by: 30 years late but better than never... | August 19, 2008 12:39 PM

There are many factors to why teachers don't want to lose their tenure. Number One: Bills. They have bills to pay like anybody else and it is costing more and more. Number Two: Students that don't try to learn and hinder others in not learning can be stressful. This will give a teacher the reaction of, "DCPS isn't paying me enough to deal with an uncorporative student." Number Three: Pulling students out of a school and placing them into another school takes time for adjustment both in the building, staff, faculty, etc. Teachers have to work with who comes into their classroom and learn to understand how a student functions, learn, and react to the lesson plans. Michelle Rhee is thinking of ways to get results that students are learning and teachers are teaching. But parents still play the key instrument of supporting, getting involve, and forcing their children to learn regardless of what grade and age group. Parents who do not discipline their children, add the stress that can hinder other students to learn. The DCPS is seeking ways to buy instruments to help students with behavior, learning, and physical problems and I don't think they are reflecting on sticking with one method and executing that ONE method of giving students an outside source. By means of an outside source, have a parent or guardian to intervene in the child classes. Have a parent or guardian unexpectedly see the behavior and witness what the teachers are doing. Work schedules are important, but giving your child a good education is more important. It is easier said than done, but instead of blaming the teacher for poor progress, why is the child performing poorly to begin with? Parent(s) and guardian(s) are doing things solo or on a time restraint, have not enough money to reward students for a good job. Why do parents give their children too much freedom to come and go and use a cell phone to touch base? Teachers are trying to teach fundamental education, but life skills as well. If students behavior in life is intolerable, what can you expect from students when they perform poorly? Give teachers their tenure and use teachers that have lost their thrust as tutors, who can give one on one and could see a better result from students because of personal time that parents choose or can not give their children.

Posted by: Marie | August 19, 2008 12:39 PM

The schools are not there to provide lifetime employment for teachers. The DC Public school system is a dismal failure and Superintendent Rhee's proposal deserves our full support. If the teachers don't like it, let them find some other work.

Posted by: Derek Stewart | August 19, 2008 12:40 PM

I think that the term "vocational" needs to be changed. From the description of the Phelps School from the Administration and the Council, it is not textbook "vocational" but offers vocational pathways in a standard curriculum environment. Meaning, you don't sideskirt basic academics, but rather 'adds' a trade enhancement. Like the Career Academies.
________________________________________

Career academies a success in U.S., study shows
By Erik Eckholm

Thursday, June 26, 2008
Forget the old-fashioned "vocational ed" classes that sent American high school students on a decidedly noncollege track.

Over the past quarter century, a new kind of high school program known as a career academy has proliferated, especially in low-income districts, that combines job placement, college preparation and classes beyond the vocational trades, from accounting to health care.

Now, a long-term evaluation of nine career academies across the United States, to be released in Washington on Friday, has found that eight years after graduation, participants had significantly higher employment and earnings than similar students in a control group.

Poverty experts called the findings encouraging because few interventions with low-income teenagers, especially blacks and Hispanics, have shown significant and lasting effects, and they come at a time when young minority men, especially, are losing ground disastrously in the job market.

Career academies offer students experience in the workplace and help them get paying jobs while they pursue standard academic coursework. When the study, by the Manpower Demonstration Research, began 15 years ago, there were fewer than 500 career academies in the United States. Today there are more than 2,500, and the new findings are likely to spur more growth, several experts said.

The participants were mainly Hispanic and black, and the schools had emphases including business, tourism, health care and electronics, with students enrolled for three or four years.

Eight years after high school, when most participants were about 26, the academy group had average earnings 11 percent - or $2,088 a year - higher than the control group.

"The findings show that you can make an investment in high school that has a measurable payoff in earnings well after," said James Kemple, the author of the study and an education specialist at Manpower, a group in New York that evaluates poverty programs. "They also show that you can provide a solid foothold in the labor market without compromising a student's capacity to go on to college."

To compare similar students, all those who volunteered to join a career academy at each school were randomly assigned to participate in the academy or to serve as part of a control group outside the academy. The increase in earnings was higher for men in the academy group, who showed a 17 percent difference, or $3,731 a year.

The researchers were mystified by the negligible gains for women and plan to study possible factors like the time the women spent raising children and the time they spent in postsecondary schooling, which might portend better earnings in later years.

To the surprise of researchers, the groups showed no difference in rates of high school and college completion. Ninety percent of the students in both groups finished high school or obtained a graduation equivalency diploma and half gained some higher education credential - rates far higher than among their school populations in general.

Researchers believe that those who initially had expressed interest in the career academies may have shared similar motivation to succeed, whether or not they were chosen for the special program.

But this also suggests that something about the academy experience, apart from educational achievement, promoted greater success in the job market. One likely factor is the exposure the academies provide to a range of adults in real workplaces, said J.D. Hoye, who directed a "school to work" initiative for the Clinton administration and now heads the National Academy Foundation, which advises career academies on curriculums and other topics.

"The students see what work is like, and they build a network of caring adults at school and in the workplace," Hoye said.

Posted by: Ward6ForNow | August 19, 2008 12:42 PM

Would some of you read the proposal? Teachers don't have to give up tenure if they don't want to ... they have a choice. Earn a great living or get a good cost of living increase. Great for teachers ... except they have to vote on the contract which the Union isn't allowing. You're right DCPS Grad - there is no money except what Rhee is raising from outside sources. Teachers won't even get a cost of living raise without this contract because the money is not there. And the foundations and corporations won't give the money if there isn't some accountability and focus on student achievement. Geore Parker is under pressure from the ATU to block this contract because they are deathly afraid of merit-pay systems across the country. George get some cajones and Man-UP.

Posted by: TPNDC | August 19, 2008 12:45 PM

Let's not forget that Phelps also prepares students for architecture and engineering. They can always go to higher ed institutions to continue in those fields. And why is it that certain fields are less noble? That's what is wrong with our economy now. People really believe that they should earn a living from pushing paper and sharpening pencils all day. We wouldn't have a deficit if Americans weren't so lazy.

Posted by: dcp | August 19, 2008 12:46 PM

Peter DC...getting kids in class is the first step! Without teachers like you, where would these kids be? And I think that's the basic premise behind this new program. Teachers will HAVE to care since they are directly affected. The teachers who work really hard should be rewarded... and this is their chance!

34 years of the kind of attitude Brocks has displayed with his comments is worrisome.

Posted by: clee | August 19, 2008 12:46 PM

Let's not forget that Phelps also prepares students for architecture and engineering. They can always go to higher ed institutions to continue in those fields. And why is it that certain fields are less noble? That's what is wrong with our economy now. People really believe that they should earn a living from pushing paper and sharpening pencils all day. We wouldn't have a deficit if Americans weren't so lazy.

Posted by: dcp | August 19, 2008 12:46 PM
________________________________________________

Amen, but I think that the theaters of war in Afghanistan and Iraq have a great deal to do with our deficit. We were in the "black" during the 90's. Ohh, that is a political arguement. I'll end here.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 19, 2008 12:48 PM

The comments of this 30-year veteran are exactly what's wrong with the school system in DC. Since when does keeping your job, when you're not doing it very well, become more important than the CHILDREN you're teaching? That perspective is just selfish and short-sighted. I was a teacher in a challenging urban district -- so I know that it's very tough. That said, teachers have a job to do and those that cannot do it effectively either need more training or they need to find another line of work. There are many, many things that are within a teacher's control and there are plenty of examples of teachers who work effectively to beat the odds and see their students in urban areas achieve at very high levels. Please do NOT allow children from low-income communities, who need the most effective teachers, to have teachers who have seniority but cannot help children achieve.

Go Michelle!

Posted by: Supporting Teacher Quality | August 19, 2008 12:52 PM

You know, I have lived in DC all of my life. I am a product of DCPS. I am now, a parent, a very ACTIVE Parent. I have been involved with the education of my child since pre-K. CHANGE..A word that alot of people don't care for, are actually scared of. I am more afraid of the school system NOT Changing than I am of SOME/ANY Change for the better. I agree with alot of the posts and disagree with alot. Mr. Brocks, your time is up! I like the fact that we have a Chancellor who is not willing to implement change and is not afraid to step up to the plate and making everyone take responsibility for this LOUSY school system. I agree that we have teachers that have been teaching for soooo long that they have lost their zeal. Not to mention, that DCPS has yet to come into the future when it comes to teaching strategies. The kids these days, do not relate to they old ways of teaching and the teachers these day's don't know how to think outside of the box to teach the children different ways of learning.

I believe in Chancellor Rhee and I HOLD PARENTS & DC Residents RESPONSIBLE for the way that the school system has been ran for the past 20 years. DC residents have never been PRO-Active and it's time for them to step their game up!

Posted by: Single Mom | August 19, 2008 1:05 PM

Jerome Brocks represents everything that is wrong with DC education and the resulting misinformed mindset inherent there. It has never ever been about the kids in DC and has always been about the adults and all they want to keep most dear. It is impossible for him and the others he represents to give up all the protections they have in order to offer a better education for the kids.
Good Job Jerome. It is DC after all and the status quo must be protected at all costs. You and all the others you represent are doing a bang up job!

Posted by: DougK | August 19, 2008 1:13 PM

As a teacher, I'm not a fan of my pay being based on the performance of others. Many who say glibly, "hey, welcome to the real world" are reviewed according to their performance--not the performance of 150 other people over whom they have control for only 6 hours out of the day--less if you're a middle or high school teacher.
So long as "merit pay" is largely tied to test scores, the idea will encounter serious opposition. When merit pay is based on performance over time, and factors other than just test scores--factors like continuing education, lesson design, classroom management, observations by principals (and perhaps even "neutral observers," to prevent cronyism and axe-grinding), improvement in academics and behaviors, and more--it will make more sense.
I count myself a pretty competent teacher. Would I like more pay? Sure. Would I like to bet that pay on a handful of my students passing some tests? Nope.
Am I in the job for the money? Well, something's got to pay the bills, but the whole idea of tenure has led to a number of fossilized practices, and people, in the classroom the DO need to change. I'm not sure this is the way to do it, though.

Posted by: DrewD | August 19, 2008 1:19 PM

It's about time somebody set some standards for DC public schools. Hats off to Chancellor Rhee and Mayor Fenty. But what I don't understand is the need for money from private foundations. I thought DCPS had some of the highest per-student spending of any school system in the country. What's happening to all that money? Some fiscal discipline might go a long way to solving other entrenched problems of DCPS.

Posted by: dcbill | August 19, 2008 1:22 PM

For all of those trashing the seniority based system, remember that it works quite sucessfully in other school districts such as Mont., Howard, Fairfax.

Also, hasn't No Child Left Beyond illustrated quite well the problems with using testing to judge a school, why do you think it would work better for judging teachers. Do you want your children's teachers' pay to be base on average test scores for the class. This will certainly encourage even more teach to the test practices including concentrating on only the lowest scoring kids and minimizing any sort of enrichment.

DCPS need help but this is not the way to do it. I think it is incredibly short-sited and will cause problems down the line.

Posted by: Not the Right Change | August 19, 2008 1:29 PM

Who the hell does Brocks think she is?

"It is degrading and insulting for teachers to have to interview with a principal before accepting a position in that school,"

I'm sorry, but wtf?

Posted by: Nathan | August 19, 2008 1:38 PM

The important thing to realize about this deal is that Brock - and anyone like him, DOES NOT NEED TO FORFEIT TENURE. He can choose the red plan. Get a big increase for nothing and retain his job security. The rest of us can then go-for-gold!

Posted by: Annoyed | August 19, 2008 1:51 PM

"Brocks, a lifelong Washingtonian, pointed out several times quite acidly that Rhee 'just got to town.'"

Oh, right. We should definitely ask Rhee to sit on her fat a$$ for the next 15 years before taking any action.

"It is degrading and insulting for teachers to have to interview with a principal before accepting a position in that school"

Can we start by firing this Brock idiot first? This person is *exactly* the reason DCPS is so screwed up. Massive sense of entitlement.

Posted by: ibc | August 19, 2008 1:55 PM

If Brocks "ends up sending a message to Michelle Rhee" then the parents of children in the DC school system should send a message to Mr. Brock; that the education of all the young DC students will not be held hostage in return for the long term job security of a handful of under performing teachers.

Posted by: carbon | August 19, 2008 2:11 PM

I'm glad someone finally made the point that it's only in DC (and not the more successful surrounding jurisdictions) that tenure seems to be the problem -- apparently other districts have no problem dealing with teacher unions; it's only Michelle Rhee who can't cope with an organized workforce. And another thing: why do these Washington Post message boards always seem to skew libertarian and ignorant...kind of funny readership for a paper everyone seems to think is liberal.

Posted by: cuffdc | August 19, 2008 2:14 PM

I've worked in education all my life and receiving tenure is not as easy as it sounds at least in my experience. As for you "REAL World" advocates, when was the last time you heard of a career status federal employee being fired?

To hand the future of the career someone has invested 10, 15, or 20 years in to the whims and caprices of test scores and the biases of a principal is ludicrous and grossly unfair. Merit based pay sounds great, but seldom fulfills the hype. It rewards a few, has a negative effect on productivity and morale and in the short term can improve bottom line salary expense. In short, anti-teacher, pro administration, kids losers. What a wonderful work climate that would be and SURE to improve the overall quality of public school education.

All teachers face challenges today, but none more than the average D.C. teacher. Michelle Rhee needs to spend a month in the classroom before trying to implement any more plans, but she would never do that. She's an idiot, but even she knows she would crash and burn.

Posted by: frustrated educaro | August 19, 2008 2:16 PM

As a former teacher who attained tenure in two different school systems, I have to say that tenure should be abolished. It is the one thing that teachers can have that no other profession offers its employees. Why should teachers have it when no one else in any other profession has such a life-time guarantee of employment?

So you have to pay the bills! Who doesn't? Do you think that people in other jobs don't have to pay bills? Of course they do, and they don't have the security of tenure as they get older either.

I have seen and worked with some of the finest teachers anyone could ever want, and their having tenure had nothing whatsoever to do with their greatness as educators. They were simply wonderful teachers and they made a definite impact on their students.

I have also seen and worked with some of the sorriest excuses for teachers anyone could ever imagine, and they were there specifically because of tenure--no principal could fire them, thanks to tenure and the union, so they would be tolerated for a year or two and surplussed. Then they would be assigned to another unsuspecting school and the cycle would repeat itself.

Get rid of tenure. Good teachers don't need it. Bad teachers depend on it.

Posted by: Lynne | August 19, 2008 2:17 PM

Masses of under-educated children from the DC school system not only hurt DC or their parents but affects the whole MD-DC-VA area. We must all pitch in our support for Rhee and try to get some change to happen.

Posted by: lare | August 19, 2008 2:19 PM

I support the Janey Plan at the current direction of Chancellor Rhee. I think that Rhee's greatest weakness is that her methods are not unifying. That is the difference between a mediocre and great leader. Her modus operende has been a divide and conquer mentality that has not and will not work in an institution such as the DCPS. This is particularly so in that this Adminstration has overutilized the pink slip for the purpose of sending a "message". When you use "fear" as a tool to institute change, then those protections that are currently in place that are beyond the scope of the "fear-tactics" will be held close.

Chanceller Rhee missed an opportunity to, from day one, get the union and teachers to buy into this vision at a time when they were not feeling threatened. Now, a few weeks from the start of school, we have in a situaiton when you have teachers staring each other down from either side of the line drawn by Ms. Rhee, neither willing to back down. In the end, who gets hurt over this, lets say it all together......"The Students".

If you witnessed how Rhee handled the central office employees and you were a teacher, of good reputation or bad, you would have cause for concern for opening yourself up for a new "probationary" period. You don't ask private sector employees to undergo a secondary probationary period once they have gone thorugh an initial one.

There is still a great deal, I'd say too much, politics associated with the way D.C. schools are run. If you take a look at those around Rhee you see the clear and present cronyism based on those who know her as opposed to those who were best for the positions that they hold. She, herself, is of suspect credentials for making such dramatic, untested changes.

Posted by: VoiceOfReason | August 19, 2008 2:35 PM

Having read all the previous comments, I am dismayed but the number of people who continue to place all of the blame of the recent failure of the DCPS on the teachers. First of all, I am a product of DCPS. I went through DCPS in the 70's and graduated in 1984. I had excellent teachers. I also had parents who were involved in my education. In the 70's and 80's DCPS did not let parents off the hook.

When I started teaching in the late 80's, I was surprised how little I saw of parents and the fact that lack of parental involvement was the norm rather than the exception. DCPS had taken on the social worker's role as well as the educator's role. This proved to be a daunting task because there were extenuating circumstances that teachers could not control such as lack of parental supervision, physical and drug abuse, homelessness, etc. The last straw from me occured when I was asked to change a grade for a student because the student was an athlete. It didn't matter that the student did not make efforts to complete assignments or that the parents did not care about anything except whether their son was on the basketball team. Eventually the student's grade was changed by the principal and I said enough.

If the school system wants to adopt the mantra "No excuses-not even socio-economic background" then it should be prepared to go the extra mile in providing students with access to resources that can not be found at school. If the school system wants to hold teachers responsible for raising students as well as educating them, then it should ensure that teachers receive the support they need so they can be the parents as well as the educators. Lastly, the problems in DCPS will never be solved until the powers that be acknowledge that solutions that do not hold parents accountable for their children's achievement will never work.

Posted by: Former Teacher | August 19, 2008 2:41 PM

Voice of reason - You should change you name to Voice of the misinformed.

"you would have cause for concern for opening yourself up for a new "probationary" period. You don't ask private sector employees to undergo a secondary probationary period once they have gone thorugh an initial one."

First, apparently you have never worked in the private sector because your entire working career is nothing but probation. In the private sector there is no such thing as tenure and you can be let go whenever the company finds it convenient, for any reason. So your right the private sector never asks their employees to go through a second probation period, but only because no employee ever comes off probation.

Second, Any teacher who does not want to show they are a competent teacher for ONE YEAR in order to receive a huge bonus can go with the red plan. They keep all their tenure rights like they have now and still get a 28% pay increase plus increased benefits.

"She, herself, is of suspect credentials for making such dramatic, untested changes."

Are you actually saying that the DC school system can be turned around without dramatic changes? That right there puts you of suspect credentials.

Posted by: Tmoney | August 19, 2008 2:47 PM

"In short, anti-teacher, pro administration, kids losers. "

So, in essence, merit pay will, at worst, lead to where the school system is now.

Everyone has to deal with other people to do their job, in every profession. Having your success tied to student performance is a perfectly legitimate means of assessing job performance.

Many, if not most, of graduates of DCPS can't read at a minimal level necessary to hold a job. Even "teaching to the test" might bring them up to this absurdly minimal standard.

Posted by: Franconia | August 19, 2008 2:48 PM

Jeez. Do like the feds do. Contract out all of the work and then you can pick and choose which contractors can be on the job site without worrying about union or tenure considerations.

In today's and tomorrow's workforce, all workers are temps ...er ...ahem ...at-will. Job security is for yesterday's workforce.

Posted by: Ivan Groznii | August 19, 2008 3:12 PM

We have bigger fish to fry than tenure and pay-for-performance:

National News
Farrakhan: New educational solutions needed
By Ashahed M. Muhammad
Assistant Editor
Updated Aug 14, 2008, 06:31 pm

New educational solutions needed for a civilization that has ‘flatlined’

Webcast: Minister Farrakhan's Address on Education (FCN, 08-03-2008)
CHICAGO (FinalCall.com) - Delivering his first national message in over six months, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan addressed concerned parents and educators offering solutions to the challenges they are faced with in efforts to provide proper education for the nation’s youth.

“Without education and the right and proper education, no human being can fulfill his or her destiny,” said Minister Farrakhan in his opening remarks viewed in 120 cites nationwide via webcast. “The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said that education is the torchlight of civilization. Civilizations begin with knowledge and civilizations end when the knowledge that originated that civilization begins to decline.”

Minister Farrakhan’s message concluded a three-day educational conference which drew professors, teachers, administrators and independent educators from across the country to Chicago, for workshops, networking and stimulating discussions aimed at improving educational attainment and providing the opportunity to use the proper application of knowledge to create a new world and a new civilization based on the infinite wisdom of God.

“We are living in a world and in a civilization that was given by God a certain time to exercise itself. But it was also prophesied that this civilization and this world in which we live would come to an end. This would mean that the knowledge that guides this civilization would reach a point where it would no longer be effective in solving the problems presented by the time. Therefore at that time, that knowledge would be like a light that has gone out and darkness would then come over the people and this would lead to such dissatisfaction that it would call into existence a change factor,” Minister Farrakhan said.

America’s failing educational system

Minister Farrakhan cited sobering statistics showing that America’s educational system has not only miseducated Black people but has also failed its own people by providing an inferior education to the American people rooted in the idea of White Supremacy. As a result, millions of American youth are left “educationally deficient.”

For example, America’s 12th graders rank 19th out of 21 industrialized nations in Mathematics and 16th out of 21 in Science. Forty-two-million American adults cannot read at all and another 50 million adults are unable to read at the 4th or 5th grade level. Twenty percent of all high school seniors are functionally illiterate.

The statistics for Black children are even more troubling.

Minister Farrakhan told the crowd that only 12 percent of Black high school seniors are considered proficient readers. Fifty-four percent have below basic reading skills. It is estimated that 40 to 44 percent of Blacks are functionally illiterate. Black children are almost 3 times more likely than White children to be labeled mentally retarded and 2 and a half times more likely to be placed in remedial classes. Even when Black students show potential equal to or greater than their White counterparts, they are 40 percent less likely to be placed in advanced or accelerated classes. Black males have the lowest level of educational attainment.

Of those who have gone on to higher education, only 26 percent of Blacks who finish high school go to college and Black women make up 60 percent of the enrollment at the Historically Black Colleges and Universities. After college and upon entering the workforce, statistics show that Blacks are only 3.2 percent of lawyers, 3 percent of doctors and less than 1 percent of architects.

“With statistics like this, if I were a doctor, and the country were a patient, we could say that America has flatlined,” said Minister Farrakhan.

Minister Farrakhan went on to point out that the educational system designed with the idea of White Supremacy at its root was designed to make the masses subservient to the classes with higher quality education. This subjugation extends throughout the entire globe because those who come to America from Africa, Asia and other foreign lands for education are “baptized” into the idea of American domination.

“The educational system with that idea at its root is not designed to cultivate to the fullest extent the recipients of that kind and quality of education,” said Minister Farrakhan. “The elites were to rule the masses with a less quality education, and you have strata of elite, but at the top of that elite is Satan himself,” said Minister Farrakhan. “Good education was never designed for the masses.”

The keynote address was held at Christ Universal Temple, founded by the Rev. Dr. Johnnie Colemon whom Minister Farrakhan referred to as one of the “foremost spiritual teachers among us today.”

Phillip Jackson, executive director of the Black Star Project based in Chicago said Minister Farrakhan’s subject is a “worldwide issue.” He also described the three-day educational conference as “groundbreaking.”

“I have been to many educational conferences, and they were nothing like this,” said Mr. Jackson. “Instead of putting a pedagogy first or unionization first, or things like curriculum first, they actually put the spirit of the children first. Unfortunately that is unheard of for educators.”

Mr. Jackson also said he was purchasing several copies of the speech for educators that were not able to be in attendance as he prepares for a nationwide mobilization for Black men to take personal responsibility for their children by taking them to school on the first day.

“Minister Farrakhan is ahead of his time. He accurately diagnosed that the American educational system has flatlined, and a lot of people are in denial about that. He is also accurate in his solution in the prescription for solving the problem,” Mr. Jackson added.

Reactions from across the country

Although it was one of the hottest days of the year in Houston, Texas, that did not detour people from overflowing Muhammad Mosque No. 45 to hear Minister Farrakhan live via webcast. The webcast was also viewed in the Northwest area at the Beaulah Shepherd Center, which had an enormous turnout as well.

Joseph Bourba, 25, was hearing Minister Farrakhan for the first-time.

“Being a Christian, this was the first time I was shown by a Muslim that there is a likeness within all of our beliefs as well as the Jesus figure. He gave me a very clear picture although this was my first time coming to the mosque. I love how he is teaching us that we are all gods from the Most High God. Youth today need to hear that.”

Carlos Segura, 15, said, “His message was powerful. Those statistics he read really made me sad yet it also inspired me to work harder and do something with my education.”

Crystal Lofton, a 24-year-old striving for a master’s degree in Social Work said, “This was informative and a spiritual necessity. As I am getting my master’s degree, he gave a more focused and detailed rule book on how to put this education into practice.”

In Las Vegas, Nevada, some 200 people braved triple digit temperatures to hear Min. Farrakhan’s address at Muhammad Mosque No.75.

Kena Adams, a representative of the Indian Voices Newspaper, a grassroots publication that provides multi-cultural news from a Native American perspective, was among those in the standing-room-only audience.

“This was my first time and I loved it. We’ve always been told that the Muslims are like, we have this stereotype—so when I came here and the feeling that I got was absolutely amazing. Everything we’ve been told is the total opposite of what’s true. People aren’t preaching hate here. I guess it’s just a way to put negative publicity on the Nation but never again and I will definitely let my readers know what the Nation of Islam is all about.”

Ms. Adams pledged that at least once a month the Indian Voices Newspaper would dedicate an article to the Nation of Islam to help bridge the gap between the two communities.

Minister Farrakhan’s timely message on education also resonated with the people of Columbia, South Carolina, where 150 people watched the webcast at the Cecil Tillis Training Center.

According to Kimbrellyn Muhammad, an educator and member of the Ministry of Education at Muhammad Mosque No. 38, South Carolina ranks 49th in reading. The words of the Honorable Louis Farrakhan bore witness to and answered the challenging questions that educators face in the state. “The basis of it is, you have to know how to read and comprehend in order to understand all other subjects like the sciences and mathematics,” she pointed out.

Brother Carl Muhammad, student minister of Muhammad Mosque No. 38 in Columbia, South Carolina, also observed how the national statistics by Minister Farrakhan matched the dismal state of education locally.

“He brought us back to the root of what the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught us of what the purpose of education is, which is to cultivate the divine nature in men and women.”

“God must be put back in education,” said Dr. Cynthia McQueen, Principal of Torchlight Academy, a K-5 Charter School in Raleigh, N.C. “Our educational system is truly a killing field for Black children and our only hope is God. I thank Minister Farrakhan for his beautiful and inspiring words on this most important topic.”

Muhammad Mosque No.6 in Baltimore, Maryland was packed with those desiring to hear Minister Farrakhan’s message on education. Baltimore is another city in which young Black men are more likely to be incarcerated than educated.

Brother Andre 2X said, “Today’s lecture continues to prove that Minister Farrakhan is not only an excellent teacher but his message is one that is good for Black and Whites. All people can learn from him.”

At Muhammad Mosque No. 48 in Dallas, Texas, supporters welcomed the return of Minister Farrakhan enjoying every word. They said he delivered all they were expecting, and then some by giving them something to think about.

Nancy Powell from Dallas, Texas said she is considering alternate schooling options for her children. “The public educational system of Dallas is horrible. I would certainly consider removing my children from it, and putting them in a school where they could be truly educated.”

Ester King viewing in Houston put everything in perspective.

“Every time the Minister comes out, you can just feel that we are coming to the end of something. If we are in tune, we can read into it but most of us miss it. Minister Farrakhan makes other so-called leaders and preachers look like infants in terms of his broad knowledge of things. He is a precious gift but too many of us take it for granted.”

Posted by: VoiceOfReason | August 19, 2008 3:13 PM

RIGHT ON!!!!! FORMER NY TEACHER!! RIGHT ON!!

Posted by: Keon | August 19, 2008 3:14 PM

The initial problem with performance based teaching will be related to working with students that may have had a poor performing teacher the previous year. If the students can't perform at a 5th grade level, certainly this will impact their ability to perform at a 6th grade level. Teachers in this case may inaccurately have their merit pay affected by the previous teachers lack of performance.

That said, I still favor moving to a merit based system. I've always had that type of system with my employers and I find that it works well (I've always found employers have rewarded my performance nicely). My father on the other hand has had the misfortune of going from a merit based system to a union employer where everyone got the same pay rate, no matter what the performance was (picture a large construction site where all the plumbers make the same money, even if only 3/4 of them are actually doing any work). I think the biggest problem the school board faces is the union rather than individual teachers.

Phase in a merit based system. Buy out teachers close to retirement, allow a period of adjustment where salaries for tenured teachers can only be negatively adjusted by a limited amount (yeah, it will still over pay "bad" teachers, but at least it signals to them that they have to improve), and any new hires, or current that volunteer, are on the new merit system to start. For the "limited negative adjustment" period, make this maybe 2-5 years to allow for changes in the student abilities so teachers aren't working with poor performance of past teachers.

Posted by: Jim_Maryland | August 19, 2008 3:15 PM

Voice of reason thanks for providing everyone proof that you really are of suspect credentials, though I think your credentials are no longer suspect but proven.

Thanks for junking up the thread with a long press release from Farrakhan that, by your own admittance, has nothing to do with the article. You can stop posting as I am pretty sure everyone will be ignoring all your future misinformed and now, off topic posts.

Posted by: Tmoney | August 19, 2008 3:20 PM

Voice of reason - You should change you name to Voice of the misinformed.
_________________________________________

Hush, now, grown folks are talking, childish talk belongs among the children.

__________________________________________

"you would have cause for concern for opening yourself up for a new "probationary" period. You don't ask private sector employees to undergo a secondary probationary period once they have gone thorugh an initial one."

First, apparently you have never worked in the private sector because your entire working career is nothing but probation. In the private sector there is no such thing as tenure and you can be let go whenever the company finds it convenient, for any reason. So your right the private sector never asks their employees to go through a second probation period, but only because no employee ever comes off probation.
___________________________________________

My entire professional career has been with a "National" private sector comany. If you have been on probation for your entire career, in a private or public organization, then something is wrong with YOU. Or, do you not know the difference between being "at-will" and being "on probation"?
___________________________________________
Second, Any teacher who does not want to show they are a competent teacher for ONE YEAR in order to receive a huge bonus can go with the red plan. They keep all their tenure rights like they have now and still get a 28% pay increase plus increased benefits.
__________________________________________

Hense, it is an "option" thus, why all the fuss? It is still a gamble based on the Chancellors approach to public school when she took over. It was very novice. She should have got the buy in from the beginning, BEFORE she started on her firing spree.
___________________________________________

"She, herself, is of suspect credentials for making such dramatic, untested changes."

Are you actually saying that the DC school system can be turned around without dramatic changes? That right there puts you of suspect credentials.
______________________________________________

Poor angry little thing, you don't have to attack me because of the truth. She is not credentialed in the way most "successful" superintendents are in the Nation. That was my undefeatable point. She is doing what "successful" districts have never done. There are ALREADY success models in the nation. What qualifies her to make guinea pigs of DCPS children?
___________________________________________

If you support Rhee, just say that and leave it alone. If you try to battle with me on truth, YOU WILL LOOSE!!!

Posted by: VoiceOfReason | August 19, 2008 3:23 PM

Voice of reason thanks for providing everyone proof that you really are of suspect credentials, though I think your credentials are no longer suspect but proven.

Thanks for junking up the thread with a long press release from Farrakhan that, by your own admittance, has nothing to do with the article. You can stop posting as I am pretty sure everyone will be ignoring all your future misinformed and now, off topic posts.

Posted by: Tmoney | August 19, 2008 3:20 PM

_________________________________________

Prove any word that the man said is untrue. Your "suggestion" that he is of ill reputation, is your opinion. You call for a million, and have them show up, until then. Your opinion is "suspect"

Best...

Posted by: VoiceOfReason | August 19, 2008 3:25 PM

@Jim_Maryland

I agree a phased in approach might work as well and actually be a more effective. The problem is that certain union officers (aka Nathan Saunders, Chandrai Jackson-Saunders and Candi Peterson) are opposed to anything other than the status quo. Just look at the proposed plan anyone who feels at all unsure about their position can stick to the red plan and keep their tenure like they have now and still get a 28% pay raise and increased benifits.

Only volunteers and new hires would go on probation and the volunteers would only lose tenure for one school year. If the union can't agree to that, there is no hope for any progressive plans to be enacted.

Posted by: Tmoney | August 19, 2008 3:28 PM

Ward6ForNow:

I just listened to a radio interview with the Mayor and Governor's O'Malley and Kaine.

He mentioned the Phelps Schools and it's importance to DCPS programming. I agree, a partnership with business and high school children couldn't hurt.

Also, to everyone else, how are Fairfax County teachers paid? They have one of the best districts in the nation.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 19, 2008 3:34 PM

@Voice of Reason - "Your "suggestion" that he is of ill reputation, is your opinion."

Funny thing Voice, I never said a word about his reputation let alone my personal opinion. Perhaps whatever you read in to my comments suggests something you are very insecure about or know to be true but don't want to be accept. But enough armchair psychology I will be only posting on topic from now on so I don't make the same internet sins of off topic posting and flame wars.

Posted by: Tmoney | August 19, 2008 3:36 PM

Tmoney and Voice of Reason

CAN IT!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 19, 2008 3:39 PM

Change is needed, but what kind of change? Putting itall on the backs of the teachers is unrealistic. Parents, previous teachers, buildings, social milieu, classroom environement (leaky roofs, mold, dysfunctional restrooms, wall-less buildings, etc, etc), are all substantial vrialbes that affect student progress.

Given recent performance (failure to retain one of the city's best high school AP teachers with a demonstrated track record of success, with no explanation other than "restructuring"), it is perfectly understandable why some teachers are wary...and some parents, too (like THIS one)!

Posted by: Cautious skeptic | August 19, 2008 3:40 PM

So shut the schools down, then! What difference would it make? The teachers have to go. This isn't welfare for teachers! The children's education is what matters. Get smart, not defensive.

Posted by: Frankly | August 19, 2008 3:49 PM

Yo, we gots ta stick togetha, yo!
Dey want us'n's to have to compete?
We can't compete! This is uh, like, racism, right? (I went to D.C. schools)

Posted by: Yo Yo, Yo-Yo | August 19, 2008 3:51 PM

I've seen the Chancellor at a Council Hearing and her biggest mistake, like the council or not, is her "smartalic" mouth.

They are the legislative body of the District elected by "the people"; who, too, happen to be her boss, as well. Her delivery is agressive, which is ok, but equally disrespectful, which isn't and is counter-productive when dealing with folks on the dais with ego's as large as her's, however, they were, again, elected and not appointed.

The problem I have with her proposal, as a citizen, is the fact that this salary increase is funded by "private" money. How long will that money last, business are cyclical and it seems unreasonable to bank on their financial support for any measurable amount of time, particularly when we seem to be speaking in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Will the District be left to fund these salaries if these business' decide they want to spend their dollars elsewhere? If so, how is that going to fit in the larger District budgeting process which, I remind you, has to be approved by Congress?

Another good point was made too, why haven't we looked to other local jurisdictions with great schools, Fairfax County, Howard County, Montgomery County and identified their best practices and attempted to utilize them? Why are we heading down this seemingly fiscally unsound slope if we don't need to?

Yes, I'd like to pay the teachers what they deserve, however, with public funds, set aside for their salaries. Not the fickle world of private entities.

Posted by: Kids1st | August 19, 2008 4:02 PM

I am so frustrated with reading this. I have a child almost old enough to start school but no one in all of this cares a WHIT what I or my child needs! The next time a DC Native gets snippy with me for researching charters and abandoning DCPS, I want will direct them to Brocks and Saunders. The teachers abandoned me and mone a long time ago. If you don't want to be help accountable, then I want nothing to do with you. You work only for yourself and the union cares nothing for students or for graduation rates.
It's sickening, SINCE THE PLAN ALLOWS the bums to keep their tenure (!!!!) and if the union does not let this come to a vote and if the teachers don't accept it, then the DCPS deserves to rot.

Posted by: sophiagrrl | August 19, 2008 4:12 PM

@Kids1st

"The problem I have with her proposal, as a citizen, is the fact that this salary increase is funded by "private" money. How long will that money last, business are cyclical and it seems unreasonable to bank on their financial support for any measurable amount of time, particularly when we seem to be speaking in the hundreds of thousands of dollars."
-----
This "private" money doesn't come from business but non profit organizations. The largest contributor being the Bill Gates foundation. Rhee has secured a guarantee from the foundations for at least five years to pay for these pay increased and if the plan passes the budgets will be set for the next five years so teachers do not have to worry that next year the money will suddenly disappear and the gates foundation will not run out of money any time soon so the DC citizens can be sure they wont be left unexpectedly paying for the plan. After the five years it will be up to the foundations if they want to continue to fund the plan. Rhee has a plan that will free up a huge amount money in the next few years to be able to pay for the salary's should the district start paying after the five years is up. So you don't have to worry about the "fickle" world , the money is guaranteed.
------
"Another good point was made too, why haven't we looked to other local jurisdictions with great schools, Fairfax County, Howard County, Montgomery County and identified their best practices and attempted to utilize them? Why are we heading down this seemingly fiscally unsound slope if we don't need to?"
-------
Why cant we do both? I am sure that DC has tried this in the past (and you can judge for yourself how that has helped) but it doesn't matter what kind of practices you implement if the teachers are unmotivated to learn and implement them. And as mentioned earlier their is nothing fiscally unsound about it.

Pretty much any problems with the plan raised by those opposed to it seem to stem from misinformation or lack of information (for which the Union and WAPO hasn't helped any) rather than actual legitimate concerns and/or shortcomings.

Posted by: Tmoney | August 19, 2008 4:20 PM

The evil teacher's union must be destroyed!

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/2/2c/Morlocks.jpg

Posted by: Dr. Drei | August 19, 2008 4:22 PM

RIGHT ON DR. DREI, RIGHT ON!!!!!!!!!!!!

WE, THE PEOPLE OF DC, MUST TAKE CARE OF THIS.

Posted by: DC Resident wHO lEARNED nOTHING IN sCHOOL | August 19, 2008 4:29 PM

We cannot get so frustrated that we embrace change just because it is "different". Different does not make for "right".

Why has Rhee not looked to other success models around the nation. (Or the region, for that matter) This proposal is very, very risky. What is the economic forecast for outside investment into this salary enhancement program? Which it depends on.

If this is a program that is optional, what is the major pushback all about?

I am not a teacher and not privy to the proposal language, but I am a District resident who pays a great deal of taxes, alot of which is going to DCPS.

Posted by: Concernedaboutdc | August 19, 2008 4:30 PM

Dr. Drei,

I believe they are afraid of fire. Use torches to frighten them away from DC.

Posted by: Dr. Science | August 19, 2008 4:31 PM

This Brocks guy is the poster child for why the teaching force in DCPS is so unprofessional and ineffective. He is ALL about job security for adults, with little to no regard for whether the kids are actually learning.

If he wants to be a Union thug, go let him work in a shipyard or in a coal mine somewhere. That people with his attitude have so much influence over our children's development is a crime. Why isn't WTU embarrassed to have someone like him representing their views??

Posted by: Chris | August 19, 2008 4:35 PM

Doctors Drei and Science,

I would use a concoction of DDT and phamaldehide. Two parts to one part, and sprayed using an aerosol apparatus.

Posted by: Sir Isaac Newtone | August 19, 2008 4:37 PM

Doctors Drei and Science,

I would use a concoction of DDT and phamaldehide. Two parts to one part, and sprayed using an aerosol apparatus.

Posted by: Sir Isaac Newtone | August 19, 2008 4:37 PM

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

TERRORIST ALERT!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 19, 2008 4:40 PM

Dr. Drei,

I believe the one in the middle is the chief female union rep. She's a tough one, likes to take money from the teachers. Beware!!

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/2/2c/Morlocks.jpg

Posted by: Mr. Jalopy | August 19, 2008 4:42 PM

@Concernedaboutdc

Please go up about three posts and your question about funding and teaching methods/success models" will be answered. (Tmoney | August 19, 2008 4:20 PM )

Bottom line you will get better teachers for your tax dollar. (since the increases are not being paid for with tax funds)
----------------
"we embrace change just because it is "different". Different does not make for "right"
-----
Well considering "same" is abysmal, has been going on for a long time and one pretty much can't do worse if they tried then yes "different" and "change" is right.
------

If this is a program that is optional, what is the major pushback all about?
---------
Union leaders and members fearing change along with a lot of misinformation and/or lack of information (for which the Union and WAPO hasn't helped any) rather than actual legitimate concerns and/or shortcomings.

Posted by: Tmoney | August 19, 2008 4:42 PM

While we're at it, let's get rid of the pensions. It puts all the incentives in the wrong place. There are an outrageous number of teachers hanging around DCPS who DO NOT WANT TO TEACH any longer. They are simply there to collect a paycheck until the pension kicks in. A veteran teacher (still doing a good job) confided this to me of some of her peers. Pay teachers -- the good ones -- more up front, and give them a generous 401(k) that they can take with them to any other job. BTW, I have some first-hand experience here: I have been a DCPS parent for 10 years, and have finally opted for private school for middle/high school years because there are simply too many mediocre or poor teachers and major holes in the DCPS curriculum.

I heard one teacher say that blaming a teacher for test scores is like blaming a doctor for a bad x-ray. Come again? I guess she thinks that teachers have nothing to do with learning?

Posted by: trace1 | August 19, 2008 5:04 PM

I appreciate the explaination TMoney.

It is difficult to understand or believe when money is on the table, and potentially alot of it, in this economy, that the union membership of "teachers" are allowing theselves to be mislead by mininformation from any side.

The Washington Teachers Union does not have the greatest history, considering their previous leadership who have took up residency in the penitentary. Not to say that ALL of the nation's union's are bad.

Before anyone starts, I am not Anti-Union by any stretch of the imagination. I come from a union family, albeit at a time when union representation meant JUST THAT.

We are two weeks out from the start of schools. I am concerned that teachers are not going to be focused on the task at hand being bogged down in the structure of pay and performance (which is an imparative to put food on the table).

It has to be an awful feeling to be an "alright" teacher in the DCPS these days. And most teachers, like most employees elsewhere, in my opinon are "just alright". There are a few "gem's" out there. But the average teachers are likely the one's generating the most resistance as they feel the most threatened.

Perhaps Rhee should do what the DCRA Director did, mandate a certification standard for all instructors to meet, make provisions for them to meet it (to include the cost of study materials, classes, etc.), set a reasonable deadline for meeting that standard and leverage that with student performance, then dismissing all those who fail. People will fuss, but when you are in a long term broken agency, you, unfortunately, have to give the people there the opportunity to "show and prove". That would go a long way to taking steam away from the nay'sayer arguements.

It seems that as it stands, recruiting hard to get good teachers, would be diffcult in the current environment.

Most good teachers already have jobs in good Districts. I would presume money alone would not be enough to recruit them to this one.

Posted by: Concernedaboutdc | August 19, 2008 5:06 PM

George Parker knows that if this deal doesn't go through and schools don't improve, there will be fewer and fewer jobs to unionize. Fully 1/3 of the District's kids are in charter schools (NO unions there) and numbers are growing. In DC, traditional public education is no longer a monopoly, and the sooner teachers realize that, the better.

Posted by: trace1 | August 19, 2008 5:14 PM

@Concernedaboutdc
"It is difficult to understand or believe when money is on the table, and potentially alot of it, in this economy, that the union membership of "teachers" are allowing theselves to be mislead by mininformation from any side."
-------
What makes this especially irrational is the fact that they will receive no pay or benefit increases if they don't pass the plan. So teachers face chosing between the status quo and getting nothing or adopting the plan and having the choice to personaly maintain the status quo and get a 28% pay increase plus increased benefits (red plan) or having one school year of probation before going back to the status quo of tenure (green plan) and receiving a huge pay and benifit increase. Given that choice wouldn't you pass the plan even if you wanted things to be as they are?

That shows the extent of misinformation and thus fear/conspiracy theories along with unwillingness to face reality that certain union officers and members have.

Posted by: Tmoney | August 19, 2008 5:45 PM

I teach in a DC area district find Mr. Brock's position regarding the right for a principal to interview a teacher and make a hiring decision absurd. How can a teacher possibly benefit from being in a school knowing that given the choice, the principal may not have hired him or her? This is exactly the type of behavior that causes the non-education world to constantly bash public school teachers.

On the other hand, I am very leary of Ms. Rhee's pay structure plan. My fears have nothing to do with the accountability piece, but with the common sense factor. Where is the money coming from and how long will it last? This newspaper recently reported that Mayor Fenty had trouble convicing area businesses to contribute to this year's school clean-up fund. What will happen when the money dries up? Will teacher salaries be cut back to "normal" range (forcing the types of people that Ms. Rhee is trying to attract to DCPS to flee back to private industry, I'm sure) or will other drastic cuts need to be made to maintain these salaries? Until this question can be answered, I encourage the teachers to vote no on this issue.

Posted by: mel01 | August 19, 2008 5:55 PM

@Mel01

All your concerns regarding financing has been answered, so feel free to encourage people to vote yes. :)

Please scroll up to the following comment: Tmoney | August 19, 2008 4:20 PM


Posted by: Tmoney | August 19, 2008 5:59 PM

"Understand" asked "So I must ask, was [Rhee's] salary based on tenure or performance?" Fenty and Rhee are basing their success and their terms as mayor and Chancellor on the performance of students in the system. Why should teachers do any less?

Peter DC stated that when he taught, he was told that the did a "good job" because he was able to keep students in class. That is a poor way to assess successful education. When Mr. Brocks says teachers in DC are terrific, is he using the same poor measurements? Unfortunately, many in DCPS do.

Posted by: Use Reason | August 19, 2008 6:11 PM

Does anyone even care that opting into this system is completely voluntary? Teachers can retain tenure rights under the red plan. Disliking merit pay is NO reason to vote down this contract.

Posted by: dcteacherchic.blogspot.com | August 19, 2008 6:34 PM

Interesting, provocative, a bit disrespectful at times characterizes this debate. As someone who recently got into the teaching pool to be a part of the solution, I offer the following. I came in with a bias against teachers after hearing the rhetoric lobbed at them and their unions for years. For the most part I've found the teachers to be quite remarkable people despite the long odds against them, and have found the unions and the administrators to be coercive, manipulative, and self-focused. For the people who think the teachers are the problem, I ask you to consider the following: 1) Teachers are basically forced to join the union upon entering the field. I did not because I believe they reward time served over dynamism and for the past corruption. I still have to pay them $50 per month! Members pay about $60.
2) Administrators are given executive control over just about every aspect of a school operation. Teachers are told what to teach, when to teach it, and often that they are not doing a good enough job. Teachers do not have much discretion or autonomy. There is always an administrator coming around and forcing your hand in one way or another. 3) Following up on Point 2, public schools are operated along the lines of a military-style, top-down, hierarchical structure. As such, the politicians and administrators are responsible for the results. Not in the world of education. The buck gets passed to the teachers. Its like blaming sargeants and privates for failures in Iraq. Sorry, the "accountability" has to be with people like Fenty and Rhee, who are wisely demanding it in the system as well. Fine, but you really have to attract people with a fire in their belly, and you have to pay them a professional wage. And you have to give them an opportunity to innovate and to overcome the morass that has built up over time. Here the middle-managers seem to gum up the process a bit (the good ones not so much) because they are really afraid for their jobs.

I'm rambling now, but to sum up, I'm for just about everything Rhee is doing despite my grating at her imperial style.
People came to fix my air conditioner last week! I've always been paid. There is a sense of urgency. I only wish that teachers act like professionals and demand to be treated as such. Merit pay is a huge step in that direction, but one-year contracts are a bit shallow. What professional would accept a one-year deal each and every year? I'm worth more than that! Give me a four-year deal!


Posted by: a teacher | August 19, 2008 7:31 PM

Capitalism has done such a good job putting the students of DC in the circumstances they're in, surely only it can save them! Support Rhee's proposal!

Posted by: Bill Gates | August 19, 2008 9:09 PM

What was Brocks thinking of when he said that interviewing with the Pricipal was degrading?

Oh right, he's a long-term DCPS employee!

How can you ask Pricipal's to achieve if they can't pick their team?

That statement was a huge public-relations goof, although it may have been popular with his teachers.

Posted by: RoseG | August 19, 2008 9:31 PM

Let's ask Michelle Rhee to give up the many protections she has in her own Chancellor contract. She has more protections than she is willing to afford her staff. One thing that she cannot bargain away is DC teachers statutory rights under the Merit Comprehensive Pay Act and the DCMR. Should she choose to - their will be lawsuits as she does not have the legal authority to do so. Ask the Office of General Counsel in DCPS. I say lets ask Michelle Rhee to give up all of her protections in her contract in exchange for teachers giving up theirs Deal????

Posted by: teacherspet | August 19, 2008 10:06 PM

How long have charter schools really been around ("A veteran of a D.C. charter school.")?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 19, 2008 10:15 PM

@A Teacher
"What professional would accept a one-year deal each and every year? I'm worth more than that! Give me a four-year deal!"
------------------------
Rhee will give you better than that how about a forever deal? Go red plan -things stay the same for you (maintain tenure) and you get a big pay and benefit raise. Go green plan - work on probation for ONE school year, then forever have tenure again all the while making big money. Every Non teacher would kill for such a deal.

Posted by: Tmoney | August 20, 2008 1:43 AM

@teacherspet or is that teacherUNIONSpet?
"I say lets ask Michelle Rhee to give up all of her protections in her contract in exchange for teachers giving up theirs Deal????"
-------------------
She is just on her red plan (maintain all current "protections" -tenure, etc.) just as every current teacher will be on the red plan if the plan is adopted unless they volunteer to go green in which they will be compensated, with lots of green aka money.

So do your homework on the plan then see if you can explain how teacher will lose their "protections", something every other profession seems to be able to function without.

Posted by: Tmoney | August 20, 2008 1:49 AM

My wife (7 yrs vet) annually performs well and receives high remarks...helping kids who can’t read in the 2nd and 3rd grades to being able to read. And we will talk about how they got to the 2nd and 3rd grade without knowing how to read on another post. She has even had parents tell her that she pushes their illiterate 9 & 10 yr olds too hard. She has taught at 2 elementary schools in the DCPS and all I have to say is HELP!! She gets video taped by everyone and their momma on how well she instructs. You all should see the receipts, for all the money she spends on her students; she gives our accountant when she files her yearly taxes. But gets the same pay as the other schmoozing, cliquish, principal butt-kissing, lazy, yelling at the kids all day, not caring an ounce, other teachers. My wife and I have been talking about pay for performance for teachers since Double Dribble was out on Nintendo. I think everyone...from the rooter to the tooter should be pay for performance. GET THESE LAZY, SOME OLD AND SOME YOUNG, UNMOTIVATED, BOOGEY MAN LOOKING, MEAN, BARE MINIMUM WORKING, LATE ARRIVING, Teachers out the school system. Do you think Fenty, Rhee, the guy writing this article are going to keep their jobs if they don’t perform? NO! Ask McCain how George Bush’s performance in office has helped his campaign. The really really sad thing we are both DCPS students and see how worse the system has gotten. The students suffer horribly and these teachers as well as parents are producing under prepared (majority minorities) students who will soon be young adults without any hope for secondary education or skilled professions. Hey Mr. Brock...you tell my wife, who loves her students in these underprivileged areas as much as her own son that she should not get rewarded for performance, but you just give ME back the money we spend out of own pockets. Dude, you are so out of touch…do you even know how many skilled teachers DC loses to other local school systems?

And here is another thing to snack on. This year they are subcontracting after school programs to lesser paid employees. So, essentially no overtime for teachers wanting a little extra pay. So let me get this straight Mr. Brock...with the ridiculously high cost of living in the DC metro area, $4/per gallon for gas, economic slowdown to the point of recession and almost full inflation, you don’t want to allow these philanthropist to freely give millions of dollars to our teachers who are apart of our community. You are afraid of an interview and at most a little pressure to perform. Principals were finding ways to get rid of teachers regardless...way before this pay for performance proposition. Get off the sidelines and get into the game called LIFE!!

Posted by: R | August 20, 2008 8:21 AM

Most of the teachers I talked to in detail at my son's school, and I mean easily 75% of them, totally over-rated their skills as teachers. Almost all placed the blame for their poor teaching on parents, almost all placed the blame for their poor classrooms on the administration and facilities (as if the parents didn't come in and paint the whole room on MLK Day- something we could have done PRIOR to school starting!!!) and I only met one who accepted full responsibility for her own success or failure with students.

I believe that it will take the firing of around 50-60% of all the teachers in DCPS to change the system. Removal of less than half of the teachers will still guarantee failure.

Let me use one anecdote to explain some of this. In the last week of school my son's teacher gave me a big stack- like 100 sheets- of art projects. Some of them dated back until October of the year. He said he never got around to cleaning out his closet where he shoved about half of the kids' work. Could anyone imagine a teacher NOT BOTHERING to send home a child's pumpkin craft project until June?

Well, could you imagine other teachers telling us we were "lucky" to have that "great teacher?" If anyone thought he was great, they have lost credibility to judge quality teaching!

We pulled our kid from that DCPS school, naturally. The teacher doesn't work there anymore.

Posted by: DCer | August 20, 2008 2:15 PM

No national foundation has committed 100% to funding this effort around teacher's pay. The decision to do so will only come after the union contract is voted upon.

Posted by: anonymous | August 20, 2008 3:04 PM

Talk about arrogance!? You all take the cake.
A) Judge me based on my children's performance, but it cannot be illustrated solely by TEST SCORES!
B) You all have never taught in a school system that spends THE MOST on administration and THE LEAST in the classroom. You have not dealt with completely ineffective principals who are somehow in Rhee's "inner cadre", basic needs constantly neglected for ALL of us (heat? air conditioning? water fountains? paper?). Great kids, but hassled, hassling parents. Try it for a day.
C) If you think this isn't union-busting, you're all crazy.

Posted by: TEACHER | August 20, 2008 7:31 PM

I am so disgusted with Jerome Brocks...he is arrogant over the radio and I am ready to hunt him down and string him up like a dead horse walking!!!! I read the article but took tonight to listen to this show... he is terrible and wrong and loud-mouthed! The young lady makes very good points...and that is why I beleive Rhee is hanging on to this proposal and not giving up yet... because that IS an important issue-DCPS will not rise until we force teachers to work harder and that is the last piece. There needs to be no training for classroom management because you should prepare for your jobs...actors go to great lengths to study and learn thier roles...study your schools children, and demographics! Rhee has already collaborated schools... the only Plan B I could think of is that she does try more through Professional development and mandate it... or Plan C... close the schools hat aren't performing well and sell them to Charter schools... what do you expect??? Then the vets will be working for $20,000 less!

Sorry this is a long interview and I need to comment some more...

Brock!!! Communities will change if students are coming in and out of BETTER schools. Schools effect50% or more of what is wrong with the community!! Maybe that will help your daughter's friends from getting shot!!! Sorry to be so cold, but honestly!!!

George Parker will hopefully make the decision... bottom line... we are here to serve children not ourselves. A thank you for our efforts will be the great pay raise and bonuses!!!

BTW... THE MONEY NOT BEING GUARANTEED IS THE BIGGEST RUMOR OF THIS ALL..LET THIS GO, BECAUSE NONE OF US WORK FOR THE FUNDS DEPARTMENT WITHIN DC TREASURER...so cut that scam out...George Parker guaranteed that the money will be verified and confirmed so...please cut that out!!!

Passing this on to other Vets out there and nonbelievers...I am coming on my 8th year as well...

I have worked all over the city... NE, 3-that's THREE schools in the belly of the beast (heart, guts, and all) in SE, and then back to NW. I am well-rounded, my mother and husband worked in DCPS and they both believe in this proposal. My mother did 35+ years and she is giving me numbers of other vets to talk to them and get them on board...

Other than verifying money which we all are waiting to hear (but probably won't get confirmation unless we get an agreement)... the opposing team has no VALID points!!!! Just a lot of MUMBO JUMBO! Nothing factual, nothing "on the topic at hand"... Remember the topic? THE BETTERMENT OF SCHOOLS WHICH WILL LEAD TO THE BETTERMENT OF CHILDREN WHICH WILL LEAD TO THE BETTERMENT OF COMMUNITIES!!??? Maybe if we try something that is DIFFERENT FROM WHAT HAS BEEN GOING ON FOR THE LENGTH OF TIME THAT MOST VETS HAVE SERVED...TO THE PRESENT...maybe that will help the communities outside the school walls!? Why not try something new?

Brock is pulling all the same crap out "the applejack" hat (straight out of the 1970's).

Michelle is doing this for SE!!!!! She is trying to get those "riding through" teachers over there to get off your ass, stop blaming the demographics and work!!!!!!

Sorry I talked so much... I will stop now and hopefully not come back...but I am still tuned in, and Fisher... you picked the wrong supporter, you should have picked me... she makes excellent points...but it sounds like you put Beauty up against the Beast... she is too soft-spoken!!!

P.S. This is an article that I need to post... please see my blog for the link... a "personal side of Rhee, and why she fired those Principals back in May....details including quotes from her own children!"

...and remember this is all for the children, about the children, and then branching briskly out to us,the teachers!

Posted by: mrshaight.blogspot.com | August 21, 2008 12:01 AM

I am a teacher, and I fully support this new pay structure. I teach first grade in a charter school in the district. Last year, 15 of my 18 students came in below grade level in reading. At the end of the the year, 15 of the 18 were on or above grade level. This came from working 15 hour days, planning at home on the weekends, tutoring after school, and educating myself in my "spare time." Progress is possible even in schools where the student population comes from rough neighborhoods. I know, I saw it.

Oh, and last year was my first year teaching. Teachers with tenure who aren't willing to work hard enough to make progress don't deserve to be making double what I make.

Posted by: DC Teacher | August 21, 2008 7:03 PM

Judge me based on my children's performance, but it cannot be illustrated solely by TEST SCORES!
------

I hear this all the time, what, then, should it be judge by that's an objective measurement if not test scores? College acceptance? Jail time? No, teachers I talk to push all that onto the parents and they act as if test scores are impossibly vague. So tell me, if not test scores, the WHAT can show me how my pre-K student doesn't write at the same level his peers in MoCo do? Because I was NOT having him start kindergarten writing with such poor handwriting as his pre-K teacher let him. You tell me, genius, WHAT blessed method you're willing to accept to judge your performance without passing the buck to parents or NCLB? I REALLY WANT TO KNOW!

Posted by: DCer | August 22, 2008 3:15 PM

n disrespect to parents, but until you know all the details... u do no tneed to know anything else but that this contract will force teachers to better your children!!!

Posted by: mrshaight | August 24, 2008 1:13 AM

Become informed, DCer. There are many ways of judging a teacher's performance other than test scores, and school systems all around the country are doing just that. They use a combination of criteria: performance-based assessments, portfolios of work, observations in the classroom, etc. Pre-k children don't test, GENIUS, so what are you talking about?

Posted by: TEACHER | August 24, 2008 11:44 AM

DCer

If your pre-K student does not have great handwriting, then that has more to do with YOU than his or her teacher. You've had the child for 3-4 years prior to pre-K, what have YOU been doing, instead of blaming a teacher? Please don't say its their job, because ultimately, it's YOUR child.

That being said, I would have loved merit pay as teacher, especially under this plan. Buckle down one year (what this essentially is), get paid ridiculous money, go back to the status quo or actually continue what you started. What's the problem??

Posted by: Former teacher | August 24, 2008 3:52 PM

I have a simple question, how dumb is dumb?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 25, 2008 1:53 AM

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