"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Rhee and Her Astroturf Support Cult Face the Music

If Michelle Rhee really wants to regain the trust of teachers in DC after causing chaos with her firing of hundreds of teachers five weeks after school started, she would resign. That is the only act of contrition that would make teachers and parents believers that she is acting in the best interest of students and their schools. Don't count it, though.

What you may count on, instead, is Rhee to show up today to face an angry City Council with some newly-hired protesters paid for by her billion dollar support groups from the white only CityBridge Foundation, TFA, KIPP, and the vulture, er, venture philanthropists that feed them with their tax-deductible dollars.

Here's part of Bill Turque's report in WaPo today:

. . . .Groups that back Rhee and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty also are mobilizing. D.C. School Reform Now, a nonprofit organization that works to develop grass-roots support for school improvement, has placed fliers in schools calling for a rally Thursday morning on the steps of the Wilson Building to coincide with Rhee's council appearance.

Rhee invested significant time over the winter trying to improve relations with the District's 4,000-member teacher corps. Many educators said they were offended by a Time magazine cover photo that showed Rhee holding a broom, an image that confirmed their belief that she held District teachers in low esteem.

Rhee initiated a series of after-hours chats with small groups of teachers to answer questions and allay concerns. In a February op-ed piece in The Washington Post, she said she did not blame teachers for the low achievement levels of D.C. students. A month later, she wrote a contrite letter to instructors acknowledging that she might have pressed for too many changes too soon.

"In our exuberance to fix everything all at once, we've thrown so many different programs at you," Rhee said. "Please know that this comes from a desire to support you, not inundate you."

But Rhee continues to face deep internal skepticism over IMPACT, a new teacher evaluation system that, for the first time, will assess some District educators on the growth of their students' scores on annual standardized tests. Principals, aided by a cadre of impartial "master educators" from outside the schools, also will judge teachers against an elaborate new framework of requirements and strategies.

In a series of five classroom observations, teachers will be rated in nine categories that involve nearly two dozen criteria, such as clarity in defining a lesson's objective and instilling in students a belief that hard work leads to success. Teachers who score poorly will be subject to dismissal.

Rhee said she took pains to solicit broad teacher input on the new assessment system. But one of the principals who met with her last week said teachers don't trust the evaluation system because they think it is designed to remove them, not help them improve.

"As they see it, Rhee is all show, has already made all the decisions, and sharing feedback with her is pretty pointless," the principal said. "My teachers basically said it was too little too late. They don't ever see her regaining their trust."

The school leader said her instructors, "especially the experienced ones, see this new regime as a type of cult of the true believers. Don't question what they do since they have all the answers."

One Northwest elementary school teacher, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid problems with colleagues and administrators, said recently that the tensions have prompted most instructors who support Rhee to keep a low profile. "Those two or three of us in the system who may support her certainly keep it to ourselves," she said.

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