Archive for October, 2010

David Schwartzman calls for fresh start for DC public schools

Council David Schwartzman (G): Save DC Public Schools; Overturn the Fenty-Rhee-Catania charter school scheme

“We can improve the District’s public schools by pulling together, by welcoming the participation of parents and teachers and by repairing neighborhood schools and keeping them open. We can begin by rehiring unjustly fired teachers and other public employees,” said Dr. Schwartzman, who is promoting a program to “Create Green Collar Jobs for our Youth with Apprenticeship Programs in DC Public High Schools and the Community” (


Rheefomers beg for their jobs

Bill Turge runs their situation wanted ad:

But others might stay if they were reassured by Gray or his surrogates that he was serious about preserving and growing the core of Rhee’s program, especially in the areas of human capital and school turnaround. They wonder, for example, if come next summer, Gray is actually prepared to accept the dismissal of potentially hundreds of “minimally effective” teachers who have been given the current school year to improve or be fired under the IMPACT evaluation system.

Will Gray accept their Procrustes evaluation of teachers? I hope not but who knows. Seeing as the voters voted to keep their teachers and boot the Rheeformers, maybe it is the teachers who should stay. They really do not get that the city has collectively fired their sorry rear ends.

The news media’s war on teachers

FAIR: First, Bash the Teachers
Media find a scapegoat for educational failure
No evidence required

What goes mostly if not entirely unexplained amid these anti-teacher assaults is any coherent explanation of what it is that teachers unions have done or failed to do to promote excellence in schools. A survey by Robert M. Carini of Indiana University (School Reform Proposals: The Research Evidence, 2002) of the available research comparing achievement in unionized versus non-unionized schools found that “teacher unionism favorably influences achievement for most students.” Such findings are not the final word, of course. But given corporate media’s relentless message that unions are the enemy of “reform,” it is worth noting that this is based largely on the media’s elevation to scientific truths of a set of mostly unproven strategies for improving schools—from charters to “merit pay”—and their suggestion that the implementation of said truths is made impossible by teachers unions.

Take “merit pay,” which would mostly use test score data to identify effective teachers and pay them more for their success—a “no-brainer,” according to Newsweek (3/15/10). As Diane Ravitch recounts in her recent book The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, much research suggests that teachers judged excellent or effective one year often fall out of the category the next, and vice versa. Either the teachers themselves are practicing wildly different methods from year to year, or the attempts to link test scores to teacher performance are not actually a “no-brainer” at all, no matter what the media might think.

And as journalist Barbara Miner pointed out in Rethinking Schools (Fall/09), the idea that unions are opposed to differential pay as a matter of principle is simply wrong: “Although the media promotes the view that teacher unions are inflexibly opposed to modifying the traditional pay structure, both the AFT and NEA [unions] have been involved in local initiatives that differentiate teacher pay.” Miner noted that surveys of teachers find some openness to different pay structures, but that merit-pay schemes in some places saw most of the benefits flowing to teachers in upper-income schools.

The superiority of charter schools, touted by many of the media’s most prominent education “reformers” as an obvious and necessary element of their schools agenda, is likewise more based in faith than in empirical research. One of the most exhaustive studies of charter performance, from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, found 37 percent of charter schools “deliver learning results that are significantly worse than their students would have realized had they remained in traditional public schools.” About half produced similar outcomes to public schools, with just 17 percent outperforming public schools (Extra!, 8/09).

Charters should be controversial for other reasons as well. A report from UCLA’s Civil Rights Project (2/4/10) found that they are more racially segregated than traditional public schools. Another long-standing criticism of charters is that they tend to educate lower numbers of English language learners. The UCLA study noted that gaps in data collection make it difficult to offer any definitive national assessments—which is a problem in itself. The data available for California, though, showed the number of English learners attending charter schools was minuscule.

Organizing for Post-Election Accountability! Oct 7

Email from Empower DC:
Empowerment Circle

Post-Election PEOPLE POWER

How to Hold Our Elected Officials ACCOUNTABLE

From Election Day Onward!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

6:30—8:30 PM

Northwest One Library— 155 L St., NW

Mt Vernon Sq/Convention Cntr Metro or 96 Bus * Light Dinner Provided

RSVP: (202) 234-9119 Child Care Upon Request

What are the lessons learned from the Fenty Administration?

How can we hold our newly elected officials accountable to community needs?

GET ORGANIZED for Mayor-elect Gray’s Town Hall Meetings, and the Empower DC Outreach Tour!