Saturday, July 24, 2010

DC Chancellor outright fires many teachers this time

Controversial Washington DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee announced Friday that she had fired 241 teachers, including 165 who received poor performance evaluations or whose kids had poor test scores, and 76 who were not properly certified. Over 700 will be allowed to work one more year without raises on probation, as they had been rated as minimally effective.

In October she had dismissed over 200 teachers in a layoff, but made layoff choices based in performance. But many of those teachers were reinstated.

This time, the dismissals are not layoffs, they are terminations for cause, which could hurt the teachers in getting other jobs. (But Rhee's earlier comments on personnel matters have led to concerns like this before.) Generally, it’s unusual for school districts to do this, even though outright layoffs have happened during the economic crisis, reversing a trend toward encouraging career switching into teaching.  Rhee will hire new teachers, emphasizing that there are real "firings". Terminations take effect in mid August.

The Washington Post has also pointed out that Rhee has used a numerically-scored "IMPACT" system to rate teachers, and it is much more objective than evaluataions in the past.  Student ratings (or Internet rating sites) definitely were not used.

The DC Teacher’s Unions complains that the Chancellor is targeting older African American teachers making higher salaries.

The story Saturday by Bill Turque in the Washington Post is here.

Rhee was quoted as saying “Every child in a District of Columbia public school has a right to a highly effective teacher -- in every classroom, of every school, of every neighborhood, of every ward, in this City”.

But teaching in low income areas is in many ways much more challenging than in higher income districts with better home-prepared students and more conventional expectations of academic performance, including AP.

Here's an account, by Samuel G. Freedman, Oct. 10, 2007, The New York Times, "Where Teachers Sit, Awaiting Their Fates", of the "rubber room" where suspended but fully paid New York City teachers sit for the day, link.

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