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Tales of Woe Surface From D.C. Teacher Firings

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The outcry over teacher layoffs in the District of Columbia has quieted a bit this week, but stories about the individuals who lost their jobs keep coming out, thanks to Bill Turque, The Washington Post's beat writer. Some of the details are jaw-dropping, really, and seem to suggest that much of the dysfunctional bureaucracy that Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee had pledged to dismantle is still in place.

The most striking tale, to DD, is that of the teacher who considered herself to be part of "Rhee's movement," as Turque puts it. She was let go by a principal whom she said retaliated against her for complaining to the chancellor about her ignored requests for building repairs.

Here's what Turque wrote about her experience:

She said that after observing a history class she taught on events leading up to the American Revolution, for which she prepared a PowerPoint and excerpts from the HBO "John Adams" miniseries, [the principal] told her that the lesson was "perhaps a little too middle class." He suggested having the students develop a rap as part of their study of the period.

Perhaps the chancellor ought to take as hard a look at the quality of her school leaders as she has at the quality of her teaching corps. She has fired and hired dozens of new principals since taking over the system two years ago, but school leadership, at least publicly, hasn't gotten the level of attention from her that the issue of teacher quality has.

Even when you recruit and hire hundreds of talented teachers, they certainly aren't going to stick around if they have to work for bad principals.

In other Rhee news, we told you earlier this week about The Baltimore Sun's editorial board saying Rhee's counterpart in the Charm City, Andrés A. Alonso, was more likely to achieve his goals because of his more genial demeanor. In a letter to The Sun today, Alonso said he hopes they both come out on top.
"..while I am an extremely competitive person, I would be proud if the person I finished second to is Michelle Rhee. Hopefully, we finish in a tie," he wrote.


The solution seems obvious to me. Fire the incompetent principal and put the fired teacher in his job. Immediately.

I am a former DCPS teacher recently laid off as part of the equalization/ RIF "Reduction in Force" process. I agree that DCPS is not doing enough to hold principals accountable, especially for new teacher professional development.

In August 2008, I left my job at a prominent civil rights policy organization to start teaching at a DCPS elementary school. When I arrived at my first school to teach Pre-K, it was a complete construction zone 2 days before classes. A month into the school year, I was excessed to teach first grade at a different school. All of my students were drastically below level for first grade when I received them--the ability levels had not been distributed evenly among the two first grade classes. I received very limited support from the principal and other personnel at the school for behavioral and instructional strategies and intervention, even though 1st grade is a vital year for children's reading development. My principal came into my classroom only one time throughout the year to observe my progress and he provided limited feedback. He selectively responded to communication via e-mail and phone and rarely followed through on requests. My DCPS "first year teacher mentor" provided very limited feedback and was inconsistent with observations. She rarely followed through on requests for assistance and resources. This year I was switched to teach Pre-K and then recently laid off due to the enrollment of only 6 kids in my class. This experience has led me to seriously consider leaving the teaching profession.

Wow...things never change do they. I started teaching in 1964 in Newark; and, although I had some great principals and fellow teachers and a number of wonderful students over the years, all those critiques of the Washington Public Schools is sadly true.

Nothing will truly change until the powers-that-be realize their perceptions of the problems are wrong; until parents are legally held responsible for their children's failures; and until teachers can teach what the children really need.

I was let go last week from a Baltimore City Public School for threatening, in an email to my administrator, to get help from my attorney, because, after 6 weeks, no access to the state online special educators reporting system had been arranged for me. (As a special educator I am required to post student progress on that system, and the State reviews my reports or lack of them... it's a legal requirement for my job.) The only way the school was getting around the inept person who was supposed to set up my access, was by having school employees who had access sign on and let me use their log-in, something I believe is illegal.) I discovered the day I left that there are several other teachers at the school with the same problem: They are required to report student goals and progress on special education or IEP's (individual education plans) but have not been given user names or passwords. One of these people is a social worker, who had to get the school registrar to give her access so she could effectively work on behalf of students. I wonder if Mr. Alonzo is aware of this situation. Hopefully the person who is supposed to be taking care of the task of giving licensed teachers access is not a personal friend who is immune to criticism.

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  • Anonymous: I was let go last week from a Baltimore City read more
  • harriet knevals: Wow...things never change do they. I started teaching in 1964 read more
  • Anonymous: I am a former DCPS teacher recently laid off as read more
  • Ron: The solution seems obvious to me. Fire the incompetent principal read more