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UPDATED: Rhee, Parker and Weingarten Agree to a Mediator

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D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, and Washington Teachers' Union President George Parker just announced that a mediator will help settle differences over the shape of their contract.

Kurt Schmoke, Dean of Howard University School of Law and former Baltimore mayor, will work to resolve "outstanding issues" on the table, according to an AFT statement.

No word yet as to whether this means that that either the district or the AFT has declared a formal impasse—an event that triggers an arbitration process—or whether this is more of an informal conflict-resolution kind of thing.
UPDATE: AFT reports the contract is not at impasse.

Readers of this blog will know that part of the issue has been Ms. Rhee's plans to create a two tiered pay proposal, which hinged on some teachers giving up tenure for a year for the chance to earn bonuses, and an evaluation based in part on test scores. The union's counterproposal scrapped those features in favor of a peer-assistance-and review system, an expedient dismissal process for ineffective teachers (which the union never described in detail), a career ladder, and some kind of alternative-pay model.


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I am a veteran teacher in Houston seeking a dialogue with Teach for America teachers nationally regarding policy positions taken by former Teach for American staffers who have become leaders in school district administrations and on school boards. I first became aware of a pattern when an ex-TFA staffer, now a school board member for Houston ISD, recommended improving student performance by firing teachers whose students did poorly on standardized tests. Then the same board member led opposition to allowing us to select, by majority vote, a single union to represent us.

Having won school board elections in several cities, and securing the Washington D.C Superintendent's job for Michelle Rhee, Wendy Kopp's friends are pursuing an approach to school reform based on a false premise: that teachers are the cause of sub-par academic performance in urban schools, They disregard major factors like the degree of parent commitment, students habits and economic inequality. 

The corporate-TFA nexus began when Union Carbide initially sponsored Wendy Kopp's efforts to create Teach for America. A few years before, Union Carbide's negligence had caused the worst industrial accident in history, in Bhopal, India. The number of casualties was as large as 100,000, and Union Carbide did everything possible to minimize its responsibility at the time it embraced Ms. Kopp. TFA recently started Teach for India. Are Teach for India enrollees, who presumably love their country and its people, aware of the the Union Carbide/TFA relationship?

When TFA encountered a financial crisis, Ms. Kopp  nearly went to work for the Edison Project, and was all but saved by their managerial assistance. The Edison Project sought to replace public schools with for-profit corporate schools funded by our tax money. Think Haliburton in your neighborhood. Ms. Kopp's husband, Richard Barth, was an Edison executive before taking over as CEO of KIPP's national foundation, where he has sought to decertify its New York City unions.

In 2000, two brilliant TFA alumni, the founders of KIPP Academy, joined the Bush's at the Republican National Convention in 2000. This gave pivotal cover for Bush, since as Governor he had no genuine educational achievements, and he needed the education issue to campaign as a moderate and reach out to the female vote. KIPP charter schools provide a quality education, but they start with families committed to education. They claim to be improving public schools by offering competition in the education market-place, but they take the best and leave the rest.

D.C. Superintendent Michelle Rhee's school reform recipe includes three ingredients: close schools rather than improve them; fire teachers rather than inspire them; and sprinkle on a lot of media-thrilling hype. Appearing on the cover of Time, she stood sternly with a broom in hand, which she was using to sweep trash, the trash being a metaphor for  my urban teacher colleagues. MS RHEE, MY COLLEAGUES WHO WORK IN SOME OF THE TOUGHEST SCHOOLS IN THE NATION ARE NOT TRASH.  They are American heroes!  

TFA teachers are highly effective educators. My mentor, when I started teaching, was a TFA teacher, ironically, Ms. Rhee's interim Director of Human Resources, and he saved me in that first, difficult year. But when TFA's leadership argue that schools, and not inequality and bad habits, are the cause of the achievement gap, they are not only intellectually dishonest, they feed the the corporate influence which has blocked social changes we need to bolster our middle class, they aid the people who say the public sector can do nothing right, and thus should never regulate businesses or provide national health insurance or protect a workers right to organize.

Our society has failed schools by permitting the middle class to shrink. It's not the other way around. Economic inequality and insecurity produces ineffective public schools. It's not the other way around. Ms. Kopp claims TFA carries the civil rights torch for today, but Martin Luther King was the voice of unions on strike, not the other way around. His last book, Where do we go from here?, argued for some measure of wealth distribution, because opportunity would never be enough in a survival of the fittest society to allow most of the under-privileged to enter the middle class. My e-mail is [email protected]

Jesse,

You conveniently neglected the primary ingredient in Commissioner (not Superintendent) Rhee's reform recipe - kids should be the priority in a school system, not the adults.

The cover of Time magazine with her holding a broom was a metaphor for her sweeping the deadwood out, not the trash. "Trash" is your interpretation for DC teachers, not hers.

Michelle Rhee doesn't have all the answers as she's attempting to reform quite possibly the worst school district in the nation. She has made some mistakes along the way and I'm sure will make more. However, I consider her a hero, a pioneer looking to make the lives of DC students better.

Your rant is loaded with convoluted arguments, too many to dissect here. You must be a brainwashed member of the NEA.


What is a broom used for Mr. Paul?

I think Jesse has several important things to say. This smells of the same kind of scandal involved in the Reading First program where the Inspector General investigated several people for promoting their own agendas during the Bush administration (and found wrong doing). I also think that anyone who wants to criticize teachers needs to teach for one year at every grade level before adding his/her two cents. Despite all the stories in the media these days, I see dedicated professionals working their hearts out to help students.

This is the inception year of Teach For India and I am proud enough to be a part of this great initiative.
Talking about inequity and claiming what is right and what is wrong is never going to solve any sort of problem. While the challenge of educational inequity in India is too a large considering its counter part America, I personally feel that TFI will do wonders in the coming time.
Relationship between "TFA and Union Carbide:, yes I am aware about this and also about "Bhopal Gas Tragedy", but this does not hamper the very motto of helping the society. There might have mistakes or errors, but who does not commit them, the benchmarking should not be done only on accidents.

Also, while applying for TFI, I studied the whole model of TFA, even found some dreadful experiences of former alumnae but if I am ignoring the results majority of fellows brought and taking a decision to not to join TFI based on harsh experience of few fellow, I will be not doing justice to the greater cause and the need of the time.

The whole world is trembling under the notion of financial insecurity and terror, when I think of the solution, it always lead me towards the root and that is to reform the education concentrating on morale values.

I wish all the very best to all TFI and TFA and Teach For All fellows.

Teachers are not the problem...believe me!

This is the inception year of Teach For India and I am proud enough to be a part of this great initiative.
Talking about inequity and claiming what is right and what is wrong is never going to solve any sort of problem. While the challenge of educational inequity in India is too a large considering its counter part America, I personally feel that TFI will do wonders in the coming time.
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So long as you and all Indian volunteers for Teach for America are aware of Union Carbide's culpability in this horror, and they way they hooked up with Teach for America to improve their image here, while trying to keep there investment in the clean-up there to a minimum, the God's speed to all of you who are truly committed to closing the inequality gap, and bringing about true equality and human rights in India. Maybe I am too much of a purist on issues like this, but Union Carbide seems like a rotten, polluted womb to birth a social change organization. ps. hope it looks good on your resume.

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