Monday, December 08, 2008

More on Rhee in DC from themail

I posted themail's editor Gary Imhoff's insightful editorial on Rhee over at ed notes last week and there were some interesting comments. Here is some follow-up from this week's themail.

More on “Practice Makes Imperfect”

Pat Taylor

Thank you for your December 3 editorial letter challenging Jay Mathews’ views in his Washington Post article, “New DC Principal, Hand-Picked Team Makes Early Gains,” Mathews praises new principal Brian Betts for wanting a staff of young teachers with limited or no teaching experience because they are “eager and optimistic,” in Mathews’ words or, in Betts’ words, “before they were jaded.” Ninety-three percent of the twenty-eight teachers hired by Betts had five or fewer years of teaching experience. This hiring strategy certainly sends a clear message to anyone planning a career in public school teaching — do not apply to DCPS. You will no longer be wanted after you’ve taught for more than five years. At which time there be no union to protect your job rights.

Apart from the hiring criteria of 1) applicants’ belief that teachers, not parents and home life, are the most important factor in the education of most of their students and 2) lack of teaching experience, it would be interesting to know the other criteria that Betts used in selecting his staff. Also, one would like to know why of all the Shaw teachers, whose jobs were guaranteed, only five decided to stay. And by what criteria did Betts judge the fifteen Garnet-Patterson teachers and find only one to be qualified:

Finally, can it be that a public relations firm is providing Michelle Rhee’s public relations blitz? Can it be that this PR campaign is funded by DC taxpayers? If not by the taxpayers, by a foundation? How can we find this out?

The Cult of Rhee Has Reached Even Arizona
Star Lawrence

You mention [themail, December 3] Michelle Rhee’s national public relations blitz. It’s working. She gets ink even out here in cowboy country, where I brought my child to get her out of the DC schools — and leapt into another fire. My kid had some horrible teachers in DC, and some great ones. Same out here. Same for me, as a kid. Same for all of us, I bet. Can you even name three you had? A recent survey kicked around on the New York Times blogs showed teens lie like the proverbial floor coverings, steal, etc. It isn’t always the parents cheating on their taxes or spouses that causes it. Or the rap. Or the bad schools. We can’t put this all on teachers. But some, yes. At very least, don’t pound the joy and motivation out of kids, as happened with mine.

Post Records Violation of Teachers Contract
Ed Dixon, Georgetown Reservoir

In a Friday page A1 story, the Washington Post noted that the District does not follow the often controversial contract it has with the Washington Teachers Union. The article, on the negative effects of growing class size, reported that the District’s contract with the teachers union calls for limiting the size of an elementary classroom to twenty-five students. According to US Department of Education statistics, the 2004 national average for elementary schools was twenty, with many local district averages hovering around that number. With little fanfare, the article pointed out that the District has been unable to maintain the contracted level in spite of concerns nationally on classroom size:

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