School Chief Dismisses 241 Teachers in Washington



Political Letters -




[241 teachers fired last week from DC school district, 226 for low student test scores. Don't say it can never happen here. You can thank Bill Gates and Arne Duncan for this focus on test scores as principal metric in teacher evaluation. Seniority protections are also under attack. A favorite quote from the readers' thread that follows: "Today's 'test scores,' as they are used to condemn and destroy an entire profession, serve the same purpose as the 'spectral evidence' used at Salem. They hardly prove anything, but they are useful tools for iron-fisted authoritarians to gain complete control over a community or a profession."]

School Chief Dismisses 241 Teachers in Washington By TAMAR LEWIN Published: July 23, 2010 Michelle Rhee, the reform-minded chancellor who took over the District of Columbia public schools three years ago, on Friday fired 241 teachers, or 5 percent of the district’s total. All but a few of those dismissed had received the lowest rating under a new evaluation system that for the first time held them accountable for their students’ standardized test scores.

“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,” the chancellor said in a statement. “That is our commitment.”

All told, the district terminated 302 employees — 226 for poor performance, and 76 for other problems like not having the licensing required by the No Child Left Behind act. Besides the 241 teachers, those dismissed were librarians, counselors, custodians and other employees.

An additional 737 employees were put on notice that they had been rated “minimally effective,” the second-lowest category, and would have one year to improve their performance or be fired.

In the years before Ms. Rhee took over the district, almost all the teachers had high performance ratings and almost none were fired, but students, on average, had low achievement levels.

George Parker, the president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, said the union would challenge the firings. The union has taken issue with the evaluation system Ms. Rhee used, saying that it was designed more for punishing teachers than helping them improve.

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, also criticized the evaluation system and what she called the chancellor’s “destructive cycle of hire, fire, repeat.”

“Evaluations should include a component of student learning, of course, but there also has to be teacher development and support,” Ms. Weingarten said. “It can’t just be a ‘gotcha’ system, like the one in D.C.”

As part of the Obama administration’s focus on teacher effectiveness, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has pushed states to develop evaluation and pay models that link teacher ratings to their students’ test scores. States that use such models get points that increase their chances of winning part of the department’s $3.4 billion Race to the Top grant pool.

Since becoming chancellor in June 2007, Ms. Rhee has been intent on controlling how teachers in the district — known for a long history of low-performing schools — are managed, paid and, if necessary, fired.

Friday’s dismissals were not the chancellor’s first. In the 2007-8 school year, a district spokesman said, 79 teachers were fired for poor performance, and in 2008-9, 96 were. Also, after hiring more than 500 new teachers in the spring and summer of 2009, Ms. Rhee laid off 266 educators in the fall, citing budget problems. The union has filed suit challenging those dismissals.

Last month, the teachers’ union and the District Council approved a contract that weakened teachers’ seniority protection, in return for 20 percent raises and bonuses of $20,000 to $30,000 for teachers who meet certain standards, including rising test scores.

Only 16 percent of the teachers evaluated were rated in the top category, “highly effective.”

A spokesman for the district said that starting the new school year with a full complement of teachers would not be a problem because a pool of several hundred applicants had already been screened.

A version of this article appeared in print on July 24, 2010, on page A8 of the New York edition.


Commondreams comments:

125 Comments so far drosera July 24th, 2010 8:58 am Rhee and the AFT have an adversarial relationship and that cannot be good for morale and for the system in general. A method of teacher evaluation can be worked out between administration and the union that pays attention to inadequate training of teachers in trouble, the need for professional development, possible mentoring by other teachers, as well as factors beyond the control of classroom teachers: large numbers of children brought up in poverty, kids who don't speak English as their first language, too many special needs students in the classroom, lack of supplies, a curriculum that is outdated, too many students in the classroom and more. This is not to defend incompetent teachers--some will need to go. But if someone has invested many, many years in teaching, it is wrong to cut them off without allowing them the chance to improve--a couple of years, at least. Am curious where all of these gifted teachers are coming from, the new hires replacing the fired. Will the D.C. schools just be a revolving door for short-term hires? It would be cheap that way--you can get rid of the bigger salaries with a yearly housecleaning.

Tiredoftrolls July 24th, 2010 9:25 am This is terrible.

Can you think of a lazier way to evaluate teachers than test scores? A really great teacher that has problematic students and is doing a great job might well have bad test scores.

This shows the general contempt that the Bush/Obama Administration has for public education. Mass firings - Obama praises them; whenever hacks worry over the lack of spine of Obama, HE SURE SHOWS A LOT OF SPINE WHEN IT COMES TO MASS FIRING OF TEACHERS. Thank you, Obama voters.

Judah July 24th, 2010 10:55 am I don't see how basing job performance on results in a consistently under-performing area is a bad thing. When I went to school I had a plenty of teachers who taught badly, but could not be fired.

I think making sure American students have a good education is more important than the egos of a few people. If the union wants to make a difference, it should encourage competence, not complacency.

dreamdancer July 24th, 2010 12:22 pm Question: Did you truly do badly because of these poor teachers? I also had my share of mixed-ability teachers, some great to inspiring and some of the "Oh Pluueeez" variety. But I can't recall that it ever made a huge difference in my grades.

Other things, family expectations, peer expectations, community expectations were far more influential and really, the only real influence over my performance in school.

While I am sure some of the lesser teachers may have tested my tolerance or patience and made me wish I were somewhere else, so did the outstanding ones when I didn't have my assignments ready. Besides, while could show my completed assignments in the outstanding classes, I could really shine in the lesser teacher's classes. So a mixed bag, and hardly definitive in terms of what I managed in school.

So I call B.S. on the good/bad teacher == my success/or/not absolutist formula. This is just an excuse, another Rovian-lie tactic of false claims and false arguments and totally unsubstantiated claims

This is really, still about two things: 1) Union busting 2) making education for the rich, not the poor, via privatization

Privatization and Union busting go hand in hand with: 1) turning classes into plug-n-play standard prepackaged modules (i.e. cheap to make goods selling at high prices) something we are already seeing in online classes and online universities 2) turning the teaching profession into class monitors for those modules requiring more education, for less money, meaning lousy teaching even from good teachers.

BTW notes: 1) In Kansas City, Missouri we just lost half our schools and all teachers and superintendents/principles have to re-apply. 2) I can't help noting Rhee's youth. She is much to young (read likely to be absolute) and clearly cruel, though thinking herself accomplished and making hard decisions. She should never have been given so much authority before proving herself a human being first. Looking at her picture reminds me too much of Michelle Malkin's hatefulness.


Judah July 25th, 2010 9:52 am Haha! I was at the top of my class, while not in the top two, still the only one to get a scholarship to a major non-local college. I had to deal with bad teachers, and my way of doing it was to 'test out' of their class. I talked with the principal, did an independent project and aced the standardized final.

This is really about: Students need a good education, American education is second class, and something needs to change to make US education first class. (Especially in underperforming areas.)

The poverty of the students is overcome by good teaching. If the current bunch of unionized teachers are so full of fail that they can't make a difference, get someone who can! For the sake of the students and the future, fire the bad people, and get good people. It doesn't matter if they are unionized or not, and it's not about being rich because these kids certainly aren't.

Frankly, teachers unions have an immense amount of power, and rather than making things good for the students, they've used it to protect sleazy, under-performing teachers. I have NEVER heard of a teacher's union standing up for higher teaching standards or even taking a stand against an idiotic state that wants to teach creationism. I have seen tons of stories about unions protecting member's jobs after a teacher has committed a felony or failed a performance evaluation. While I don't think the union should be 'busted' I do think it has become corrupt to a point where it's actions are hurting the very people it claims to represent. I know other *teachers* who want their under-performing tenured colleagues to be fired, but the union won't allow it.

So yeah, I don't find merit in your arguments. It comes back to getting results in terms of education. If the current teachers aren't doing it, then get different ones. If they want to 'teach the test' raise the standards and make the test cover much more material... say the entirely yearly curriculum in the subject.

dbrady94134 July 24th, 2010 2:30 pm I'll tell you what is wrong with "performance based teacher evaluations" it is far, far to easy to stack classes, to put stress onto a teacher's schedule, to harass and disrespect them to the point of having them quit. All of this, and more, can be done within the bounds of the contract and none of it is actionable. And that's just within a school. In a district there are still have and have not schools. American students deserve a good education but the "one size fits all" method of evaluation will not help matters.

Saint-Just July 25th, 2010 2:02 am Like every lousy bully, Obama shows spine when he attacks the weak, but if someone even momentarily pushes back, he throws a fit -- look at his response when Blanche Lincoln nearly (or actually) got chucked in the Democratic primary.

Login or register to post comments report this comment solarhamster July 24th, 2010 9:45 am I have friends who teach in the district, many of whom live in a climate of fear. Rhee is deeply unpopular, and the bottom line is that she is corporate minded. Look at her history. Less than 2 years teaching for "teach for America", and then onto admin/corporate work.

Yes, it is true that the new teachers coming in are pretty young and inexperienced (but a blank slate,so much easier to manipulate) so this could be due to saving money, but I think it goes deeper than that. Simply, she wants to privatize the system, and with that eroding the pension sysytem. Rhee is extremely adversarial towards teachers and principals, and I'm surprised that union hasn't been more forceful with this woman.I heard she even disrespectful to her own kids' teacher in a neighboring school(one in the better area of Washington, of course). Walk into most DC public schools (with the exception of the highly regarded Duke Ellington School for the Performing Arts, or McKinley) and you will see kids herded into a 36+ student classroom, suffering from poor nutrition, frustration, etc. These realities won't translate into a model classroom--and so this is where the teacher gets blamed in his/her evaluation.

Rhee, like Obama (who, incidentally sends his kids to a 24,000/yr private school in DC)is so out of touch with the reality of America's crumbling schools, obsession with inane tests and dumbed down curriculum.

ma77hew July 24th, 2010 9:47 am Shock Doctrine.

donnalou July 24th, 2010 10:07 am "Look at her history. Less than 2 years teaching for "teach for America", and then onto admin/corporate work."

LOL, just what I guessed.

Little fascist.

She'll go far in her career.

drone July 24th, 2010 10:43 am she's just engaging in union busting. same recipe everywhere. fire union members, hire scabs. when it's done, they'll privatize the whole thing and rhee'll walk away with big bucks.

rinse and repeat

Joe2aT July 24th, 2010 10:56 am The problem probably lies within the system to a degree; it probably lies with the quality of the teachers to a greater degree. But most of the blame can be placed squarely on the shoulders of an immense crowd of hoodlum students who are coming from shattered families, who have been taught no values with respect to achievement, respect for their superiors, and respect for the equipment they use in the course of learning. Many of these students just plain don't want to be there in class---are probably only there because they are forced to. They say if you build a better mousetrap they will come. In this case, if you build a better mousetrap they will smash it to pieces, right in the classrooms in some instances.

BillyD1953 July 24th, 2010 12:00 pm I don't know why liberals are always defending teachers. I'm extremely liberal, but in my experience many teachers are overpaid, have a supreme martyr complex, and an incredible retirement plan. I don't know why they think they're so special or why they feel so entitled to make big salaries and so forth. I don't think they should have it any easier than the rest of us with college degrees. I often see experienced teachers making higher salaries than professionals in the fields the teachers are instructing in. Science, music, whatever. A science teacher can often make more than a Ph.D. scientist and a music teacher can make more than a professional symphony orchestra musician. How is that sensible or fair? And why should teachers be tenured? I have a job I could lose at any time at the discretion of my employer no matter how many years I've been there and no matter how good my annual evaluations are, and that is true for virtually everyone in the working world, degree or no degree. I have a Ph.D. in science and work as a professional computer programmer and my daughter's grade school teachers make more than I do and get several months off in the summer as well as the school vacations and holidays. What's up with that?

clearbluesky July 24th, 2010 12:19 pm So you won't feel slighted, teachers are paid for the services they provide for the school year (the time they spend working) they can elect to have that amount paid over a twelve month period or not. If your dissatisfied with the terms of your employment you also could elect union representation or do what teachers did, protect their jobs.

Tiredoftrolls July 24th, 2010 12:51 pm So why don't you quit and get on the Gravy Train.

Yeah, sure - you're like the racists that talk about how good African-Americans have it but wouldn't change places with them

or how the homeless and/or welfare "queens" have it but don't seem to want to go on welfare themselves.

dbrady94134 July 24th, 2010 2:38 pm Let us do this point by point: Liberals do not always defend teachers. If that were true there would have been a firestorm resisting the NCLB. You say they are over paid, perhaps this is because they are paid more than you are, but from a number of studies there is the evidence that the potential salary for a college student deciding to become a teacher compares very poorly to the potential salaries of other professionals. Teachers are, at best, on the low end of the spectrum, just read the want ads for jobs with similar training times and ongoing training. You say you are extremely liberal yet you mischaracterize “many” teachers as having a martyr complex and envy them for their retirement plan. As to the first does many mean 20 or 30 percent? Is that a “liberal’s” take on the whole profession? As to the retirement one has to work in the field for 30 years usually at a single district to “make it”. When in the first 5 years or so 50% of those who enter the field leave it.

You say, “I don't know why they think they're so special or why they feel so entitled to make big salaries and so forth. I don't think they should have it any easier than the rest of us with college degrees.” We might think ourselves special because we see “the light go on” in children’s faces every day; we enjoy the process of learning and imbuing our students with the same. Just how do we have it easier than others with college degrees? We work mister, harder than most people understand. We normally put in after work hours that we never get paid for. Sometimes this is equal to 30 to 40 percent of a day. This “extra” is so normalized that it is expected and unquestioned. When was the last time you put in an extra two hours without pay for months and years on end? When?

You say, “I often see experienced teachers making higher salaries than professionals in the fields the teachers are instructing in. Science, music, whatever. A science teacher can often make more than a Ph.D. scientist and a music teacher can make more than a professional symphony orchestra musician. How is that sensible or fair?” To this I say, what universe are you in? An engineer, or research physicist makes much more than a high school teacher of same. The same can be said for musicians or other professionals. If teaching was SO lucrative then those individuals would be taking up teaching positions by the tens of thousands – they are not doing so. Also, the building up of a new scientist, or musician takes time, dedication and a kind of professionalism that is vital to the success of our, or any, nation. So maybe they SHOULD earn more. As to the fact that you earn less than your child’s teacher well, that is the market place for you – perhaps if you had a union that was as powerful as ours you’d have better working conditions. Now, there’s a homework assignment for you – check that out.

Now that I’m warmed up, let us consider tenure. You say “in the working world” as if teaching children is the same as any other line of work. IT IS NOT. Plain and simple, mister, it is not the same as any other kind of work. Many lines of work have tenure or tenure like properties. Here is the reason: despite what is said in the news and the perceptions of the public, teachers need protection from the petite tyrants that principals very often are, especially now with the NCLB. Secondly, if I have been teaching for 20 years and successful at that, why should someone with far less experience and talent be given an advantage over one such as I? Why should I defer to the “knowledge” of a new teacher who has not a truly deep understanding of how a classroom or a school works?

And now my favorite: summer vacation. It is wonderful, restorative and extremely welcome. The nature of our work is far, far more stressful than you could know. It is demanding in a way that cannot be understood unless you, yourself, took on a class for an entire year and had the pressures of “raising the test scores” going to all the meetings, putting in the extra hours, spending your own money for class supplies and responding to the constant kind of letters you write. It is an anachronism and some schools have found ways around it. But still the way you talk about it “what’s up with that?” it is as if you “liberal” as you are, begrudge our profession the success that it has. Oh, by the way, it is not teachers who set the calendar. Also, if we were to have round the year schooling the cost would go up. More hours, more work, more books, more electricity, more of everything.

BillyD1953 July 24th, 2010 3:42 pm You only confirm my view that teachers are overpaid and have a martyr complex. I've just recently been looking at teachers' salaries in Missouri and Illinois, the area where I live. They are individually available online for each public school teacher. Their salaries are way out of balance with people of similar or even greater education and experience. I support skilled labor unions, but the teachers' union is what gives unions a bad name. They demand and get much more than they are worth to society in terms of their skills and education. A teacher earns a decent living like anyone else, but not a vastly better living and tenure and an incredible retirement. How did you come to think you were so special compared to other college educated professionals? What's it like to have such an exaggerated sense of your own place in society and in the hierarchy of skills and intellect? You have children worshipping you all day, so you lose perspective and feel like a queen or king. You're just an ordinary person like the rest of us. We're not surrounded all day by young people who look up to us like gods, so we maintain a much better perspective on who we are and what our actual place is in society.

Dmadrone July 24th, 2010 4:37 pm You are joking, right? Students look up at us like gods? That is the funniest thing I've read in ages. You obviously have never taught.

And...what is with this carping about teacher's salaries? Hate to clue you in, but the education system, like many others, is rapidly opting for temporary, limited contract teachers who can be paid much less, have no permanent standing, and few...if any...benefits.

Maybe the teacher's aren't so vastly better, so much as the rest of you are in a race to the bottom (with the education system on the brink of following you down).

BillyD1953 July 25th, 2010 9:35 am Teachers do not work for a for-profit corporation. They work for the tax payers. Why should the tax payers struggle to make a living and pay taxes while the teachers, like parasites, soak up those taxes to make a better living and have a better retirement than the people who pay their salaries? Teachers should have the same pay, retirement, benefits, vacation and non-tenure-track jobs as others of us with similar education and experience--no better and no worse. As things stand now, teachers have all of these much better and yet they still complain about it--like martyrs. I would agree that we should all have a better life with a better social safety net, healthcare, etc., but until that is true there is no reason why teachers need to be treated in a special category.

glenn ford July 25th, 2010 11:22 am Previously Teachers in some states were paid well in others not well.

Pay for teachers is declining in many states.

When I first wished to be licensed it required more education than a law degree.

If teaching is so overpaid why do you not become a teacher, a profession that requires more skill than almost any other?

BillyD1953 July 25th, 2010 3:07 pm "a profession that requires more skill than almost any other?" This is exactly what I'm talking about. Teachers have an enormously exaggerated sense of their own education and skill level. This statement is preposterous on the face of it. For example, a professional scientist requires about 10 years of post high school education, including a research disseration and a Ph.D., then about 5 more years or so of post-doctoral research before even thinking about getting a real job in academia. Then, assuming they are very, very fortunate they might actually get a job after competing with candidates from all over the world, and then after all that they need generally 7 years as a professor to even be eligible for tenure. So, if everything goes just right, they'll be about 40 years old, working 60 - 80 hours per week, and making about as much as an experienced grade school teacher. Please get some perspective and rejoin the real world. A good teacher deserves the same pride and respect and remuneration as others of similar education and experience, no more and no less.

clearbluesky July 24th, 2010 9:30 pm When my mother became a teacher she taught double sessions that is about 78 kids every day and the janitor made more money than she did.

braithwa842 July 25th, 2010 5:24 am Your post is too good. You have responded to the bandwagon of ignorance with reason.

stardust July 24th, 2010 2:54 pm Whoa BillyD!

For a minute there, with the comments: "...overpaid, martyr complex, incredible retirement plan..." gosh, I thought you were talking about Congress!

Silly you! You are mistaking VALUE for money! You see, that's Wall St. thinking! Teachers are tenured because, very often, the administration only responds to "their team" and not to the teachers who are doing the work and raising the bar! OMG! the history of teachers too. It used to be that they couldn't be married and even had to chop the wood or bring the coal to that one room schoolhouse!

Good thing they don't have to do that anymore, what with getting there early for morning yard duty or lunch duty on the playground! My neighbor is a public school teacher and he gives 100% every day. He's exhausted when he comes home! Does your job do that?

You know, a lot of teachers teach summer school because, they don't get paid for those months off, or it's pro-rated throughout the year. Lot of teachers tutor to make ends meet too, or deliver pizzas, or coach on the weekends; wow. no days off there!

Great for you that you have a Phd in science! How cool that your daughter has a dad that can introduce her to the wonders of the universe in a big time way!

BUT, teachers have a union because, well sometimes those parents want to blame the teachers for their lousy job as parents. Oh, you'll love this story about my neighbor. A kid was head butting a teacher and my neighbor went to stop it, and used the approved, "get behind and wrap arms around " stance. He stopped the kid, BUT that very next day, the principal called him to the office and said that my neighbor needed to apologize to the kid because the mother said her kid had a scratch, and she was going to sue.

See, the administration often doesn't back up the teachers; no due process here! My neighbor said, "NO WAY!" ( Good for him) He thought he was going to catch hell for that BUT, that night, this very same head butting 6th grader was involved in a gang rape. Well that stopped the lawsuit against the teacher, as the "I'm going to sue you "parents had bigger problems, but what a weird world we live in.

Yes, there are bad teachers, but bad everything, right? Don't you work with some horses asses in computers too?

There's lots of blame to spread around, budgets, administrators, Congress, state government, school police, and parents too, BUT it seems like it's mostly the teachers that take the fall, and that's very undemocratic, don't you think?

drosera July 24th, 2010 4:44 pm My district:

First year teacher: 30 grand/yr. Expected to take 15 hours of college work in the first three years, the student paying one half the tuition, effectively lowering pay. Six percent deducted for retirement benefits.

Top of the scale: doctorate, twenty years plus experience: 60 grand.

Compare that wage scale to the average accountant's salary, the average M.B.A., the average working scientist and the average engineer. Sure, there are districts that pay better--but that is my point. You can't make a statement implying that all teachers earn too much. In our country we do not believe in egalitarianism. Teachers in South Dakota do not make as much as those in New York, nor do the kids there get as much money for their education.

From another perspective, how about this? Competent teachers deserve as much money as an engineer/scientist/businessman. They are utterly responsible for the learning of 30 kids every year. What could be more important than that? And as far as the intensity of the work goes--well, ask those teachers who used to be scientists/engineers and listen to what they have to say. Most, I would wager, will tell you that teaching is an exhilarating, but exhausting way to earn a living. Try performing five hours a day before a very critical audience, communicating with parents, fussing over grades, spending Sunday afternoons grading papers. If teaching is such a sinecure, then why don't more people become teachers? The answer, when it comes right down to it, has to do with prestige, money, the hard work, often intolerable working conditions, and the feeling of working in a glass box open to the scrutiny of all. A hundred grand a year for a teacher who shepherds a class of kindergartners through that first year of school is completely worth the money.

SaboCat July 24th, 2010 10:29 pm drosera,

Actually, teachers pay range you described is comparable to, or just a bit lower than civil engineers in many specialties.

drosera July 25th, 2010 8:15 am Then they should get more. Four years of college and a thirty thousand dollar a year salary is ridiculous. Kids come out of college with education loans of ten, twenty thousand dollars. From a perspective of money alone, it would be better to get an apprenticeship after high school (actually you can enroll in voc ed programs while in hs), and start earning money immediately rather than accumulating debt which will dog a young person for the next ten or twenty years.

r-u-thru July 25th, 2010 4:47 am Troll Billy, I can entertain your last stupid question. Your inability to exercise even the smallest degree of deductive reasoning is why you could never be a teacher. You haven't the ability to see that you have a shitty job with no protection because you're what we call a "scab" (see Jack London's poem for definition). Scabs can have Ph.Ds. Scabs can even have children (unfortunately). But scabs are covers for humanity. Things like you exist merely because human folly exists. If you cannot deduce that any job worth having must be protected, than you will forever be whining about more money and more protections. If you cannot deduce what teachers deduced long ago then you cannot be a teacher. To have somebody like you outside the teaching world is evidence that education has made some progress. You see, it is not enough to call yourself smart, liberal and play on computers for money. Truly smart people understand that creating protections within your work place is the key to keeping a good job. Protections like state legislation, unions, and licensing are necessary to rally against bad economic trends, corrupt politicians, and scabs (like yourself) who unfortunately believe that everything can be run better on a competitive basis. I feel sorry for your daughter. You must be constantly comparing her to other daughters. I'm glad you could lose your job at any time because scabs shouldn't have jobs or families or lives. There are some things worse than death. Being a scab is one of them.

It's okay, though. It's probably not your fault that you're stupid. I imagine you come from a long line of stupidity. Your father was probably a scab, too. Scabs beget more scabs.

The good news is that your time has arrived! Because of idiots like you everyone is losing their jobs and suffering lower standards of living in this country. Everyone questions those with good jobs and deduces incorrectly that it's because it has something to do with fairness. According to your dim logic bankers have good jobs because they treat people fairly and teachers are being fired because it isn't fair that they have jobs that earn more money than you.

Turn off the f*cking TV! Get a history book and read it and if you don't understand it, ask someone who does! A teacher would be a good start.

KB-Atwater July 24th, 2010 12:09 pm This turns my stomach. I can only imagine that good teachers have been let go along with "bad." This is a terrible educational moment. What will students learn from this? All their lives they may remember that their jobs could be at risk because one day someone will say "you're all fired." What does this imply? -- obedience to a system for better or worse.

Also no second chances, no assistance for students or teachers to improve. Where are these programs? Another NCLB legacy.

As for distressed families, where does that situation come from? Aren't the DC public schools predominantly African-American? When does government extend a helping hand to minorities? Instead there many policies and practices that make life more difficult for African-Americans and now Latinos in particular? How many of the teachers are African-American? What will be the ethnicity of their replacements?

Federally mandated school policies are more at fault than teachers. I wonder if a study has been done to see if teacher performance has gone down since standardized testing was put in place. Many teachers feel over-burdened not only by paperwork but the new requirement to teach to the test--so they can keep their job. These are not the reasons that good teachers were drawn to teaching....

Caleb Abell July 24th, 2010 12:46 pm I believe you are missing the point. This has nothing to do with teachers or students.

It's just part of the overall plan to rip the public school systems to shreds nationwide. That will soften up the public so they will, out of frustration and disgust, go along with the privatization of schools and turn over the trillion dollar a year public education industry to private hands (no doubt at fire sale prices).

Once the public schools are gone, the education corporations will do what every other corporation does: maximize profits by giving less value and charging more.

jclientelle July 24th, 2010 2:09 pm Yep Caleb. One tipoff is that they let go the janitors and librarians too. Are they responsible for low scores? The idea is to let no profession escape demoralization, to let no worker maintain any level of dignity and security. As you say, once paralyzing fear has been inculcated into every teacher and staff member, once their rights have been eroded down to nothing, consortia of privatization will come in for the kill.



minitrue July 24th, 2010 12:53 pm Education in this nation used to be to teach the young student to think, evaluate, make his/her own decisions.

Fascist governments hate education. They want by-rote memorization of standard tests and lots of propaganda. They don't want students thinking critically. I've seen some of this "one size fits all" testing. Often they have no relevance to the poor students. A question about playing tennis at your country club would be meaningless to a ghetto raised black or Hispanic child.

No, the reason for the no child's behind left program is to get rid of critical thinking, to create robots who will disgorge whatever they have been taught, and provide cheap labor for the Oligarchy and cannon fodder for its wars. ------------------------------------------------------------- “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

“The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly - it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over,”

“Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.”

Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda for Nazi Germany 1897-1945

4thefuture July 24th, 2010 1:26 pm minitrue said "Education in this nation used to be to teach the young student to think, evaluate, make his/her own decisions."

Really mini, when was that?

I suggest you read "The Goose Step, A study of American Education" by Upton Sinclair published in 1923.

voxclamantis July 24th, 2010 2:16 pm minitrue has a good point. Although our schools have never been as good as those in Europe, we did in past years produce some pretty well educated people. When I went to high school and college a liberal education valuing cognitive skills, literature, history, philosophy and art along with science and engineering was considered a desirable thing. Whenever this country sees itself "falling behind" in education what we are really worried about is that all the high tech jobs are going out of the country. We harp on that one parameter - practical math, engineering technology, the ability to write software. Not to put them down, these are things we train people to do. So we stop educating people and start training them. Training and testing as a substitute for learning to think and evaluate. I know a lot of brilliant tech-heads who have never heard of Plotinus and have never thought of the world as anything but a mechanical device. They are the flipside of idiot savants. They are highly trained idiots.

Revenge Girl July 24th, 2010 2:35 pm Highly trained idiots indeed; from all that testing, and job and career training!

I have met a new college graduate with a degree in social work who never heard of Charles Dickens. I recently met a pre-med college graduate who didn't know what water-boarding is - I had to explain to them. I am sure school is even worse now than it was when I was there – very scary!

dbrady94134 July 24th, 2010 2:33 pm It happens in my class. It is not that hard to "put it in" when reading a story, or problem solving on the playground and where ever else. It is not, specifically, in the curriculum, at least not that part of it that is emphasized as "being important for test results".

Michael F July 24th, 2010 1:03 pm So how should we rate a chancellor under whom (after three years) one-fifth of the teaching staff is at best "minimally effective", and fit to be fired? I'm being facetious, of course. Under the rules in play, top administrators are evaluated by their degree of adherence to the Duncan/Obama Standard.

TruthKnoller July 24th, 2010 1:24 pm Bring America Back !!!!

**I would rather be getting this from the WAPO than NYT, but Chancellor Rhee looks pretty smart to me.

**DC is a unique situation being a Federal Enclave, and who are we, who do not live there or have students in schools there, to judge this action on their education.

**Gov Charlie Crist of Florida, just vetoed a bill which would have given school boards the same firing power over teachers whose students did not succeed. Fla teachers are eminently grateful to Crist who wants to be a US Senator.

**5% of the teaching force fired seems to suggest 95% of the remainder were OK, except that another 800 teachers got warnings of 1-year limit to improve marginal performance. So it seems Chancellor Rhee had to do something.

Login or register to post comments report this comment Caleb Abell July 24th, 2010 6:12 pm "5% of the teaching force fired seems to suggest 95% of the remainder were OK"

5% this year, the cycle starts over each year.

freespeaker July 24th, 2010 1:55 pm Student test results say more about the socio-economic background of students than anything else. As a public school teacher with 22 years experience in Canadian schools, I've seen poor teachers use their seniority to get positions in great schools with high achieving students. These teachers look good because their students are from supportive and enriching families. I have taught as well with excellent, less experienced teachers who are forced to teach in areas of low-income, neglected children. These teachers knock themselves out trying to help these kids, but provincial achievement testing usually puts them at the bottom of the list. Thus, I see fewer people staying in teaching. In fact, in our province the ratio of women to men in teaching has changed from 6:4 to 8:2. This might be because men will leave an abusive relationship quicker than women.

jclientelle July 24th, 2010 2:12 pm Agreed, freespeaker. But if there were stable and adequate funding and program, children from poor households could achieve much more. Psychologically, the promise of a decent and interesting job would help too.


Samalabear July 24th, 2010 3:01 pm This goes without saying.

jclientelle July 26th, 2010 9:00 pm I wish it did.


gershon July 24th, 2010 2:50 pm curious, where are all the graduate schools of education coming down on all this! Where is their voice, after-all they do have a dog in this fight. Where are the graduate school professors, where are the allies of public school teachers There silence is a sign of indifference & a lack of engagement on the subject. These are where our teachers are being trained. Where is Columbia Harvard Yale & every other grad school of Education in the country. This is serious business.

On Jan 30, 1933 Hitler is appointed Chancellor. Feb 2,1933 all political demonstrations are banned. April of 1933 The National Political Institutes are established as training schools for the Nazi cadets. BY 1938, 8.7 million boys & girls were members of the Hitler youth.

Teachers & professors who opposed the Nazis' intellectual agenda were dismissed & curricula materials that reinforced the Nazi ideology were implemented throughout the country. Because Germany's youth were instrumental in Hitler's plan to dominate the world, their upbringing & education greatly concerned Nazi authorities.

Ninety percent of Germany's teachers took the oath & joined the Nazi Teachers league, & the rest is history.

"Those who have the youth on their side control the future." Hans Schemm Leader of the Nazi Teachers League 1933

pablo30 July 24th, 2010 11:39 pm You may want to follow a Professor Dr. Alan Singer that usually writes a weekly post for the Huffingtonpost. He is thorough and insightful.

bluepilgrim July 24th, 2010 3:07 pm Google on 'chemical pollution learning disability' and relate children's exposure to pollution with poverty.

There is also parents time spent in home (or working), TV exposure, richness of home environment (books, for example), nutrition, health care, neighborhood safety, and various other factors which significantly affect learning. The teacher may well not be even the dominant factor.

NMLib July 24th, 2010 3:19 pm During my one-year in public schools, I was stunned to learn that in the high stakes testing for a HS Senior, 'proficient' in reading meant 7th grade level. And still, a large number of students scored below this. Other things I experienced in my first year: I was supposed to be mentored my first year, but NO one worked with me (even though someone received a stipend for this duty). I wanted to report this to the Dept. of Education but friends advised me not to, lest I kill my chances of getting another teaching job.

I had creative ideas for incorporating critical thinking into the curriculum and once I'd become more confident, developed some interesting projects at the end of the year where I did just that. (I ignored the classroom workbook left by the previous teacher to teach critical thinking skills, with reading passages and multiple choice questions.) As my students participated in these projects, I watched as some of the "lowest-performing" ones demonstrated superior thinking and reasoning skills than their peers, learning and having fun while doing it. I really enjoyed complimenting these students on the skills and abilities they demonstrated and watching their faces light up, as if no one had ever told them they were smart. Meanwhile, whenever I talked to a colleague about my ideas, hoping for encouragement or maybe even suggestions, I was told, "That sounds interesting, but it's not on the test." Of course, this colleague's students were prepared for testing and were performing at "proficient" level, so she stays on board--and I was let go.

If we could collaborate on projects that encouraged critical thinking and stopped putting so much emphasis on testing, I might want to make a career of this. But, as it is, I'm not being given a chance, as I'm one of the 100,000 nationwide who've been laid off. I was so turned off by the administrative BS, lack of support from parents and potential mentors, anyway, that I'm probably not going back-- not that there are many jobs available in this field. And you don't want to know how much debt I accumulated while earning the 'qualifications' late in life, including hefty fees for licensure tests that didn't exist several years ago when some of my friends became teachers. (And you'd be surprised at how many education majors have to take the tests multiple times; just think how much money the states are getting from all of these fees and licensure costs.)

Ghandighost July 24th, 2010 3:47 pm What's hurting kid's performance in schools is a culture of threats and punitive measures.

What's hurting teachers performance in schools is a culture of threats and punitive measures.

Old Guy July 24th, 2010 5:16 pm Isn't this war on our nation's teachers, and especially the evidence used to convict them, starting to sound a little like another of our nation's many witch hunts?

Rhee throws all common sense out the window, ignoring the many factors beyond a teacher's control that influence student learning. Today's "test scores," as they are used to condemn and destroy an entire profession, serve the same purpose as the "spectral evidence" used at Salem. They hardly prove anything, but they are useful tools for iron-fisted authoritarians to gain complete control over a community or a profession.

I don't have time to draw all the parallels, but I would be interested in knowing if others sense a kind of witch hunt mentality building behind these attacks on our nation's teachers.

It certainly seems to be a combination of traditional American anti-intellectualism and the scapegoating mindset behind most of our nation's historical purges.

r-u-thru July 24th, 2010 6:18 pm Old Guy,

It has more to do with building a new market. The charter school industry is quickly becoming the "education reform" model. These schools are safe bets for investors because they are backed by tax money. They get a lot of attention in the media because moguls like Gates, Broad, and other billionaires promote them as alternatives to public schools. Billionaires fund them because they get to appear as though they're funding a noble cause while at the same time undermining unions and the last bastion of what they call entitlements programs (public schools). Unions and public schools do not fit into the charter school model because they do not operate on a competitive market model. Charter schools are run like mini corporations and have a top down decision making process. Public schools and unions are democracies and invite locally shared decision making. I could go on, but you're probably not listening.

pablo30 July 24th, 2010 11:36 pm You can also add that corporations use these schools as a tax haven and can essentially double their investment in eight years a NY Times Article several weeks ago explained this issue in more detail.

DCH July 24th, 2010 6:20 pm Who in the heck would want to be a teacher, anyway? I can't think of much job satisfaction with teaching. The pay is not anywhere near satisfactory for the responsibility. And you get no respect.

Then you become the scape goat for every politician and administrator looking to make news.

Who needs the teaching jobs?

r-u-thru July 24th, 2010 6:35 pm This is a good point. Teachers have been trying to make the teaching profession worth having for many years. Now that they have protected their salaries, rights, and working conditions to some extent, it's time to crush it. It's a bad model for capitalism.

ardent1 July 25th, 2010 11:07 am Report finds rise in D.C. poverty to nearly 1 in 5 residents

By Tim Craig Washington Post Staff Writer Thursday, March 25, 2010

Nearly one out of five District residents lives at or below the poverty line, a statistic that helps expose a widening gap between the rich and the poor in the nation's capital, according to a study released Tuesday by social justice organizations gearing up for the 2010 elections.

The study, undertaken by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute on behalf of a coalition of more than 40 local organizations, concludes that last year the District experienced its biggest single-year increase in poverty since 1995.

Based on unemployment rates and other data, the coalition estimates that the city has 106,500 residents -- up 11,000 in a year -- living at or below the poverty rate, which in 2009 was $21,800 for a family of four.

"With D.C.'s unemployment rate of 12 percent, it's very likely poverty is also on the rise in 2010 and a decline could be a long way away," said Jenny Reed, a policy analyst at the institute.

The coalition notes that the District's official rate won't be known until more census income data are released later in the year. But the report is designed to sway the political debate in the District this year, when voters will elect a mayor, a D.C. Council chairman and six council members.

The institute, DC Appleseed, the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia and more than three dozen other organizations have teamed to form Defeat Poverty DC. The group hopes to force candidates and elected officials to make combating poverty a central focus of their campaigns.

"D.C. has struggled with this persistent poverty for years and years," said Michael Edwards, the campaign director for Defeat Poverty DC. "We are going to be looking for elected officials to identify how they would address these issues and bring us back down."

Despite the District's pockets of wealth, the report said, nearly one in three D.C. children lives in poverty, about double the national average.

The overall poverty rate in the District rose to 18.9 percent in 2009, up from 16.9 percent the previous year, according to the report. In contrast, the Census Bureau has reported a steady increase in median household income in the District, estimated at $58,000 in 2008. But there are big disparities between white and black families. Although white households had a median income of about $101,000 in 2008, the median income of black households was about $39,000.

"We have some of the worst numbers in the nation, by any measure, when it comes to poverty," said Walter Smith, executive director of DC Appleseed.

...continues at

Stone July 24th, 2010 6:49 pm If teachers allow themselves to be abused, the abuse will get worse. The NEA and AFT are mostly worthless. They are peopled by weak and ineffective leaders. Teachers too are divided and their actions are insufficient. If teachers are not willing to stand up why should we be concerned? They have positioned themselves as sitting ducks. I see no hope for teachers at this time. They are getting hacked to pieces and just waiting for their turn. Unfortunately the children will be molded into little obedient serfs.

r-u-thru July 24th, 2010 7:25 pm Stone,

Teachers are fighting back. When has fighting back ever made the news in the last 10 years? People are divided and their actions are insufficient. Once upon a time a democrat was the advocate of educators and public entities. You and I both know what a democrat is today? Let's not bore ourselves agreeing with each other on that issue. The teacher's union in DC has taken issue with the evaluation system used to fire teachers there saying that it was designed more for punishing teachers than helping them improve. This is always the case. The fight is ongoing. The media loves to headline aggravated assault, and skirt the cause and effects.

Stone July 24th, 2010 7:52 pm I'm thinking on a larger scale. Piecemeal efforts will prove to be ineffective. The privatization of schools is a national issue and deserves a national response. Educational leadership is too timid to take the fight to a national level; yet, that is the only place that will prove to be effective in mitigating privatization. The media will not ignore a national one day strike as an attention getter. It will put education on the media map. That is where the fight must take place if public schools are to survive. Risks must be taken.

pablo30 July 24th, 2010 11:20 pm Stone I must agree I am a chapter leader for the UFT in New York and it has become almost impossible to get my members to attend a rally. In fact when I hold meetings to share information out of thirty eight teachers I usually get ten and that is because they are afraid I will quit the position. I have been a teacher for 10 years and for the first time in years I had a real conversation on a lesson and education with a colleague that did not include a conversation about promotion or how to make more money. The teaching profession is being attacked from the inside not from the outside. The good teachers are punished and the terrible teachers get on the fast track to become administrators essentially doubling their salaries in a matter of one or two years. It is disgusting and I hope that the real teachers hold on tight because this is going to be a bumpy ride one that I fear will have a larger ripple effect then that of the real estate bubble.

rtdrury July 24th, 2010 8:37 pm The USan rightwing is digging that line in the sand ever deeper, between non-thinking/non-creating militant indoctrination, and the natural learning process.

No surprise there. Today, the USan rightwing is under siege. Not only has it completely lost all credibility with enlightened world society, but it faces a specter of stiff competition from several emerging giants - China, India and Brazil.

The USan rightwing (i.e. the elite establishment) is between a rock and a hard place today. This is why the acceleration into the fascist slimepits.

Most people learn their most important lessons not in schools anyway, but through natural processes. The rightwing needs to detach the people from nature in order to enslave them to the agenda, to get them to march in-line.

coolhead July 24th, 2010 8:46 pm I wonder how many people she would've fired, if they were, say, Korean. These are Black kids. Why can't we find a Black person to oversee their school system? You would never see this foreigner run the school system in Texas or Tennessee.

Obedient Servant July 24th, 2010 9:27 pm I'm not a vet, but many co-workers in my state agency were; correct me if I'm wrong in thinking that the term "90-day wonder" comes from the military.

That term was applied pejoratively and with extreme disdain towards certain managers and supervisors, typically those who were promoted unusually quickly or as a result of mysterious discretionary actions somehow permitted by supposedly impersonal and impenetrably byzantine Civil Service procedures.

Before I drifted away from "The Daily Howler", former teacher and political media analyst Bob Somerby wrote several skeptical columns about the Coming of Michelle Rhee. Somerby didn't directly trash Rhee's abilities or ascension, but did critique the gushing local media's touting of Rhee as an educational superstar.

He suggested that there was less to her then met the eye, at least the media eye. Geez, this pattern seems SO familiar...

This article confirms the Howler's suggestion that Rhee is a 90-day wonder.

pablo30 July 24th, 2010 11:05 pm I am truly disgusted by this move and the audacity of the Obama-Duncan machine. If this trend continues, as I fear it will, the educational system will suffer for generations to come. Obama and Duncan need to understand that unlike a disaster that can easily be cleaned up in months or a year with hard work the same does not apply to education. after this disaster it will take generations to repair the system of education and the US will be plunged into a third world status. However, unlike India, which I have visited, the US will not and cannot live under third world conditions our culture is far too violent and no one will be safe that includes the elite. I am not speaking from theory or statistics I am speaking from the front lines as a teacher in the South Bronx. Poverty is not synonymous with stupidity and these poverty stricken youth are becoming hopeless and more desperate. Hopefully Obama will try to create more jobs and stop the charades before it is too late.

chameleon July 24th, 2010 11:08 pm So there's two articles today on CD about teachers being fired. In both of them and in the commetns everybodu is lamenting haw unfair it was to fire those teachers based on whatever evaluation method was used.

Does anyone have some constructive proposal on how teachers should be evaluated and how to weed out the ones that are underperforming?

pablo30 July 24th, 2010 11:30 pm Yes it is simple. Administrators need to earn their huge paychecks by supervising rather then searching for a better position and the intake process needs to have a psychological exam similar to the type that Police officers must take but much more intense. This is not about children as it is suppose to be this is simply about jobs. When I became a teacher 10 years ago my friends that worked for top financial companies invited me to dinner and mocked my profession of choice, fast forward and those same friends are asking me for a job. I agree that there are some teachers that have no right being in a class room but firing the experienced teachers to hire cheaper new teachers is destructive to society at large. Teachers in these classrooms are not only performing the duties of teaching we are also performing the duties of psychologist, social workers, guidance counselors, fathers, brothers, etc. Careful what we wish for because we might just get it.

Stone July 25th, 2010 2:28 am It isn't just teachers, most Americans too are short sighted. People unfortunately do not know what good teaching is, and therefore do not appreciate it. People are easily manipulated by propaganda and are led in the direction of simple fixes. People are evidencing a severe inability to think independently, just the kind of outcome that the Obama/Duncan educational construct will produce. Little marching morons of little character will emerge.

One should appreciate the dedication of teachers being forced to endure this kind of educational culture where they are forcibly and purposefully abused, yet day after day continue to be effective classroom managers and educators. However, one cannot be asked to share their burden when as a group teachers fail to stand up and respond intelligently and forcefully to the challenge of privatisation.

Judah July 25th, 2010 10:03 am Yes, there is an organization dedication to better teaching which has been investigating the 'best practices' in terms of classroom effectiveness. Their scale accurately measures the success of teachers. It's a non-profit too. I've read like 10 articles on it across the years... check out Teach For America yourself. They do good work.

minitrue July 25th, 2010 12:17 am I wrote this article in 2006.

Our Schools, No Child Left un-Brainwashed?

It references this article, "If it was Good Enough for Hitler," which was published in 2006 and referred back to 2003

If it Was Good Enough for Hitler...

I decided to take them out of mothballs and put them in my blog. I'm told they make interesting reading.

Does anybody out there remember McCarthy?

Rick July 25th, 2010 7:44 am The public school system is nothing more then a system of imposed ignorance,anyways. They teach no critical thinking. The system disdains honest intellectual inquiry, which is by it's nature, distrustful of authority,and fiercely independent. This is situation goes right on up through the university level.

"Men die,but the plutocracy is immortal: and it is necessary that fresh generations, should be trained to it's service".-Sinclair Lewis

Turning out little cogs to fit into the machine is it's purpose. In that it as been quite successful.

oye el pensador July 25th, 2010 7:57 am Folks,

Rhee taught a total of three years (according to wikipedia). As with any profession/trade the minimum time that it takes to become a master is five years. And to take it even further I say that to become a master teacher you need to have a minimum of ten years experience. It just takes that kind of time to encounter the many different situations that one handles in the classroom. Even after fifteen years I still have "new" or "novel" situations occur every year. At least I have the knowledge of what occurred in the past to guide my current decisions/actions.

Rhee does not (and cannot) have that skill set/knowledge. Why the hell would I listen to her?? I have found that it's the same for almost all administrators these days to be very young (in their early to mid 30's starting out) with very few having much more than five or so years in the classroom, many with less. So they are lacking the knowledge of what it takes to be a "leader" (a term that I dearly hate) of teachers. They only know to do what their supervisor tells them without putting much thought/careful consideration into implementing said policies. The most qualified teachers, those who have been in the classroom for over 10 years, hardly ever will be chosen to be an administrator (they aren't "pliable" enough I guess).

So we have a situation in public education where the least qualified become administrators, e.g., Rhee. Whatever happened to the principal being the source of instructional knowledge rather than being a "leader"?


oye el pensador July 25th, 2010 8:10 am Folks,

This is a repeat of a prior discussion on CD (I think).

Being a public high school teacher (Spanish) for the last 15 years I can say that anytime a business model is used to "control" education it will fail (in more ways than one) the students. Business discourse deals in efficient/inefficient dichotomies which rely on quantifying the inputs/outputs in order to make a profit. See R. Callahan's "Education and the Cult of Efficiency". It details how businessmen have been trying to capture the educational "process" since the late 1800's. Although it only goes up to the early sixties (it was written in the early sixties) it is quite eye-opening. Unfortunately, it (business interference with public education) has gotten worse in the ensuing years, culminating with NCLB and now RTTT.

Learning and acquiring knowledge is a quality--it has to do with qualities of each individual's mind and learning capabilities. It is a logical impossibility to quantify a quality. Therefore any attempts to quantify what a student knows is a fallacy and should be rejected. I am not against helping a student assess what they know and provide input into what educational strategies they might use to help improve their learning of the subject matter-and standardized testing cannot do this. Every educator, parent, board member etc. . . should read N Wilson's "Education Standards and the Problem of Error" ( to get an indepth idea of the problems with what we attempt to do with NCLB/RTTT.

At the beginning of the school year when we are doing all the mandatory beginning of the year cya activities (reading the student manual, having students sign that they have received a copy of how the grades are to be determined for the class, etc. . . instead of actually teaching), I do a little exercise wherein I put the grade scale of A, B, C, D, E, or F on the board and have the students take out a piece of paper and write what type of student they think they are. Due to the fact that in our district those who take a foreign (oops, sorry, "second" or "world") language have to have at least a "C" in their English (oops, sorry, "language arts") class to enroll in my class, I have a tendency to have the upper third (in grades, not necessarily any other parameter of excellence) of the school, almost all of the students answer A or B.

But you may ask, "Why is there an E in that scale--because that is the "none of these" answer. And out of the 90 or so new students each year maybe one or two will pick E. By the time the students get to high school (usually way before then--one study I've seen stated that after 3rd grade the students have already decided where they are on the grade scale) they already have subjectified themselves and believe in this grade fallacy. I do my best to try to break them out of this mode of thinking--that the object of the class is to learn Spanish not to get a grade. "If you build it they will come." If you learn Spanish the grade will come.

If you want a gourmet meal to you go to McDonald's? Probably not! McD's is the epitome of standardization. For a very good reason. By standardizing the production of the meal the customer knows that when he/she buys food (although some claim it's not really food-I like the occasional Big Mac myself) at McD's he/she will get the same thing no matter where in the world he/she is. And that's ok for what it is. But to get a gourmet meal one must go to a restaurant where the food is almost never standardized and by definition is being made creatively. And one pays a lot higher price for it also.

So why do we think that we can provide a "gourmet" education on shoe string budgets with mandates to standardization as NCLB and now RTTT? Once again a logical impossibility. Why would we want to use business people to run the schools, i.e., Arne Duncan (other than perhaps the accounting functions)? Why do we continue this nonsense?


speakout2 July 25th, 2010 1:24 pm Excellent argument. Thank you.

PaulK July 25th, 2010 8:37 am Some of the teachers that need to be fired are bullies, teachers who smack kids' heads against the lockers and cause concussions, also fire the alcoholics. These teachers can't be screened out by standardized test scores but they kind of ruin a few kids.

When test scores are king, the administration can go after the union organizers by simply assigning them to the wrong schools.

bornfreemen July 25th, 2010 8:40 am Well let the ax start falling across the board for poor performance and services no longer deemed necessary.

Lets start with the 72 Fusion Centers Community watch spy network , and the 800000 High Level Security contracted Spy Analysts that could not stop the underwear bomber.

2000 private contractors, Operation TIPS, where the last part is an acronym for the Terrorism Information and Prevention System, was a program designed by President George W. Bush to have United States citizens report suspicious activity.

I bet we could shut down 71 fusion centers, fire 700000 analysts, and eliminate the TIPS program, that would about save 250 billion a year and restore the Constitution to the land of the free.

Keeping teachers on payroll that don't teach the constitution and the ills of the Patriot Act should be fired with the analysts and the American Bar Association.

Gail July 25th, 2010 10:28 am bornfreemen July 25th, 2010 8:40 am

Let us not forget the too-big-to-fail banksters that took down our economy with their casino gambling addictions. And why not add Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke to that list. It is his job to stabilize the economy and create jobs for the benefit of EVERYONE in society. With a real unemployment rate at about 18%, he certainly isn't doing his job well.

Stiv July 25th, 2010 10:34 am This is NOT about improving public education, it is about privatizing it, dismantling it. Notice how the article did not mention who would be replacing those fired, at what pay, with what experience. Rhee wouldn't last one day teaching in classrooms where I've worked. She is a pathetic person, a flunky for the powerful.

As someone who has taught at both the inner-city K-12 level, and at the college level, I have witnessed the destruction of education for ordinary people--a top priority for the ruling elite in this country. The trajectory is clear and relentless.

mujeriego July 25th, 2010 11:14 am Here is today's lesson kiddies....if you want to get rid of your teacher, just do poorly on the standardized tests.

glenn ford July 25th, 2010 11:23 am Commodify- Water, Students


razormirror July 25th, 2010 11:26 am I haven't been to School in 35 yrs. I went to Catholic school for all of my grade school years, and I was taught very well. Other than the Religious part I learned all about history, science, math ,reading ,spelling (I'm not as good at that as I was)etc. When my Son went 20 yrs. later, to public School, They didn't teach those kids anything. Most of the kids that went to school with my son had no idea which ocean was where, how many planets there are, who fought in ww2, nothing, I tought my son those things. I do not know enough about todays situation, but I do know that Teachers aren't paid nearly enough for what we ask them to do, and that is to teach our children. When I went to school the kids parents weren't on Crack either, Society is wounded as a whole, and it reflects on everything we do. Also we had our Mothers at home, now days kids are on their own, while parents struggle to keep the bills paid. America is not the same place, and our kids are ill equipped these days in every aspect of their developement. Very sad....

Crowsnest July 25th, 2010 1:00 pm My wife is a retired high school teacher in the Houston Independent School District. Her school was not in a district of poor families. Lower middle class it was. All English speaking. Let me cite just one occasion of many in which test results were abysmal even after she had gone with the class through the material. The material I cite was the geography, social structure, and economies of the South American countries. The test she gave first asked to identify the countries on a map. Of the 32 students in the class not one got it correct and the average mistake was more than 5 countries misidentified. Then she asked what the prevailing language in this countries is. Every student answered Spanish for Brazil! There can be only one reason for this failure namely that the students did not care a you know what. Of course immediately after leaving school these students turned their cellphones on to engage in silly prattle.

ppeters July 25th, 2010 12:38 pm It will not be much consolation for 241 fired teachers but remember the fate of two of the best teachers of all time (Socrates, Jesus of Nazareth), great not simply by reason of their message but by reason of their methodology. Hemlock and cross. Do your job well and expect to be driven out or shut up.

Nobody July 25th, 2010 1:38 pm The teacher evaluation system is supposedly a part of an overall system to improve schools, and the evaluation system itself can be evaluated.

The evaluation system will prove to be working (albeit on the basis of test results which itself is questionable) if a year from now, fewer teachers are fired.

So lets keep an eye on the news a year from now. If significantly fewer teachers are fired next year, then maybe Rhee is on to something.

However, if this is a witch hunt, the flames will spread and we should expect more teachers to be fired. Time will tell, though I have my suspicions.

Empire_USA July 25th, 2010 2:04 pm Since the public school system began in the 1800's the rich ruling class have set the standards for a high school diploma to where the lower half of society has not the ability to graduate from 12th grade.

And so, what the rich ruling class is doing now, is cutting the cost and the amount of education being forced into the minds of us laboring class people who live in the slums.

Surely schools for my slum neighborhood laboring class, from 7th grade on up, should be vocational schools only. If a child has the brains to get a high school diploma, transport him to a school in a educated middleclass neighborhood, otherwise give him vocational school with the right to get full time employed after age 16.

rfloh July 25th, 2010 6:32 pm "Since the public school system began in the 1800's the rich ruling class have set the standards for a high school diploma to where the lower half of society has not the ability to graduate from 12th grade."

This is complete butter bollocks, no matter how many times you repeat it. About 85% of Americans above 25 have HS diplomas.

"Surely schools for my slum neighborhood laboring class, from 7th grade on up, should be vocational schools only. If a child has the brains to get a high school diploma, transport him to a school in a educated middleclass neighborhood, otherwise give him vocational school with the right to get full time employed after age 16."

So, only the middleclass and upper class should have intellectual educations? Working class kids are too stupid, and should only be allowed to do manual labour?

How nice.

echoes July 25th, 2010 2:00 pm Someone is afraid of the Teachers Unions. Where there is no voice there is no decent. The curriculum is so standardized I don't see how teachers are so much different in their approach when they cannot be creative, how can there be bad and good teachers when they are all teaching the same way. They are given all the same books and outline to follow. They cannot bring in a better teaching book unless it is approved by the board of education. There are so many reasons why children fail. Class size, not having a quite place to study, nutrition, and home. Each child needs more personal attention. I am certain dismissing the Librarian is a bad idea, just as I have seen it happen in my community. What are we thinking, when the military budget and CIA is astronomical and out of control, they are so secret we don't even know how much they spend. I read Washington Post Top Secret America. An interesting book by Mike Rose: Lives on the Boundary : A Moving Account of the Struggles and Achievements of America's Educationally Underprepared I never would have thought that the Obama administration would stoop so low as to attack our public education he and his Corporate America must really fear the Union.

speakout2 July 25th, 2010 2:20 pm The Obama administration doesn't fear the Teachers Union, they just want to break it up once and for all. We have had decades of attacks on union members to the point where less than 12% of the employed population even belongs to a union. How often has the propaganda machine blamed the unions for just about every issue imaginable? Once we have a country fully immersed in the concept of "every man for himself", control by a few is very simple at that point.

Crowsnest July 25th, 2010 4:38 pm Thanks again for your comment. The overwhelming majority of people do not understand that intelligence is like a house with many rooms each of which contains a specialized variant of intelligence for coping with life as it presents itself. Every American living today would be considered unintelligent if not stupid by the last hunter-gatherer tribes extant on Earth if he or she would try to live with these tribes. Yes, street smarts is a form of intelligence and so is hunting-gathering. That is why I think that the so-called I.Q. is a misleading fraud. One more comment. Memorizing has often been debunked as useless if not dangerous. Nonsense. If one cannot memorize words and the rules of a language then one cannot speak, write, or read in that language. To master any subject a minimal amount of memorizing is needed. The real issue is how and what children are taught to memorize. I was lucky that my elementary and high schools had very sophisticated systems for memorizing. Just one example. For memorizing tables of multiplication in elementary school I had to know by heart the results only up to ten time ten is one hundred. Why? Because beginning with ten times eleven nothing fundamentally new occurs!

NMLib July 25th, 2010 6:56 pm Crowsnest, great point about memorization. I'm finding from friends who are teachers that students are no longer encouraged to memorize and I found that few of the HS students I worked with in my brief experience teaching (before being laid off) were capable of remembering anything. They might remember something for a test (if any bothered to study), but they couldn't remember concepts or terms covered earlier in the school year or even just a few days ago. I don't recall this being a problem when I was in school. Many of the kids didn't know multiplication without calculators; few studying foreign language remember words they learn. Mneumonic devices no longer exist; I actually shared some-- that I still remembered from elementary school-- with my students, who seemed in awe that I could retain such information after so many years.

speakout2 July 25th, 2010 7:39 pm Shouldn't memorization be a "skill set" that is learned by children at a very early age along with critical thinking skills as they get older? If only it were as simple as children learning basic information and then as adults having an "epiphany" to critically look at an issue. How many people have heard college students and adults in business situations commenting on how they can always "look up information on the internet"? It appears we are developing generations of people who don't realize that you aren't going to find solutions to complex issues without critical thinking skills and literally "thinking outside the box".

Crowsnest July 26th, 2010 5:18 pm Here is one that you may like. When my grandchildren were in grades four and five they knew the title of every song of Serena and the texts of most of her songs. Yet their parents complained that they had to memorize too much in school! When I was in elementary school this is how we learned geographical names. A plaque of every province of the country had been sewn out of thin plywood and glued to a thicker plank. Major towns, rivers, lakes, seas, and islands had been marked with different paints on the map of the province. Tiny holes had been drilled into every one of these markings. Then there was a set of flags on pins with the names of the towns, river, lakes, etc which you could insert into the holes. When all was done you were allowed to check with an atlas. If you had made mistakes (for which you did not even have to consult with teacher) you were supposed to try again, say, one week later or so. How did I learn how to do this? From students one grade above me in the same class! Teacher did not have to explain this to me.

jclientelle July 26th, 2010 9:04 am Agreed, crowsnest. An IQ test is an instrument full of unexamined cultural biases, devised by psychologists to determine the level of certain subset of thinking skills at a moment in time. It favors avid readers and those whose daily experience is based on European culture. In the beginning, its purpose was to assist educators in diagnosing certain learning disabilities and in addressing variations in learning styles among students. It has since become a giant industry and the IQ score has become a frozen shorthand for classifying people. It in no way measures the full spectrum of intelligence or potential.


cadawa July 25th, 2010 6:18 pm That's what happens when you put a teenager in charge. She doesn't look old enough to be out of school herself. There are dozens of ways she could met her goals, all of them more effective, more humane and cheaper. There's mentoring, peer assistance, educational opportunities, decent salaries and working conditions, attrition etc. etc. Now even more children are left behind.

Dafoe July 25th, 2010 9:23 pm Dafoe Have always felt that the highest paid and most competent teachers should be those teaching children just entering the school system, kindergarten grades 1 and 2. Teachers Unions are not in favor of such. All things considered they will try to instill a love of learning in their charges. Of course the child's home life may negate such a love, if you call a child "stupid" often enough they will believe you and act accordingly. Standardized tests are okay if they are simply testing a students knowledge. She needs to go farther with her reforms, be creative, spend some money on the fabric. Everybody seems to echo that the future depends upon our children and when asked for more money suddenly they are converted to miserliness and bleat about the wasted money in the education system,"why in my day we had to make 1/2 go twice as far" the usual rubbish of those who worship mammon.

dryfruit July 25th, 2010 9:44 pm This is fine example of the American tableaux. An oriental hired by the white ruling class to fire black under achievers.

hue_sir_name July 26th, 2010 1:49 am Oilbomber needs a new motto for his presidency.

No right wing agenda left behind.

But this is all to set the stage for real change, his die hard apologists will proclaim!!!

satan_in_a_catsuit July 26th, 2010 1:40 pm Who's to say who is a good teacher? I had great teachers that my student peers couldn't stand. I had teachers whom I thought were awful, but were thought great by these same peers. I managed to learn the curriculum from all of them, and more important, I learned that my perceptions were not the only perceptions that mattered. It's my opinion that almost every teacher has been superior for some, and dreadful for others. Get over it. Do what you're supposed to do as a student, no matter who is teaching the lesson.

Disclosure: I am a teacher, member of a union, and I love my work.

PAProgressive July 26th, 2010 3:15 pm Performance on standardized tests does not always reflect a students true working knowledge of the subject. The conditions that students must take the test in- a room lit with heavy overhead fluorescents, surrounded by the distraction of 30 plus students in the room, and forced to answer an extremely large number of questions in a short period of time- do not lend themselves to high quality performance.

Give children tips for how to take standardized tests (take practice tests, underline the text to help with focus during reading), allow them the chance to take it in a room alone and give them extended time to answer the questions- without putting up roadblocks such as proving you have a "documented learning disability."

Room and testing conditions are an important factor too often overlooked in performance.








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