As a DCPS parent I have had the good fortune that my daughter has been taught by some really great teachers. She's now in sophomore year of high school and I've been at this since Pre-K. I've felt the happiness and security of knowing that my daughter loved those teachers, enjoyed being in their classrooms, and was doing important and interesting work with them. Her second grade teacher went from being "so unfair!" to "the best teacher in the universe!" by the end of one school year. I will always appreciate the way she made my daughter think about things and learn how to work hard on school assignments. Teaching is complex work.
I've also had the unfortunate experience of my child being in classrooms where learning couldn't go on because of disorganization in the way the teacher managed the students and in the way lessons were delivered. She's had teachers who used videos to kill time, lost her work, didn't return assignments with grades, threatened and bullied students, or bored and frustrated my daughter to tears. If you want to know how much damage a bad teacher can do, read page 15 in the World's School Systems report produced by McKinsey in Sept. 2007.
In DCPS, the great teachers and the craft of teaching seem to get little recognition, respect or notice from the higher-ups. By the same token, there doesn't seem to be any system of intervention and support for a teacher who's really messing up.
As “teachers and parents for real education reform,” it’s important that together we advocate for a credible system that ensures good teaching in every classroom. I want to see teachers brought into DCPS with proper orientation to our school system. We are still throwing people into our schools and expecting them to swim. I want to see resources placed at the school level to enable teachers to do their best work because when they get what they need, so will my child. And when principals evaluate teachers, they have to know what to look for. If a learning standard is posted on the wall, that doesn’t make someone a good teacher in my book. If my child does well on the DC CAS that alone doesn’t make her teacher good. We also have a duty to make sure that we can get rid of incompetent teachers when evaluations merit it. But it can’t be as arbitrary as it now seems to be. I know from direct experience that it's been wrenching to have teachers that someone in power thinks "don't fit in" dismissed from my school despite their achievements and the praise of students and parents. As another parent recently said to me, "I don't see how coming down with a hammer is going to make things better." I surely agree.