Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Another way to reform--spelled out at tonight’s forum

I am just getting home after this evening’s forum. I have to say that I was truly inspired by tonight’s event and the huge turnout. It mirrors my feelings toward Obama’s victory last night—although the problems we face may seem insurmountable right now, there is a vision and a way forward.

I have never heard Randi Weingarten or John Deasy speak, but I was truly impressed. I thought it was funny when Deasy said that we would be disappointed if we were looking for a fight between him and Randi at the forum. He actually understands and has put into practice a reform model for education in which “management” and “labor” sit down together to deliver real reforms.

The possibilities mentioned were endless—community schools with wrap around services, reciprocal accountability, building human capital, master teachers…..

I was also impressed with Jen Whitman, a lead teacher in Montgomery County who explained the Peer Assistance and Review program.

For those of you who attended the forum, I am very interested in hearing your thoughts on tonight’s event.


Anonymous said...

What I liked about the forum was how it offered concrete ideas on how to improve public schools that are already being implemented. The fact that PG County’s student population is similar to that of DC and John Deasy’s approach is proving successful makes me hopeful that we can end the divisiveness that has consumed the reform debate in DC.

As a teacher I especially appreciated the idea that teaching as a profession should be respected and supported in a way that is not punitive or judgmental of teachers. It is possible to hold teachers accountable while collaborating with the union and offering teachers a voice.

So how to we get the Chancellor on board?

Margot Berkey said...

One of the best parts of the night for me as a parent was to watch the teachers in the room respond to people who talked about their work with genuine respect. I also found myself feeling validated by comments about how high teacher turnover is not good for schools or children. As a parent you just know how important it is for your children, no matter what grades they are in, to have long term relationships with teachers. So the ways that other districts work on teacher development and retention were highlights for me.

What a wonderfully diverse audience we had: parents, teachers, foundation leaders, State Board of Education members, State Education Office and DCPS staff, staff of community organizations, and WTU leaders. THIS is what community engagement in education reform looks like!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kerry, I attended last evening's event. I believe that great information was presented by the panelists. I submitted a question last night, however, Iris Toyer did not read all of the questions in their entirety. Well here goes. Certainly if we had a superintendent like Dr. Deasy I believe that our school system would be quite different and such research programs like peer assistance would be implemented. Dr. Deasy in his presentation clearly understands the multiple issues facing our urban youth and recognizes that reform cannot simply be achieved by blaming teachers and staff,firing workers without providing appropriate supports, threatening employees and creating an environment of fear and reprisal. Deasy as a seasoned educator and former superintendent of 3 school districts strongly supports providing teachers with all the tools necessary to become better educators while utilizing the expertise of his more seasoned teachers. Given that our system is presently a punitive one that regularly castigates teachers, providers and staff and seeks to terminate our more experienced teachers through buyouts like the teacher transition award (awards which encouraged teachers to retire or leave early), and/or offers a proposed teacher contract that strips teachers of tenure already earned and will ultimately lead to eventual termination for teachers on both tiers who are excessed - please address the following questions:

1. What are your recommendations with our present administration to advance your agenda of reform ? Worst case scenario, if Chancellor Rhee's office is not amenable to this reform agenda- what are your recommended next steps ?

2. Has any consideration been given to advancing this issue to the Chairman of the City Council?

3. What role do you expect the WTU ( inclusive of the WTU Exec. Board and Representative Assembly)to play in advancing this agenda?

Thanks for your attention.

Candi Peterson
WTU Board of Trustee member

AVParodi said...

I'm sorry I wasn't there last night but am so excited by what I have heard. Just imagine, an idea for reforming our schools that includes a COMMUNITY model! How common sense is that? You folks are doing great work and it is good to hear that people are responding well to it. It is also good to see true, working ideas being put forward instead of bromides and money. I heard there would be a video put up on the sight for last night's events, is that still true?

Margot Berkey said...

We are working on getting the video posted, but as an all-volunteer effort it may take us a couple of days. We want as many people as possible to have a chance to hear the inspiring discussion!

Unknown said...

Happy to see that another perspective is getting out there. There are many teachers who want to drastically improve the system, including by removing poorly performing teachers. However, this system has not had a history of supporting teachers. I agree we need to demand professionalism and results but let's set up the teachers with the supports they need to be successful. Students bring great challenges to the classroom, my employer (DCPS) needs to support and equip me for the job. Take some of that Green Tier money and install an LCD projector in every classroom, provide some training to go with it, get more mental health professionals into the schools, hire people for the SST process instead of heaping it on already-loaded teachers. I better stop there for now. My 2 cents.

DC Teacher Chic said...

My recommendation with video would be to post to youtube and then to link or embed on this blog. I don't know any other way to upload video to blogger.

Anonymous said...

Just curious, DC Teacher chic, are you sorry that you recommended to the readers of your blog that they not attend this forum on Nov. 5th? It seemed a strange thing to do at the time.

luv2teachdc said...

What most impressed me was hearing Mr. Deasy say that he tried one approach to staff dev. and it didn't work! How refreshing to hear an administrator acknowledge a need to change course. Guess what, teachers learn a lot like students. They need to see models, they need to ask questions, they need to make attempts and be coached to higher levels of performance. Powerpoint presentations, teachers' guides and webinars don't teach. Teachers do!

Anonymous said...

Thank You for providing a forum for real discussion of reform in DC. I've worked in DC an P.G. County and have had rewarding experiences in both. But, I have a deep concern for the illusion of reform we presently have in the District. I know from conversations with Obama staff that some are very concerned about DCPS. Hopefully as a "Transformational President" he can bring maturity, resources and leadership to educational reform efforts here and around the country.
Jeff Canady

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that so many of you were impressed with the forum.

Many of us found that it filled a void that exists in the current reform efforts.

The speakers' ideas on real accountability, real supports, and real professional development were a refreshing contrast to the conversation thus far in DCPS.

Now we have to figure out how to get DCPS to listen. Unfortunately, I think there was only one person who attended from central office.

Kerry Sylvia said...

Here is my response to Candi's questions posted earlier:

1. What are your recommendations with our present administration to advance your agenda of reform?

It is going to be a challenge to get the present administration on board with our reform agenda since it is in stark contrast to what they are currently proposing. However, if we can get the community to see the value in our ideas, perhaps the pressure will encourage Rhee to listen.

Do you have any ideas?

2. Has any consideration been given to advancing this issue to the Chairman of the City Council?

We understand the importance of getting the support of the City Council and have been in contact with them. We were happy to see Jesse Rauch from Chairman Gray’s office n attendance at the forum.

3. What role do you expect the WTU ( inclusive of the WTU Exec. Board and Representative Assembly)to play in advancing this agenda?

Our group started out by circulating a petition to pressure the WTU to step back from the contract negotiations because we realized they did nothing to address the fundamental lack of supports for teachers. We are hopeful that George Parker’s support for the forum indicates his support for broadening the debate to address deeper issues of reform. We hope that any future proposed contract include basic supports for teachers, effective professional development and mentoring programs, and a clear definition of quality teaching and accountability.

D S said...

I want to make one thing perfectly clear to everyone. This group acts AGAINST students and FOR teachers. Your group name is misleading.

You are anti-change and anti-student in action. You have deluded yourselves to think otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Kerry,

True efforts to reform DCPS have my full support. I hope you will answer my questions as thoroughly as you answered thewashingtonteacher's.

I'd like to know:
1. What specific strategies does this group want to suggest to Rhee? I often hear people say "more support for teachers, more resources for schools..." What exactly does that look like, according to Deasy and this group on this blog? Is that an aide in 25% of classrooms, or counselors for every 250 students, or what, specifically?

2. What does this group propose doing about poor-performing teachers (supporting the current use of the 90-day plan, etc)?

In full disclosure, I am a Rhee supporter (I admit she has dropped the ball on some issues, but I never said she was God). However, she believes in action and not just talk - like what I've seen in DCPS for several years.

I am a teacher in DCPS and I supported the proposed contract (even started a petition about it) because I believe teacher quality is a fundamental issue that needs to be addressed first and foremost but I am open enough to join forces with all who have the same sincere desire I have to see DCPS do right by these kids.

So I am not scouting out the group. I was called a fraud on one blog, I guess by someone who thought I was pretending to be something I wasn't. However, I sincerely want to know what specific strategies your group supports because I want to help make change in DCPS.

DC Teacher Chic said...

Kerry, I just wanted to say that I am NOT the person posting as "neener" on dcist. I responded in more detail on the dcist post, but I also wanted to comment here in case you didn't go back to read the dcist comments.

Ame in DC said...

It's so simple, jmanni:
Model support for all teachers after other successful school districts:

1. Agree with teachers on what good teaching IS. Agree on a number of REAL ways to assess each teacher.

2. Educate ALL teachers constantly in a culture that values life-long learning. Grow teachers!

3. For under-performing teachers, if you have hired them and worked with them for a period of time to improve skills and they are unsuccessful, follow due process and fire them. They need to find a new career.

As professionals we demand...

1. An actual curriculum, not a list of standards with a few lesson plans.

2. Working copiers, overheads, printers, phones, computers, like...people with real jobs.


1. Buildings that aren't dilapidated, depressing, dirty, and dangerous. STILL.

2. ALL materials needed: globes, maps, classroom libraries, art supplies, furniture, carpeting, working computers, manipulatives, etc., etc., etc.

3. A Special Education system for our special-needs students -- not private school education for our special-needs students.

Taxpayers...wake up and ask where your money is going!!

Anonymous said...

You ask exactly the right questions. The folks in the "teachers and parents for Real Ed Reform" initiative have very specific answers that we cannot do justice to here. First, the piece we wrote for the Washington Post in September identifies the categories of reform needed, so it is a god start. Second, the reason we brought PG and Montogmery examples to the public Forum, is that their examples set the hallmarks of what a systemic approach looks like.

1. There needs to be a clear definition of good teaching and tools -- Saphier's "Studying Skillful Teaching", Danielson's "Framework for Teaching," IFL's "Principles of Learning" or something that principals and teachers can refer to and are accountable to.
2. There has to be a real investment in professional growth resources and training. It can take a number of forms. But currently in DCPS the investment is inadequate. Instead, the investment is being made to document poor performace to comply with 90 day plans and to for salary bonuses. We consider this the tail wagging the dog. Where's the dog?
3. There needs to be a new teacher evaluation process that is designed to help teachers improve and therefore has crediblity. Peer review works, but its not the only way. Otherwise, done poorly and disrespectfully, the way you get rid of dead wood can so demoralize the workforce and poison the atmosphere that no self respecting teacher would want to work in such a system. This new process has to be developed collaboratively and with great care.
4. It is interesting that with all our provocations about these needed solutions over the past several months, there seems to have been no interest on the part of the current DCPS administration in talking about these things. We seriously hoped that our suggestions would have been welcomed and that there would be interest in discussing our suggestions. Actually, they were welcomed by the WTU. But it is unclear what will come of that seeming openess.

Thanks for asking.

Anonymous said...


The students need ACTION.

Forums are for losers- just losers.