Raise your hand if you want your child or grandchild taught by a poorly performing or under-performing teacher.
Just as I suspected: no hands.
So, why the brouhaha over recent news that 241 D.C. Public School teachers have been fired?
Those teachers were fired after receiving poor evaluations or failing to secure requisite licenses. Another 737 deemed "minimally effective" are next, if they don't get their acts together. Conspiracy theorists, of which there are many in the nation's capital, have posited that Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty concocted the scheme for the terminations three years ago when she arrived.
Let's hope so. That means they actually had a plan and now are busy implementing it
We've known for decades DCPS was infected with lousy or marginal instructors. Parents and education advocates were pleading for change as far back as 1989. That's when the Federal City Council-sponsored Committee on Public Education surveyed the system, held a series of ward-based town hall meetings and issued its sweeping indictment of the DCPS. Among its many recommendations was the implementation of pay-for-performance as a method for enhancing the teaching corps. That didn't happen. Consequently, during Superintendent Clifford Janey's tenure, there still were hundreds of teachers who lacked the certifications that demonstrate subject-matter expertise. Instead of being fired, they simply were put on probation.
Rhee and Fenty are not the creators of the city's abysmal public education system. They are the people finally doing something about it.
"How much longer do the children of Washington, D.C. have to be subjected to poor teachers," Rhee asked me rhetorically during an interview, after I mentioned critics of her actions. Those critics include the Washington Teacher's Union, which has promised to fight the terminations.
The WTU and others in the city have attempted to ensnare Rhee in politics or process: Did she talk with 100 people? Say please ... and thank you? Fortunately, she hasn't been distracted from the singularly important mission of upgrading the quality of teachers standing before nearly 50,000 children on any given day.
There can be no question that a bad teacher is a weapon of mass destruction, potentially destroying children's lives and misdirecting whole communities. Astonishingly, during school year 2006-2007, prior to the mayoral takeover, not one teacher was fired for poor performance -- although student test scores dragged on the floor.
Actually, maybe it was not astonishing at all at the time. There was a lack of standards and accountability that existed for decades throughout the District. Many employees were judged as above average or excellent -- although they couldn't articulate their responsibilities to say nothing of actually performing them. The system of evaluation was a joke.
Even in those rare cases where workers and managers received poor assessments, government rules or political allies protected them. They often were provided severance packages and glowing recommendations.
Those days are ending -- at least at DCPS. Workers are being held to an appropriate standard. When they don't meet it, they are being led to the door with boxes and empty wallets.
That's a good thing. Let's shout hallelujah!
Jonetta Rose Barras can be reached at ">firstname.lastname@example.org.