Thursday, October 7, 2010

Poll: Is Firing Teachers Necessary to Reform DC Public Schools?

The new education documentary Waiting for Superman makes the case that one of the crucial tools for effective education reform is the ability to fire weak teachers. Michelle Rhee is celebrated in the movie for doing exactly that. What's your take on this issue? Leaving aside the matter of whether Mayor-to-be Vincent Gray should retain or replace Chancellor Rhee, should he support the continuation of the policy that Michelle Rhee introduced?  Vote in our poll. You can vote whether or not you have seen Waiting for Superman, but we would like to encourage everyone to see the movie and discuss it here.

You are welcome to add your comments below.


  1. How about setting a standard for what is a "non-weak" teacher, providing training to bring weak teachers up to standard, testing them and giving them a chance to improve before letting them go?

  2. Good points, Anonymous 11:46, and I wish it were possible for a poll question to outline the parameters, define terms, and allow complex choices rather than up or down votes. I'm hoping this simple poll will bring people to the discussion and draw them to make more thoughtful suggestions here. For example, on the "weak teacher" question: Is the IMPACT standard currently in use an accurate assessment tool? If not, what might work better?

  3. I worked as a tutor in the DC public school for many years. Bad teachers were tolerated, good ones kept if the kept quiet about problems and corruption, and weak but well meaning teachers not given the support they needed. The DC Teachers Union could have pushed to change this and did nothing. Now, changes are happening, and the Union is complaining. They could have been a positive voice in the change in the school system, instead they fight change. It seems to me, though not everything worked, the change has improved some things. The things that haven't worked now need to be assessed and scrapped or altered. I hope the Union changes its stance and sees itself as part of the solution rather than a roadblock to change.

  4. To blame our current education crisis on "bad" teachers is overly simplistic. Sure there are bad teachers that need to go, but Rhee's system of firing and evaluating teachers has created an all time low for teacher morale. Even outstanding DCPS teachers feel the joy being sucked out of teaching and learning in order to teach to the test. Did you new that DCPS students will have almost a month's worth of assessment this academic year?

    "Waiting for Superman" is an advertisement for charter schools. If you want to privatize public education, then say so. Don't hide behind charter schools. Geoffrey Canada's successful charter schools in Harlem work for several reasons. First of all, he has a bottomless pit of private funds to operate his programs. Second, he has a "baby academy" so he is able to help young parents learn how to parent and teach their babies at home. There is nothing wrong with this, but realize it costs a lot of money, certainly more than the per pupil allotment for DCPS students.

    I am a DCPS parent that has had a very positive experience with DCPS. It is insulting to listen to the constant media criticism of crappy DC schools and teachers. Of course we have a long way to go to improve all schools in ALL wards, but great things are happening every day in my kids' schools and no one wants to write about that.

  5. I really like what Post columnist Robert McCartney had to say about school reform in Baltimore, where essentially the same teacher/tenure contracts have been used, but this time by a superintendent, Andres Alonso, who shows respect for teachers, listens to people, and is able to win their cooperation. He seems to have matched the progress that Michelle Rhee has made, without making so many enemies or losing so many good teachers along with the bad. The article is here:
    (If that link doesn't work, go to the Washington Post website and search for:
    "Baltimore school reform shows Rhee's way isn't the only path to success" by Robert McCartney
    Wednesday, October 6, 2010; 7:16 PM