Resignations from DC Schools Task Force

I am reprinting a letter of resignation from two members of the task force that was supposed to analyze problems with DC’s regular public schools and charter schools. (Disclosure: I have met one of the writers several times)

Mary Levy and Caryn Ernst Resign from Cross-Sector Collaboration Task Force

Mary Levy and Caryn Ernst Resign from Cross-Sector Collaboration Task Force

November 10, 2018
To: The Cross-Sector Collaboration Task Force

c/o Paul Kihn, Acting Deputy Mayor for Education

From: Mary Levy and Caryn Ernst

We write to submit our resignations from the Cross-Sector Collaboration Task Force and to state why we have declined to endorse the report just released.

We do this because the report and recommendations fail to deal with the most important elements of the Task Force’s basic mission: to formulate a clear vision to guide the relationship between the traditional and charter education sectors; to significantly reduce student mobility, particularly mid-year mobility; and to create a meaningful framework for opening, closing and siting schools that reflects a sensible vision for public education in the District of Columbia.

There are big underlying issues: Will the City provide an excellent matter-of-right DCPS path from PK through high school in every community in a system that is accountable to them and their elected officials, providing families with shelter from the “chance” of the lottery and the need to traverse the city? To do so would require making that an explicit goal and implementing policies to achieve it. Will the City close more DCPS schools or have charter schools take them over? Does the City recognize the different obligations and challenges of DCPS matter-of-right schools and charter (and other DCPS schools) and the implications of those differences? The report and recommendations, at best, leave these issues open and yet addressing them lay at the heart of the Task Force mandate.
We and others have raised all these concerns during Task Force meetings, in a November letter we sent to the DME, the co-chairs and members of the Task Force, and in comments on the draft. Parents and community members at the public engagement sessions also spoke to these issues

Our voice is not represented in the tone or the recommendations, nor in a minority report. We believe that charter schools are not a substitute for excellent by-right DCPS schools in every neighborhood. Policymakers’ talking to each other does not constitute a framework for opening, closing and siting schools. We fear that the only steps on student mobility facilitate rather than reduce it.

We understand that this task is difficult and that efforts were made, but at bottom, after two and a half years of effort, the key finding of the Task Force seems to be that no real consensus could be reached on a vision or on ways to meaningfully address the key challenges the Task Force was created to address. The report suggests that we are generally on the right track and therefore conveys a sense that the absence of a vision and a framework for where we want to go is not a serious problem. We do not share either view and as such, the report does not reflect our views in letter or spirit. We cannot therefore endorse it.
CSCTF Report final.pdf

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Assessment of Rhee/Henderson/Mayoral control in DC public schools

Here is a very long article on the legacy of the mayoral takeover of DC public schools back in 2007, which brought in Chancellors Rhee and Henderson, among other things. Having been a teacher, a mentor, and a volunteer in and visiting DC public schools for that period of time, I’m not particularly impressed with the changes I’ve seen. The article, which I still haven’t finished reading, has criticism of what hasn’t worked, by Mary Levy and  John Merrow, and also features a reply by Thomas Toch (who is very much a cheerleader for the “reforms”).

Here’s the link. Please read the article and comment, and take some action as well.

http://washingtonmonthly.com/people/john-merrow-and-mary-levy-with-a-reply-by-tom-toch/

What A Joke DC Education Chancellor Kaya Henderson Was – City Paper

Very detailed article in the Washington City Paper showing how our recently-resigned Chancellor, Kaya Henderson, failed to do much of anything to narrow DC’s extremely-high gap between high-achieving and low-achieving students, even though she had oodles of money, complete control over resources, and the ability to fire teachers and administrators almost at will.

As I have shown repeatedly (see here, here, here, here, and here for starters. Or else here) DC has the widest gap of the entire USA between the scores of poor kids vs the non-poor, between white kids and black or hispanic kids, and between those in Special Ed and those who are not. This article shows how the Henderson and Rhee administrations failed to do pretty much anything to improve conditions at schools where there were large concentrations of ‘at risk’ kids, other than saying that by some miracle, they would improve scores by 40 percentage points at all of the schools where 40% of the kids were ‘at risk’.

(A quote from the article: ‘ “No school in the history of time has achieved such goals,” counters a D.C. Council staffer familiar with DCPS school reform. “On its face, the concept of this as a reachable goal was ridiculous.” ‘)

And of course, it never happened. No extra resources, and no miraculous gains.

But according to the article, Kaya has an excuse – just the sort of thing that she and Michelle Rhee used to berate actual, um, educators for saying:

‘ when Payne persisted with a question about Henderson’s “personal goal of closing achievement gaps,” the chancellor explained: “I am not exactly convinced that schools alone can close the achievement gap. I think about the fact that in Washington, D.C., we have the greatest income inequality in the country. That gap is only growing, and the fact that our achievement gap is growing in a similar way shouldn’t be baffling. But I think what we’ve learned is that equity is really more appropriate, giving different people different kinds of support…And for different groups and different kids that means different things.”

My friends and colleagues Elizabeth Davis and Mary Levy are quoted. It’s a long article, but well worth reading.

Enrollment in DCPS – Have Rhee & Henderson Saved It?

Michelle Rhee, her acolyte Kaya Henderson, and all their supporters keep saying that their corporate-style educational deforms in Washington DC have done wonderful things, such as increasing the enrollment in DC public schools.

As usual, they are not telling the truth.

To compare apples to apples, and not watermelons to peanuts, it pays to look at the same sort of data every year — in other words, let’s look at just K-12 enrollment for as far back as we have data.

Mary Levy has done just that, wading through mounds of official, audited data on fall enrollment in DCPS for 1990 through 2012; she shared it on the Concerned4DCPS yahoo group. (Thanks!)

I converted some of her data into graphs so you can see it more easily. I present first the total enrollment for grades K-12 during that time period. Tell me where you see a large uptick since 2007, because I for one can’t find it.

It seems to have stabilized, but that’s all; and this at a time when the entire population of the District of Columbia grew by about one-fifth (about 100,000 people) and the enrollment in our publicly-funded, but privately-run charter schools has gone through the roof. So, not exactly a stellar job; in fact, the sort of job that ought to get Henderson and company fired for sheer incompetence. In fact, this is not the only time that DCPS enrollment was roughly stable – that also happened from 1990 to 1996.

total audited dcps enrollment 1990-2012

My next chart shows the actual year-to-year changes in DCPS K-12 population. A red bar pointing down means that the schools had fewer students that year than they did the year before. A blue bar pointing up shows an increase in students over the previous year.

There was a tiny increase in the fall of 2012 (the current school year), just like there was a tiny increase in the fall of 1992. The largest drop occurred in 1998, when DCPS had a net loss of about 5000 students from the year before. It is madness to pretend that things have been hunky-dory since Rhee and her inexperienced, arrogant, highly-paid management types and consultants arrived in 2007.

In point of fact, what they did is trash the few decent things in DCPS with their own corporate style of autocratic foolishness and hubris. They have fixed exactly none of the problems that parents, teachers and students were complaining about, and they hide any real data like this.

k-12 enrollment of dcps from 1991

 

It is time to throw them out and go back to a democratically-elected school board and neighborhood schools — to begin with. Yes, lots of changes need to be made, but this crew has not a clue.

 

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