Moving the Discussion to Teacher Quality


Teacher quality and effectiveness have long been topics of debate among DC VOICE members and constituents. One positive aspect of the recent RIF (Reduction In Force), school equalization, and DCPS budget discrepancies is that teacher quality has once again been positioned at the forefront of discussion. Chancellor Rhee has stated that this RIF was necessitated by school budget cuts at the City Council level, while many others believed that it was an internal strategy aimed at improving teacher quality beyond the strict confines of the existing, yet outdated, Washington Teacher’s Union Contract. While the RIF will long be argued, DC VOICE believes this is an opportunity to refocus the conversation on overall teacher quality. Budget shortfalls and tenure aside, DCPS students deserve quality, experienced teachers who are continually offered enhanced development and instruction techniques.

Similar to DC VOICE practices during past important hearings and policy debates concerning DCPS, the Washington Post Editors recently posed 15 questions they hoped Chancellor Michelle Rhee would answer (Washington Post Article). On October 29th, the DC Council has the opportunity to pose these questions to Chancellor Rhee when she attends a Round Table session. In addition to Washington Post’s questions, DC VOICE urges the Council to make certain that the following questions, focused on teacher quality, are answered as well as various follow up questions arising from the October 19th City Council hearing. Aside from merely criticizing the process of this recent RIF and doing their due diligence in addressing constituent concerns at tomorrow’s hearing, we hope the City Council will also utilize this process to become more informed about the strategies and obstacles in place for ensuring high quality teaching within every classroom in the District of Columbia.

Teacher Quality:

1. During this administrations last three years, has the WTU and DCPS collaborated on any strategies/initiative to improve teacher quality?

2. What prompted DCPS to hire 936 new teachers this year, 3 times the usual number of new teacher hires?

3. Given the current focus on teacher quality as measured by student performance on standardized tests, were Principals instructed to use classroom performance data as a leading factor in their RIF decisions?

4. Nationwide, 75,000 teachers have won National Board Certification, while only 39 DC teachers have received National Board Certification. Does DCPS intend to increase its number of Nationally Board Certified teachers and why was an experienced, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certified instructor fired during the RIF process?

(For the teacher perspective on teacher quality and classroom readiness, please view the DC VOICE 2009 RCP Report)

RIF Specific Questions:

5. Is DCPS continuing to hire more new teachers after firing 229, as reported by the City Paper & Washington Post on October 20th?

6. During the October 16th hearing, witnesses claimed that DCPS does not recruit and no longer hires from HBSU’s, is this true? If so, why?

7. Were parents and LSRT’s left out of the RIF/decision making process until after the decisions were made, if so why?

8. Why was a request made to send armed police officers into a non-violent student protest, resulting in the arrest of a DCPS student and parent, and who made that decision?

9. Has emotional counseling been offered to students who watched their teachers escorted from classrooms and school building during the school day?

10. With many counselors fired, who is assisting students with college applications at the affected schools?



October 28, 2009


Delegation of Area Churches and U.S. Census Bureau also to lead Wards 7 and 8 Host Committee as part of upcoming Ward by Ward Town Hall Series to Release Data from over 100 School Interviews

Washington, DC— Community members including students, parents, educators, faith-based leaders, government officials and members of the business community will convene for the purpose of education reform on Saturday, November 14th alongside DC VOICE for the Wards 7 and 8 Ready Schools Project Town Hall meeting. DC VOICE is pleased to announce that Councilmember Yvette Alexander will also be on hand to co-host this meeting. The data featured at this event includes responses from over 100 principals regarding teaching and learning conditions, and review of trends in the data over the six years of DC VOICE’s Ready Schools Project. Ward 7 and 8 specific data will also be featured.

In addition to Councilmember Alexander serving as a co-host, Sasha Bruce Youthwork, Inc. will join the town hall meeting and help present the Ready Schools Project data. This organization focuses on at-risk families and youth in the District and incorporates leadership development for youth.

Also, the Delegation of Area Churches set to co-host the Wards 7 and 8 town hall meeting will bring the faith-based perspective to the discussion of school reform in D.C. The U.S. Census Bureau will also be on hand at the Wards 7 and 8 town hall to speak about the importance of being included in Census 2010.

Results of the Ready Schools Project 2010 will be released across the city as part of DC VOICE’s November town hall series. The Wards 7 and 8 town hall meeting will be held on Saturday, November 14th at 10:00am at Ward Memorial AME Church, 241 42nd St NE, 20019.

To RSVP for these town hall meetings, or for a complete list of the Ready Schools Project 2010 November Town Hall Series, please send an email to

Our mission is to inform and mobilize the public to hold both the schools and the community accountable for providing high quality teaching and learning for all.

1436 U Street, Suite 401, NW, Washington, DC 20009
Phone: 202.986.8535 * Fax: 202.986.1243 *



Jeff Smith
Executive Director

Reforming the Reform?


D.C. education continues to receive only a fraction of the focus, participation, and public voice necessary at the Council level to ensure student development and success. So, as asked by Council Member Michael Brown during the October 16th Council Hearing on DCPS, is it time to “Reform the reform”?

In 2007 the D.C. Council gave full oversight of DCPS issues to the Mayor and the mayoral appointed Chancellor. An education committee was eliminated and the Committee of the Whole took charge of D.C.’s most pressing issue, public education.

The intentions are understood, but the actual benefits are debatable. While the previous committee consisted of five Council Members, the Committee of the Whole is chaired by the Council Chairperson and consists of all 13 Council Members. The urgency and interest from the full Council appeared to be the first step toward a 13 person commitment for reform, but as seen during the recent Council Hearing on October 16th, only a handful of Council Members are really involved. A mere 5 Council Members were present any significant portion of time during the 18 hour hearing.

With questions about erasures, fluctuating attendance numbers, a teacher union contract in limbo, RIFs, and accountability, at no other time than the present is the need for a proper governing voice on DC education issues more apparent.

The Committee of the Whole manages over 13 issues ranging from the annual budget to relationships with local ANCs. With scheduled meetings only once per month, it is questionable how much time the Committee can allocate to public hearings on education issues.

Testimony by budget specialists and advocacy groups at the October 16th hearing identified lack of transparency in the budget.

Some Council Members suggested on Friday that Mayor Fenty’s administration, while touting accountability and transparency, is “anti-accountability and anti-transparency”. If true, the Council can only look in the mirror and take partial blame for maintaining a loose structure of oversight.

The existence of a Committee on Education would not only provide a dedicated staff monitoring oversight and accountability, but also allow District residents to know who is responsible for management of public education at the Council level. In a time with continued questioning of accountability, a designated committee providing public transparency and oversight should be a priority.

So Council Member Michael Brown, you’re right, it is time to “reform the reform”. The first step, though, should be to reform the Council. D.C. deserves a Committee on Education with a focused, dedicated, and participatory Council who listen to the public voice.



For Immediate Release:
October 20, 2009


Washington, DC— Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser joins the town hall series as a co-host. DC VOICE is proud to announce that the first Ready Schools Project 2010 Town Hall meeting in the November Series will take place in Ward 4 at Roosevelt Senior High School. This Ward 4 town hall has a diverse list of co-hosts that have proclaimed their support for community involvement in education reform. One such co-host is Councilmember Muriel Bowser, who joins DC VOICE in the release of the school data collected at over 100 schools.

“We can only achieve educational reform by working together. It is my hope that by attending this town hall, more community members will become inspired to advocate for the betterment of our schools” said Councilmember Bowser about DC VOICE’s upcoming town hall series.

In addition, Roosevelt’s PTA will be co-hosting the community event as well. The Roosevelt PTA has supported DC VOICE’s efforts to release the data from this year’s Ready Schools Project and the school will serve as a notable space to showcase the school data to the community.

Also co-hosting this event is the Ward 4 Council on Education and Ward 4 State Board of Education member Sekou Biddle. Co-hosts will join DC VOICE in the presentation of the data and participate in the community discussion of school improvement.

The 6th annual Ready Schools Project serves to ascertain whether schools were ready for students upon the beginning of the school year. This community action research project brings together parents, community members and education activists to collect information on the supports needed for quality teaching and learning as well as engages them in taking action to improve the data.

The Ward 4 Ready Schools Project 2010 Town Hall meeting will take place on Monday, November 9th at 6:30pm at Roosevelt Senior High School, 4301 13th St NW, 20011. In addition, results of the Ready Schools Project 2010 will be released across the city as part of DC VOICE’s November town hall series. To RSVP for this town hall meeting, or to find out about upcoming town hall meetings in your ward, please send an email to

Our mission is to inform and mobilize the public to hold both the schools and the community accountable for providing high quality teaching and learning for all.

1436 U Street, Suite 401, NW, Washington, DC 20009
Phone: 202.986.8535 Fax: 202.986.1243

Jeff Smith
Executive Director




Washington, DC— Today at Freedom Plaza, hundreds, perhaps thousands will gather to protest recent teacher layoffs. Buses will be provided to transport students from school, and a call for attendance was sent out to education organizations throughout the District. The Washington Teachers’ Union organized the rally, which DC VOICE supports, but this cannot be the only time they call for our attention, and support community action.

The Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) must go beyond their focus of teacher job security and focus equally on broader issues that continue to concern the community at large. In the past year, the WTU has been silent on other issues affecting the school community such as:

  • The new teaching and learning framework of DCPS
  • DCPS initiatives to pay students to attend elementary school in select neighborhoods
  • The inequity of high quality school options across the District
  • Reports of testing irregularities at the hands of some school principals or teachers
  • Heavy emphasis surrounding standardized testing in place of a well rounded education
  • The lack of education oversight by the State Board and City Council

“Community members remain willing to stand with public school teachers, but is the WTU committed to working with community members beyond this week’s crisis?” asked Jeff Smith, Executive Director for DC VOICE.

Through DC VOICE’s Ready Schools and Ready Classrooms Project, more than 100 DCPS principals and 100 secondary DCPS teachers were interviewed by staff and community members in an effort to ascertain whether schools were ready for students upon the beginning of the school year, and gauge teacher needs, concerns and priorities. WTU must be responsive to community lead efforts such as this, and concerns from teachers beyond job security.

Our mission is to inform and mobilize the public to hold both the schools and the community accountable for providing high quality teaching and learning for all.

1436 U Street, Suite 401, NW, Washington, DC 20009
Phone: 202.986.8535 Fax: 202.986.1243


Jeff Smith
Executive Director

The Washington Nationals Have Their Heads in the Sand


Did you know that the D.C. government spent $611 million to build 2,422,240 UNUSED seats?

According to the Washington Nationals (Major League Baseball) website, the team donates tickets to the community on a yearly basis. While the new ballpark has an approximate capacity of 41,000, the Nationals averaged an attendance of around 25,861 per game since the stadium opened in 2008.1 That leaves roughly 15,139 empty seats per game or, over two 80 game seasons, about 2,422,240 total seats. So, while donating some tickets over the two year period may seem generous, the Washington Nationals have a long way to go when it comes to community engagement.

The Nationals’ 30 year lease of the stadium will only cost the team roughly $165 million ($5.5 million a year).2 With a team value of $460 million, the Nationals seem to have a bit of money to give back to the community.3 If not money, the team should at least donate some time in the community because it couldn’t take much practice to lose over 100 games two years in a row (the 2008 & 2009 Nationals were the first ball club since the Padres back in 1973 & 1974 to “accomplish” this feat). Clearly, their hefty profits have yet to be invested in star players or free agents who could make this publicly financed ball team one that brings more pride to D.C. residents.

The Nationals should also aim more efforts at assisting the District’s youth. Younger generations often emulate professional athletes, reaching out beyond a few library and school appearances could motivate the new generation of students. Get beyond the classroom and teach students how geometry and physics relate to hitting a baseball. Teach culture by exploring the international backgrounds of players. Help students study the history of civil rights through the eyes of baseball players. Expose students to new careers by allowing them to shadow broadcasters, statisticians, and/or facilities managers. Assist in youth crime prevention. Do SOMETHING Nats, other than lose 100 games every year.

While our schools lost nearly 6% of its staff this year due to budget shortfalls, the Nationals will be spending more than $57 million on 25 players.4

Love them or hate them, sports often define a city. Residents take pride in a team’s achievements, competiveness, and community outreach. Unfortunate for the District of Columbia, the Washington Nationals seem to forget these aspects of being a professional team. Leniency towards achievements and competiveness can be debated because of growing pains, but community involvement and outreach should always remain a given for a multi-million dollar organization. Considering the “Natstown” marketing campaign, why do we not see the Nationals participating in District activities on a regular basis, even in the off-season?

So, Washington Nationals, what are you doing this off-season to contribute to “Natstown” and your self-declared commitment “to enhancing education and literacy; encouraging participation in youth baseball and softball; and improving the health and well-being of the citizens of the Washington DC region”?5

Are you building facilities for area youth to practice on?

Are you hosting free clinics for baseball and softball players throughout the year?

Are you sponsoring crime prevention throughout the District?

Are you feeding the hungry or finding a place for the homeless to sleep?

Are you helping in the effort to prevent the spread of HIV in D.C.?

Are you donating school uniforms to low income families or baseball uniforms to local teams?

Are you spending more than a few days each year reading to students at area schools?

Are you part of this community or just here because of the cheap rent?

If you answered no to any of these, it’s time to reevaluate your off-season community involvement moves.



©2009 The DC VOICE Ostrich |