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that it was an internal strategy aimed at improving teacher quality beyond the strict confines of the existing, yet outdated, Washington Teacher’s Union Contract.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?


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