School Chief Dismisses 241 Teachers in Washington

Published on
by
The New York Times

School Chief Dismisses 241 Teachers in Washington

by
Tamar Lewin

Washington DC Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Rhee is seen as a leading example within the "reform" movement circles that champion Obama's 'Race to the Top' initiative. But for those opposed to this high risk test-based model that undermines teachers and poorly serves students, there is much to criticize in her harsh approach. The WTU has taken issue with the evaluation system used, saying that it was designed more for punishing teachers than helping them improve.(Photo Credit: Susan Walsh/AP-File)

Michelle Rhee, the reform-minded chancellor who took over the District of Columbia public schools three years ago, on Friday fired 241 teachers, or 5 percent of the district's total. All but a few of those dismissed had received the lowest rating under a new evaluation system that for the first time held them accountable for their students' standardized test scores.

"Every child in a District of Columbia public school has a right to a highly effective teacher - in every classroom, of every school, of every neighborhood, of every ward, in this city," the chancellor said in a statement. "That is our commitment."

All told, the district terminated 302 employees - 226 for poor performance, and 76 for other problems like not having the licensing required by the No Child Left Behind act. Besides the 241 teachers, those dismissed were librarians, counselors, custodians and other employees.

An additional 737 employees were put on notice that they had been rated "minimally effective," the second-lowest category, and would have one year to improve their performance or be fired.

In the years before Ms. Rhee took over the district, almost all the teachers had high performance ratings and almost none were fired, but students, on average, had low achievement levels.

George Parker, the president of the Washington Teachers' Union, said the union would challenge the firings. The union has taken issue with the evaluation system Ms. Rhee used, saying that it was designed more for punishing teachers than helping them improve.

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