Wednesday, June 16, 2010

6 D.C. schools to be overhauled after failing to meet 'No Child' goals

By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 15, 2010

About 150 teachers at six low-performing D.C. public schools must reapply for their jobs under a shake-up announced Monday by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee.

Three of the schools -- Ballou Senior High and Garfield and Stanton elementary -- are in Ward 8. The others are Davis Elementary in Ward 7 and two Ward 5 schools: the Hamilton Center for special education students and Luke C. Moore Academy, an alternative high school for those who drop out or have trouble adjusting to traditional schools.

One of the six, Stanton, will be operated beginning this summer by a Philadelphia-based charter school organization, Scholar Academies.

The changes are mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which gives Rhee options to address problems at schools that have consistently failed to make what the law describes as "adequate yearly progress" on standardized test scores. Overall, about 90 of the District's 123 schools are under some form of federal notice to improve.

The six schools cited Monday, with a combined enrollment of about 2,200, have undergone waves of federally mandated improvement and restructuring. Four of them -- Ballou, Stanton, Hamilton and Garfield -- have not met annual progress benchmarks for at least seven years. They will undergo what the law calls staff "reconstitution."

"At DCPS we know that all children can achieve at high levels," Rhee said in a statement released Monday. "Reconstitution is just one tool offered by the federal government for districts to use to equip schools with the necessary composition to meet high standards."

Last year, Rhee reconstituted six schools, Dunbar and Anacostia high schools, the H.D. Woodson ninth-grade academy at Ronald H. Brown Middle School, Hart and MacFarland middle schools and Ferebee-Hope Elementary School. In 2008, 17 schools were reconstituted. Ten received new administrators; seven underwent faculty overhauls.

Teachers who choose not to reapply or are not rehired at the schools facing overhaul this year will join an "excess staff pool."

Under the current contract with the Washington Teachers' Union, all "excessed" teachers are guaranteed reassignment in the school system.

But under a labor agreement expected to receive D.C. Council approval June 29, principals have expanded power to choose the teachers they want. Those who have received good evaluations and do not find jobs will receive a year's grace period with full salary to continue looking for a position. Or they could take a buyout or early retirement if eligible.

In the case of Stanton, Rhee has exercised her option under the law to hire an outside organization to take over a failing school. Scholar Academies operates Young Scholars, a charter middle school that serves about 200 low-income African American children in Philadelphia. According to its Web site, it uses an extended school day and school year to improve academic rigor.

Rhee said in the statement that the organization was selected after a "rigorous" application process that included a site visit to the Philadelphia school.

Three high schools were placed under outside leadership by Rhee in 2008. Dunbar and Coolidge were taken over by Friends of Bedford, a New York group. Friendship Public Charter Schools assumed control of Anacostia. Rhee has said that although major academic progress has yet to be made, all three have "significantly improved their school culture," including gains in attendance and school safety.

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