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Thompson: What It's Really Like To Run A DC School

HENDERSON624_1294966260 The Washington Post's Bill Turque explains why DCPS principal Bill Kerlina resigned a job that could have been perfect -- and for which Kerlina seemed particularly well-suited. I hope readers will extrapolate from the exeriences of a favored principal, and imagine the impossible task that D.C., and other systems, are imposing on leaders of the toughest neighborhood schools.  Kerlina was surprised when the central office interfered with disciplinary consequences for a student who was a "behavior nightmare?" He was forced to indulge "questionable parent behavior?" He was pressured to recruit more white students even though parents with options want their children to benefit from inquiry-based learning. He could not make the DCPS leadership understand that their approach is "too scripted and doesn’t allow for students to think outside of the box." Let's be clear:  teachers cannot meet test score growth targets as long as schools cannot assess disciplinary consequences for violent students or value "group activities, hands-on projects and student curiosity." It's a sad but important illustration of a widespread problem.  - JT (@drjohnthompson) Image via.

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As a DC Teacher this article rang too true. You have a building full of dedicated and driven teachers and principals, but a central office which is fixated on the corporate "reform" movement and run by people with "Leadership" degrees. No one seems to be listening, unfortunately, as principals and educators scream that this is madness. Pundits seem to treat the whole affair like an interesting debate between two perhaps valid view points.

But regarding affluent DC parents, this group supported Rhee reforms, they were her main constituents, and then still refuse to send their kids to DCPS, and when they do, boy do they scream if they can not control every aspect of the child's education, talking down to teachers like they were fools because of course, that is the steady drum beat they are getting from the Washington Post and school leadership, so it must be true.

So what do we end up with, a dead testing culture driven by affluent people aimed at poor brown kids and a whole lot of demoralized teachers and students. A mess. And yet, the power structure still supports these reforms, why? Pres. Obama and Duncan praise Henderson. The article makes clear the fix is fairly simple here, trust your smart and educated principals and teachers. How on earth are you going to bring smart educators to DC (who are willing to stay past the 2 year window for TFAers) if you give them zero respect?

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