Among the many things that appear to have gone wrong at Hart Middle School this fall is DCPS's "Capital Gains" program, designed to pay 6th, 7th, and 8th-graders up to $100 every two weeks for good grades, attendance and behavior.
Hart is one of 15 District schools in the demonstration project jointly run by D.C. and Harvard University. But violence and disorder reached such a level last week that Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee dispatched a team of administrators and additional security to stabilize the Southeast school.
On Monday, she fired principal Kisha Webster.
It now turns out that, rather than encouraging students to get serious about school, the program might actually have deepened the dysfunction at Hart.
Webster and two Hart teachers say that on the program's first payday (Oct. 17) some misbehaving students got checks while others who played by the rules were shut out. The problem, they said, was confusion over how to fill out the "classroom capture sheet" used to document attendance and behavior in each class. Some staff thought that to show a student in compliance, the spaces were to be left blank.
"A lot of teachers were not understanding the process," Webster said.
"It was a mass miscommunication," said a Hart teacher, who asked that her name not be used to avoid getting crossways with administrators.
Central office staffers came back to Hart after the first pay period to straighten out the misunderstanding, Webster said, and took steps to pay kids what they earned. No word on whether the District will get refunds from students mistakenly compensated.
Rhee's spokeswoman, Dena Iverson, said: "The new leadership at Hart will be working closely with the Capital Gains team and the faculty to ensure that the Capital Gains program runs smoothly and is administered properly."
The program will have its third payday on Friday, but DCPS said this week it will not be releasing any information or student or school earnings. Iverson said that Harvard's Education Innovation Laboratory, which crunches the numbers, "does not release individual school data during the projects in order to maintain the integrity of the numbers and the research."