Staff Shakeup Is Ordered at Six Schools

By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Teachers and some administrators at six academically troubled D.C. schools will have to reapply for their jobs as part of overhauls mandated under the federal No Child Left Behind law, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee announced yesterday.

The schools are Dunbar and Anacostia high schools, the H.D. Woodson ninth-grade academy at Ron Brown Middle School, Hart and MacFarland middle schools and Ferebee-Hope Elementary School.

Each has undergone multiple waves of retooling in recent years under NCLB, which requires that all schools meet annual standardized test-score benchmarks or face sanctions. Reviews of school operations by teams of outside evaluators indicated the need for further changes, the officials said.

"The great news is that the District of Columbia public schools are no longer satisfied with the status quo," Fenty (D) said. The six schools, he added, "all have great promise, all have great students . . . but something is missing."

Three of the schools (Hart, Ferebee-Hope and Anacostia) are in Ward 8, and one (Woodson) is in Ward 7. MacFarland is in Ward 4, and Dunbar in Ward 5.

The shakeup, known in NCLB parlance as a reconstitution, will affect as many as 330 teachers and staff members at the six schools. Those who are not rehired or who decide not to return will not lose their jobs, Rhee said. Instead, they will be placed in an excess staff pool and reassigned to other schools.

Five of the six schools cited yesterday are in some form of "restructuring" status -- the most serious NCLB category.

Under the law, Rhee has five options for such schools: convert them into charter schools; execute a reconstitution; hire private education firms to run the schools; turn the schools over to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education; or devise an alternative plan.

For Anacostia and Dunbar, where less than 25 percent of the students tested at proficiency levels in reading and math last year, yesterday's announcement formalizes the major changes that are underway.

Last year, Rhee elected to turn the schools over to two outside operating partners beginning this fall. Friends of Bedford, which runs a highly successful high school in New York City, will run Dunbar and Coolidge high schools. Friendship Schools. which operates charter schools in the District, will take control of Anacostia. Under the District's agreements with both organizations, they will have broad latitude in selecting principals, teachers and administrators.

Three other schools -- Woodson at Ron Brown, Hart and MacFarland -- have experienced academic and discipline troubles this year.

At Hart, where 17 percent of students read at proficiency level last year, Rhee replaced the principal in October after a series of incidents, including assaults on three teachers and the arrest of a 14-year-old who was charged with carrying a shotgun.

Woodson at Ron Brown also experienced staff turnover and assaults on teachers.

Ferebee-Hope, the lone elementary school cited yesterday, was placed in a less-serious NCLB status this year, called "corrective action." But Rhee said the outside reviews indicated that it was in the best interest of the school to undergo a reconstitution.

Reconstitutions are controversial among some parents and school activists, who say they have a questionable track record as a remedy for school performance. Seventeen D.C. schools underwent some form of reconstitution last year. Rhee said the District enjoyed "significant success" with some of them, including Shaw at Garnet-Patterson Middle School, Webb-Wheatley Educational Campus and Eliot-Hine Middle School.

"Overall we're very pleased with how reconstitution has played out," Rhee said.

Officials said announcements about seven other schools will be made next week.

Overall, 90 of 123 D.C. public schools are under some form of federal notice to improve their performance.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company