D.C. teachers go without support on discipline and hours

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Michael Gerson ["D.C.'s passionate reformers," op-ed, June 9] asserted that a continued infusion of college graduates into the Teach for America program will make a difference in turning around D.C. schools. And with the growing focus on pay-for-performance and the longer hours and hard work that go with it, he may have a point.

But this competitive approach simply is not practical for many other motivated teachers. The long hours spent on student assessments and the enormous pressure being imposed by D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's central office are simply unbearable for some teachers, especially those with small children at home. And other veteran teachers may not have the skills or motivation to adapt, so they will be pressured to leave -- which is clearly Ms. Rhee's strategy.

Why? Because DCPS, like other school systems, has consistently failed to provide teachers such as my wife, who is leaving the system at the end of the school year, with the resources and authority to do their jobs. They must spend too much time on behavioral management without the authority to impose strict discipline on disruptive students. Parents who fail to discipline their children at home are all too often not held accountable for what happens at school as a result. Parents of children in private schools are more likely to discipline their children because disruptive students are threatened with expulsion. But in public schools, where teachers' hands are often tied when it comes to authority to discipline disruptive students, it is the students who rule the roost.

David Newsom, Alexandria

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