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D.C. public school teachers begin orientation ahead of start of academic year

After the assembly, the newbies broke into smaller classes led by the school system's professional development office. One group might have been forgiven for feeling that it had regressed to its student years when it was greeted by Heidi Beeman, a former Los Angeles elementary school teacher.

"I really like how Christine listened to directions," Beeman said as she watched her charges assemble papers in a folder.

"Look how big Parker wrote his name! Good job, Parker!" Beeman said.

She said elementary school was in her bones: "That's how I roll."

Beeman and others helped the new educators dig into the "teaching and learning framework," an elaborate set of guidelines that provides the basis for teacher evaluations. The framework has been praised as a useful new common language and derided as an overcooked goulash of obvious advice. Officials have ramped back some of the items teachers found frustrating in the last school year, including a prescription that they strike a "dynamic presence" in the classroom.

But the basics of the framework remain intact, calling for all teachers to explain course content clearly, plan lessons carefully, check for student understanding and maximize their instructional time. Over five classroom observations, teachers will have to show that they get it.

"It's a little overwhelming," said Alison Lo, who will teach pre-kindergarten at Garrison Elementary. "It needs a little bit of time."

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