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NCLB Outrages

3 D.C. Schools' Gains in Test Scores Mean Cash for Teachers and Staff

Ohanian Comment: Even though I despise the thought of my tax dollars going for this kind of "performance pay," I have to admit I'm happy for the teachers and most happy for the custodians and cafeteria workers. I'd be happier if they found cash in a bag under their pillow. So-called performance pay makes me sick to my stomach.

Now I hope we don't read next year about the cheating. Sorry to mention this, but it is a reality. With this kind of money involved, it is a reality.

By Yolanda Woodlee

Principals, teachers and staffers -- including custodians -- at three D.C. public schools where students' test scores rose more than 20 percent last year received $500,000 in cash awards, delivered by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty yesterday.

Fenty (D) and Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee doled out the gifts from a federal program to the first winners of the Together Everyone Achieves More, or TEAM, awards. The schools recognized were Barnard, Noyes and Tyler elementary schools.

Students at Barnard improved their scores by 33.9 percent in math and 30.4 percent in reading during the 2006-07 school year. Noyes posted gains of 24.9 percent in reading and 21.4 percent in math, followed by Tyler with 20.7 percent in reading and 20.5 percent in math.

During an assembly at Barnard attended by more than 180 students and faculty, Rhee said the schools had made "unbelievable gains" and were "shining examples" of what is going well in the city's public schools. It is the first step in creating a culture in which adults are saluted for academic achievement, she said.

"Today is a momentous day in D.C. public schools," Rhee said. "We are recognizing and rewarding the hardest-working people in this city."

Fenty said everyone responsible for education in the three schools, a total of 130 employees, would receive a check. As word of the awards spread, several teachers tried to calculate how much each would receive out of a single $8,000 check. They were surprised to learn that each one would get that amount. "You're kidding," they responded, said Mafara Hobson, a spokeswoman for Rhee.

Principals of the three schools received $10,000 each; assistant principals, $9,000. Librarians and guidance counselors at the schools received $4,000. The schools' support staff members, including cafeteria workers, each received $2,000.

But even as he handed out the awards, Fenty said the educators "don't do it for the money. They do it for the love of children."

Shirley A. Hopkinson, principal of Barnard, credited the school's decision over the past six years to focus on writing, reading and teaching children that "failure is not an option." She said 68 percent of Barnard's 333 students have reached proficiency in reading and math.

"We use data to see where we were and where we're going," she said.

Most of the funding for the awards came from the U.S. Education Department through an initiative for performance-based compensation.

In the District, the awards program is a partnership with the school system, the Washington Teachers' Union and New Leaders for New Schools, a national nonprofit group that helps raise the money needed.

Jon Schnur, chief executive of New Leaders, said D.C. public schools have $11 million available over the next five years for performance awards and to fund teams to record the "best practices" of those educators on the Internet.

"This is a groundbreaking effort," Schnur said. Among participating school districts, the District gave out the highest awards and is the only one to include all staff members.

Hopkinson has plans for some of her award money. Two of her students participate in the D.C. Boys Choir, which is trying to raise money to perform in China in June.

"They're going to China," Hopkinson said as she embraced Roberta Edwards, whose fifth-grade son, Reginald, hopes to make the 15-day tour.

— Yolanda Woodlee
Washington Post


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