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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

DC’s teacher reforms pay off

District of Columbia Public Schools, “once among the nation’s worst,”  are now considered a good place to teach, writes Thomas Toch in Washington Monthly. Traditional schools are competing with charters to hire “well-educated, idealistic young teachers.” DCPS’ reading and math scores are rising, along with graduation rates.

Michelle Rhee alienated many D.C. teachers, yet her reforms have elevated their stature.

Teaching had been a low-status, rule-bound job before Michelle Rhee’s contentious term as chancellor, writes Toch, director of FutureEd.  “Building on Rhee’s early work, and learning from her mistakes, her successors have effectively transformed it into a performance-based profession that provides recognition, responsibility, collegiality, support, and significant compensation.”

Her successors pushed “comprehensive teacher evaluations, the abandonment of seniority-based staffing, and performance-based promotions and compensation” as well as giving teachers more time for collaboration.

Eric Christopher, taught on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where “opportunities to advance were mostly based on teacher seniority” and the pay was low, writes Toch. In 2013, he moved to Washington, D.C. to teach in a charter school.

Two years ago, he switched to a district school, Turner Elementary, where he found a “strong sense of professionalism, a sense that we’re a team.”

After two years as a teacher and instructional coach, “Christopher is earning $127,000, more than double what he was making on the Eastern Shore,” writes Toch.

Turner has boosted its enrollment by a third, despite competition from charter schools, and raised the percentage of students reading at or above grade level from 23 percent in early 2014–15 to 60 percent today.

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