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Jay Matthews makes me smh…

July 13, 2010

I remember being a student, and when we’d have a substitute teacher more often than not we’d have some kind of audio-visual part of our lesson(s). It was either one of those filmstrip things (the ones that had an accompanying cassette tape that went “BEEP” when you had to advance the filmstrip), and actual movie projector, or a newfangled VCR. I remember when the subs could load, unload and de-bug the filmstrip and movie projector with their eyes closed, asleep. Yet they could not figure out how to work the stinkin’ VCR. I promised myself then if I ever became a teacher I’d know how to work the VCR in my classroom (or other relevant technologies).

So, the reason for that long introduction was because of the acronym in the post title. For the unitiated, smh= Shake my head. Just found that out the other day, and boy did I feel stupid not knowing. Rarely do I show my age, but then I did. So now that I know how to work the proverbial VCR, on to complain about Jay and the WaPo…

In a Monday op-ed (or something like that), Matthews talks about DC middle school principal Dwan Jordon.

Matthews references a July 6 article that shows Jordon’s teachers produced huge math and reading gains for their students. Then, mysteriously, almost all of the teachers left the next year; few returned. The reasons for returning were varied, but when the majority of a school staff leaves the year after a new administrator arrives, then the commonality among the departures is evident. Only one of the teachers allowed Matthews to use her name, as she is retired. The others didn’t, for fear of retaliation. I don’t blame them.

The ultimate insult to me was when Matthews said:

Their stories reveal an odd dynamic between Jordon and the teachers union, each unintentionally helping the other.

I didn’t understand that part, so I kept reading.

But Jordon’s turbulent first year affirms the union’s power to save teachers’ jobs. His rule-breaking, teachers say, made it easier for the union to reinstate them. The union, in turn, protected fired teachers from lasting harm but got them out of Jordon’s school so he could hire people he wanted.

Wow, if ever there was a backhanded compliment to be put forth in the pages of the WaPo, this would be it.

So let me get this straight; Jordon broke the contract (note: it is an agreement between two parties, not an arbitratry set of rules set by one party) and the union did what it was supposed to do and made sure that members’ due process rights were respected. Not only were their due process rights respected but they were able to get out of an environment that that they didn’t want to be in. I would venture to say that the departed teachers (and perhaps their new students) are happy in their new work site.

So Matthews sees this as a quid pro quo. I don’t. Where is the administrative accountability? Where is Rhee or one of her deputies saying “We are trying to collaborate with the union, we are trying to walk down a path of cooperation and not compulsion, and for that reason you will honor and respect our mutual agreement?”

Matthews then semi-legitimizes Jordon’s anti-contractual methods:

It is difficult to find a celebrated school reformer who has not violated administrative procedures, and sometimes actual laws.

So, you can break laws and contracts as long as you produce results. Then you will be a “celebrated school reformer”.

Who produced the results? Well, that’s obvious, it was Jordon the school Jordon’s teachers the staff that was at the school prior to Jordon getting there produced spectacular results in one year.

I have three points to make.

One: It was the staff that was there prior to Jordan’s installation as principal that raised the achievement of the students.

Two: That kind of student achievement increase couldn’t have happened without the introduction of Jordon to the school.

Three: Even though the student achievement increase was ascribed to Jordon’s introduction, that was the same commonality attributed to nearly the entire staff leaving after one year of Jordon’s “leadership”.

Those super-high results were for the 2008-2009 school year. The data for the 2009-2010 school year will be released soon. That data will speak to Jordon’s leadership over his virtually all-new staff. Perhaps the results will be duplicated, but I doubt it. It takes time for teachers to team, to work together, to build a collaborative, productive relationship. We’re not widgets that can be installed, removed and replaced. We’re people; we have strengths and weaknesses and personalities. True leaders, whether they are teachers or administrators realize that.

Matthews warns of the potential negative outcome, should the results be less than spectactular or (gasp) show a setback:

Jordon has shown the same focus on results, no matter what. But his second-year scores, soon to be released, had better be good, or any powerful enemies he makes will have more than enough witnesses for a case against him.

I think virtually the entire staff leaving is a powerful enough case against him.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Dinica permalink
    July 13, 2010 8:16 am

    I’m confused about your second point: That kind of student achievement increase couldn’t have happened without the introduction of Jordon to the school. Isn’t that the exact opposite of the overall point you are making?

  2. Dr. Homeslice permalink
    July 13, 2010 9:42 pm

    Uh…..maybe? I wrote it in a fit of passionate hate for Jay Matthews, Dinica. Haven’t blogged much lately, so perhaps you’re right. My logic seemed to be somewhat circular.

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