An organization that was established after former District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Michelle Rhee was given the boot, indicates in a newly-released report that when it comes to educational policy, the District ranks high on the charts.
According to the report which Rhee's nonprofit, StudentsFirst, made public on Monday, Jan. 7, D.C. which achieved ranking as having the fourth-best education policy in the country, was also noted for the school system's controversial IMPACT teacher evaluation system.
"They are pretty tough grades, but I think they are reflective of the environment," said Eric Lerum, vice president of national policy at StudentsFirst, headquartered in Sacramento, Calif. He added that most of the states received a D or an F.
The report grades all 50 states and the District in terms of their education system for high-quality teaching, and providing parents with information and choices about their children's schools and financial management. The report also measured StudentsFirst advocates in their work toward school reform.
As a result, the District which earned a C+, fell behind Louisiana as the top-performing state, having earned a B-. While Florida and Indiana ranked second and third, with a grade of B- and C+, respectively. Maryland, which placed 17th, received a D+ and Virginia ranked 38th with a D-.
Rhee, the iron-willed education czar who made national headlines for her aggressive school reformation mandates, served under former Mayor Adrian Fenty (D). She formed the nonprofit StudentsFirst shortly after resigning from the District's school system nearly three years ago. Her IMPACT system which has been questioned by local educators in regard to its effectiveness, relies on a combination of classroom observations and students' standardized test scores to rate teachers.
StudentsFirst also showered the District with accolades for giving parents access to teacher evaluation information and offering alternatives to neighborhood schools, such as charters and providing scholarships that allow low-income students in chronically failing public schools to attend private schools.
The District also received an A for giving Fenty control of the public school system in 2007, when he brought Rhee in as chancellor.
Meanwhile, the report has criticized the state of Maryland for failing to decide whether to promote or fire teachers based on their effectiveness and for placing strict limitations on the number of charter schools. The report also offers a narrow definition of state education policy, according to D.C. school board member Mary Lord.
"State-level policies are a lot broader than charter-school-enabling legislation or an individual school system's teacher-evaluation system," Lord said. "New Hampshire, for example, flunks, according to StudentsFirst. Yet the state is a national leader in innovative education policies."