Today, the Washington Post's Emma Brown describes a public hearing by the D.C. Council's education committee chairman David Catania on the subject of the grading scale OSEE used for this year's DC CAS this way:
"The council chamber at times felt like a courtroom; Catania interrupted witnesses and accused them of 'dancing' to avoid answering.
A spokesman for Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), who has battled with Catania over education policy, compared the session to a McCarthy-era hunt for a conspiracy that doesn’t exist. 'It’s chilling to see that,' Pedro Ribeiro said."
The editors of the Washington Post add that last Tuesday in a meeting with the same organization on the same subject:
"Witness his behavior Tuesday morning, when he walked out rather than let an official from the Office of the State Superintendent for Education explain its decisions."
And finally consider his comments to me on Monday morning,
"However, Mr. Catania revealed, when OSSE determined that test scores would go down, the organization, at the last minute and against the recommendation of the consultants hired to design the grading of the standardized test, kept last year’s DC CAS scale."
I'm afraid that all of these behaviors and words will have a chilling effect on parents' decision as to whether to send their children to schools in the District of Columbia. It gives the impression that after years of progress in improving instruction, the physical appearance of our buildings, and the administration of our public school system, the message our families will take away from all of this is to move to the suburbs.
The impact will be felt more by DCPS than by charters. The growth of charters can mostly be attributed to word of mouth as people learned that there was a quality alternative to the traditional schools. Problems with the way a standardized test is administered will be, fairly or not, associated with classrooms run by the government.
All of this is due to having too many hands in the pot. Remember that when the most recent DC CAS scores were announced the Mayor asserted that we need to stay the course with what is working, an obvious slight to Mr. Catania's introduction of seven education bills. Yesterday, he accused OSSE of maintaining a grading scale that consultants said should be updated as a means to derail his legislative efforts. In order to avoid all of this the Mayor should reassert his lawful control over DCPS and let the council know that the focus of their work should be elsewhere.