- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 7, 2013


Washington, D.C., has a new Michelle A. Rhee, and his name is David A. Catania.

As the District’s education czar, Mr. Catania appears to be ushering in a slate of reforms that will bolster student achievement and parental engagement, and close the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

But this emperor, who is mimicking Ms. Rhee, is proposing some of the same reforms as Mayor Vincent C. Gray and they likely will reveal the same limp results as those under former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.

To her credit, Ms. Rhee, as Mr. Fenty’s schools chancellor, proved to be a premier game-changer when it came to dismantling policies that automatically handed senior status to teachers, principals and other school employees who could not be fired, and she tethered school accountability to student test scores.

Where she fell incredibly short, however, was in implementing reforms that would push up students from the lower rungs of the academic ladder and tie teacher and principal pay to student performance.

Enter Mr. Catania, at-large independent and the first D.C. Council member to grab the reins of the school system since the new governance system was put in place in 2007.

Mr. Catania is no reformer.

If he were, he would push a tracking system that reflects how teachers perform from grade to grade and school to school.

Proposing to hold an eighth-grader back if he or she doesn’t make the grade is fine, as long as the new policy reflects the fact that academic performance is a two-way street.

The Catania bill puts in place a performance framework with benchmarks for failing schools, but it does not do enough to hold individual teachers and principals accountable.

As things stand now, and under Mr. Catania’s proposal, students — not teachers — will suffer the consequences of poor schooling.

In six short months, since becoming chairman of the council Education Committee, the czar has:

Proposed cutting funds for a top-performing charter school in Southeast because, The Washington Post said in an editorial, the proposal was made at “the behest of council member Marion Barry.”

Proposed other budget cuts, including funds utilized by Deputy Mayor for Education Abigail Smith. “Mr. Catania showed no effort to conceal a disdain for Ms. Smith,” the editorial said.

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