DCPS Teacher Announces Candidacy for WTU Presidency
Chris Bergfalk, a finalist for DCPS teacher of the year in 2009, announced his candidacy for president of the Washington Teachers Union (WTU) yesterday on "More Room on the Outside." Bergfalk has been a strong critic of Michele Rhee's reform, consistently pointing to flaws in Rhee and Fenty's spending priorities. In an interview with Pete Tucker, Bergfalk pointed out that while Rhee has increased spending per square foot of school space in both richer areas of the District, like Ward 3, and poorer areas like Ward 8, spending per square foot in Ward 3 is over $120 and in Ward 8 is less than $60.
Bergfalk has also called out Rhee for touting gains in standardized testing that may not be there. Before the DC Council, Bergfalk testified that DCPS students' increases on NAEP may have been due to a curious decline in black students taking the test between one testing year and the next rather than real gains in student achievement. Bergfalk also questions Rhee's claims about closing the achievement gap and makes comparisons between Rhee and Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent, Jerry Weast.
"Here's what you'll see in DCPS using the NCLB, the No Child Left Behind test, which is our DCCAS. Prior to Michele Rhee, from '06 to '07, the gap between poor students and non-poor students was closing; it closed by six percent for elementary school. In her first year, in 2008, the gap increased by four percent. In 2009, it increased by 9 percent. In 2010, it increased by 4 percent. So while Jerry Weast over seven years closed the gap by 19 percent, Michele Rhee over three years increased that gap, widened that gap, by 17 percent."
It'll be interesting to see how far Bergfalk manages to get with his bid for the presidency. The WTU is a mess to say the least. It is outrageously political and definitely more interested in power struggles than advancing the interests of students. I can't say for sure where Bergfalk's intentions lie, but I also can't say it wouldn't be nice to have someone with real classroom experience and a knack for pulling apart some of the District's data sitting in the driver's seat of one of the main forces for improving education.