D.C. Public Schools teachers get performance raises

The District is facing a dilemma in its schools of a lop-sided proportion.

Some schools have too many students and others are nearly empty.

Now there's an effort underway to entice teachers to help even things out.

Under a new teacher pay initiative, D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson says high-performing teachers in low-income schools will be able to accelerate through the pay scale faster.

And the largest increases are reserved for teachers in schools where more than 60 percent of children qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Critics still question whether evaluations based on test scores are a fair way to judge teaching.

It's meant to reward teachers for their performance in the classroom and entice strong educators to the city.

Climbing the ladder requires earning "effective" and "highly effective" ratings on annual evaluations. The city's approximately 4,000 teachers have been placed on the ladder based on their evaluations over the past three years.

From Wilson on the high school level to elementary schools like Murch, enrollment in D.C. Public Schools located in affluent predominately white Ward Three have not suffered enrollment declines. They're growing so fast that modular classrooms are becoming the norm to handle the crush.

"A lot of families with kids want to be in this city and want their kids to go to public school. I think that's a good thing," says Heather Prichard, a Murch school parent.

And parents speak out about the high quality education they believe their children are getting in these D.C. Schools, where parental involvement is high.

Yet the story for DCPS is so different in predominately black far Southeast.

At newly renovated Moten Elementary, there's a huge school which currently has fewer than 300 students.

Is there a shortage of kids in this neighborhood? No, two blocks away is Kipp D.C. Public Charter School. It's Pre-K through 12, with 1,200 students. They're from this neighborhood mainly but many other areas. And there's another 1,200 on waiting lists to get in.

"We find that parents are really looking for quality seats and quality schools and unfortunately there's not enough in the city and we're doing everything we can to increase enrollment to reach more families," says Susan Schaeffler, Kipp D.C. Director.

And Kipp has special ed students in the classroom with everybody else, but they have special ed tutors to keep up.

All these schools are supported with public money, but often have great differences in achievement and perception.

"I think people are remembering the real value of sending your kid to your local school and being a part of the community," says Virginia Marentette, a Murch school parent. "It's wonderful that my son who is in Pre-K here has already made friends with kids who live on our street."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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