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D.C. Teachers Struggle to Adapt to School Reforms

Washington, D.C.'s schools struggle to bring students up to proficiency standards while losing thousands of them to charter schools. John Merrow talks to D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee about her first year on the job.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Now, changing the public school system in Washington, D.C.

    The NewsHour's special correspondent for education, John Merrow, has spent much of this year chronicling efforts to overhaul troubled school districts in New Orleans and here in the nation's capital.

    Tonight, he returns to Washington to look at how those changes are playing out at one middle school.

    JOHN MERROW, NewsHour correspondent: Just six weeks before summer vacation, tension was mounting at Hart Middle School in Washington, D.C.

    WILLIE BENNETT, principal, Hart Middle School: A majority of the staff really are going through some anxiety right now, because they don't know whether or not they're going to be here next school year.

  • TIFFANY ADAMS, Hart Middle School:

    The teachers that's already here, they're good teachers, so why are you trying to get rid of them?

  • YVETTE GASTON, Hart Middle School:

    In all honesty, test scores are — those are the only things that you gauge a school by?

  • JOHN MERROW:

    Test scores at Hart Middle School are low, so low that the federal law known as No Child Left Behind says that the school must undergo drastic changes by this coming fall. What those drastic changes will be is up to this woman, D.C.'s school chancellor Michelle Rhee.

    MICHELLE RHEE, chancellor, Washington, D.C., Public School System: There is a likelihood that some or all of the staff members will not be working at the school next year.

  • JARVIS MASSENBURG, Hart Middle School:

    People are anxious or have some level of anxiety because you're working with the unknown. And that's unsettling for people with families and homes and things of that nature.

  • WILLIE BENNETT:

    I've been principal for five years. I don't know if there's going to be a number six.

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