Monday, August 05, 2013

Ed Reform Makes Progress in DC

There’s been a lot of controversy about the cheating scandal in DC early in Michelle Rhee’s tenure. As I’ve written previously, I think it’s important to understand what happened so the cheaters can be punished and we can make sure it doesn’t happen again (in DC or anywhere else), but what I really care about is whether the reforms introduced by Rhee and Mayor Fenty are making a difference for the long-suffering children of DC. Anecdotally it was obvious to me that things were improving rapidly (albeit from a VERY low base), but now the evidence is clear as well. Here’s a Washington Post editorial on the latest results:

THE ANNOUNCEMENT of historic achievement levels by D.C. public school students on annual math and reading tests was accompanied by reams of numbers, bar charts and graphs. But the best encapsulation of the accomplishment was the fist-pump-punctuated “Yes!” from D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D). It was a reaffirmation of the reform of public education launched in 2007, a rebuke to the naysayers who want us to believe reform has failed and a warning to those who would interfere with policies that are clearly gaining traction.

Data from the 2013 D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System released Tuesday had good news for students in both the traditional school system and in public charter schools.

…there has been remarkable progress since 2007, when then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) took over the schools and the citywide proficiency rate was 33.5 percent.

There’s been a lot of gnashing of teeth of late about the pace of reform and whether another overhaul is in order. The state test scores, showing gains that are consistent with the federally administered National Assessment of Educational Progress, should put those notions to rest. Public education in D.C. is on a healthy trajectory, thanks to the growth of quality charters and reforms that are taking root in the traditional system. These include weeding out ineffective teachers, overhauling teacher evaluations and pay, putting new curricula in place, supporting good teachers and measuring results.

School improvement doesn’t occur overnight. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson quotes an adage from Abraham Lincoln to describe her approach: “Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.”

For years, District schoolchildren suffered as school superintendents and school agendas came and went. Now they are benefiting from the consistent implementation of a vision of muscular school reform laid out by former chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and ably continued by Ms. Henderson, who had been her deputy. Mr. Gray, whose steady support has been crucial, said it best Tuesday: “I don’t think there’s any doubt we’re on the right path. We just need to stay the course.”

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