By Rebecca Sheir
As D.C.'s mayoral race heats up this summer, D.C. Council Chairman and mayoral candidate Vincent Gray says he's putting education at the top of his platform.
Gray is urging a more collaborative approach to reforming D.C. Public Schools, with more "transparency" than the Fenty administration has demonstrated.
Gray says education reform has been too "shortsighted, narrow and clandestine" the past three years. The key, he says, is getting the entire community involved, instead of letting one or two people call the shots.
"And when we work on that," says Gray, "it will diminish the questions about, you know, me as mayor, Adrian Fenty as mayor, Michelle Rhee as chancellor. It ceases to be about one person, and more about systemic change."
That change, he says, includes promoting voluntary pre-kindergarten programs, offering more career and technical education in high schools, and de-emphasizing what he calls "teaching to the test" - a move his colleague and friend, Council member Marion Barry, applauds.
"Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee have made test scores the major indicator of success," says Barry. "You either test memory, or you test knowledge. And our tests test memory, not knowledge."
Gray says preparing D.C.'s students for the real world requires a more comprehensive approach, and a more long-term one.
"For the first time I think in the history of this city, we have a plan that really connects the dots, from the time almost a child is born, until they get into their early adulthood stages," says Gray.
Gray calls for more accountability and collaboration, including telling the public where DCPS' dollars and cents go.
It's not enough to have mayoral "control," he says. What D.C.'s schools need is mayoral "leadership."