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Kaya Henderson Persists On Education Reform

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Washington DC Public School Interim Superintendent Kaya Henderson, center, sits in the audience as she listens to President Barack Obama talk with students, parents and teachers during a town hall at Bell Multicultural High School, in the Columbia Heights.
P Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Washington DC Public School Interim Superintendent Kaya Henderson, center, sits in the audience as she listens to President Barack Obama talk with students, parents and teachers during a town hall at Bell Multicultural High School, in the Columbia Heights.

For years, the public debate in D.C. focused relentlessly on education reform, with battles over how to handle everything from teacher evaluations and test scores to union contracts. But there's been a shift with almost all the attention now on the ongoing corruption investigations.D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson says the investigations have not taken away the focus from education reform, even though her efforts to improve the school district aren't front-page news anymore.

She says a few years ago education reform got so much attention because people didn't understand why certain decisions were made, and it was "upsetting and traumatic" to them.

Henderson says DCPS is trying to change that. "We at least try to share with people before we make huge decisions about the 'what' and the 'why'" she says. "So I think people have a clearer rationale as to what we're doing."

She also says media outlets aren't as interested in the nitty-gritty details of education reform.

"You cannot reform your school district in the spotlight of the national press," says Henderson. "You have to sit down with the people who are on the ground holding hands to do the messy difficult work together. And that is not headline grabbing."

Henderson took over as DCPS Chancellor from Michelle Rhee in October 2010.

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