Kaya Henderson: Big Plans For D.c. Public Schools (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Kaya Henderson: Big Plans For D.C. Public Schools

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
Earlier in the show, we talked about how young people are getting to and from school in the Washington region. Now, though, we're going to talk about school itself and we'll turn to someone who knows that subject quite well, D.C. Public Schools chancellor, Kaya Henderson. Henderson is outlining her goals for the next five years. Among them, increasing enrollment and improving the graduation rate. Kavitha Cardoza snagged the brochure in which Henderson discusses those goals and our trusty education reporter visited the chancellor's office to find how Henderson intends to make those plans a reality.

MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

00:00:34
The glossy brochure has ambitious, some might even say audacious, goals. For example, you want reading and math test scores to move from 43 percent to 70 percent. How exactly are you going to do that?

MS. KAYA HENDERSON

00:00:46
We actually believe that there are three key levers. First one is about talent. We have been relentlessly focused on ensuring that there is a highly effective teacher in every single classroom and a highly effective school leader in every single building. We know if we're able to leverage that highly effective staff in some different ways that we can increase our positive impact on our students.

MS. KAYA HENDERSON

00:01:10
The second dimension is time. We know through lots of studies and by watching some of our charter partners who have been very successful with a similar population, that they actually spend much more time in school than we do. And then the third lever really is around technology. We believe that technology has the ability to do an incredible set of things.

MS. KAYA HENDERSON

00:01:31
One, motivate students who are previously unmotivated. Two, allow teachers to differentiate across different levels in one classroom. Three, allow for pacing and customization to be individualized so that kids can as fast as they need to or as slow as they need to. And we believe that if we're able to leverage technology, if we're able to rethink how we use time and to maximize talent we can reach these five goals.

CARDOZA

00:01:58
Another goal is to increase the graduation rate from 53 to 75 percent. And one of the ways you say you're going to make that happen is an intensive summer bridge program. But last year the budget for summer programs was cut and DCPS could only serve a fraction of the students who needed help. What if that happens again?

HENDERSON

00:02:17
Well, previously we've tried to provide as many summer school slots for as many young people as possible, sometimes serving up to 12,000. But in an era where we now can only serve about 6,000 young people it has forced us to become strategic. So we're targeting summer school towards three groups of people, one, our elementary school students who are significantly behind. The second group is really our middle schoolers and our folks going into high school.

HENDERSON

00:02:43
We know that if they can come out of eighth grade with these skills to do algebra I and English I that they will be successful in high school. And then the third, of course, is our high school potential graduates so young people who, if they only have a couple more credits to complete, they can use summer school to ensure that they are able to graduate on time.

CARDOZA

00:03:05
How much more money is this going to cost and where is it coming from?

HENDERSON

00:03:09
There's not a total dollar amount. When I think about cost, I think about how we use our existing resources in a more effective way. So we didn't ask for additional funds this year. We actually turned in a budget request that maintained funding at last year's levels. But what we are doing is figuring out what doesn't work and disinvesting in that so that we can reinvest in things that we think work.

CARDOZA

00:03:38
Would you be willing to link the results or how effective you are as chancellor in reaching these goals with your salary, the way, for example, teachers' evaluations are linked with their results?

HENDERSON

00:03:50
Sure. I'm happy to be held accountable in the same way. I honestly believe that without a plan people are rowing the boat in very different directions. We want the community and our stakeholders to be unambiguous about where we are trying to go so we put numbers to it. What gets measured gets done.

HENDERSON

00:04:10
There's no way, if we haven't done anything in years one or two or three, that in years four or five we could pull this out. So you will know clearly whether we are on track to meeting these goals by the measurables that we've laid out and if I'm not doing a great job or if I'm not progressing towards those goals then I'm not the right person to lead us in this district.

SHEIR

00:04:37
That was Kavitha Cardoza talking with D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson. You can find more about the chancellor's five year goals by visiting our website, metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

00:05:00
Up next, she's part shepherd, part guidance counselor, part best friend and all "youth wrangler."

MS. ALEXANDRIA WOOD

00:05:07
Patience and a sense of humor are the keys to success in this particular field.

SHEIR

00:05:14
Plus, opening your home to kids who've seen more than their share of tough times.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE ONE

00:05:18
In the middle of the stairway, he said, can I call you Mommy? And that broke my heart.

SHEIR

00:05:24
It's coming your way on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5.
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