The Washington Post’s Perry Stein details today that U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited three traditional public schools yesterday to congratulate them on their recent PARCC results. The DCPS elementary schools, Amidon-Bowen, Hendley, and Simon, each scored greater than the 2.8 city-wide average increase in English and the 2.5 improvement in math over the previous year and each serves primarily low income children. She delivered cookies and a congratulatory note at each stop. The appearances were a surprise to the schools.
What Ms. Stein failed to mention is that Ms. Devos also went to Friendship PCS. Chief Executive Officer Patricia Brantley in her Facebook post does not mention the name of the campus where Ms. DeVos posed for a picture with some of the students but I bet it was Technology Preparatory High School, the same location that was featured by Ms. Stein in a story the other day. As the DC Public Charter School Board highlighted last week, Tech Prep had the greatest increase in standardized test scores of all charters compared to 2017 rising 22.3 percent in English and 13.6 percent in math.
Ms. DeVos’s show of support is exactly the right move by someone in her position. As people in leadership know, everything you do and say is going to be watched and scrutinized by those around you so it is critically important to be intentional in all of your actions.
The Education Secretary’s choice stands in sharp contrast to the decision of D.C. Mayor Bowser as to where to start her Monday morning on the beginning of the new school year. She went to Excel Academy, the closed all-girl charter school that has converted to be part of DCPS. One reason that has been offered for the institution’s decision to become a regular school instead of being taken over by KIPP DC PCS or Friendship was that it wanted to avoid the strict accountability that it experienced under the PCSB. Bringing attention to a school that was shuttered for low academic performance is not exactly the message of high expectations that you want to send to each of our public school families and students.
Ms. Bowser sent a similar communication when she stated that she could wait until after her Democratic primary contest was concluded to begin the search for a new Chancellor. Antwan Wilson, the previous person in this position, resigned on February 20, 2018. The primary was on June 29th, four months later. Ms. Bowser had no real opponent. The decision just shouts loud and clear that education is not a priority.
I am convinced that it is intentionality that separates the charters that succeed from those that do not. I have heard the term consistently emphasized by the school leaders that are in charge of some of the most respected schools in our city. It is one of most prominent characteristics I see in the heads of organizations that I respect and admire. Perhaps if we really want to see PARCC scores go up dramatically in this town we all need to adopt a strictly intentional attitude around learning.