The editors of the Washington Post came out yesterday strongly against proposals by D.C. Councilmembers David Grosso and Mary Cheh which would divorce the Office of the State Superintendent of Education from strict Mayoral control. I agree with the representatives, and have argued that having the Chancellor, Deputy Mayor for Education, and State Superintendent all under the authority of the Mayor inherently injects politics into the traditional schools. Since the city’s chief executive needs votes to stay in office, the individual in this position will use the office to craft a view of the educational landscape that may not match reality. Under the system currently in place in the nation’s capital regarding the public schools, it is predictable that a scandal would develop regarding a greatly inflated high school graduation rate. Unfortunately, in this case, young children suffered because of a structure created by adults.
However, all of the recent controversies around diplomas, admission preference provided to the Chancellor, and residency fraud are not my main interest. I’m trying to figure out how to quickly increase academic achievement for all of our kids, and especially those that are living in poverty, up to the rates seen by those who reside in our affluent neighborhoods. Instead of PARCC scores in the teens or twenties I want them in the seventies. Today. So how do we get there?
I’m an extremely optimistic person but have to admit here that I don’t see a path forward that will lead our scholars to this endpoint, perhaps ever. Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of great local charter schools that are closing the achievement gap. They are doing this for hundreds of kids a year. This is not what I’m talking about. I want to change the world for the 91,537 students enrolled in all of our public schools.
To reach this state would take a complete rethinking about how we deliver education in this city. It says much about what institutions are permitted to continue teaching our young people and expand, and which need to immediately close their doors. Let’s be honest with each other this morning. Without naming specific individuals because that may upset them, do you see any of our leaders across the traditional or charter school sectors making the argument for this type of transformation? The answer is sadly no.
We need a Michael Bloomberg, Joel Klein, or Michelle Rhee to come to the rescue. Someone who is willing to fight the fight despite the political bruises that will be received by those fiercely protecting the status quo. A new hero that will sacrifice his or her time and energy for the betterment of our society. An individual who will decide to show that it can be done.
Until this knight in shining armor comes along I’m willing to wait. But I’m inpatient and now I’m pacing around the room. I know we can do this, I really do. The only question is when?