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Posted at 1:18 PM ET, 01/29/2011

Does Kaya Henderson want to run D.C. schools?

By Valerie Strauss

It just may be that Kaya Henderson, the interim chancellor of D.C. schools who was tapped to succeed Michelle Rhee, doesn’t want the job permanently.

My colleague Bill Turque wrote an insightful story about Henderson and the challenges she faces -- which, so far, have included reversing two of Rhee’s key decisions on school leadership -- and she raises the issue herself:

“People think that when you are an educator you clearly aspire to a superintendency or to be secretary of education. That’s not true for me. There are a number of roles you can play in any organization, and the top dog is not always the most important one or the one that is best suited for you. There are absolutely reasons why I would totally want this job and absolutely reasons why I would totally not want this job. The truth of the matter is, I have to figure that out.”

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has already endorsed Henderson as the permanent successor to Rhee, who quit late last year. Henderson had been Rhee's deputy, and the two share the same basic reform philosophy though Henderson has already established herself as someone distinct from Rhee.

Turque’s story reveals some important issues, chief among them the fact that Henderson is pushing to develop a curriculum -- essentially a guide for the district that spells out goals, topics to be covered and methods to be used for learning, teaching and evaluation.

Yes, the system has no coordinated curriculum.

Rhee’s believed that it was more important to first tackle the issue of teacher quality --- and there are mixed views about how successful she was. She quit as chancellor before she could take a hard look at the curriculum.

Read Turque’s story to see what else Henderson intends to make her focus.

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By Valerie Strauss  | January 29, 2011; 1:18 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. Schools  | Tags:  arne duncan, d.c. schools, d.c. superintendent, kaya henderson, michelle rhee  
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Comments

If Rhee were still here, she would have had to deal with the mess she made of Dunbar and Hardy and would have done it just the way Henderson did – reluctantly, clumsily, and too late.

I don’t think Henderson wants this job any more than Rhee did when she bolted in October. She just got stuck with it as a way to provide a chance for the suits at Central office to find jobs by the end of the school year, and to not get blamed for abandoning the kids mid-year.

I’ll be shocked if she doesn’t join Rhee in her new StudentsFirst gig, thus getting back into her preferred #2 slot, while avoiding the dirty work of actually running a school district.

Posted by: efavorite | January 29, 2011 2:09 PM | Report abuse

efav: I agree with you. I expect Henderson to resign at the end of this school year and I think that was already decided when she took the interim chancellor position. There's more at play here behind the scenes than the public is made privy to.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | January 29, 2011 2:42 PM | Report abuse

The chaos has only just begun to engulf the public school systems of the USA. No one in their right mind wants to stand front and center as a Chancellor or Superintendent. Ms. Henderson is just in her right mind and will flee at the first opportunity.

The field is being cleared for the sociopaths, like Rhee, like the Tea Party General Tata, like the Wake County crazies, like Wendy Kopp and her white TFA missionary army, like all the graduates of the Broad Academy. The fascist minded are going to be defeated but not without much pain and upheaval.

Unfortunately Valerie, no amount of brilliant rational research based argument is going to head this upheaval off. But we love you for trying.

Posted by: malcolmxmlk | January 29, 2011 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Like, totally, wow!

Posted by: demathis | January 29, 2011 6:10 PM | Report abuse

No controlled curriculum -- One of Rhee's first moves with Henderson right beside her was to fire the entire curriculum and instruction staff at 825. There was curriculum and pacing charts that correlated with nationa teaching standards because that was the highest priority of Janey. Teachers worked summers writing and mapping curriculum to text and culturally-rich field trips and Rhee/Henderson canceled all funding, fired all staff and destroyed all pacing charts and charged all teachers to write curriculum during the school year while teaching and develop standards of management for their classroom. It's evident that she's just like Rhee -- full of lies.

Posted by: wtf1 | January 29, 2011 8:29 PM | Report abuse

Curriculum is key.


I am shocked to read that the district has no curriculum.

If what wtf1 says is true, then the district has really gone backwards.

If teachers worked over the summer to write curriculum and then it was thrown out, I think that shows that the leader knew nothing about education.

Expecting individual schools or teachers to come up with their own curriculum can be done over a 5-10 year period. But you need top people and you are going to end up with different standards in every school. It is almost impossible to write curriculum while you teach . Teaching without a clear curriculum when you have a lot of courses is very difficult, if not impossible.

Is what wtf1 says true?

Posted by: ubblybubbly | January 30, 2011 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Yes, what wtf1 said is true. I worked on one of the math curricula. It was not ideal because they only had one person (me) working on it and so there were some errors and also it is better to have other people to bounce ideas off of.

However, the groups that were working on the elementary school ones for mathematics had 2-3 people per grade level, working together to make sure that it was vertically aligned.

Posted by: Wyrm1 | January 30, 2011 11:36 AM | Report abuse

it's true it was a million dollar project that Janey adopted. There was a curriculum and instruction department that was dismantled by Rhee. Before the million dollar project that Janey put together, the DCPS teachers used a pacing chart which was prescribed curriculum that tied back to standards. When Janey adopted the national standards, teachers were charged with writing new curriculum and we were in phase 2 (summer 2) of the project and then came Rhee/Henderson. It's absolutely true. It's true that there's no curriculum because the threw it out and fired all of the staff. Now, she's going to reinvent the wheel and then claim that the city has been working without a curriculum for years. Another huge lie. She's a farce and pathetic. It looks like I'm going to have to start blogging again. I thought the lies stopped with Rhee but Henderson is really got to do something to gain some credibility. She needs to work on getting IMPACT acceptable.

Posted by: wtf1 | January 30, 2011 1:50 PM | Report abuse

it's true it was a million dollar project that Janey adopted. There was a curriculum and instruction department that was dismantled by Rhee. Before the million dollar project that Janey put together, the DCPS teachers used a pacing chart which was prescribed curriculum that tied back to standards. When Janey adopted the national standards, teachers were charged with writing new curriculum and we were in phase 2 (summer 2) of the project and then came Rhee/Henderson. It's absolutely true. It's true that there's no curriculum because the threw it out and fired all of the staff. Now, she's going to reinvent the wheel and then claim that the city has been working without a curriculum for years. Another huge lie. She's a farce and pathetic. It looks like I'm going to have to start blogging again. I thought the lies stopped with Rhee but Henderson is really got to do something to gain some credibility. She needs to work on getting IMPACT acceptable.

Posted by: wtf1 | January 30, 2011 1:50 PM | Report abuse

If Kaya Henderson does not know the difference between a class with 20 students and 40 students - she needs to go. At first I wanted to give her a chance, but this sort of careless disregard for children's welfare is not acceptable. She needs to go.

Posted by: jlp19 | January 30, 2011 2:31 PM | Report abuse

According to the Washington Post:
"A comprehensive report from dozens of business and community leaders in the 1980s suggested that the District's curriculum, one of the first in the nation to detail and test what children should know at each grade level, was outdated. So the system was abandoned -- but not replaced. For the next 15 years, the District lacked a comprehensive plan for how to teach and test core subjects such as reading and math."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/metro/interactives/dcschools/#fullseries

Posted by: frankb1 | January 31, 2011 12:21 AM | Report abuse

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