The D.C. public school system is navigating a number of changes, including redrawing school boundaries, a new common application across charter and traditional public schools, and figuring out how to make up snow days. At the same time, big issues still loom, including improving middle school performance and addressing graduation rates and truancy at higher grades. Kojo sits down with D.C.’s top school official, Chancellor Kaya Henderson, about the state of local education.

Guests

  • Kaya Henderson Chancellor, District of Columbia Public Schools

Transcript

  • 12:08:18

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Around the country, the percentage of students who take advanced placement tests is on the rise, with Maryland and Virginia leading the pack. But the District of Columbia is bragging about its numbers, too, with improved showings for all students, and especially for African-American students.

  • 12:08:50

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIThe AP report is good news for D.C.'s all urban public school system where more than one-third of students are labeled at risk. And the annual lottery to search schools is all-consuming for some families. D.C. Public Schools have their own successes, but they also grapple with some of the same challenges as their neighbors, how much testing is too much, how to beef up middle school education, and how to draw new boundary lines to meet changing needs. Kaya Henderson is chancellor of D.C. Public Schools. She joins me in studio. Kaya Henderson, good to see you. Thank you for joining us.

  • 12:09:24

    MS. KAYA HENDERSONGood to see you, Kojo. Thank you for having me.

  • 12:09:27

    NNAMDIIf you'd like to join the conversation, if you have questions or comment -- do you have children in D.C. Public Schools? What would you like to ask the chancellor? The number is 800-433-8850. You can send email to kojo@wamu.org or shoot us a tweet, @kojoshow. Kaya Henderson, given the weather forecast for tonight and tomorrow, we have to start with a question about snow days. D.C. Public Schools have one snow day built in and have already cancelled class three times this winter. With more snow on the way, are you rethinking the school calendar, and if so, how?

  • 12:10:01

    HENDERSONAbsolutely. We have a couple of days built in that we can extend the school year. But we're also looking at creative solutions like extending the school day. We have some days that are recordkeeping days or professional development days. We want to do our best not to extend into the summer because we know our families make plans for the summer. We're going to be as creative as possible and try to let families know as quickly as possible what our makeup plan looks like.

  • 12:10:33

    NNAMDIAny idea whether or not schools will be closed tomorrow as yet?

  • 12:10:36

    HENDERSONI don't have a clear sense. Our priority -- we have a call today, in fact, right now, with the rest of the city agencies, and we will likely know by this afternoon. Our hope is that we can let parents know by the end of the day today. Again, the number to call, 800-433-8850. Or you can shoot us a tweet, @kojoshow. You can go to our website, kojoshow.org, and ask a question or make a comment there. Well, you've got news to share about an increase in the number of D.C. students who take advanced placement courses and do well on the tests. What do the numbers show?

  • 12:11:16

    HENDERSONWell, the numbers show, first of all, that our access to AP courses for our young people is in fact better than any other state in the nation. We provide AP access for all of our students, as long as they take the prerequisite courses. And that access is very important. But we also are seeing increased passing rates. And those increased passing rates are important for a couple of reasons. First of all, they ensure that we have a very rigorous academic set of options for our more advanced learners.

  • 12:11:49

    HENDERSONAnd lots of times, we talk about our struggling learners. But we don't always focus attention on our advanced learners. It also means that it -- our students have the opportunity to save some money in going to college because any passing score gets them college credit that then they don't have to pay for when they matriculate into a university.

  • 12:12:09

    NNAMDIMore African-American and Latino students are signing up for AP tests. How do you explain that increase?

  • 12:12:15

    HENDERSONWell, part of the increase is because we are a predominantly urban district, and we actually have a larger percentage of African-American and Latino students. But what we know about AP for all is that when our students have the opportunity to attempt this rigorous coursework, many of them rise to the occasion.

  • 12:12:34

    HENDERSONThe College Board shares that many of our African-American and Latino students across the country don't even get the chance to attempt this level of coursework. And we are saying we believe that our young people can attempt it. And even if they don't pass the exam, we believe that the perseverance, the grit, the exposure to this level of college-level work is important.

  • 12:12:58

    NNAMDIYou told the Northwest Current Newspaper last fall that it might make sense to consolidate all AP classes into one building where students could go to take those classes in the afternoon and evening. What's the benefit of that arrangement? And have you explored its feasibility on the ground?

  • 12:13:13

    HENDERSONSure. It's an interesting idea because there are core AP classes, like your English language and composition or your English literature and composition, your varied math courses, your sciences, your social studies. Then there are also a number of world language courses. There are psychology courses.

  • 12:13:30

    HENDERSONThere are lots of AP courses where there may not be enough of a critical mass in a particular school building to offer the course. So the idea of consolidating some of the less popular and less traditional courses is something that we're looking at very closely. A lot of it will depend on what our budget looks like for the coming year.

  • 12:13:50

    NNAMDIHow important do you think AP classes are? How do students and schools benefit from supposedly college-level courses in high school?

  • 12:13:59

    HENDERSONWell, for our students, during their high school career, to be in a classroom where you are required to produce papers, where you're required to do significant research, where you're required to demonstrate mastery on an exam that every other student in the country who's taking that class has to take, I think is very important for standard setting. It sets the bar very high.

  • 12:14:25

    HENDERSONI think, as I said before, saving money -- many of our young people are able to parlay their passing AP scores into savings by not having -- by placing out of those courses in college. And when you look at the ever-increasing cost of a college education at this point, saving our young people as much money as possible before they get to college is huge.

  • 12:14:46

    NNAMDIDid you take AP courses in high school?

  • 12:14:47

    HENDERSONI did. In fact, I took so many AP courses in high school that I entered Georgetown as a second semester freshman, not a first semester freshman, which saved my family quite a bit of cash.

  • 12:14:58

    NNAMDISo you speak from personal experience. Our guest is Kaya Henderson, chancellor of D.C. Public Schools. We're inviting your calls at 800-433-8850. We're going to be talking funding shortly. How would you like to see D.C. schools use any boost in funding from the District next year? 800-433-8850. But before we go there, here is Marty in Washington, D.C. Marty, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:15:23

    MARTYOh, yes. Thank you for taking the call. Chancellor, I just want to ask you -- and I've asked you this once before in a meeting you've probably forgotten -- why we don't create a communications plan to reach the students so they in turn who are really the recipients of what we're selling, education, will be predisposed to it. (unintelligible)...

  • 12:15:46

    NNAMDIWhat do you mean by a communication plan to reach the students?

  • 12:15:52

    MARTYNo different than the communications plan that any fast food store -- every student has a -- obviously a different way of seeing the world.

  • 12:16:02

    NNAMDISure.

  • 12:16:03

    MARTYBut there are some general things that you can do to make children glad that they are in their particular schools. For our high schools, most of our children don't understand why their schools are named what they are. We don't create a brand for these secondary schools.

  • 12:16:19

    MARTYOur private schools have a brand, which almost automatically makes the child respond differently. When I was at Duke Ellington, we literally created a brand. I found half my students didn't know who Duke Ellington really was. So we had to stop, spend a day on who he was, so they'd understand the value system that we were trying to instill.

  • 12:16:37

    NNAMDIOkay. Kaya Henderson.

  • 12:16:38

    HENDERSONSure. I think ensuring that our schools are places where our young people want to be and getting them connected with educators who are willing to take the time to build relationships, help them understand their context, are very important for us. For a long time, the DCPS brand has been tarnished. And I think part of what this good news and a lot of other good news pieces are helping us to do is help parents and students feel pride in DCPS.

  • 12:17:10

    HENDERSONMany of our schools have incredibly strong school cultures. And that's part of the reason why they're beginning to turn around. We're actually being much more intentional about that work. And we'll provide some supports around school culture so that our young people do feel like schools are places that they want to be in, have a connection to.

  • 12:17:29

    NNAMDIOn now -- and, of course, you remember every single question you're asked at every community meeting, and you remember every individual who asked that question. Here is Paul now in Arlington, Va. Paul, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:17:41

    PAULYes. I was wondering, since the chancellor's in favor of opening the AP classes to a larger variety of students, would she also be in favor of establishing extra advanced placement courses for the most gifted students?

  • 12:17:55

    HENDERSONAbsolutely. I feel like anything that we can do to continue to challenge our young people is -- I'm wide open to.

  • 12:18:05

    NNAMDIPaul, is...

  • 12:18:06

    PAULAnd I should specify, by extra advanced placement, I meant not additional advanced placement but more advanced than advanced placement.

  • 12:18:13

    HENDERSONWell, I think we do dual enrollment with colleges and universities right now. The AP exams are the pretty much goal standard in terms of college-level coursework that we can offer. Do you have some other ideas that we should be considering?

  • 12:18:29

    PAULNothing in particular. Well, I mean, I suppose second-year calculus, for example, in theory, could be a more advanced -- an advanced placement course.

  • 12:18:37

    HENDERSONYeah. We have -- I mean, we actually aren't bound by the traditional grade distinctions. We have a number of -- I was at Hardy Middle School a couple of months ago where our middle schoolers are actually taking math classes at Duke Ellington because they've placed out of -- they have exceeded all of the math that Hardy can offer. And so we look for opportunities like that because we want to continue to try to push our highest students to achieve even more.

  • 12:19:06

    NNAMDIBut do they know who Duke Ellington was?

  • 12:19:08

    HENDERSONWell, they do now because at the school, there's an incredibly strong culture around Duke Ellington.

  • 12:19:14

    NNAMDIPaul, thank you very much for your call. Let's look at school funding. A study commissioned by the D.C. government says the District should boost the schools' budget for next year by 15 percent or more than $2,000 per pupil. The mayor will not release his budget proposal until April. But how confident are you that the schools will get more money next year?

  • 12:19:33

    HENDERSONWe've had every indication from the mayor's office, from city council, from everybody around town that they recognize the need to provide more funding to schools. So I'm incredibly optimistic about our ability to secure more funds.

  • 12:19:47

    NNAMDIThis study also calls for more money for at-risk students who make up more than 30,000 of the District's 80,000 students. What difference would extra funding make for those students?

  • 12:19:59

    HENDERSONSure. So many of our students are designated as at-risk. And our students come with all kinds of challenges related to where they live or their economic situations. What additional funds would allow us to do is hire social and emotional support folks, psychologists, social workers, develop partnerships with health institutions so that we can meet their needs. Our children come to us with a variety of needs that aren't always met in the traditional ways. And school ends up being the meeting point where all of these coalesce. And so we have to attend to those things at the same time that we're attending to their academic needs.

  • 12:20:41

    NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments for Kaya Henderson, she is chancellor of D.C. Public Schools, you can give us a call at 800-433-8850. We're soon going to be moving on to the issue of standardized tests. Do you think public school children spend too much time taking standardized tests? 800-433-8850 or you can send us an email to kojo@wamu.org.

  • 12:21:04

    NNAMDIIn suburban school districts many children simply attend their neighborhood school, but in D.C. a number of families apply to send their kids to the best public or charter school that has space. This is the first year that most charter and traditional public schools in the District are running a joint enrollment lottery to decide who goes where. How is that streamlined effort going so far?

  • 12:21:28

    HENDERSONWell, it's going well by all accounts. We've had more families apply in the lottery this year. We've had a lot of families share with us that instead of having to make application at a bunch of different places, being able to apply sort of in a one-stop-shopping kind of way from the comfort of your own home or library computer, has been tremendous.

  • 12:21:52

    HENDERSONWe have seen a wider distribution of demand for many schools that previously had not seen a lot of interest. And so we think it's an initiative that is actually helping to strengthen all of our schools. We still have some bugs to work out. It was the first year that we've done this. But I'm really happy at what we've been able to accomplish for parents.

  • 12:22:16

    NNAMDIBack to the telephones. Here now is Greg, in Washington, D.C. Greg, your turn.

  • 12:22:23

    GREGYes. Hello, Kojo. I would like to ask Chancellor Henderson why they have not absorbed the Options Public Charter School? When that charter school failed an audit in 2012 by OSCE -- and OSCE is the SDA, but you should take over the LEA for this school. And because of the fact that you're not these children are not getting their due process rights under IDEA law. And because of that you're holding this school outside of DCPS because then you don't have to provide private placements for them.

  • 12:22:59

    HENDERSONWell…

  • 12:23:00

    GREGAnd I'd like to know what you would say about that, Ms. Henderson.

  • 12:23:04

    HENDERSONSo I think your understanding of the situation is incorrect. In fact, the Options Public Charter School is actually administered -- it's a local education agency, that's administered by the Public Charter School Board. The Public Charter School Board has authority over Options. That being said, these are all our children.

  • 12:23:25

    HENDERSONAnd in fact, while it's the Public Charter School Board's responsibility to figure out how to continue to meet the needs of those students, DCPS jumped in and said, hey, listen, we have in fact improved our Special Ed. capacity. We've been able to meet the needs of our students much better than we have previously. And we'd like to help to make sure that as many kids in Options as possible get the continued support that they need.

  • 12:23:51

    HENDERSONSimply absorbing the children is not necessarily the best thing. Simply outplacing them to private schools is not the best thing. We are working with the Public Charter School Board and the court receiver to work through every individual IEP to help figure out how we support those young people and get them what they need.

  • 12:24:09

    NNAMDIAny other questions, Greg?

  • 12:24:11

    GREGYeah, I wanted to know why the school -- why OSCE didn't do something with the school in 2012 when they found egregious and numerous violations of IDEA law and it was just in limbo until the financial allegations came up. Meanwhile, all of these children -- who, by the way, are all low-income children -- were being denied due process rights.

  • 12:24:32

    HENDERSONGreg, I get it. I'm not the OSCE so I can't explain what their perspective was at that particular time. And we can get you the OSCE's contact information. At DCPS, all day, every day, we're trying to figure out how we give our children with special needs the very best possible. And we work with our city agencies, but I can't explain -- I wasn't party to the decision-making process at OSCE.

  • 12:24:58

    NNAMDIGreg, thank you for your call. In an effort led by the deputy mayor for education, the District is planning to redraw the boundary lines that determines which neighborhoods attend which schools. What are the school dynamics, from overcrowding in some areas to empty schools in others, that prompted the decision to shift boundary lines? Or maybe this tweet from Chris gets it more succinctly than I asked it. Chris tweets, "In what ways can student boundary revisions help create better D.C. public schools?"

  • 12:25:27

    HENDERSONSure. I think that's the huge opportunity that we have. The boundaries haven't been redrawn since the late 1960s. As you know, the city looks very different in terms of population distribution, in terms of housing patterns, in terms of population growth. And we've never redrawn the boundaries. And so this is an -- and I think part of the reason why we haven't redrawn the boundaries is because there are very difficult issues that come up. What do we believe about neighborhood schools versus citywide schools? There are race and class dynamics that are very difficult to deal with in this process. And so we could keep punting, right?

  • 12:26:08

    HENDERSONAnd we could keep ignoring all of these difficult issues. Or we could come together as a city, which is what the mayor charged us to do, and figure out a way to create boundaries and feeders that actually enhance all of our schools. And what the mayor also said is, we're not just talking about D.C. schools, the chartered schools are public schools as well. And so he'd like them to be part of the conversation. And I think we can seize an opportunity here to be creative and really think how we create boundaries and feeders that actually strengthen neighborhood schools and provide citywide options.

  • 12:26:45

    NNAMDIThe boundary overhaul process, as you pointed out, is fraught with concern. Not only about issues of race and class, but about property values and equal access…

  • 12:26:53

    HENDERSONYes.

  • 12:26:54

    NNAMDI…to the strongest schools. I've read that the majority of parents who have attended focus groups about the boundary process tend to have college and even graduate degrees, while only 7 percent of attendees live in the city's poorer wards, Ward 7 and Ward 8. What can you tell both groups about how this boundary overhaul will likely play out?

  • 12:27:14

    HENDERSONSure. What I would say to both groups is the deputy mayor for education is taking pains to try to figure out how to insure that we include all of our families, no matter what side of the city they live on, no matter what their level of education is. And in fact, when she realized that we were seeing many more college grads, she and her team went back to extend the community engagement period so that we can go out and make sure that we're hitting the neighborhoods where we're not getting as much representation.

  • 12:27:47

    HENDERSONI think the thing to realize about this is no person has the right answers to this. There is no right answer. We're all going to take some pain. We're all going to take some gain. But if we, as a city, do this together, then we'll be able to come to the most successful situation possible.

  • 12:28:09

    NNAMDIOnto Kelly, in Washington, D.C. Kelly, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:28:15

    KELLYHello, I'm curious about how the D.C. voucher program negatively impacts D.C. Public Schools.

  • 12:28:21

    HENDERSONSo I haven't seen the most recent voucher numbers, but any time we have public school children who are opting out of DCPS that's a problem for us. But I also understand a parent's need to have choice when they're in a failing school. And so our hope is that while the voucher program currently exists and provides our families with an option out of DCPS, we're trying to build a stronger DCPS that people are opting back in to.

  • 12:28:56

    HENDERSONAnd I’m pleased to say that this year we've seen a spike in our enrollment, an increase in our enrollment. In fact, we've staved off the years of enrollment decline that have been happening. And I think that's because families are seeing something different happen in DCPS.

  • 12:29:11

    NNAMDIKaya Henderson is chancellor of D.C. Public Schools. She joins us in studio. We're going to be taking a short break. As you know, this is the fifth day of our winter membership campaign. But we will be returning to this conversation. She is not leaving us yet. So if you have called, stay on the line, later in the conversation we'll talking about testing. So if you have questions or comments about whether or not you think public school children spend too much time taking standardized tests or not you can give us a call, 800-433-8850. Or if the lines are busy shoot us an email to kojo@wamu.org or send us a tweet @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:38:09

    NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation with D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson. She joins us in studio. You're invited to join the conversation by calling 800-433-8850. Do you think public school children spend too much time taking standardized tests or not? 800-433-8850. You can also send us a tweet @kojoshow or email to kojo@wamu.org. A new report says D.C. Public Schools do not spend as much time testing its students as some other urban districts. What are the numbers in D.C. and what do you think is the right proportion of time to spend on standardized assessments?

  • 12:38:47

    HENDERSONWell, I mean, I think generally we -- you know, I don't know how we compare -- I read the report. I don't know what the exact numbers are. I think as a parent, right, I want to know that my children are spending as much time learning as possible. Now I recognized that we need to assess their learning to figure out where we've missed things or where they need strengthening.

  • 12:39:11

    HENDERSONAnd so I don't think that there's a magic number around the amount of time kids should be spending in standardized testing. I think most parents would agree, as little time as possible. One of the challenges that I've seen over the years at DCPS -- and at school districts across the country -- is we keep on piling on all of these assessments because we want more data we want to know.

  • 12:39:32

    HENDERSONEvery single assessment is not, you know, life-shattering. Right? And so we never go back and look and say, what can we stop doing? What are really the most important things that are getting us the information that we need? And that's what I want to know about the DCPS. And so I put together a task force to look at all of the testing that we do. It's not just standardized testing. In fact, standardized testing only happens a couple times of year.

  • 12:39:57

    HENDERSONThere are lots of other diagnostic tests and all kinds of things that we take -- our kids take during the year. And in some cases, we're spending a lot of time on that and not enough time on just regular classroom instruction. So we want to be proactive, look at that issue. It's what I've heard from parents as a major concern. And so, we want to look at that issue and figure out how we are minimizing the time that we spend on unnecessary tasks.

  • 12:40:24

    NNAMDIWhat's the timeline for the task force that you have set up? And what will you do with its recommendation?

  • 12:40:29

    HENDERSONYeah. So the task force is actually taking a look at what we currently do. They will then engage a bunch of community member students and families, and teachers, to get their opinion on some of the trends that they are seeing. And then our hope is that by late spring or early summer we'll be able to finalize a set of recommendations that will guide how we operate in the next school year.

  • 12:40:52

    NNAMDIHere's John in Washington. John, you're on the air, go ahead please.

  • 12:40:58

    JOHNHey, Kojo, I've got a question for Ms. Henderson. I'm a teacher here in DCPS. I teach 10th grade math and have for a number of years now. And one problem I've seen recently -- or not recently, I guess, since I've started doing the testing is there seems to be a lack of student buy-in with the tests since it doesn't affect their graduation or any sort of grade they receive in the class. So I guess my question is, is there any sort of plan by DCPS to include some accountability in the tests or is it still going to just all fall on, I guess, the school itself and teachers?

  • 12:41:36

    HENDERSONI think that's a great question, John, and I've heard it from a lot of teachers. I think that's one of the recommendations that the Assessment Task Force might come back with. That, in fact, some of these exams should count as end-of-course exams or it should have consequences for students so that they take the exams seriously. I think there are pluses and minuses to both. And so I want to make sure that we explore the issue in-depth to come out with the right decision. But it's definitely on the table.

  • 12:42:03

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, John. There are tests and then there are studies. We got an email from a parent of a four-year-old complaining that her child was part of a study about which she was not informed, but which was apparently conducted under the auspices of a general consent form she signed back in 2012. Is there a standard procedure for notifying and involving parents of children who are involved in studies of some kind at school? And if so, what is that?

  • 12:42:29

    HENDERSONYeah, there is a standard procedure. We, in fact, generally notify parents when their children are the subject of research and we ask for their consent. We usually have an opportunity to opt out. I got that email when I was on the way here. And so, I need to look into what happened in that situation. But I would love parents to know that, you know, one, we look at -- I want to be clear that we evaluate our programs all the time to figure out how things are doing and where we could do better.

  • 12:43:01

    HENDERSONBut we fundamentally believe that parents have a right to know when we're doing that and to know how it involves their children. And so, if something happened that did not follow protocols in this particular case or whatever, I'm happy to look into it and get back to you.

  • 12:43:13

    NNAMDIYou're an advocate of using student performance tests as one measure, among others, of evaluating teachers. Right across the district line in Montgomery County, Superintendent Joshua Starr is a leading voice against measuring teachers that way. Where does this debate stand on the national level right now?

  • 12:43:32

    HENDERSONYeah, it is in full swing in the national level.

  • 12:43:35

    NNAMDIClearly, clearly.

  • 12:43:37

    HENDERSONI think here in D.C., you know, for years and years, we had an evaluation system that said that, you know, more than 90 percent of our teachers were, you know, meeting or exceeding expectations. And, you know, less than 20 percent of our children were meeting or exceeding expectations. And what that says is there's something wrong with the children.

  • 12:43:56

    HENDERSONThat's not -- you know, we feel like we can't -- you can't say you're a great teacher if your kids are not achieving. And so, in fact, we created an evaluation system that is a mix of both. We're looking at what you do as a teacher and we're looking at how your students perform. When we talk about using student achievement measures, testing is not the only measure that we use.

  • 12:44:14

    HENDERSONIn fact, only about 14 percent of my teachers teach tested grades in subject areas. So the vast majority are using student achievement measures that are not a standardized test, right? And so, I think, the nation is grappling with this issue. I think DCPS has been a leader in the nation. And, you know, when I look at the fact that right now our local test scores are up, our national test scores are up, our AP participation and pass rates are up.

  • 12:44:43

    HENDERSONEnrollment is up. The graduation rate is up. If you ask me why those things are happening, I think it's because we've concentrated on the caliber of our educators. In fact, using student achievement as part of that calculus.

  • 12:44:57

    NNAMDIWell of course things are not up for everybody, which is what Mike in Lake Ridge, VA wants to talk about. Mike, you're on the air, go ahead please.

  • 12:45:05

    MIKEHi, Kojo, chancellor. My issue goes to the allocation of resources in the education system. And I called in when you guys were talking about the AP programs. And I notice the chancellor just mentioned that AP enrollment is up. But I know that a significant set of resources are applied against trying to help students in the AP program, essentially the best students get better. And I just often wondered if societally we wouldn't be better off if we focus those same set of resources on helping the children at the bottom of the educational spectrum improve. And I would just be interested in your comments on that.

  • 12:45:42

    HENDERSONYeah, Mike, we actually have to do both. I think you would -- in D.C., there are some families who would say we concentrate too much on the children who are struggling and not enough on the children who are advanced. And so, in our capital commitment, which is our five-year set of strategic goals, our number one goal is to improve student achievement broadly across the district while, at the same time, we are increasing the number of our advanced kids.

  • 12:46:08

    HENDERSONOur number two goal is that our lowest performing kids would move up 40 points over the course of the five years. And to do that, we're investing very differently. We invest very significantly in our lowest performing schools and we see innovative programming, like extended school day and the use of integrated technology in some of our lower performing schools in ways that are game changers for our students.

  • 12:46:32

    HENDERSONIn fact, with the adequacy study which says that you need more money to educate at-risk students and some legislation where Councilmember Catania put an at-risk weight into the formula, we will actually continue to see more resources that allow us to intervene with out struggling students.

  • 12:46:53

    NNAMDIMike, thank you very much for your call. And in terms of where you assess priorities, you pointed out earlier that your confident the D.C. Public Schools will likely get more money next year through the District's budgeting process. So you started early to gather input on spending priorities. What are you doing at this stage before the budget numbers are actually out?

  • 12:47:12

    HENDERSONSo usually we get the budget and then we have a very short timeframe in which to scramble and figure out what we're doing. It ended up -- it's always a frustrating budget process. While we can't change the timeline, we can change the way we approach it. And so this year, we're working with our principals and our local school advisory teams, which are teachers and parents who work with the principal on the budget, to plan now.

  • 12:47:37

    HENDERSONWe can scenario plan. Even though we don't know our number, if we know it's going up, we can make plans for what it would look like if we get a two percent increase or a five percent increase or a 10 percent increase. So when we get the number, we've actually already had the conversations around where our priorities are. It means that we have a lot more time to engage the community in our budget process. And I think one of the most frustrating things is the timeline actually cuts off community engagement and we've found a way to widen that window.

  • 12:48:07

    NNAMDILast night you had a meeting to talk about budget priorities for the high schools and you've had similar meetings to talk about middle school priorities. You've been asking people to dream big. And we got this tweet from Martha who says, "At the school advisory meetings, the chancellor asked us to think big to boost achievement and satisfaction. What has resonated with her?"

  • 12:48:28

    HENDERSONIt's interesting. We have heard -- we've asked people to both think inside the box because we don't want to, you know, blow our budget, but we've also asked people on what kind of game-changing idea would move your school to a completely different place. And I've heard a lot of people talk about more time with students. So more time to do more in-depth learning. For example, last night was an elementary school meeting.

  • 12:48:56

    HENDERSONLast year, we made huge investments in foreign language, physical education, music, art, and library. And while 45 minutes a week is great, many of those teachers and students would love to have more time to explore those areas in depth. And so, we heard a lot about a longer school day and a longer school year. We've also heard incredibly creative and totally out-of-the-box thinking around residential settings.

  • 12:49:23

    HENDERSONWe've heard a lot about enrichment opportunities and field trip opportunities and international trips, which I think is very important and we want to figure out ways to expand those things for all of our students. I've been inspired by what I'm hearing from families and our school communities.

  • 12:49:41

    NNAMDIAnd finally, this email from Eric. "Why does spring break always follow the Easter holiday? It's the most expensive time to book hotels and flights. Our breaks should be mid-March, always regardless of when Easter falls." Your thought about that?

  • 12:49:54

    HENDERSONI am happy to take it into my negotiations with the Washington Teachers Union with whom we establish our school calendar.

  • 12:50:01

    NNAMDIThis is an election year. There are different people, maybe thousands who are running it seems for mayor of the District of Columbia. At this point, does it matter to you? Do you plan on staying in this job?

  • 12:50:13

    HENDERSONI would like to stay in this job. I don't think I've said this out loud, but I'd like to stay in this job through 2017 if possible. We set out these ambitious goals that we will accomplish by 2017. And I'd like to see that through. And so, you know, I try to stay out of the politics. I have my job and my passion is running D.C. Public Schools. And so, I'm just keeping my head down and continuing to do that.

  • 12:50:41

    NNAMDIKaya Henderson, she is chancellor of D.C. Public Schools. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you so much for your membership contribution.

  • 12:50:48

    HENDERSONThank you for having me, Kojo.

  • 12:50:50

    NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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