Education Letter to the Editor

D.C. Auditor Clarifies Statement

February 25, 2020 1 min read

To the Editor:

I am sorry the EdWeek article on public education gains in Washington, D.C., missed the point I made in describing reforms as “more evolutionary than revolutionary” (“D.C. Gains Momentum in Boosting Opportunities for Students,” Quality Counts special report, Jan. 21. 2020). The article recounted gains made in the District’s public schools and indicated that progress is attributable to the 2007 governance decision that turned control of schools over to the city’s mayor. I was interviewed as a former councilmember who served on and chaired the District Council’s education committee.

The point I intended to make: The tougher “academic standards, curricula, and assessments” cited in the story—and praised in a 2010 study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute—were adopted by the board of education before mayoral control in 2007. The District adapted the Massachusetts standards in 2005, and built the assessment known as DC CAS which was used between 2006-2007 and 2013-2014 school years. The smartest thing former D.C. public schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee did was to retain, embrace, and ultimately claim as her own the then-new standards, curriculum, and assessment. As I said in the article, this process is evolutionary with many authors across many years. Simple conclusions like mayor control = progress miss the constant need for ingredients like perseverance, patience, and consensus, all of which are needed regardless of the governance flavor of the month.

Kathleen Patterson

D.C. Auditor

Office of the District of Columbia Auditor

Washington, D.C.

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A version of this article appeared in the February 26, 2020 edition of Education Week as D.C. Auditor Clarifies Statement