There was a time not too long ago when traditional public schools in the District of Columbia were widely considered among the worst in the nation (“Hot for Teachers,” Washington Monthly, June/July/August). But the situation there is far brighter as a result of a series of steps taken since former Chancellor Michelle Rhee was forced out.
What has emerged is evidence that traditional public schools can hold their own against charter schools by offering all stakeholders hope. The most comprehensive teacher measurement system in public education implemented by Kaya Henderson and Jason Kamras ended a host of industrial-era practices. The results are seen in higher teacher morale and higher test scores.
I applaud these improvements, but I hasten to point out they may not be sustainable because of the Hawthorne effect. What works in the short term may be the direct result of its newness alone. Once the novelty wears off, outcomes tend to regress. It’s simply too soon to know with any assurance that the Hawthorne effect is not primarily responsible for the positive changes in D.C. schools.
The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.