School & District Management

D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson to Step Down

By Corey Mitchell — June 29, 2016 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print


District of Columbia public schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced Wednesday that she will step down from her post in the fall after five years at the helm.

Henderson came to the District of Columbia schools in 2007 to serve as a deputy to former Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Henderson was appointed as interim and then permanent chancellor after Rhee’s fall 2010 resignation.

Under Henderson’s leadership, a growing number of students have reached proficiency in reading and math on both the city’s annual exams and the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, but achievement gaps between white and non-white students have persisted. During her tenure, enrollment in the district has also been on the upswing after decades of decline.

Henderson carried on many of the efforts her predecessor launched, including a controversial teacher-evaluation system, IMPACT, that led to widespread teacher and principal firings. But she managed to continue Rhee’s policies with a less combative approach that often allowed for more focus on the change rather than the person behind it.

As my colleague Catherine Gewertz detailed in a 2013 Education Week series, Henderson led the the District of Columbia’s aggressive and early adoption of the Common Core State Standards. The district was among the first to overhaul its math and reading curriculum to meet the standards, and train teachers to teach them.

Now, after more than nine years in Washington, she’s leaving the district, one of the nation’s most closely watched school systems. Her last day on the job is Sept. 30.

“Simply put, I am ready to take on new challenges, and I have complete confidence that the team we have built at DCPS is prepared to drive our work forward under new leadership,” Henderson wrote in a letter to parents and community members.

John Davis, the school system’s chief of schools, will serve as interim chancellor after Henderson’s departure, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced. A national search for a permanent chancellor will begin later this year.

“Without a doubt, DCPS is a very different place today than it was when Kaya joined our school system in 2007. DCPS is the fastest improving urban school district in the country. After decades of decline, DCPS has also seen consistent, annual enrollment growth since Kaya became Chancellor—growing from 45,000 students in 2010 to nearly 49,000 students this year. While we will miss Kaya, we can all be proud of her team and her tenure as the second longest-serving leader of DCPS,” Bowser wrote in letter to District of Columbia residents.

“This is also an incredible opportunity for our city to continue to improve how we are delivering high-quality education to our students. I remain committed to pushing the envelope even further on education reform.”

Chancellor Henderson Letter to DCPS Community

Related Stories

Straight-Up Conversation: DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson

D.C. Announces One-Year Pause of ‘Value Added’ for Teachers’ Evaluations

Common Core: A Steep Climb

Future of D.C. Reforms Is Uncertain Following Rhee’s Plan to Resign

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.