On the heels of Teacher Appreciation Week, here is another educator making a profound impact. Kaya Henderson is Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools. She is one of TIME's "12 Education Activists to Watch in 2012" as well as one of Forbes’ seven most-powerful educators in the world.
Sam's Dream Blog: What's your dream for D.C. schools? How do you practically pursue it?
Kaya Henderson: From the first day I began working at District of Columbia Public Schools, I have had one dream for our schools: Turning DCPS into a world-class school system that prepares students well for success in college, career and life.
I want every student in this city to have the opportunity to learn from an outstanding teacher in a classroom that provides the tools and technology to help them reach their potential and pursue their own dreams for the future. And I want every student in this city to have access to fun and engaging programs that get students excited about learning and going to school.
But more than a dream, creating a world-class school system is a moral imperative. The future success of our city and our nation depends on a well-educated workforce, and I want our students to be able to compete with their peers in the D.C. area, the United States and around the world.
Over the past five years, we have been working diligently at our schools and in the central office to recruit and retain the most talented teachers and school leaders; build and rebuild high-quality modern schools that are wired for 21st century technology and feature some of the best amenities we can offer; and, through our community partnerships, we are creating exciting programs that engage students’ interests in academics, the arts, athletics and technology.
This year, in particular, we’ve made significant strides in pursuing our goals by launching a rigorous, new academic plan that is aligned to the Common Core State Standards and designed to improve student performance. And, in our new five-year strategic plan, titled 'A Capital Commitment," we’ve made specific bold spending and programmatic decisions to reach our goals.
Over the next five years, DCPS has committed to the following five goals:
Increase district-wide proficiency to 70 percent while doubling the number of advanced students;
Improve the proficiency rates for our 40 lowest-performing schools by 40 percentage points
Increase our high school graduation rate from 52 percent to 75 percent
Ensure that 90 percent of DCPS students like the school they attend; and
Increase our enrollment.
These commitments support our goals for the next five years and the promises we have made to the District of Columbia and all our stakeholders to provide the students of this city with a world-class education.
Behind each of these goals are real, specific financial commitments that will help us build on the momentum we have seen over the past five years and move forward aggressively toward dramatic improvements.
SDB: Does your dream ever seem daunting?
Dreams always seem daunting at first. It’s not until you set goals and develop specific plans to reach those goals that you see the very real possibility of turning a dream into reality.
In DCPS, we take a strategic, systematic approach in setting goals for improvement - whether that’s academics, programming, operations or facilities. We set ambitious goals for our students, teachers, school leaders and central office support staff, and hold regular school stats throughout the organization to monitor progress and troubleshoot potential problems.
When you set ambitious goals in an effort to reach your dreams, it is critical to have the support of all your stakeholders - from city hall to communities and partners. We have been fortunate to have the unwavering support of Mayor Vincent C. Gray and look forward to engaging our communities and partners and garnering their support as we move forward with our five-year strategic plan in pursuit of our goals.
Did you think about some meaningful educators in your life last week? If not, here is another reminder