D.C. Public Schools Deserves an F for Bogus Reforms, Faked Successes, and Disastrous Failures

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D.C. Public Schools Deserves an F for Bogus Reforms, Faked Successes, and Disastrous Failures by Max Eden

Two years ago, D.C. Public Schools was seen as a place where the best and the brightest utilized world-class systems designed by pre-eminent experts to drive transformational gains. Today, it’s hard to keep track of the scandals.

This is not a case of a fall from grace. The fake success and true failure were two sides of one coin minted by the education reform movement.

Let’s review the report card.

First, there was the school lunch scandal. The former food services director presented a case to DCPS that its food vendor had cheated the district out of $19 million and served students rotting food. A few weeks later, then-Chancellor Kaya Henderson, in violation of ethics rules, solicited a $100,000 donation from the corporation, and its contract was later renewed.

Then there was the school discipline scandal. The much-vaunted 40 percent decrease in suspensions under Henderson’s leadership was an artifact of systemic fraud. Pressured to lower suspensions, principals simply took them off the books. At least one top-level official, Jason Kamras, was told. Either Henderson knew she was getting credit for fraudulent gains or she had no clue what was going on in her schools.

Then there was the graduation rate scandal. The much-vaunted 20 percent increase in graduation under Henderson and her successor, Antwan Wilson, was also an artifact of systemic fraud. Under pressure to increase graduation rates, principals no longer required that students attend school to receive a diploma. Either Henderson and Wilson were aware that they were getting credit for fraud or neither ever examined basic attendance data.

Then there were the nepotism scandals. Henderson let the kids of high-ranking officials cut the line to attend better schools. Wilson vowed never again, then did the same thing for his own daughter.

Just this week, a new scandal broke about widespread enrollment fraud at a prestigious high school. Officials had slow-tracked the investigation for fear of bad publicity in an election year.

And who knows what other surprises the FBI investigation has in store.


Read the entire piece here at The 74, originally appearing on March 4, 2018.


Max Eden is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Follow him on Twitter here.