The big education news yesterday was something that folks in Washington DC had been expecting, but maybe not so soon. Kaya Henderson is stepping down as schools chancellor:
Here's the Washington Post on her legacy:
She has led the school system for more than five years, far longer than the average three-year tenure of school superintendents in big cities ... Henderson’s unexpected departure comes as the city is experiencing an influx of wealth and new residents, and more parents are choosing D.C. Public Schools. During Henderson’s five-year tenure, test scores have improved, schools have beefed up academic and extracurricular offerings and the system — once considered among the most dysfunctional in the nation — has been hailed by President Obama as an example of promising reform. “What she’s done here is not only just improve the academic outcomes, she’s managed to stabilize the system,” said Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, a coalition of large school districts. “She’s given the city a sense of optimism and hope that its public school system can be what they want it to be.”
I will write more about Henderson and her legacy. On a personal level, though, I don't know anyone who leads with as much talent or personal conviction as Henderson does. She is unapologetic about both what she believes and who she is. I will miss seeing her as chancellor, but I know that the world needs more of Kaya Henderson, and that she won't disappoint. Meanwhile, just up the road in Baltimore:
Black Lives Matter activist and former Baltimore mayoral candidate DeRay Mckesson will be starting a new job leading the city’s office of human capital for Baltimore City Public Schools, the Baltimore Sun reports. According to the report, incoming schools CEO Sonja Santelises on Tuesday named Mckesson interim chief human capital officer, the second and most high-profile Cabinet appointment made by Santelises, who begins her own new job Friday.
Folks who know Mckesson and his blue vest from social media alone might not know that, not only did he start his career as a teacher, but he also served in critical strategic roles both the Baltimore and Minneapolis public school systems. His appointment is a good reminder that activism and governing always have been intertwined.
Clint Smith is in the New Yorker this week, discussing how to use education to reduce recidivism:
Last Thursday, the Obama Administration selected sixty-seven colleges and universities across twenty-seven states to participate in the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program, which aims to “create a fairer, more effective criminal justice system, reduce recidivism, and combat the impact of mass incarceration on communities.” The new initiative could make Pell Grants available to as many as twelve thousand people behind bars ... Social scientists have known for some time that prison-education programs are a cost-effective and successful means of reducing recidivism. A study by the rand Corporation in 2013 found that incarcerated individuals who participated in educational programs were forty-three per cent less likely to recidivate within three years than those who did not. It also found that correctional education increased the likelihood of obtaining employment once released, with those who participated in programming during their time behind bars thirteen per cent more likely to obtain a job than those who did not. The number might be higher if discrimination against the formerly incarcerated were not so prevalent on the job market.
That last point is critical, and efforts like "Ban the Box" are an important, but inadequate, step towards making it easier for formerly incarcerated people to find work. Vann Newkirk is in the Atlantic with another interesting intersection, namely the potential to use restorative justice in criminal proceedings involving police officers:
This tolerance for blood is less an unintended consequence of policing than an integral feature of America’s approach to it, and policing provides the foundation for of all the rest of American criminal justice. Using criminal justice to curtail police violence presents a deep paradox ... Restorative justice stands as a remedy for much of what criminal and civil proceedings lack in holding police accountable, and it is being taken more seriously as a potential way to bring justice to the victims of police violence and to communities such as Baltimore’s that have been affected by it. In Baltimore, restorative justice might involve restitution from the six officers, the police union, or the department; officers losing their badges; or officers being required to perform community service. The lack of the prospect of a long prison sentence would lower the stakes, and reduce the adversarial nature of the dialogue between community and police. That might make police more willing to root out problems in their ranks, instead of resorting to obstruction and grandstanding.
It's important to grapple with the philosophical ramifications of what Newkirk is proposing, especially when he wonders whether a violent system can be unwound through nonviolent means. It's enough to force you to reassess some of your own assumptions!
Finally, the New York Times has the story of a school system in Wyoming grappling with how to understand the needs of transgender students:
Laramie’s school board took its own multiple-choice test. It faced two competing proposals. The first would let transgender students use the bathrooms matching their gender identity, aligning Laramie with the Obama administration and liberal activists. Under the second option, anatomy would dictate, appeasing conservative parents and religious groups. It was a tough call in a community that is one part liberal college town and one part conservative Wyoming range, where some church signs cite Scripture while others quote the musician Prince. People still visit a memorial to Matthew Shepard, the gay University of Wyoming student who was murdered nearby in 1998.
You'll have to read the whole article to find out what they chose, but this type of on-the-ground reporting is crucial. The students in this story have lives and identities that we need to understand.