DC’s Ed Committee Chair: School system has been “leading itself”

DC Council Member David Catania, who chairs the Education Committee, spoke to The Education Town Hall on We Act Radio, April 4, 2013.

Catania said his primary concern has been the “disjointed leadership” citywide on education in the last five or six years. The District of Columbia needs planning around “what the future of education in the District should be….We’re closing 15 facilities, while the mayor is planning to open new ones.”

“We have a system that is leading itself, not being led,” Catania added.

Data and Leadership

The Committee Chair spoke about the problems of social promotion and epidemic truancy, but also described positives evident in his visits to the city’s schools: “We’ve attracted incredible teaching talent, exciting principals,” and interesting, effective programming.

“One of my staff members is exclusively focused on data,” Catania said in response to a question about adequacy of availability of data from DC’s many Local Education Agencies [there are 57 charter LEAs, plus DCPS and private schools in the District]. “I am not confident in our truancy data…not confident the integrity of our testing system.”

Charters, Autonomy, and Congress

Catania also discussed the District’s situation with regard to charter legislation that was imposed by the U.S. Congress in 1995. “They amended local law, they did not make federal law,” he explained. Congress didn’t prohibit DC from amending its own laws, and the District still has “extraordinary latitude.”

“We’ve chosen to give them [charter schools] maximum autonomy up to this point,” Catania told host Thomas Byrd. In response to a question from feature reporter Virginia Spatz, Catania said he is not currently planning to alter the legislation but is looking at issues of autonomy: “We’ve benefited from [charter school] autonomy….Some DCPS schools could benefit from more autonomy.”

Full Recording

Listen to the full interview, April 4, 2013, and look for Catania to return for updates and further discussion.

The Education Town Hall airs weekly at 11 a.m. (eastern) on We Act Radio
WPWC 1480 AM in the DC area, live from http://www.WeActRadio.com

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