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Answer Sheet
Posted at 04:52 PM ET, 06/21/2011

Time for some straight talk Chancellor Henderson

Now is as good a time as any for Kaya Henderson, newly confirmed chancellor of D.C. public schools, to talk straight to D.C. residents about allegations of widespread cheating on standardized tests during the tenure of her predecessor, Michelle Rhee.

Henderson was confirmed today by the D.C. Council as the city’s second chancellor of public schools. She has been effectively serving in the role since Rhee quit in October, an easy move as Henderson was Rhee’s deputy.

The unanimous vote followed a hearing last week during which there were — count them — zero tough questions asked by council members about the erasure scandal, or, for that matter, other issues facing the district.

The testing scandal looms large over the D.C. system, even if the chancellor and the council don’t want to talk about it. The D.C. Inspector General is looking into allegations of widespread cheating on standardized tests, which were raised in a USA Today investigation.

According to the newspaper’s investigation, test erasures were flagged as outside the norm by an outside contractor at 103 schools at least once since 2008; it focused on Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus, where big gains on tests were reported during the Rhee era.

My colleague Bill Turque just reported that Wayne Ryan, the man who was principal of Noyes at the time but who then become an instructional superintendent, has resigned.

Ryan did not publicly say why he was resigning, nor did Henderson. But given that the erasure investigation is underway, it seems fair for the public to know whether the resignation was related to the scandal or not.

Henderson should tell us.

She should also be more transparent about the system’s budget, both systemwide and individual budgets for local schools. Education activist Mary Levy, who has monitored the school system’s budgets for decades, says that it is harder for the public to get information today than it ever has been.

Why doesn’t the council insist that the chancellor’s office make public financial reports and, as Levy has suggested, order an audit to make sense out of conflicting data on budget, expenditures and staffing?

It’s time.

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By  |  04:52 PM ET, 06/21/2011

 
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