D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and education officials marked the first anniversary of his takeover of the city's beleaguered public schools today by listing a series of improvements, mainly in business functions and school facilities, and outlined their goal of improving student achievement in Year 2.
School system officials acknowledge that the efforts, while serving as a foundation for better instruction, likely will show little immediate effect on performance, as rated on test scores due later this summer.
A five-page, mostly single-spaced handout rattled off 46 initiatives. They include new a textbook distribution system, refurbished high school athletic fields, spruced up buildings, more art and music teachers and digitized personnel files that eliminated 4.6 million documents that were in disarray.
Fenty (D) attributed the quick pace to his new authority to appoint "the best and brightest" to run the system, including a new chancellor and a new executive director of a new agency that handles school construction and maintenance.
Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee said the focus in Year 2 will be on boosting student achievement levels.
Last year, fourth and eighth graders scored in the 18th percentile in math on a national achievement test. And on last year's D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System, only 42 of 141 schools made academic targets.
"I have lofty goals," Rhee said at a news conference held outside Langdon Elementary School in Northeast Washington. She added that she wants the District to have the highest performing school system in the nation, to end the exodus of students to charter schools by making it the system of choice and close the 70 percentage point achievement gap between wealthy white students and poor black students.
"We know what we need to focus on in the next year is to make sure the quality of instruction in every classroom is incredibly strong," she said.
School advocates, however, questioned the tactics of Fenty and Rhee, saying they have failed to devise a long-term plan for improving the schools and have kept parents out of their decision-making process.
"There's no apparent plan for what is to come and there's been no public input," said Iris Toyer, director of Parents United for the D.C. Public Schools.
Toyer said she supports the administration's plan to provide more art, music and PE teachers, but is dismayed that schools may have to give up other staff. Having the new teachers is "a wonderful boon to our schools, but they shouldn't be at the expense of our science teachers and computer teachers," she said.