Working in the nation’s capital – one of the country’s most diverse and highly watched school districts – I have had the opportunity to learn and contribute to the work of managing an urban school district. Through the Urban Educators Leadership Initiative Program (UELIP) I have spent the last three months interning in the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) Central Office. It is great, as a future educator, to witness how reforms are made at the district level and then communicated and implemented at the school level.
This is an exciting time to work in DCPS – there have been a number of reforms and initiatives rolled out recently and educators all over the country anxiously await the results. The DCPS stands in great contrast to those looking on with uncertainty; the office is vibrant, busy, and transformative. The DCPS has a five year plan to improve public education by pursuing five academic goals:
- Seventy percent proficiency in reading and math test scores
- Forty percentage point increase in proficiency at the forty lowest performing schools
- Four-year high school graduation rate of 75 percent
- 90 Percent of students saying they like their schools
- Increased enrollment over the next 5 years
My work on the transportation team in the Office of Special Education supports these goals by bettering access to education, resources, and assistance for special education students. I assist in tracking and recording student eligibility for our transportation programs. I make sure students are able to get to school on their first day. It is my duty to work with parents, special education coordinators, and school administrators to navigate an ambiguous resource process.
Working in the DCPS has been both rewarding and eye opening. I have explored a number of offices, projects, and programs and learned that education reform can be compared to a game of tug-of-war; there is much push and pull, from the district, to the parents, to the students and teachers. It is challenging to navigate these demands; the district has to be innovative.
Being on the inside of this process has given me a new lens to review and challenge my own opinions on education. This experience has changed how I define reform and what it should look like. I will carry the knowledge I have gained and the autonomy and confidence that UELIP has given me to initiate and participate in future educational reforms.
Simone Gordon is a Colin Powell Leadership fellow (2011-2013). Read more about her and our other contributors here.