Capital offense

Washington, D.C., parents could not have been pleased after reading about the haphazard way that curriculum decisions are made in their city. Two recent Washington Post articles paint a story of administrative incompetence and misplaced power. The first details how a former public-school principal received $3 million, authorized on a single day, to start a professional development organization for teachers--one that trained educators in a method of reading instruction that clashed with that one already in use in D.C. public schools. The second shows how Senator Mary Landrieu, who represents constituents in Louisiana, earmarked $2 million to implement in the District a reading program whose founder had held for her a $30,000 fundraiser. Both are pieces of substantial reporting and well worth reading. They raise questions. Why are curriculum decisions in Washington, one of the nation's worst school districts, being made by a U.S. senator from the bayou? Why are literacy programs that clash with those already used in D.C.'s schools (programs that have had dubious records of success in other cities) being approved and given $3 million of taxpayer money? Michelle Rhee, the District's new schools chancellor, may have more clean-up work to do than even she envisioned.

"A $2.9 Million Payout, With a Few Shortcuts," by Joe Stephens, Washington Post, December 20, 2007

"A Reading Program's Powerful Patron," by James V. Grimaldi, Washington Post, December 20, 2007

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