"But where are your trash-collecting robots, little girl?"
"But where are your trash-collecting robots, little girl?"

After her predecessor Michelle Rhee got dinged for her critics-be-damned style of radical policy overhaul, D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson has taken a more measured approach, stressing continuity over disruptive change, and drawing accusations of a lack of vision in the process. Henderson acknowledged as much last night in her annual “State of the Schools” address, telling the audience at Cardozo High School, “People ask me all the time, ‘Chancellor Henderson, what’s your vision for DCPS?’”

And so she laid out her vision. The DCPS of the future, as she envisions it, looks something like this, according to her prepared remarks:

The National Teacher of the Year program has called us and asked us to withdraw from the competition because each year, our teachers are head and shoulders above the other states’ candidates!…Walk into the cafeteria with me and check out how full it is, because the food is actually really good, and really nutritious. Can you hear the noise in the building? There’s laughter, because kids are having fun; there are multiple languages spoken, because we’ve developed them as global citizens, there are robots shooting hoops and picking up trash, because students have designed them, and there is music, because so many have mastered instruments. I see award-winning artwork on the walls, and screens and speakers broadcasting student-developed television and radio shows. Imagine a Model UN symposium in the library, where students just back from international trips are representing their country’s perspective not just from what they’ve read, but from a first-hand experience abroad.

Basketball-playing robots? Field trips abroad? These are lofty goals for a school district that, even after big gains, still has schools with single-digit proficiency in math. But I suppose there’s no harm in dreaming big.

Photo by Aaron Wiener