School of Education hosts interim D.C. schools chancellor and AU alumna Amanda Alexander

Alexander took over the role after chancellor resigned in February

School of Education hosts interim D.C. schools chancellor and AU alumna Amanda Alexander

SOE Dean Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, right, sits down with interim DCPS Chancellor Amanda Alexander, left

The School of Education hosted AU alumna Amanda Alexander to speak about her new role as the interim chancellor of D.C. Public School (DCPS) on Tuesday as part of the Dean’s Speaker Series.

Alexander took over as interim chancellor following the February resignation of Antwan Wilson. Wilson’s resignation came after he received criticism for transferring his daughter to a new high school without going through the DCPS lottery system. Before assuming the position of interim chancellor, Alexander served as the chief of elementary schools for DCPS.

Alexander received her PhD from AU after earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Howard University. Retired AU professor Charles Tesconi, who served as Alexander’s dissertation advisor, introduced Alexander and praised her character and accomplishments.

“I guess it would be a bit too much to say that I’m not surprised that Dr. Alexander is sitting in the chair where she is,” Tesconi said. “She knows her strengths and she knows her limitations. She’s an anchored, centered person. That struck me from the first time we talked.”

Alexander sat down with Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, the dean of the School of Education, for an interview in front of the audience. Holcomb-McCoy and Alexander both began their professional careers in education as kindergarten teachers.

AU impacted her professional career in several ways, Alexander said.

“[A] valuable lesson that I learned from Charlie [Tesconi] and others was really just the power of public education,” Alexander said. “That is like a civil right for democracy, for this nation of ours to provide free, nonsectarian education for its citizens.”

Alexander emphasized the issues that have garnered most of her attention in the short period she has served as Interim chancellor.

“One of the key strategic focus areas for us in DCPS … is early literacy,” Alexander said. “And that’s the case because I believe -- and everyone I’m sure in this room can agree -- that acquiring the ability to read is the first major challenge that you overcome in your school career.”

Alexander also said educators need to make a commitment to building a relationship with parents in order to gain their trust.

After Holcomb-McCoy asked about the “very low significant growth as far as reading and math scores” for DCPS students from 2015 to 2017, Alexander responded that she is “not very troubled that scores were stagnant from 2015 to 2017” given that “DCPS over the past ten years has seen gains.” She added that DCPS “has been the fastest improving urban school district” in the U.S.

Toward the end of the event, Alexander offered advice to the School of Education on how it can train the next generation of teachers.

“Deliver to schools teachers who are ready to teach,” she said. “We need a lot of help with literacy instruction and early literacy instruction, and I’d love to see schools of education really develop a concrete, really strong strand of coursework in literacy for the entire K-12 continuum.”

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