The Best of Us S2/E2: Long-Term Systems for Educator Growth, with Kaya Henderson

In this episode of The Best of Us, we talk with Kaya Henderson, former Chancellor of DC Public Schools, about the philosophy and tactics behind the district’s long-term plan for recruiting and retaining exceptional educators.

Kaya highlights the all-too-frequent administrative disconnect between teachers' needs and the professional development they receive, and explains how replacing traditional PD with a tailored DCPS teaching and learning framework led to a public school system that doesn’t just attract great teachers but retain them for career-long success.

She also covers DCPS’s systems for talent development, connecting teacher pay to teacher accountability, why professional learning can’t be outsourced and much more.


The need for comprehensive teacher support [00:00:09] Discussion on the importance of looking beyond recruitment and focusing on onboarding, induction, professional learning, retention, and career ladder evaluation.

Issues with unlinked professional development [00:02:25] Exploration of the lack of connection between teachers' needs and the professional development they receive, leading to a market of unvetted professional developers.

The importance of aligned and in-house professional development [00:05:22] Emphasis on the need for districts to take ownership of professional development, aligning it with expectations, structures, and schedules, and avoiding outsourcing to random providers.

The role of central office in professional development [00:11:00] Discussion on the different roles and responsibilities of central office, principals, and individual teachers in determining professional development.

Creating a vision for professional learning [00:12:03] DCPS's vision, philosophy, and outlook on professional learning at the district level.

Building trust and earning teacher buy-in [00:14:09] The process of earning teachers' trust and buy-in through high-quality model lessons and units, responsiveness to teacher needs, and providing feedback and support.

The process of gaining teachers' trust [00:16:58] Discussion on gaining teachers' trust by providing effective instructional support and scaffolding on more supports over time.

The timeline of implementing impact [00:17:53] Explanation of the timeline for creating and implementing the impact framework, including the evolution from pedagogy to content and the integration of professional development.

The correlation between professional learning and improvement [00:23:08] Exploration of the correlation between teachers who followed the professional learning plan and their improvement, as well as the reasons why some teachers did not follow the plan.

The importance of direct conversations [00:25:11] Treating teachers with professional dignity and having direct conversations about expectations and improvement.

Creating a system that works for teachers [00:28:20] Pride in creating a system that has persisted and works for teachers, maximizing educator performance and support.

Reconstruction: Teaching African American history and culture [00:29:38] Reconstruction is an education technology company that teaches African American history and culture online to young people, inspired by the need for representation in the curriculum.

Let's get started

Schedule a demo with one of our friendly team members.

Schedule a Demo