July 1 Newsletter: Issues for a new chancellor/Accountability Survey/Cappie awards

Issues for a New Chancellor; Ellington/Wilson; Student Reps; School Evaluation Survey

To get on my regular email list, write, ruth4schools@yahoo.com. Follow me at @ruth4schools.

Chancellor Henderson to leave DCPS. What Next?

Chancellor Henderson has announced that she will be leaving as of Oct.1. DCPS Chief of Schools John Davis will take over as interim superintendent October, and a nationwide search will be conducted for a replacement. Many thanks to Chancellor Henderson for her hard work and long tenure, and the best of luck to her as she moves on!
My years as a DCPS parent began in 2000, when our first child entered Janney. I think I have lived through five superintendents/chancellors. What a ride it’s been–and, what a great time to take stock. Mayor Bowser has told the Washington Post that “part of searching for a new chancellor will be taking the pulse of the community, getting feedback from stakeholders and moving forward.” A great first step!
Here are 3 issues that I hope the mayor will put front and center as she plans a process and chooses a new chancellor.

1. The lagging achievement of our students with the greatest needs. It is well-known that DC’s average NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) test scores have gone up. But this high average growth masks stagnant or very slow progress among our city’s most impoverished and lowest achieving students. A study of DC test scores by DC Action for Children shows that among our lowest-income students, 3rd grade reading scores actually dipped from 2007-2014.
Why? Did top scores go up because the student population now includes more affluent students who statistically tend to score better? Are some reforms having a different impact on students with the greatest academic needs? We need to understand what’s happening, so we can address the enormous achievement gap. Which brings me to:

2. Our urgent need to know much more about what is and isn’t working—and why. DC has launched some of the nation’s most far-reaching, attention-getting education reforms. But have they worked? Or, as is often the case in education, did they work in some places for some kids but not in or for others? Why? What can we do to elicit more widespread success?This is the right moment to pursue these questions—and to do so in a way that doesn’t prejudge the answers. Recently I was on a panel with Anthony Bryk, the highly-regarded founder of the Chicago Consortium on School Reform, an independent research group that has partnered for two decades with the Chicago Public Schools.
One of his key principles for successful school research: When establishing research questions, include the people who are absolutely sure the reform will succeed and those who are sure it will fail. That way, you don’t easily fall prey to finding the answers you want, and your findings have greater credibility, even among the skeptics. We have so much to learn in this city–and, so many efforts to learn from. We need more and better data (the new city budget includes an investment in this)—and a commitment to independent research like that modeled by CCSR. (For more on this, see my testimony before the City Council’s Committee of the Whole and my op-ed in the Washington Post.)

3. Engaging, respecting, and responding to the needs and views of local school communities. In my years as a DCPS parent and even more in the year and a half since I’ve been elected, I’ve seen DCPS become increasingly top-down and insular. New programs have been mandated, existing programs eliminated, and school budgets cut at the last minute–in ways that have left school communities, including parent, teachers, students and even principals, with no opportunity to weigh in or thoughtfully consider alternatives. I hear growing reluctance in school communities to invest in thoughtful, creative planning, as the best laid plans can be wiped out by a new mandate or unforeseen budget cut from on-high. This isn’t healthy. Good ideas don’t emerge from insular cultures. We need a better balance between encouraging, engaging and respecting the views and needs of school communities; and the genuine need for coherent district-level programming and planning.

Apply for the SBOE’s Student Advisory Committee

The State Board of Education is looking for new student voices to help influence our work. Click here to find out what it’s like to serve as a student rep on the SBOE and more about the application process online.

Wilson, Ellington Win Metro-wide Cappie Awards!
Duke Ellington High School was awarded the Cappie for best high school play this year and Wilson High School’s Hair (pictured) won best musical. Congratulations to all! Schools from all over the area compete. Ellington and Wilson were DC’s only competitors, and both won top awards!!!

How should DC judge school quality? Weigh in!
DC will be revising how it judges school quality, the support it provides weak schools, and the information that must be reported each year. Have your say with this online survey.

Next Public Meeting of the the SBOE: 5:30 pm. 441 4th Street, NW. Old Council Chambers

Call the Ombudsman…
If you believe that your schools is not providing adequate services to your child, and you have been unable to resolve the issue on your own with school faculty or administration, consider reaching out to the State Board of Education’s Ombudsman at ombudsman@dc.gov Also: @DC_Ombuds.

Let me know your thoughts on this and your priorities. ruth4schools@yahoo.com

Happy Summer!!!!!

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