January 12 (2016) Newsletter HTML

January 12 Newsletter! Happy New Year to all!

To get on my regular newsletter list, email me ruth4schools@yahoo.com. @ruth4schools, ruth4schools.com, ruth4schools@yahoo.com

School News:-PARCC scores; TAG grants funded; DCPS budget process starts

Events: “Rosenwald Schools” Film; Ward 3-Wilson Feeder Education Network; Cross-Sector Task Force on Collaboration; City Council Hearing on proposed change to truancy; Special Ed discussion?

State Board of Ed Updates: State Diploma moves forward, but with big problem; New rules will allow high school students to test out of foreign language and math courses, and more.

School News
Parcc Scores—

**PARCC scores for elementary/middle school students are here. Ward 3 scores strong.
PARCC scores went home in December. As you review your child’s report, keep in mind that these are “baseline” scores. You can’t use them to determine whether your child’s achievement status has gone up or down. You can also view scores broken down by various demographic groups and grade in this OSSE slide deck http://osse.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/osse/publication/attachments/OSSE%20PARCC%203-8%20ReleasePresentation_finalv14.pdf .
Across Ward 3, schools had large numbers of students scoring at the 4/5 threshold. A score of 4 is defined as being the threshold at which a student will probably succeed in his/her first year of college without remedial support.

**Citywide scores show relatively few students on- track for college success. Racial/economic gaps are huge.
But, citywide, just 24% of grade 3-8 students scored at a level 4 or above in English Language Art and 25% in math.. An additional 24% in ELA and 26% in math scored at a 3, defined as “approaching” expectations.
This leaves a majority of city students scoring 1’s and 2’s, meaning they are, after many years of major education reform, way, way off-track for ultimately entering college, including community colleges, which are the gateway to most careers that don’t require a 4 year or professional degree.
The racial gaps are huge: 17% of black students, 21% of Hispanic students, and 79% of white student reached the 4/5 level. Insofar as results can be disaggregated by income, 11% of at-risk and 14% of economically disadvantaged students reached the 4/5 threshold. Racial and income gaps exist in Ward 3 schools as well.
Colbert King accurately and passionately describes the results as “painful.”

**Good news about rising average scores in DCPS has obscured the declining, stagnant, slow-rising scores among our lowest achievers.
DC’s average scores on NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress)–widely regarded as the gold standard for tracking student achievement–have risen in recent years, often more than in other cities, generating lots of laudatory media attention. But the gains (especially in reading; math has been better) have been isolated. Specifically, the lowest achieving 25% of DCPS 4th graders went down in reading every year since 2009, until this last year. Finally, scores jumped this year, with this group of students now scoring 8 points higher than in 2009—the equivalent of 1.25 points per year. In comparison, the scores among the highest achieving quarter of students increased every year—rising 16 points since 2009, an average of 2.7 points per year. Among the bottom 10%, 4th grade reading scores have risen 4 points since 2009. In comparison, the top 10th scorers rose from 255 to 270—15 points, in the same period.
8th grade reading is worse: The bottom 25% of 8th graders scored 214 in 2009 and rose to 216 in 2015. In contrast, among the top quarter of 8th graders, scores rose from 267 to 273 in those years: 2 points v. 6 points.
Let’s hope the recent jumps reflect something new and enduring.

TAG GRANTS get record funding! Congratulations to the TAG TEAM!
Congress’s omnibus appropriations bill, passed in December, includes a record $40 million for DC’s Tuition Assistance Grant Program (DCTAG). The program provides DC families with tuition grants of $10,000 per year for students who attend public colleges anywhere in the country (and smaller grants for those who attend DC’s private colleges). This is a huge victory, won with lots of hard work by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton and the Raise DC TAG Committee. This energetic, effective group is led by DC residents Nora Burke, Heather Keith, Windsor Freemyer and Jennifer Felten. To get on their email list, write raise.dc.tag@hotmail.com. You can also follow them on Facebook (Raise DC TAG) and on twitter @RaiseDCTag.

DCPS budget process gets started
DCPS (DC Public Schools) is trying to launch the budget process earlier than in the past. This should create more opportunity for school communities and residents citywide to understand and influence the budget. On Jan 27, the DCPS management team is scheduled to approve final proposed school allocations; and on Feb 12, the allocations will be released to schools. Principals will have until March 7 to submit their budgets and any appeals. This allows for 3 weeks, instead of the days provided last year, for budget discussions. DCPS will submit its final budget to the mayor on March 18. The mayor will adjust as see she fits and submit it as part of the budget that she submits to the City Council on From there, it goes to the City Council as part of the Mayor’s budget, where there will be hearings, negotiation, and eventually the adoption of a final budget. See timeline here.

State Board of Education News

Coming soon: New rules on high school credit flexibility
The Board established a citywide Task Force, chaired by Ward1 SBOE member Laura Wilson-Phelan, to consider how high schools could be provided greater flexibility to award course credit. The Task Force was interested in both promoting the creativity that this innovation could enable and in assuring that the flexibility doesn’t further exacerbate the different levels of academic quality and rigor that currently exist across high schools. The Task Force Report was adopted by the State Board in December, opening the door for OSSE to develop new regulations to implement the main points of the report. Regs will likely be voted on in February. Key proposals are:

1. Students can get foreign language and math credit by passing an approved test. This resolves an issue that has been raised with me a number of times. The thinking is that in both foreign language and math, the course content is finite and well-defined. If a student has mastered the material and would benefit from being in a more advanced class, this proposal will allow that.

2. Schools can apply for a waiver of the current Carnegie unit rule, which defines a high school credit as being earned upon passing a 120-hour course (more for science lab courses). The goal is to give schools freedom to impart course material in different ways—for example, through a course that simultaneously taught math and science or that made use of internships or other experiences. According to the Board/Task Force report, the waiver would require students to learn the material set forth in DC standards, schools would have to report their achievement, and OSSE would evaluate the results of the waiver.

3. Students would no longer be required to take Algebra 1 in 9th grade. This change would allow high schools to bring students to an Algebra 1 readiness level, before enrolling them in Algebra 1. Now schools have no choice but to enroll all freshmen in algebra 1, regardless of a student’s preparation.

State Diploma moves forward; 3 (including me) vote against awarding diploma for recipients of unvalidated assessment
The Board unanimously supports awarding a new State Diploma to recipients of GED certificates. Publicly available research establishes that the newly upgraded GED exam is rigorous. In fact, a substantial minority of current high school students would be unable to pass the GED. Nonetheless, GED recipients are stigmatized in the job market. We hope that awarding a diploma to GED recipients will help them move forward in employment and further education.
But the Board was also asked by OSSE to support awarding diplomas for a second certificate, the NEDP (National External Diploma Project). In contrast to the research available on the GED, there does not appear to be any independent research validating that this certification reflects high school-graduation level knowledge and skills. Three board members (including me!) voted (unsuccessfully) to strip the NEDP from the resolution. All board members voted to move the issue forward. Since then, the OSSE superintendent agreed at the January 6 SBOE meeting to ask experts on her staff to identify and review the research on this assessment. See this article from the Washington Post on the issue and this post from Eduphile on the broader problem of defining what a diploma should reflect.

Congress (finally!) reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (aka NCLB), the main federal law addressing k-12 education
As a result, many decisions that have been the province of the federal government for roughly 15 years will now become the responsibility of the state, or in our case, the city. Many of these decisions will have to be decided collaboratively between the city administration and the elected State Board of Education. Among the key questions the Board will have to consider are: How will school success be judged; and what interventions should be put into place when a school is not adequately educating its students. Send me your ideas. I’ll keep you posted.

“Rosenwald Schools” film is back!
Tuesday, January 19, 7:30 pm
DCJCC– 1529 16th Street NW
Film Critic Roger Ebert says you’ll leave “gobsmacked” by this story of “the white man prominently framed on the wall of numerous black schools located throughout the American South.” His story “turns out to be the thread that unravels a historical yarn for the ages. Most viewers will likely have little-to-no familiarity with the events recounted in this documentary.”
Produced by Ward 3 filmmaker Aviva Kempner, this fabulous documentary is back for two more showing after packed shows last year at the Avalon and around the country. The screening will be followed by comments from Kempner and Wade Henderson, the head of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.

Ward 3-Wilson Feeder Education Network.
January 27, 7pm, Tenley-Friendship Library
This new organization brings together parents, teachers, and community members to discuss and support our ward 3 schools and the students who attend them. The agenda for this meeting includes a discussion on Ellington High School with Matthew Frumin and a chance to discuss and provide feedback on the PARCC test with me! The feedback will feed into upcoming State Board discussions about PARCC and DC’s accountability system. The alliance is chaired by Tricia Braun and Brian Doyle, parents at, respectively, Key and Hearst. Find them @w3EdNet and facebook.com/w3EdNet
Focus Group on Collaboration between Charter and DCPS sectors
February 25, 7 pm, Janney Elementary School
The Deputy Mayor’s Task Force is holding focus groups across the city. The information above is for the focus group being held in Ward 3. For other times/places, see the link below. There is limited space, so if you want to attend, you must sign up in advance at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CSCTF-focusgroups.

Education Committee hearing on new truancy rules
January 21, Hearing Room 500, John A. Wilson building
Currently, DC schools operate under the 80/20 rule; if you’re not present for 20% of the day, you’re marked absent. Enough absences, and you are referred to Social Services. Especially as implemented, this rule has wreaked havoc, burdening schools with extra paperwork, and leaving social service agencies overwhelmed with the truly needy cases competing for attention. But a proposed new law goes way too far the other way, possibly meaning that you are not truant even if you show up for just 15 minutes! That leaves a lot of space for finding a golden mean. A hearing is scheduled for Jan 21. To testify, telephone the Committee of the Whole, at (202) 7248196, or e-mail Renee Johnson, Legislative Assistant, at rjohnson@dccouncil.us with name, address, telephone number, and organizational affiliation, if any, by the close of business Thursday, June 20, 2013
Discussion on special education issues with the State Board of Education’s Ombudsman?
I hear more about problems with special education than abut anything else. I recently attended a session at which the SBOE’s Ombudsman and Student Advocate conducted a session for parents about the special education referral process and services and the rights of parents and students. it was also a great opportunity for parents to explain the obstacles and hurdles they’re finding.
Please email me ruth4schools@yahoo.com if you would like me to schedule such a session in Ward 3.
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