April 2015 HTML Newsletter

Newsletter, April 7, 2015

Lots of school news! Budget cuts proposed for Wilson… State Board of Education calls for study of over-testing and curriculum narrowing… Language Immersion Schools… Parent Cabinet… PARCC Comments?

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Proposed budget cuts at Wilson—

The proposed budget for Wilson High School has been severely cut at the same time that its projected enrollment is up. It amounts to a 10.5% per pupil spending cut from last year.  This is likely the largest cut proposed for any school and means that Wilson will likely have the lowest per pupil spending in the city.  For information on the cuts and their likely effect, please see this letter from Wilson’s PTA president and LSAT  to Mayor Bowser and this one from Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh to DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson.

Take action

1) email Mayor Bowser eom@dc.gov and your at-large city council members, Anita Bonds abonds@dccouncil.us, David Grosso dgrosso@dccouncil.us (chairman of the education committee), and Elissa Silverman esilverman@dccouncil.us.

2) consider testifying at the City Council when it holds its hearing on the DCPS budget on April 23, 10AM.  If you’re interested in testifying, contact: Christina Henderson, chenderson@dccouncil.us or by calling 202-724-8191.

3) sign this petition–and also consider circulating it to friends and colleagues, including those outside of Ward 3.  http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/save-wilson-high-school.html


State Board of Education Adopts “ESEA Waiver Report,” calling for a review of the side effects of DC’s accountability system, enhanced school report cards, more meaningful reporting of test scores

The No Child Left Behind law requires every state (and for this purpose DC is a state!) to adopt academic standards for each grade, to administer annual tests in reading and math, to report these test scores by school and subgroup, and hold schools accountable for student achievement.  NCLB required schools to get 100% of their students to the “proficient” level by 2014 or face sanctions. Given that the 100% threshold is, practically speaking, an impossible goal (at least if you maintain a high standard), the Department of Education allows states to apply for “waivers” of the law.  In return for adopting its own accountability system (that meets a number of federal guidelines), a state can get a waiver of certain NCLB rules. DC applied for and received such a waiver several years ago.  It’s now time for DC to apply for a renewal.  The renewal is handled through DC’s state education agency, the Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE). OSSE has filed an initial waiver request and will make additional amendments later, after further discussions.

The State Board of Education thinks this is the right opportunity to revisit several aspects of our accountability system.  I was the chair of the SBOE committee on the Waiver Renewal.  The committee  recommended, and the full SBOE adopted, a set of recommendations that we hope OSSE will include as it pursues our city’s waiver renewal. You can see the full report here.  Some highlights are:

**Examine the side effects of DC’s accountability system—specifically, the excessive time spent on testing and test prep and the narrowing of the curriculum, especially in elementary grades, to the heavily tested subjects, meaning that history-social studies, science and the arts get squeezed out.  And, establish a task force to figure out how we can promote these subjects.

**Enhance the state report cards to or provide a broader view of school quality.  These report cards are heavily relied on by parents as they choose schools for their kids, and they send a signal to schools about what is regarded as important.

**More transparent, relevant reporting of key school data.

What do you think about these issues? Your responses will help determine how we pursue these issuesPlease email me here.

For a great piece on the growing interest in the connection between high-level reading comprehension and students’ knowledge of history-social studies, science, and the arts, see this article by Natalie Wexler in Greater, Greater Washington.  


Interested in getting DCPS to open up more language immersion programs? There’s an app a group for that.

            The DC Immersion Project wants DCPS to open up more language immersion schools.  Its leaders argue that lottery results show that parents want these programs.  Find out more here.   I’ve certainly heard this from a lot of parents!!!


DCPS Parent Cabinet—Congratulations to new members!

DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson has named a new Parent Cabinet, charged with discussing policies and programs with the chancellor over the next year.

Special call-out to the new members from Ward 3 and/or with kids in Ward 3 schools—Andre Carter and Thomas Strike (Stoddert); Vivian Guerra and Sweta Shah (Oyster-Adams); Corinne McIntosh Douglas (SWW), Michael Koppenheffer (Lafayette/Deal).  Click here for their bio’s.


Parents/Teachers:  What was your experience with PARCC???

According to the reports that I’ve gotten, the PARCC testing went pretty smoothly at most schools.  The big exception has been Wilson, where the logistics were very challenging.  I’m interested in any specific reports, good or bad, that you can share with me.  I’ll be passing them on at the right point so they can inform improvements next year. Email your comments to ruth4schools@yahoo.com.


Happy Holidays to those who celebrate Easter and Passover, and Happy Spring, finally, to all!


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