Saving Fillmore, Residency Requirements, School Nurses

Why Fillmore Arts should be saved.
***For students who will be left without a decent art program, it’s a matter of equity
***For the city, it’s a model that should be mined

Some of you may have sent your kids to the Fillmore Arts Summer Camp, located in the Hardy school building in north Georgetown. We did, and our kids loved it.
During the school year, Fillmore has a more fundamental role: Providing arts education to students from schools that, mainly for space reasons, cannot provide it on their own. DCPS plans to shut Fillmore down after this school year. Its argument: That the cost of Fillmore is too high relative to arts education in other schools, so offering it amounts to an inequitable distribution of resources.
In fact, much of the high cost is due to DCPS’ unwise decision to use charter buses instead of school busses to transport kids between their school and Fillmore.

Further, because the schools using the program (in Ward 3, they are Stoddert and Key) have no space for an art room, eliminating the program would leave the students in these school with an inadequate “art on a cart” program. The cost of expanding the school’s space would likely far exceed the much small extra costs now incurred.
Further, many schools across the city get extra funding to support special programs. There’s nothing inequitable about providing modest extra funding to these schools so that they can provide the arts education that their students otherwise wouldn’t get. These arguments are well made in this ANC 3B resolution and in this petition.

Fillmore is a model that shouldn’t be lost
But there’s something else. Until last spring, I had never seen Fillmore at work during the school year, providing arts education to DCPS students. In my lack of familiarity, I was not unlike the former DCPS chancellor who made the decision to shut it down or our new Interim Chancellor, who must determine whether to follow through on that decision. Neither, as of today, has visited.
But then I visited, and I was knocked out by the quality. It made me imagine the possibilities of arts education in a new way: Sculpture, animation, digital etching, collage, and block printing, not to mention superb programming in such standard offerings as instrumental music, theater, drawing, and painting. Possibly in part because they spend roughly two straight hours (a week) at it, kids were absolutely engrossed. Maybe because they can choose from so many options, maybe because of the enthusiastic artist/teacher staff, or the top-end digital arts and performance spaces, every child was captivated. These kids were finding joy, feeling their abilities, and experiencing “flow,” that euphoric energy that many kids never find in their other studies.
But it’s not just that: They were also learning vocabulary and social studies and science, in settings where they learn by osmosis, not instruction. In a paper sculpture class, kids learn fringe, spiral, pleat; in other graphic arts classes, they learn silky, cellophane, grit, texture, burnish, and translucent–words that strong readers will run into in the many books they read, but poor readers may never confront. Students use African drums and make art based on indigenous textiles, learning about the cultures that produced these arts, use complicated computer programs, and more.

DCPS made big headlines a few years ago by committing to provide strong arts education in every school. I’ve never seen a study of any sort indicating how well that’s going. My educated guess is that many DCPS schools still lack good arts programs. (Small, even medium-sized elementary schools simply wouldn’t have the resources.)
Fillmore is a model that can help and inspire DCPS as it tries to truly build genuinely good arts programs for every DC student. Teachers and DCPS leaders should thoughtfully and transparently consider what aspects of this program can reasonably be brought to school-based programs and what that would require. And they should consider what can only be provided in a Fillmore type setting. Then, and only then, should there be any serious consideration of eliminating the program. Because once you end it, it’s over. It would be the destruction of an incredible infrastructure—both the staff and the physical plant. It would be the waste of a multi-year investment in a great arts program.
Maybe in the long run, there are better ways to get great arts to all students than through an off-site center, though I doubt it. Meanwhile, to eliminate this program before it has been fully mined for its ideas and talents would be a tragedy.
I urge you to sign this petition.

Weigh in on new Residency Requirements

When I campaigned, I talked a fair amount about the ridiculously burdensome process parents had to endure to constantly reestablish residency, especially when we had kids at more than one school. There was much sympathy for that view. But I also got a lot of pushback, from residents who felt that despite the requirements, families from outside DC regularly got away with enrolling their kids in DC schools due to looseness in the process.
The Office of the State Superintendent of Schools (OSSE) is now revising its approach to residency requirements, with a plan that it hopes will relieve the burden and tighten up the process. Specifically, it will use the simple fact that a family has filed taxes in DC as evidence of residency; parents need only consent to allow the DC Office of Finance and Revenue to affirm that the family paid DC taxes. This should greatly relieve the paperwork burden on parents–and the use of tax payment should assure DC residency.
But, anyone who chose not to go the tax verification route (and that would necessarily include families that had moved to DC since filing their taxes), could still use other evidence to establish residency, including the same fallible records accepted now, including drivers licenses, which don’t expire for many years, and leases and utility bill which apparently are easy to alter.
Another problem I’ve heard: Under this proposal, the responsibility for establishing residency falls on the school district or, in the case of some charters, on the school (because they are in effect their own school district). Schools and districts may not be the right enforcers of the policy, as their funding rises with additional enrollment. Further, at the school level, schools rightly have an interest in comity and shouldn’t be in the position of questioning the presence of a given family.
OSSE is taking public comment on this through October 24. You can see the proposal here Please weigh in at OSSE has the option of revising. Then the State Board of Ed has the option of approving or disapproving the final OSSE proposal. So, please, let me know your views as well, right here.

Proposal would eliminate full time school nurses.

Nursing staff are assigned to DC schools based on a contract with the city’s Department of Health. The DOH plans to change the contract, leaving schools with more limited part-time nurse coverage. I think this is a terrible move. As I’ve noted in many tweets, kids just don’t decide to have allergy attacks or accidents on a part time schedule. For a fuller discussion of the very flawed proposal, see this letter sent to city officials by the Ward 3 Education Network. Here is Fox 5’s coverage of the issue. And, by clicking here, you an sign up to testify before City Council on the issue this coming Tuesday.

Happy Fall!!!!

Test Score Drop at Wilson and Walls—What Happened?

Test Score Drop at Wilson and Walls-What Happened

(And what it says about the need for a chancellor that is committed to much greater responsiveness!)

September 2, 2016 Contact me at Follow me @ruth4schools.

Why did scores drop so dramatically at Wilson and Walls?
The release of PARCC (the annual test taken by DC public school students) scores showed small average increases in PARCC scores across most grades and subjects across the city, coupled with dramatic score drops at Wilson, and School Without Walls. Why the drops?
As I explain below, these scores cannot and should not be regarded as valid for concluding anything about achievement at either school. Validity requires that there is something constant, known, and relevant about the students taking the test this year and last. In the case of these two schools, these conditions are absent.

Reasons Offered…
One idea about why the scores dropped–offered by the Chancellor, according to the Washington Post–is that many high- performing students didn’t take the test or didn’t try hard because they and their parents weren’t sufficiently aware of its importance. Another argument, made at the press conference releasing the citywide scores, attributes it to poor handling of administrative issues (artfully worded so that blame is diffuse and no one is held accountable.) A new Post article interviews students who say they were more concerned with doing well on their AP tests, which were scheduled during the same time frame. I’ve also heard it suggested that this is the beginning of an opt-out movement in DC., with parents and students just blowing the test off, as some communities elsewhere have done.
Based on what I know, I don’t think any of these, on their own, are the primary cause for the score drop. And some of these reasons sound an awful lot like efforts to shift the accountability for the problem to the students and schools, and away from the agency (ies) that is/are responsible, as explained next.

Based on what I know, a more likely, fuller cause:
Students at Wilson and Walls were inexplicably assigned to take exams for courses in which they weren’t enrolled. DCPS did not correct the problem, then allowed many exemptions, and problems ensued. Here’s what happened and the context for it.
First, across the country, where PARCC is used, students are supposed to take the PARCC exams that correspond to the classes they are enrolled in. So, in the upper grades, where students from multiple grades may take the same course (9th, 10,th, and 11th graders may all be enrolled in geometry, for example), students are supposed to take the exam that corresponds to the course they are enrolled in; Algebra 1 students should take the Algebra 1 exam, Geometry students the Geometry exam, English 2 students the English 2 exam, etc. If students aren’t enrolled in a course with a corresponding PARCC test (e.g. an AP English test, statistics, etc.), they aren’t supposed to take a PARCC test. This is how it is done in nearby Maryland and New Jersey–and it’s how PARCC recommends that it should be done.
Second, for reasons that remain unclear and unexplained, DCPS did something else: It assigned students to take exams in courses that they were not enrolled in, which struck many people, rightly, as quite nonsensical. How is it useful for a student who took geometry in 8th or 9th grade to take a test in it in 12th grade?
Third, school officials asked the central office to re-assign students, so that they weren’t being asked to take an irrelevant test “wrong” test. Parents raised the problem as well. I raised the problem multiple times with DCPS and with the state education agency (OSSE). The concerns of school officials and parents were ignored; DCPS refused to change it. DCPS and OSSE blamed each other for the problem. (DCPS claims that they were required by OSSE to do what they were doing. OSSE claims that DCPS chose to do it this way, despite OSSE’s contrary recommendation, but that OSSE couldn’t prevent it. I can’t say which is actually the case). What I can say is that both agencies understood the problem. Each blamed the other; neither solved the problem.
Fourth, in an apparent acknowledgement that the practice was wrong, DCPS made clear (to any parent that asked) that it would exempt from the test any mis-assigned student whose parent asked for such an exemption, further assuring that the testing sample for this year would be so questionable that scores from this year could in no way be used to compare student achievement with the previous year’s.
Fifth, DCPS never publicly acknowledged the problem, never reassigned students, and has known since spring that participation would be both low and random. Therefore, it knew that whether the scores were extra high or extra low, they would be invalid. OSSE knew all of this as well. It’s a mystery to me why these scores were reported out at all.

As my mother always said: there are reasons–and real reasons. It is true that many students chose not to take the tests–and that many families supported them. It is also true that DCPS enabled these exemptions. But, it seems like the real reason for the low participation and low effort was an official approach to the tests that was entirely dismissive of good practice, common sense, and reasonable complaints. That led many students and families in these schools to lose their faith in the credibility and usefulness of the city’s testing system.
If we want families and students to support and participate in the testing program–and I very much do–the authorities need to do their part to make it a credible system worth everyone’s time.

Take heart in the knowledge that these scores do not in any way indicate that achievement at Walls or Wilson has dropped!
Of course, since the scores are in effect meaningless, we don’t know that scores haven’t dropped, either. If folks at the schools have concerns that shifts in programming, budget, or anything else have effected achievement, these issues should be carefully examined.

The need for greater responsiveness–and the search for a new Chancellor
Final note: I have heard from many people, both parents and staff—from all over the city–about DCPS’s increasing lack of responsiveness to concerns and issues raised by school communities. That kind of insularity produces bad decisions. In this case, the result is un-useable test scores. In other cases, the result is that students get a lesser quality education.
This is why, in discussions around hiring a new Chancellor, I have been very clear: It is vital that the Mayor hire someone who is committed to taking seriously the voices of school communities—parents, students and staff. People at the school level have an intimate understanding of how issues are playing out. They see problems that can’t be seen by a central office. That doesn’t mean that the school level people are always right or can always be accommodated; we are a citywide system. But, there needs to be a balance. Increasingly, DCPS has been acting in ways that have willfully neglected and rejected the input and information from school communities.
Hiring someone who can help find the right balance should be a priority of the Mayor.

(To see my recommendations for hiring a new Chancellor, from a previous newsletter, click here.)

Newsletter from W3 State Board of Ed member, Ruth Wattenberg @ruth4schools.


Follow me @ruth4schools contact me:

Happy Fall!!!!

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, 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 Also: @DC_Ombuds.

Let me know your thoughts on this and your priorities.

Happy Summer!!!!!

May 1 Newsletter: PARCC exemptions, Tenley/Wilson safety, Protecting school budgets, New health standards

PARCC exemptions can be made for certain mis-assigned high school-ers

As parents know, it’s PARCC season.  The PARCC tests, which are given (in accordance with federal law) to all students grades 3-8, plus once in high school, are an important way for DC parents, residents, school officials and staff, and political leaders to know how student achievement is proceeding.
But, as The Beacon, Wilson’s student newspaper, has reported, some of the wrong students are being required to take the test!  I have heard many complaints from both parents at Walls and Wilson.  Upper classmen who took geometry years ago have been assigned to take the PARCC geometry test.  As the student newspaper reports, this makes no sense and is wreaking havoc with some seniors’ schedules, for example, causing students to miss review classes for their AP tests.
It’s not supposed be this way! Parents can email or call her at 202-724-7938 to request an exemption for their child. I can’t explain why DCPS and OSSE can’t/won’t just un-assign these students to PARCC.  Meanwhile, request the exemption.  I am told that this will not have any negative affect on how the school or any staff are rated.

State Board of Education News

SBOE adopts revised Health Standards.

The State Board of Education (SBOE) adopted revised health standards at our April meeting.  These new standards, last revised in 2007, were adopted at the end of a lengthy process that included discussions conducted by both the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) and the SBOE with groups of health educators, students, and others.

Security in Tenleytown and around Tenleytown schools

Most readers are probably aware of the uptick in violent incidents in Tenleytown.  At a special community meeting last Saturday (Apr 30), Councilwoman Mary Cheh, and ANC chair Jonathan Bender led a conversation with our local Metropolitan Police Department Commander Melvin Gresham and other MPD police, Metro transit police, Wilson Assistant Principal Alex Wilson.  Plus, Mayor Bowser offered strong support, joining the conversation for a good hour.
The MPD announced that they were increasing both bike and segway patrols. Other ideas that will be further considered are staggering the dismissal times for Deal and Wilson, which together dismiss roughly 3000 students into a small area at the same time; creating better communication between Wilson high school staff and police; and, better supervising the path between Deal and Wilson.
Commander Gresham provided his email address,, asking residents to be in touch with him if they had information he should know.  To sign up for MPD District 2d’s list serve:

Next step on School Budgets—What’s the impact on kids of new, unfunded LEAP mandate?

As mentioned in my last newsletter, DCPS has mandated that all schools put in place a new professional development plan to replace the school system’s Master Educator program, which lost its federal funding. Here’s my testimony on this and other budget issues at the City Council’s Education Committee budget hearing. (Here’s my testimony in favor of establishing an independent education research entity.)
The plan may or may not be a generally good plan for professional development.  But, there are two problems:
First, with few exceptions, schools have to implement the program without additional staff. Since the program model requires many staff hours (Each teacher must participate in 90 minutes of professional development/observation weekly; staff must be assigned to provide the professional development; and the principal (or designee) must take on much more responsibility for teacher observations and evaluations.), most schools will have to redeploy existing staff and/or actually lay off some For example, in order to staff the new program as required, Hearst will have to let go of a needed and much-loved school counselor.  Eaton may lose its reading and math specialists.
The second problem is a familiar one—the declaration of a new educational program without adequate (or any) prior planning or consultation with staff or families from the schools, often resulting in plans that simply don’t make sense for a given school, regardless of the central office’s best intentions. I hope the City Council and Mayor’s office will prevail on DCPS to modify this effort–and, as importantly, to be more solicitous of school community views before mandating new programs.

Collecting the LEAP facts for Councilmembers Cheh and Grosso

Councilwoman Mary Cheh made a special visit to the Education Committee’s budget hearing to question DCPS officials about the staffing implications of LEAP, focusing on the example of Eaton, which, according to Cheh, fears that it will lose its reading and math specialists.  (Find her questions on this video at 2:15.)  In response to her questioning, DCPS official Jason Kamras insisted that no school should be required to cut staff to make this program work and that DCPS would work with any school in this situation.  To help assure that this commitment is met, schools really need to make sure that they fully understand how LEAP will effect their budgets. (Just prior to 2:15 see Cheh’s questioning on another important issue: Fillmore’s art program.)
The Ward 3/Wilson Feeder Network is now working with schools and Mary Cheh’s office to compile a report explaining the impact of the LEAP program on each Ward 3 school.  Education Committee
Chairman David Grosso has asked DCPS to provide him a report showing the budget/staffing effects of the program on each school.  It will be important to match this information with what is reported by folks in the schools.

My testimony to City Council

I testified before the City Council’s Education Committee on: Murch’s delayed modernization, the threat to Fillmore, the unfunded mandate posed by LEAP (more on this in main newsletter), and how funding for at-risk students is improperly being used to fund core educational functions.  
I testified before the City Council’s Committee of the Whole on the need for independent research about DC schools–and an , independent entity to conduct it.  For more information on the kind of research that I’m proposing, see the website of the Chicago Consortium on Education Research.

“Cornerstone” at Janney

DC Public Schools have been rolling out “Cornerstone” curriculum units, aimed at exposing students across the city to a common, engaging, rigorous curriculum units.
I just got to visit Janney k-3 science teacher Fran McCrackin (my kids’ former k and 1 teacher!) teaching a Cornerstone science/engineering unit in which students designed a permeable membrane appropriate for a frog. In preparation, the 1st graders experimented by pouring water through various barriers, including aluminum foil, cheesecloth, a sponge, and coffee filters, measuring how much water escaped through each barrier and how quickly.    Definitely pretty cool!
If you’re a teacher and would consider inviting me to observe your Cornerstone, please reach me at


Joe Reiner at Tenley/Friendship Library

Joe was a renowned English teacher at Wilson High School.  Hear him discuss his new books on teaching AP English, “Puzzle Me the Right Answer to That One” and “Teach Me
How to Work and Keep Me Kind.”
Wednesday, May 4, at 7 p.m.
Tenley-Friendship Library. 4450 Wisconsin Ave NW

Happy Spring!!!

April 2016 Newsletter

School budget news–More $$$,but less staff for many schools; Murch and Fillmore funding in jeopardy, “Assessing-out” proposal withdrawn, Data/research on DC schools conference draws large audience… More…
The Mayor’s city budget includes a funding increase for public schools of $75 million, which covers additional per student funds for increased enrollment and a 2% inflation adjustment (which is typical, though it was not provided to schools last year). This should have left schools with roughly the same staffing levels and funds as they had last year–and with the resources for increased staffing to handle increased enrollment.
In fact, many schools in Ward 3 and around the city report that despite these increases they must cut their teaching staff. Wilson high school is set to lose 7 positions; various elementary schools appear as though they will lose the equivalent of one or more direct service positions (i.e. classroom teacher, intervention specialist etc.) To see overall budgets from each school, use this data tool from Coalition for DC Schools.

An analysis released by the Coalition 4 DC Schools explains why there is more money but less “buying power”: First, the costs of almost all positions (principal, teacher, etc.) rose a small amount (which is indeed the kind of cost the inflation adjustment should be covering); Second, DCPS “has shifted certain costs that had not been carried on school budgets to school budgets.” In other words, schools must now pay from their regular budgets the cost of programs that previously had been funded by DCPS central office funds. This makes sense in terms of budget transparency, as it becomes easier to see exactly what is being spent in different schools. And insofar as the program cost is sent to the school along with the funding that DCPS previously used, there’s no harm to education. But, when formerly centralized programs are sent to the schools without funds, the result is that schools need to cut elsewhere.

Big reason is “unfunded mandate”
And that is the third and biggest reason that many schools have been left with less: a new, substantial unfunded mandate. As reported in the Washington Post earlier this year, DCPS has eliminated its Master Educator system, through which a good deal of teacher evaluation and teacher professional development was handled. Instead of the centrally funded ME’s, this year, existing school staff (mainly principals and assistant principals) will handle evaluation–taking these staff away from other duties–which must now be covered by other staff. Plus, most schools will be required to fund from their school budgets the costs of the new Teacher Leader Innovation program to provide the professional development previously provided by the Master Educators. In this analysis, DC schools budget pro Mary Levy estimates that the cost will be approx. $7m citywide, roughly equal to the new dollars that are not already dedicated to covering rising costs and the cost shifts explained above.
The result: It looks like increased funding for DC schools–but thanks to the shell game, many DC schools have less buying power.

Study shows that at-risk funds are being diverted to support core education
Two years ago, the DC City Council started appropriating special, additional funds to defray the costs required to provide a high quality education to the city’s most at-risk students. Known as “at-risk” funds, a new analysis from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute indicates that “unfortunately, there is a pattern of using significant portions of the allocated at-risk dollars for general education purposes, thereby merely supplanting general education dollars.” Among the inappropriate ways in which at risk dollars are being used: to pay for guidance counselors, teachers, and other core staff that should be funded through the general education funds.

Testify on School Budgets
On April 14, individuals and school leaders are invited to testify before the City Council’s Education Committee about the DCPS budget. For information and to sign up, click here. You must sign up 24 hours in advance to testify. If you testify, please consider raising the issues above, and noting that they effect schools in Ward 3 and around the city.

Fillmore Arts Center–“Stay of Execution” seems more rhetorical than real
At the 11th hour, literally as school budgets were being sent to schools, the schools that depend on the Fillmore Arts Center to provide arts education, were informed that Fillmore was being eliminated. The effected schools, including Stoddert and Key in Ward 3, would have to provide arts in their own schools. Huge problem: Neither Stoddert nor Key has any extra space in which to house adequate art classes! As importantly, Fillmore represents a phenomenal model of great arts education. I visited and was blown away by the extraordinary quality of its program. In a city where so many students still don’t get strong exposure to arts education, Fillmore shows what we should be reaching for–not what we should be eliminating. Under pressure, DCPS agreed to maintain Fillmore through next year and to undertake discussions about how to move forward.
But reports suggest that the Fillmore staff is already being dispersed, meaning that Fillmore’s arts program will already be much weaker next year, all but assuring that not only won’t students get the arts they need but that the program’s ability to replicate and provide a model will be lost. That would be a huge shame for DC. For more info on the program and on how to help, click here.

Murch funds in jeopardy again….
Murch Elementary has not been renovated for 85 years. Promises to renovate it were followed by repeated delays. Now, months after a modernization plan was finally agreed to by all the relevant parties and funding was allocated to build it, it turns out that the estimate for how much it would cost were wrong! The Murch community was told that no more funds would be forthcoming; it would have to downsize the original plan. Councilwoman Mary Cheh just led a discussion with all the key players–including leaders from Murch’s PTO and School Improvement Team, key officials from DCPS and the DGS (Department of Government Services) and the architect—to identify ways to bring down costs without losing essential components of the previously approved plan. For more info, click Murch Elementary

Update: Controversial “Assessing-out” regulation is pulled back. Yay!!
In previous newsletters, I alerted you to a proposed regulation that would open the door to widely enabling students to earn high school graduation credits by taking assessments rather than courses. OSSE Superintendent Hanseul Kang deserves great credit for withdrawing this proposal from consideration after hearing how much concern there was about it. Thanks to the many DC residents who filed comments with OSSE, signed petitions, spoke up at meetings and otherwise expressed to both OSSE and the State Board of Education the many reasons that this proposal caused great concern.

Strong attendance at conference to discuss need for better data/research on DC education
Last summer, the National Academy of Sciences issued an evaluation, requested by the DC City Council, on DC’s educational progress. The overwhelming finding of the report, as I wrote about in the Washington Post last summer, was that so much of the information necessary to conduct the evaluation was unavailable. The NAS couldn’t even report on whether achievement among the city’s most vulnerable children had improved. An ad hoc group of DC residents, including myself, has been meeting with city education leaders, including Council Education Chairman David Grosso and Deputy Mayor Jennifer Niles about strategies for resolving this unacceptable situation.
One step towards a solution was a half-day conference held at the end of March among interested stakeholders, convened by the Urban Institute. Big thanks to all the key education leaders in the city who attended and spoke—including Grosso, Niles, State superintendent Hanseul Kang, DCPS chancellor Kaya Henderson, and DC Public Charter School Board director Scott Pearson. The attendance was over 150—suggesting that interest in this issue is huge. I should note that the conference was held during spring break week, greatly lowering the number of parents who could attend.
Let’s hope this is the first step towards a solution, not just a conference that goes nowhere!

Should students be able to test out of all courses? (no!)

February Newsletter:

**Should hs students be able to test out of any course?
–Citywide Task Force calls for letting students test out of foreign language and math courses, very defined, finite courses
      —But State Ed Agency proposes broad regulation that could allow testing out of any course
      —Big concerns that this will undercut course offerings
**Support TAG increase
**Vote on DCPS academic calendar

Add your Comments at the bottom

Update on Testing Out:

I reported last month that a citywide education Task Force (that I served on) had reached consensus on new ways for high school students to earn credit, including a proposal to allow high school students to test out of math and foreign language requirements. For a summary, see my January newsletter) The thinking–which I agree with–is that these subjects/courses are very sequential, defined, and finite. If you’ve mastered Spanish I or Algebra 2, there’s no need to take these courses in order to graduate! We don’t want to subject kids to boring, redundant coursework.
     But the Task Force did not recommend a testing-out option in other subjects, like U.S. History and World Literature, in which the subject matter is not finite or sequential.
I agree. These course are not “finite” in the way that Algebra 2 is. If a student arrives at high school ready to “test out” of U.S. history, the school should offer a higher level U.S. history course–perhaps an Honors or AP course. It’s hard to imagine a high school student showing up at an academic private school and being told that they already know so much U.S. History that there’s no need to learn more. I don’t think we should ask less of our public schools.
      Unfortunately, the state education agency (OSSE) has rejected the Task Force recommendation and wants full authority to let high schoolers test out of any class. OSSE has proposed a very broad regulation that would provide it with the right to allow testing-out in any high school course, at its discretion (although there is a promise not to do it immediately).
      But testing out sends the wrong message to teens–and undercuts new efforts to expand advanced course options across the city. As parents of teens know, we’re often trying to persuade our kids that they really don’t already know everything. It’s not helpful for the school system to say that they know all that’s worth a high schooler knowing!
      Plus, DC is now taking more seriously its obligation to offer courses that meet the needs of all students. This school year, for the first time, DCPS is requiring all high schools to offer a minimum number of AP courses. The Dual Enrollment program that has enabled students at Walls to attend classes and get college credit at partner college GWU is also available to students at Banneker and McKinley (partnering with Howard), KIPP (Trinity), and is further expanding–as is the HISCIP program that allows students at Wilson and elsewhere the ability to attend and get credit for classes at colleges such as AU.
These programs take resources and commitment. When resources are scarce, will schools find themselves choosing–or under pressure–to let students test out, instead of offering Honors, AP, and other advanced classes and programs?
OSSE has offered no educational rationale for its proposal. When asked to explain the purpose at a State Board meeting, the response was that OSSE might want this authority in the future and getting it now, as part of a broader package, would save time later. If there is a rationale, I’m all ears. Meanwhile, we don’t even know how basic or advanced the test might be–or what impact it could have, even unintentionally, on DC’s new course offerings and advanced course offerings at all schools.
      This is not a good way to make public policy. A big change like this deserves to be the subject of a full airing–with a full discussion of expected benefits and possible consequences–not just popped on us all as an undiscussed regulation.
       I’m eager to hear your views on this: If you would like to file formal comments with OSSE by February 2 , click here: . This site also displays the proposed regulations.

Support DC TAG increase
As reported in the last issue, the RAISE DC TAG team had a great success, winning $40 million in federal funding for DC’s TAG program. TAG, the Tuition Assistance Grant, provides DC residents with a $10,000 annual subsidy for their child’s tuition to any public college/university. The purpose was to provide to DC students the same low-cost access to a comprehensive, public land-grant college/university that residents of every state have. As helpful as the grant is, it has not increased since it was first enacted, a time when tuitions weren’t nearly as high as they now are. RAISE DC TAG is working to increase the amount of the grant.
As part of its campaign to show Congress how much support there is, it’s asking everyone to write/email your council member and ask them to support Jack Evans’ resolution introduced last summer…. “to expand the D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant program to fund the entire difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition for DC students at four-year public colleges and universities throughout the US, Guam and Puerto Rico.”
To get on Raise DC TAG’s list, write them at:

Vote on the DCPS Academic Calendar
DCPS is still accepting survey responses. Go to:

Enjoy your holiday weekend. As always, feel free to email me with your comments and concerns.

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January 12 (2016) Newsletter HTML

January 12 Newsletter! Happy New Year to all!

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

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 .
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 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
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

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 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 if you would like me to schedule such a session in Ward 3.
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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?

Quick Communications Logistics: Some of you are receiving this on a listserve; others as an email. If you’re reading this on a listserve and would like to receive a regular email, please send me an email at If you’re receiving this as an email and don’t want to be on the regular email list, you should send me an email asking to be taken off the list!

 I’ve also started tweeting. Follow me @ruth4schools  Email: Visit


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 and your at-large city council members, Anita Bonds, David Grosso (chairman of the education committee), and Elissa Silverman

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, 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.


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


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


Please feel free to pass this newsletter on…

What is the “Waiver Renewal”?

Background on the waiver renewal: The Office of the State Superintendent of Education has (DC’s state education agency, known as OSSE) launched its effort earlier this year to solicit public input on what’s formally called the “ESEA waiver renewal.” For the most up to date version of OSSE’s proposal, click here.

You may wonder: What is the “ESEA waiver renewal” and what does it mean to get it renewed? Under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (now known as the No Child Left Behind Act), (virtually) every child in every school needed to test at the “proficient” level by 2014—or the school could be sanctioned in various ways, including being shut down. Since virtually no school could meet this standard, the federal Department of Education offered each state the chance to file a “waiver” that could exempt its schools from this 100% requirement.
To get the waiver, the state education agency had to make commitments to the federal ED about how it would hold schools in its state accountable for improving student achievement and how it would help low-achieving schools to improve. DC (like most states) applied for and got a waiver several years ago. The waiver is now about to expire, so OSSE has to apply for a renewal. As part of its application, OSSE can revisit the commitments it made. Interim state superintendent Amy Maisterra indicated that OSSE has learned a good deal about what works and what doesn’t from its previous waiver and may revisit such issues as:

• The basis for evaluating student achievement
• The basis for categorizing schools and the names for those categories
• How it assists schools that are struggling
• How it can help schools with lower-achieving students to attract and retain excellent teachers

PARCC Test!!! (Helpful links at bottom)

As many parents and kids know, the PARCC test replaces the DC-CAS test, starting… very soon! When I speak to parents I hear lots of questions. I address some of the basics here. I’ve also included links to relevant sites, including a PARCC site where you can take a sample test, the PARCC information sites sponsored by DCPS and by DC’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), and the OSSE site where you can read the Common Core standards that the PARCC is designed to assess.

First, some basics about PARCC and about the Common Core State Standards that it is designed to assess:

What are the Common Core State Standards?

Several years ago, DC replaced its existing standards in math and English language arts with the “Common Core” state standards. The CCSS were developed by educators from across the country through a partnership initiated by the nation’s governors and the nation’s state superintendents of education. While DC was an early adopter of the standards, at this point, almost every state has adopted them.

Why have DC and other states adopted them?

The key reasons that most states, and DC, have replaced their previous standards with the CC standards are:

–It makes sense to have the same standards across all states. As many commentators have pointed out, no matter what state you’re from, the rules of grammar, the concepts of math, and the principles of writing are the same. It makes sense for standards in these subjects to be the same across the country. This is especially true in a country where people move around so much. And, it’s even more true for students in DC, who will likely find themselves at some point in their lives working or studying in another state.

–The Common Core standards, in addition to bringing consistency to schools across the country, reflect higher academic expectations than previous standards. The developers of the standards believe that the CC standards reflect a level of understanding and competence that will enable students to be successful as freshman in college in both subjects without having to take remedial, non-credit courses.

Why did DC adopt the PARCC test?

Once DC adopted the Common Core standards, it became necessary to adopt an end-of-year test that aligned with the new standards, which DC’s existing end-of-year test, the DC-CAS, did not. To assess progress towards the new standards, DC (specifically the Office of the State Superintendent OSSE) adopted a new set of end-of-year tests in ELA and math, known as the PARCC. These assessments, in comparison to the DC-CAS, use more innovative test formats and test higher-level skills.

When will the new PARCC tests be given?

The new tests will be administered for the first time this spring. These tests will be taken by students in grades 3-8 and in algebra 1, geometry, and English 1 and 2. The tests will be given in two parts, the performance assessment and the end-of-year assessment. The performance assessment will be given starting in March; the end-of-year assessment will be given starting in May.

What will be done with the test results?

Because this is the first year of the PARCC test, no results will be available until the fall. At that time parents will get their children’s scores. While school-level scores will be public, the results will not in this first year be used to classify or rate schools, and they won’t be used by DCPS in teacher evaluations.

For more information, try these links:

Here is OSSE’s summary page, and here is OSSE’s home page with additional links relevant to PARCC, including practice tests. with additional links to practice tests and other

DCPS’ PARCC site includes a video overview of PARCC and links to sample questions (at the bottom).

For information from PARCC, including a link to the “Item of the Week” (on right navigation), click here.

You can try out PARCC practice tests here. It will ask you to sign in. Your own name will get you in.

For additional questions, you may email or

And, feel free to comment to me: