New accountability plan is adopted by the State Board of Education

April 2017  Update: New accountability plan is adopted by the State Board of Education
I’ve reported a number of times that the new federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, gave every state a chance to change how it evaluates its schools. The law replaces the old No Child Left Behind Act, which required states (including DC) to evaluate schools almost exclusively based on reading and math test scores and on the proportion of students who reached the score threshold deemed “proficient.”
After many months of discussion, testimony, and two drafts, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) brought its final accountability proposal to the State Board of Education (SBOE) for a vote at the end of March.
I voted against the proposal, along with my colleagues from wards 6 and 8, because I didn’t believe the plan moved far enough towards judging schools based on more than just reading and math scores. I also was disappointed that it didn’t move further towards crediting schools for their students’ progress, especially at the high school level, where schools will continue to get no credit for their students’ test score growth. This Washington Post article explains the issues surrounding the new proposal, and this Post op-ed explains the additional changes my colleagues and I had hoped for.
Without question though, the new policy is an improvement over the previous system. Moreover, I credit my colleagues on the State Board for encouraging OSSE to improve on its original January proposal and OSSE for incorporating some of these improvements. All involved are committed to further improving the process over time.
The State Board will be establishing a task force and a process for following up on some of the commitments made in the final proposal, including a way to measure high school “growth” and an indicator for “access and opportunities,” aimed at encouraging schools to provide students with a well-rounded education.
I look forward to working with my SBOE colleagues, OSSE, and the community to bring about the improvements we all still hope to see.

 

Education Budget is increased; new funds targeted for “restoring” staff and program cuts

More steps still necessary, but…

Education Budget is increased;
New funds targeted for “restoring” staff and program cuts

                  The DC Council voted on May 30 to substantially raise the amount of money that will go to DC’s public schools this coming year.  An additional required vote on the budget will be taken on June 16.
The original budget proposal submitted by the Mayor provided a per student increase (known as the UPSFF-the Uniform per student funding formula) of only 1.5%, much less than the cost increases that schools will confront—and much less than the 3% increase recommended by the Mayor’s own state education agency.  The budget also put much less money into school renovation/modernization than previous budgets.
The result was staff and program cuts across the city, including ten staff cut at Wilson High School (for a total of 30 staff cut in 3 budget cycles), staff cut at other large high schools (especially Ballou, CHEC, and Eastern) and inadequate progress on needed renovations and modernizations across the city. See Washington Post and Northwest Current articles.
The Council budget will send an additional $11.5 million to DC public schools as well as $7.2 million to the city’s charter schools.  The Council “expects the additional funds at DCPS to be used for restoring instructional staff and programs at schools (itals mine) and is requiring the Chancellor of DCPS, by September 1, 2017, to submit to the Council a report that outlines how the additional funding to DCPS will be used and a detailed analysis of the changes to the use of “At-Risk” funds.
This statement from the Council is critical because in past years, the Council has provided DCPS with additional funds to stave off staff cuts, and DCPS has instead allocated the funds to other projects.  Likewise, funding appropriated by the Council to support at-risk students has been used by DCPS to cover general school costs.
Chancellor Antwan Wilson has stated publicly that the funds will go to schools, not the central office.  That’s a good start.  But, it’s important to understand: If schools are to hold on to staff members who have already been told that they’re cut, the schools must be given their revised budgets quickly. It will be important for the Chancellor, the Council, and the Mayor–as well as those of us who advocated for the increased funding–to make sure that schools are notified quickly about their revised budgets.

Thanks Due to Many

                  The exceedingly low budget proposed for education inspired great parent/citizen activism!  The main group that pushed for both increased funding for all public schools (traditional DCPS and charters) and an assurance that DCPS funds would be used to restore program and staff cuts was the Coalition For DC Schools (C4DC), which led a petition and letter-writing effort.  In addition, high-profile advocacy efforts calling for increased funding for all DC public schools were led by the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and DC Education Coalition for Change (DECC). It was an amazing outpouring in favor of adequate funding for all of our public schools.  Thanks to all!!!! 
We also have many to thank on the DC Council.  Chairman of the Education Committee David Grosso and committee members Anita Bonds, Charles Allen, Robert White, and Trayon White issued a committee report in favor of providing at least a 3% increase in the per student (UPSFF) funding.  To make the increase possible, Councilmembers Mary Cheh (3) and Vincent Gray (7) (who respectively chair the committees on the Transportation and Environment; and Health) were able to identify funds from agency budgets overseen by their committees and make them available to the education committee.  Chairman Phil Mendelson was then able to use the report and funds as the foundation for cobbling together the 3% increase as well as funds for other educational programs (including transportation costs for adult students, made possible by a transfer from Elissa Silverman’s Labor and Workforce Development committee).
Thanks to all of you who signed petitions and wrote your councilmembers, to all the city’s advocates who really revved up for this campaign, and to the City Council who made the increase a reality—and, who are insisting that the DCPS funds are used to restore instructional staff and programs.

Community Working Group launched by DCPS to address overcrowding issues

                Many thanks to Chancellor Antwan Wilson, who in one of his earliest actions as our new Chancellor established a Community Working Group to discuss and make recommendations to address the overcrowding/space needs afflicting Wilson High School and the elementary/middle schools that feed it (largely, but not just located in Ward 3).  Virtually every school that feeds into Wilson High School, as well as Wilson itself, is badly overcrowded, and projections indicate that enrollments will continue to go up, up, up.
The first meeting of the group (and a prior discussion sponsored by the Ward 3/Wilson Feeder Education network) focused mainly on ways to increase available space, both to relieve overcrowding and restore the ability of schools to offer seats to students who live out-of-bounds, as promised by the Report on Boundaries
Space could potentially be identified for, say, an early childhood center, which could relieve crowding at area elementaries.  Participants identified possible new space at such sites as the Fannie Mae complex, which is being redeveloped, the Lower School that is being vacated by Georgetown Day School, and the old Hardy school. Let me know if you have other ideas!
Provide DCPS and the Working Group with your input here:
You can follow the committee’s work via the DCPS blog at https://dcpsplanning.wordpress.com.
The Working Group includes the principal and a parent representative from each school, plus Brian Doyle (chair of the Ward 3/Wilson Feeder school Education Network); a representative from Councilwoman Mary Cheh’s office; and me, as the Ward 3 representative to the State Board of Education.  The plan calls for the group to meet monthly over the next 4-5 months to develop recommendations that will then be presented to the broader community for feedback.

Mayor’s below-inflation budget proposal is unsustainable for our schools

Sign the Petition/Email City Council
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Mayor’s below-inflation budget proposal is unsustainable for our schools
Unless the City Council intervenes in a big way, our schools will be badly hurt by the Mayor’s proposed education budget. This will be the third straight year in which per student funding for public schools will decline in real terms.
Because of the way DC Public Schools (DCPS) allocates funds to schools, the most severe effects are felt by the largest schools, at all grade levels. At Wilson High School, the citywide high school located here in ward 3, eight staff will be cut, including two counselors. This is on top of 9 staff cut last year and 12 the year before: A total of 29 staff cut in three years.
These cuts will affect schools across the city. At the only somewhat smaller Columbia Heights Education Campus, 5 staff are being cut. At Eastern and Ballou, two other large high schools, schools are losing some combination of teachers, counselors, art programming, office and custodial staff.
This is a key time to tell members of the City Council that the proposed education budget must be raised and that new funds must get to the schools that are most affected.

Please do three things:
1.Please sign this petition, which will be submitted to the Council, calling for the full 3.5% increase and an assurance that added funds are allocated directly to schools, especially those that have been most damaged by the proposed cuts.
2. Please circulate this petition to your family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues.
3. Please email City Council members: Please talk about the specific issues facing your school, the citywide need, and the importance of a more transparent, sensible
DCPS process for allocating funds to individual schools.
pmendelson@dccouncil.us
abonds@dccouncil.us
dgrosso@dccouncil.us
esilverman@dccouncil.us e
rwhite@dccouncil.us
bnadeau@dccouncil.us
jevans@dccouncil.us
mcheh@dccouncil.us
btodd@dccouncil.us
kmcduffie@dccouncil.us
callen@dccouncil.us
vgray@dccouncil.us
twhite@dccouncil.us
(and I’d love if you’d bc me: ruth4schools@yahoo.com)

Thanks!
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Mayor’s proposed education budget decreases real dollars for city’s schools 

April 23, 2017

Mayor’s proposed education budget decreases real dollars for city’s schools 

City Working Group calls for 3.5% boost

Proposed 1.5% education increase below inflation; will lead to staff/program cuts

Alert: The City Council’s education committee will hold hearings on the DC Public Schools budget this Thursday, April 27, at 10AM and 5PM. To sign up, click here.

Reminder: PARCC testing begins this week. As anyone who reads this newsletter knows, I believe that our school system relies too heavily on PARCC scores for school accountability and am working to reduce it. But, PARCC provides important information on how our students are progressing; and, our schools and school staff are evaluated largely based on PARCC scores. For all these reasons, I hope you encourage your children to do their best on them. No stress, no hype, just doing their best to show what they know.

Mayor’s proposed education budget decreases real dollars for city’s schools 

It’s budget season, and the education budget proposed by the Mayor is not good news for our schools. While the Mayor’s budget document calls its 1.5% education increase “historic,” the proposal actually means fewer real, inflation-adjusted dollars per student than last year’s budget—and that decrease means reductions in staff    and other cuts at our schools.
It’s particularly bad news for the city’s largest high schools: Wilson, Ballou, Eastern, and CHEC (Columbia Heights Education Campus). Each of these schools appears to face particularly severe staff cuts because of the way D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) allocates funding to each school. For Wilson High School, the proposed budget, as allocated by DCPS, translates into cutting 8.8 staff positions. These cuts are on top of 9 positions cut last year and 12 positions the year before that. Read the Wilson High School Budget Primer here.

Here are a few important facts:
1. Education costs increase when a) the actual costs of education (staff, supplies, etc.) increase due to inflation and b) when enrollment increases, requiring increased resources to meet the needs of a larger student body (more books, more teachers, etc.) In addition, costs can increase if new programs are added or existing programs are beefed up.
2. Since the 1999-2000 school year, the main unit for education budgeting has been “per student funding,” known as UPSFF, the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula. By tradition, the City has increased the UPSFF base each year, by roughly 2%, as a way of addressing increased costs due to inflation. You can see how the UPSFF has increased over the years in this letter from Council Member Vincent Gray.
3. After reviewing per student costs, a specially convened city Working Group called for a 3.5% increase in per student base funding. The Working Group was named by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE–DC’s state education agency) to review the current level of DC’s UPSFF. The Task Force was convened amid a variety of concerns, including that education funding had lost much ground to inflation and that for some time the UPSFF hasn’t fully reflected the cost of providing an adequate education. (See here for “Cost of Student Achievement,” a report on funding adequacy in DC, released in 2003.) Click here to read the report of the UPSFF working group, which determined that this year’s per pupil base needed to increase by 3.5%.
4. The Mayor’s proposed 1.5% increase is much lower than what was recommended.
5. The proposed 1.5% increase will not cover the costs of inflation. A parent on Oyster-Adams Bilingual School’s Local School Advisory Team, Emily Mechner–who usefully is also a Harvard-trained economist!–researched DC’s education budget when her children’s school faced staff cuts. She found that the proposed 1.5% increase in UPSFF will not even cover “DCPS’s own estimate of employment costs” and “represents a devastating 3% cut over last year’s levels.”
6. Inadequate funding of the UPSFF causes schools to cover the rising costs of their general, special, and English-language learner education programs with their “at-risk” funds, which are supposed to be reserved to cover the extra costs of providing a strong education to the most vulnerable students. For information on this, inadequate funding for school modernizations (which mainly affects schools in other wards), and other ways in which the proposed budget will leave schools underfunded, see this research conducted by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute.

Next step: the City Council
The proposed budget is now in the City Council’s court. It’s up to them to find the additional funds to bring the proposed budget up by the needed 3.5%, not the proposed 1.5%.
The Council’s Education Committee will hold its budget oversight hearings next week. The oversight hearing for DCPS will be on Thursday, April 27, with one hearing at 10AM and another at 5PM.        Hearings are held at the City Council at the Wilson building. To sign up to testify, click here. You must sign up by COB Tuesday, April 25.
The Mayor’s proposed budget and the Council hearing are the first key steps in DC’s annual budget process. I will do my best to keep you posted as more information becomes available about the effects of the proposed budget and Council efforts to improve it.

Update: New accountability plan is adopted by the State Board of Education
I’ve reported a number of times that the new federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, gave every state a chance to change how it evaluates its schools. The law replaces the old No Child Left Behind Act, which required states (including DC) to evaluate schools almost exclusively based on reading and math test scores and on the proportion of students who reached the score threshold deemed “proficient.”
After many months of discussion, testimony, and two drafts, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) brought its final accountability proposal to the State Board of Education (SBOE) for a vote at the end of March.
I voted against the proposal, along with my colleagues from wards 6 and 8, because I didn’t believe the plan moved far enough towards judging schools based on more than just reading and math scores. I also was disappointed that it didn’t move further towards crediting schools for their students’ progress, especially at the high school level, where schools will continue to get no credit for their students’ test score growth. This Washington Post article explains the issues surrounding the new proposal, and this Post op-ed explains the additional changes my colleagues and I had hoped for.
Without question though, the new policy is an improvement over the previous system. Moreover, I credit my colleagues on the State Board for encouraging OSSE to improve on its original January proposal and OSSE for incorporating some of these improvements. All involved are committed to further improving the process over time.
The State Board will be establishing a task force and a process for following up on some of the commitments made in the final proposal, including a way to measure high school “growth” and an indicator for “access and opportunities,” aimed at encouraging schools to provide students with a well-rounded education.
I look forward to working with my SBOE colleagues, OSSE, and the community to bring about the improvements we all still hope to see.

Calling all District Students!

Would you like to serve as the student representative to the Dc State Board of Education or to join the Student Advisory Committee which advises the State Board of Education. Apply here. Applications are due May 30th. Click here for more information on the work of previous student reps, including video interviews with prior members.

Should DC rate its schools mainly on reading and math test scores? What the new fed’l law allows

Jan. 23, 2016 Newsletter

Should DC rate its schools mainly on reading and math test scores? What the new fed’l law allows

Also:
Ward 3-Wilson Feeder Education Network Meetings: State Superintendent Hanseul Kang and W3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh to speak at next two Ed Network meetings/ Updates on Fillmore, Old Hardy School/ New network for teachers across private/public/charter sectors
Email me at ruth4schools@yahoo.com. Follow me at @ruth4schools. Visit ruth4schools.com.
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Happy Holidays and Happy Winter to all!
Over the next two months, the State Board of Education (SBOE) will be working with the Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE) to hammer out an agreement about a new accountability system for DC schools. The main portion of this newsletter is aimed at providing readers with some background, especially on current problems and our options under the new law.

How should we rate our schools?

School rating systems don’t teach kids or provide schools with needed resources. But they matter, a lot.
The way in which schools are rated can encourage–or impede–good school programs and practices. For many years, DC’s school rating system, with its virtually complete emphasis on reading and math test scores, has been largely dictated by the old No Child Left Behind law. Fortunately, the replacement law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), gives all states (including DC) the chance to revise this system.

The current system rates schools narrowly on reading/math test scores

The parents, educators and residents that I speak to around the city believe that academic achievement is the top priority and that reading and math are fundamental. But, they also believe schools must be much more: The emphasis on reading and math test scores is causing other parts of the curriculum (social studies, science, arts) to be squeezed out. Testing is taking too much time, and the hyper-focus on it is damaging school culture. School environment and culture matter too—very much. They want their schools to have lively and engaging classes, more writing, a concern with building citizenship and a taste for skeptical, critical thinking, as well as a school culture that is welcoming, nurturing, safe, orderly, and challenging.

New law gives states/DC more flexibility in judging school quality

Since No Child Left Behind went into effect in the early 2000’s, every state, including DC, was required to adopt a school evaluation system in which schools were rated and held accountable based on the proportion of students who reached the “Proficient” level on math and reading tests.
Bipartisan dissatisfaction with NCLB, including increasing dismay with over-testing, led Congress to replace NCLB with the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) at the end of 2015. The law gives states more latitude to determine how they will hold their schools accountable. Here are a few examples of the new law’s flexibility:

1. The new law allows states to rate schools on more than just reading and math test scores.
In the words of John King, Obama’s Secretary of Education,
“Done well and thoughtfully, assessments provide vital information… and identify the gaps that must be addressed to ensure equity. But in some places, an exclusive emphasis on the tested subjects drove a narrowing of what was taught and learned; worse, test prep and narrowly defined “time on task” sometimes came to replace a diversity of classes.”
“The good news here is that, with the passage of Every Student Succeeds Act… the opportunity to widen how we understand educational excellence is suddenly ripe.”

2. The new law requires states to include a non-test measure of school quality, for example of “school climate”
Test scores provide extremely important information about how much students know. But, whether they’re learning–and at what rate–depends on other factors, including what’s known as school “culture” or climate. A recent research review of many school climate studies indicates that schools with a positive climate “have the potential to narrow achievement gaps among students of different SES backgrounds and between students with stronger and weaker academic abilities.”
In cities like DC, struggling with terrible achievement gaps, putting some focus on school climate makes huge sense–and the law supports that direction. Plus, a climate measurement can signal schools that while achievement is paramount, a positive school culture promotes achievement–and is well worth investing in for its own sake.

3. The new law allows emphasis on student “growth” over “proficiency.”
Yup. It’s wonky. But, as former comedian Sen. Al Franken told Ed. Sec Designate Betsy DeVos during her confirmation hearing, it’s super important! The upside of DeVos’s befuddlement is the outpouring from researchers and writers on the meaning and importance of emphasizing growth when ranking schools.
Urban Institute researcher Matt Chingos wrote that whether a student reaches a proficiency threshold or not reflects not just what students learn a school “but also the knowledge they brought when they enrolled,” and that growth measures are helpful in “correcting for that by examining the progress students make while enrolled at a given school.”
Writing for The Root, educator Kelly Wickham Hurst explained that when a school suddenly enrolls many new students with extremely low reading levels (in Hurst’s example, previously home-schooled students), scores fall. “Schools get punished in the proficiency model, and that’s no accident,” she says, arguing that charters/private schools are helped when proficiency-based scores depict regular schools as failures.
Interestingly, though, the most scathing indictment of overusing proficiency scores comes from Matt Baum, on the website of T74, a strong advocate of school choice:
“The school could be doing a great job helping kids improve, but if they start out at a very low level, that might not show up on proficiency measures. Put simply, proficiency rewards schools for the students they take in, but not necessarily for how they teach students once they’re there.”

“[J]udging schools based on a measure that is largely outside of their control, as proficiency would do, can lead to a host of negative consequences.”
” Most simply, the wrong schools may receive accolades or sanctions. If a school with low proficiency but high growth gets closed down for allegedly poor performance, students are unlikely to benefit.”
“Since proficiency scores are highly correlated with poverty, using them to rate schools inevitably means that low-income schools will, by and large, get the worst scores. This may make such schools less desirable places to work, since they face stigma and accountability pressure, potentially driving away good teachers from the schools that need them most.
That’s what the law allows. Now it’s up to us.

Each state (including DC) must come up with its own system of evaluating schools. Under DC law, the initial proposal for how schools should be rated is developed and issued by OSSE. That proposal then stands for approval or rejection by the State Board of Education. OSSE issued an initial draft in October, which the SBOE strongly critiqued. It presented a more detailed proposal to the SBOE in January.
In both drafts, 80% of the rating is based on reading and math test scores, proficiency gets as much weight as growth (in high school, growth doesn’t count at all), and the only measurements of school environment included are attendance and re-enrollment.

Ward meetings, public comments: Coming in February.

OSSE will produce a new draft on January 31. The public will have 33 days to comment on it. In addition, OSSE and SBOE will host community meetings in every ward to give the public an opportunity to react and make suggestions. OSSE will then prepare a final draft, which is scheduled for an up or down vote by the State Board of Education.
Please come to these meetings and make your views known to the Superintendent and the State Board of Education. The dates for these meetings are being finalized. I will send out the dates when I learn them.

Calendar:
Ward3-Wilson Feeder School Education Network meetings

***Tues, Jan. 31
7pm
Georgetown Library.
with State Education Superintendent Hanseul Kang
Bring your questions about PARCC testing, how DC will assess schools under the new federal accountability law, DC-TAG, and other issues handled by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE).

**Wed, Feb 23,
6:45 PM
Tenley Library
with Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh.
The focus of the meeting will be to talk about the overcrowding and lack of space in the W3/Wilson Feeder schools and possible solutions.

Updates

Old Hardy School– As many of you know, there was a City Council vote to “surplus” the old Hardy school building on Foxhall Rd. Many of us have argued that it’s premature to surplus the building before making sure that there is a viable plan to provide needed space for the area’s overcrowded schools, now and into the future.
As it turns out, the Mayor won’t sign any legislation to move it forward until there is time for public input. Meanwhile, Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh will be meeting soon with the Ward 3-Wilson Feeder Education Network to discuss the area’s school capacity needs so they can be addressed as the Old Hardy issue moves forward.

Fillmore Arts Center– Once again, it was announced that the Fillmore Arts Center would be closed down. This action would have ended forever an innovative, first-class arts education program that DCPS has invested in and built up over the years. It would also have subjected students at a number of schools, including Key and Stoddert, to a much diminished arts program, given that their schools don’t have space for a dedicated art room.
Thanks to the mayor and DCPS for keeping it open. And, please, please, figure out how it can continue to serve the nearby schools that need it AND students around the city whose arts education would be greatly enhanced through its excellent programming. We know you’re working hard on it. Let’s not face this same threat next year.
Educators: Network with colleagues from other sectors. Teacher Jared Winston from Sheridan School, fresh from an invigorating professional discussion with other independent school teachers, is interested in creating a broader network, connecting teachers across the private, DCPS, and charter sectors. For more info and contact info, link here.

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How much should test scores count in school ratings?

How Much on Test Scores? Tell the Board of Ed. 
Contact me at ruth4schools@yahoo.com.
Follow me @ruth4schools. ruth4schools.com.

September 2, 2016
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A Better Way to Rate Schools?
Testify before the State Board of Education
Nov 16, 5:30pm.
To Sign Up, email sboe@dc.gov

 

        Currently, schools are rated almost entirely on reading and math test scores–and almost entirely on the proportion of students who are “proficient,” regardless of how much academic progress students in the school did or didn’t make.  

      This approach has led to many complaints: too much focus on tests and test prep; not enough attention to other subjects; pressure on schools to focus on teaching students who are close to the proficient cusp instead of kids who score substantially higher or lower; a disincentive for schools to enroll challenging students, whose test scores typically grow more slowly; and, not enough attention to the non-academic aspects of education, including providing a nurturing, safe, challenging, engaging environment.
Thanks to the new federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, passed last year, DC has the chance to greatly revise the basis on which we evaluate school quality. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) and the State Board of Education (SBOE) have been meeting with members of the community since the spring to hear ideas for fixing the current system.  OSSE produced a “straw man” draft, meant to elicit comment. The SBOE responded with its concerns about what was and wasn’t in the draft.
The discussion now moves to a larger, public stage: the next SBOE meeting, Nov 16 at 5:30. While any member of the public can testify on any issue they want, the three main subjects up for discussion that night are:

  • The Weight of Test Scores:  Our current system overwhelmingly emphasizes test results. We are hearing that this focus on testing has harmful effects on our schools. The OSSE discussion draft suggests a new total test weight of 80%; the SBOE response memo suggests it should be much lower. We need to hear from parents, students, educators, and organizations about how the current testing weight has affected their schools and what they think the new weight  should be.
  • The Weight of Growth in Relation to Proficiency:  Rather than holding schools accountable almost entirely for whether their students reach specific proficiency levels, ESSA offers DC the opportunity to credit schools for the progress students achieve each year, meaning that if students enter the year well below proficiency but make above average strides, the school will be credited for that growth–not penalized because the student hasn’t yet reached proficient. We need to hear from parents, students and organizations on what they believe the appropriate balance is between rating schools based on the proportion of students who meet proficiency thresholds and the actual academic progress the students have made.  .
  • Open, Welcoming Spirit and Other Qualitative Indicators of Quality: In addition to test scores, the SBOE believes that part of a school’s rating should be based on such qualitative factors as whether all students, teachers and parents feel welcome in their schools and such factors as school discipline, attendance, bullying, parent engagement, teacher turnover, student reenrollment, etc. Data for ratings could be drawn from surveys of parents, teachers, and students and from existing data. We need to hear from parents, students and organizations on what factors we should be looking at when assessing our schools. 

    Please consider testifying before the Board on these or related questions.
    Wed. Nov. 16, 5:30 pm
    441 4th St. NW (at Judiciary Square)

    You must sign up by 5 pm, Tuesday Nov 15. Sign up by emailing sboe@dc.gov. 
    Please circulate this information to all interested schools, parents, educators, organizations,

Newsletter from W3 State Board of Ed member, Ruth Wattenberg
ruth4schools@yahoo.com. @ruth4schools. ruth4schools.comPLEASE CIRCULATE…

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 http://bit.ly/2dPBlPi. Please weigh in at ossecomments.proposedregulations@dc.gov. 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. Ruth4schools@yahoo.com

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 ruth4schools@yahoo.com. Follow me @ruth4schools. ruth4schools.com.

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@yahoo.com. @ruth4schools. ruth4schools.com

PLEASE CIRCULATE…

Follow me @ruth4schools contact me: ruth4schools@yahoo.com

Happy Fall !!!!

Aug 18: When will we see PARCC scores?, School readiness tours with CM Cheh, Issues for a new Chancellor

Follow me @ruth4schools contact me: ruth4schools@yahoo.com

Welcome Back to School!
I hope you had a great summer! I am Ward 3’s Member of the State Board of Education. I was elected in November 2014, am the parent of former(!) Janney/Deal/Wilson students, and work professionally in education policy. To subscribe to my newsletter, email ruth4schools@yahoo.com.

When will PARCC scores arrive?
I’ve received many questions about when last spring’s PARCC scores will be released. According to OSSE (Office of the State Superintendent of Education): The aggregate and school-level scores will be posted on the OSSE website in late August. In addition, schools will be able to access individual student reports from a secure portion of the OSSE website at that time. By early September, copies of the student reports will be sent to the schools that students attended in the spring, and these schools will be responsible for distributing the report to families. So for families awaiting their students scores: Sounds like you’ll get them in the first couple of weeks in September.

School Readiness Tours With Councilwoman Mary Cheh;
Checking every toilet, light, and classroom every fall for 10 years!

For ten years, Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh has been conducting annual readiness tours before schools open, visiting every Ward 3 school to make sure every toilet flushes, every light bulb works, supplies and staff are in place, dangerous sidewalk cracks and stairway treads are fixed–and beautiful gardens are admired! Where necessary, she uses her authority to get schools what they need, fast.
I joined her this year, with her chief of staff Dee Smith, constituent services manager Anthony Cassillo, and intern (and Janney/Deal/Wilson grad!) David Fadul and terrifically helpful Department of General Services staff. We visited every Ward 3 school and met with every principal. The schools are in such better shape than in the old days! Still, there were last minute efforts to make sure mold was removed, sidewalk cracks fixed, painting completed, and more.

At Stoddert Elementary, Left to right, SBOE member Ruth Wattenberg, Mary Jane Patterson Fellow, Shenora Plenty, CM Mary Cheh, Principal Donald Bryant, AP Ibis Villegas  (Sorry, no photo here; was in the original)

Chancellor Henderson leaving DCPS. What Next?
The process that will be used to select a new chancellor is explained here by the Washington Post. The members named to the selection committee are shown here. Concerns about the process and committee are explained here. As noted below, Mayor Bowser is eager to take “the pulse of the community” in choosing a new chancellor. Community meetings will be held to solicit community views on what’s needed in a new chancellor.
Roosevelt HS 6:30-8pm,Aug 30
Eastern HS 6:30-8pm, Sep 7
Savoy Elem 6:30-8pm, Sep 14
Childcare and light refreshments. Flyer with dates/sites.

Below are excerpts from my previous newsletter on issues that should be paramount for the new chancellor.

Key issues for a new chancellor
1. Lagging achievement of lowest income students

2. Research on what works and what doesn’t

3. Greater responsiveness to needs of school communities

(excerpted from my July newsletter. http://wp.me/P4TaGy-d3)

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? Did they work in some places, not 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 to City Council’s Committee of the Whole and op-ed in 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 of school communities; and the genuine need for coherent district-level programming and planning.

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

Offer your views on DCPS Chancellor:

3 Community meetings: 6:30-8PM

Roosevelt HS, Aug 30
Eastern HS, Sept 7
Savoy Elem, Sept 14

Childcare/Light refreshments

See my priorities for a new chancellor here.

Stoddert needs visitor parking passes for teachers!

If you live near Stoddert (in ANC 3-B), consider providing your visitor parking pass to Stoddert, where it can be used by staff. If so, drop it off at the Stoddert school office. Thanks! If other schools have a similar issue, contact me, and I can publicize in next newsletter.

Comments on PARCC?

As a member of the State Board of Education, I will be conveying to the State Board comments, concerns, and compliments about the PARCC tests to OSSE to aid its ongoing effort to make PARCC administration as smooth and productive as possible.
What do you think?
Send concerns/compliments: ruth4schools@yahoo.com.

Report on DC Testing?

The issue of excessive testing is an issue around the country. In response, the federal Secretary of Education has made available funds for states (including DC) to study the quantity and quality of testing in an effort to more fully understand how the various testing requirements play out at the school level and to streamline it. I have urged DC to undertake such a study and will continue to do so. If you have any thoughts on this please email me at ruth4schools@yahoo.com

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.

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, you may contact the State Board of Education’s Ombudsman for mediation at ombudsman@dc.gov Also: @DC_Ombuds.

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, 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!!!!!