Jan 29 Newsletter: “Waiver,” new SBOE officers, Reno school opening

Hi All,
I was elected to DC’s State Board in November, sworn in on January 2, and attended my first formal meeting last week. With this note, I hope to begin regular communication with all of you. Below are announcements, requests, news, and so forth. Over time, I expect to have more information and links on my website, and I’m also figuring out how much, and what, to put in regular newsletters/listserve posts. Please consider all of this a work in progress!
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 ruth4schools@yahoo.com. 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!

New Officers of the DC State Board of Education
At our first official meeting, held last week, the DC State Board Members elected our officers for the year. The president of the Board is now Jack Jacobson, board member from Ward 2; the new vice-president is Karen Williams, board member from Ward 7. Congratulations to both of them! And, thanks to outgoing president Mark Jones from Ward 5 and outgoing vice-president Mary Lord, the Boards’ at-large member. The website for the State Board of Education is OSSE.dc.gov

Revisiting DC’s Accountability and Support Framework: The “waiver renewal”
Monday evening (Jan 26), the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) launched its effort to solicit public input on what’s formally called the “ESEA waiver renewal” with a meeting for stakeholders at the OSSE office.
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.
At Monday’s meeting, 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 (Currently: Reward, Rising, Developing, Priority, and Focus)
• How it assists schools that are struggling
• How it can help schools with lower-achieving students to attract and retain excellent teachers

A series of additional public meetings will be held by OSSE and the State Board of Education to discuss these issues. Community meetings will be held around the city on Feb 12 (Ward 2), 21 (W6), 28 (W1), and Mar 7 (W8). If you would like to be on a special mailing list for ongoing information on the waiver, please email me at ruth4schools@yahoo.com, with waiver info on the subject line.

Celebrate the Opening of Deal’s new Jesse Reno School addition! The Deal Local School Advisory team invites the whole community: It’s tonight, Thursday Jan 29, 6:30-8:30 pm. Use the school’s main entrance to enter.

Wilson High School Principal Selection If you’ve been following the news at all, you know that DCPS did not renew the contract for Principal Cahall of Wilson High School; subsequently, in December, Mr. Cahall resigned, effective immediately. DCPS has launched its principal selection process.  Dan Shea, the DCPS instructional superintendent for Wilson, spoke to the Wilson community on January 14 to discuss the selection process.  According to Shea, DCPS is committed to a very aggressive search. Final candidates will be interviewed by a panel that includes parents from Wilson and its feeder schools; teachers; and a community member. The panel will make a recommendation to the DCPS Chancellor.

January 20

New chair of DC City Council’s Education Committee—David Grosso.  The new Chair was named by the Council earlier this month. Shortly after his naming, David Grosso held an open house for education advocates around the city. It was extremely well attended, with lots of good questions. In response to a question from Martha McIntosh, president of the Murch Home-School Association, Chairman Grosso made clear that his priority for school renovation were those schools that were over-capacity. That should be good news for Murch, which is busting at the seams and hasn’t been renovated for 80 years!

News as of December 2014

State Board of Education tables votes on GED and Competency based Education. As many of you may know, at its final 2014 meeting, the SBOE tabled a proposal to change DC’s high school graduation rules. Here’s the Washington Post article about it. The proposal had been put forward by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. Among the changes the proposal called for were:

Allowing DC residents who pass the GED to get a DC high school diploma
Eliminating the Carnegie unit as the sole way to earn high school credit and instead allowing schools to propose different ways in which high school students can earn class credit
Allowing students to accelerate their earning by testing out of courses if they can demonstrate their mastery of the course content.
Members of the Board voiced both support for and concerns with various aspects of the proposal. In the end, Board members voted unanimously against it because there had not been adequate time for either the SBOE or the public to consider the proposals. For more on this issue, click here.

National Association of State Boards of Education study group on Career Readiness. I’ve been named to this group. This will be a great opportunity for me to learn more about how our DC high schools can better prepare our students for the work world, an issue that has been and will be on the State Board’s agenda. My thanks to Mary Lord, the at-large member of DC’s State School Board and incoming President of NASBE, for nominating me!

NEXT SBOE meeting: The next Working Meeting is January 7 at 4:30. The next Public Meeting is Jan. 21 at 5PM. Despite their names, both meetings are in fact “public.” The Public meeting includes actual votes; the Working meeting includes presentations and discussions of upcoming issues. Both are held at 441 4th St NW, where the State Board offices are located.

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