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!!!

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