4/7/15 Newsletter: Wilson Budget Cut; SBOE calls for study of curriculum narrowing; new DCPS Parent Cabinet

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 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!

 I’ve also started tweeting. Follow me @ruth4schools  Email: ruth4schools@yahoo.com. Visit http://ruth4schools.com

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Proposed budget cuts at Wilson—

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

Take action

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

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

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

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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.  

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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!!!

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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.

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

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

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

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Please feel free to pass this newsletter on…

PARCC and State Board of Education Meeting (3/18/15)

PARCC assessment:  DC’s new student assessments are now being administered for the first time.  For basic information on the tests, questions and answers, and helpful, interesting links (including links to sample questions!), see my new  PARCC page by clicking here or on the PARCC button on the top navigation.  How is it going in your school?  As part of its work, the board will be reviewing the PARCC and its administration.  Please let me know your impressions. —ruth4schools@yahoo.com.

Next Public Meeting of State Board of Education: Wednesday, March 18, 5:30 PM at 1 Judiciary Square.  he Board meetings are regularly held on the 4th Wednesday of each month at the same time and place

A key piece of Board business will be to discuss the bureaucratically named “ESEA waiver.”  Despite its bureaucratic name, this waiver is the main current opportunity for DC to reconsider certain aspects of how it holds schools (and, to a lesser extent, staff) accountable.  For more on what the waiver is and does, see the blog post on the right, which also includes links to other sites relevant to the waiver.  Among the issues that the Board will consider as it reviews the waiver renewal:

–a one-year pause on using the scores from the new PARCC test for high stakes decisions such as the classification of schools and the evaluation of staff.

–a new formula for judging school progress and effectiveness, which would put greater weight on how much student achievement improves over a given year and less weight to students’ performance status (meaning whether a student scores at a “basic,” “proficient,” or other level).

–adding additional information to school report cards, including such information as the availability of a school nurse and the existence of extracurricular activities.

Comments?  Please email me at ruth4schools@yahoo.com.

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)

PARCC Test
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 osse.assessment@dc.gov or dcps.testing@dc.gov.

And, feel free to comment to me: ruth4schools@yahoo.com

 

 

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.

 

Swearing-In: I will be sworn in on January 2 at 3pm along with three other newly elected school board members and the city’s ANC members, all of whom were just elected or reelected. I will be sworn in by Ward 3 Council Member Mary Cheh. If you would like tickets to the event, email me at ruth4schools@yahoo.com and I will send one to you.