1. Rigorous standards–and the help to reach them
After years of neglect, DC has adopted high academic standards, in all subjects. Now we need more kids to reach them. Early childhood programs need to be top quality. Intervention needs to be early and aggressive–as soon as kids are off track, not years later. Improved special education can get help to struggling kids. Strong, creative professional development can strengthen teaching. If students are ahead, they need advanced work.
2. Rich, broad curriculum to build background knowledge
We have high standards in all subjects, but our accountability system focuses on English/language arts and math, often pushing schools and teachers, (especially in elementary schools) to de-emphasize social studies, science, and the arts. These subjects are important in their own right and they engage students. Plus, the reading materials that students must comprehend in middle- and high school, as well as in college and life, depend on the background knowledge that’s getting squeezed out.
- Right-size/right-shape testing
We need smart tests, not just lots of tests. Between pre-tests, interim tests, test prep, accountability tests, and more, schools are losing days and days to tests. And, many don’t align to the curriculum or each other. They often don’t give teachers what they need to help kids do their best or tell parents what they want to know.
- Research—so we know what’s working and what’s not
With some of the best research firms in the country located here and so many hopeful experiments taking place (for example, pre-k for all of our kids and programs to support the teaching and learning of our new standards), DC should be a national leader in educational research.
5. Reduce residency requirement paperwork! AAARGH!
State Board of Education rules require DC parents to prove their residency every year, in person, typically with paper utility bills. Really?!? We only register to vote once, and we can do it by mail! Credit card companies verify our entire identities, in seconds, online, with no annual re-verification! The current process drives parents crazy and wastes hundreds of staff hours. Worse, parents in many schools say the process is not even effective. We should be able to get the verification we need without the bureaucracy we hate.